All Blogs
>
The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Reliable 3PL Partner in the US (2023)

The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Reliable 3PL Partner in the US (2023)

March 21, 2023
Posted By
Olexiy Shapowal
Title asset to the "Summer Shipping" blog post from Atomix Logistics. A small green 3D truck with a small sun floating above it portrays the hot summer sun during order transport. KW: Ecommerce, 3PL, order fulfillment, fulfillment center, summer order fulfillment, new orders, new customer, temperature, protection, packaging, eco-friendly, sustainability

The Importance of Finding a Reliable 3PL Partner in the US

Starting an online business has never been easier than it is today - especially when you know how to pivot to the right markets. Typically, new businesses target their local markets to gauge the success of their product(s). While this is a logical first step, it’s important to remember that the more distance your product can cover, the faster your business can grow globally! 

If you’re looking to start shipping internationally, outsourcing to a professional fulfillment partner is the most efficient way to ensure timely delivery for your customers across the world. Not only will this eliminate the headaches of dealing with customs, but you will be able to focus entirely on brand building and marketing knowing your 3PL is handling your backend operations.

Table of Contents:

  • The Importance of Logistics for eCommerce
  • What an Ideal US Partner Looks Like
  • Overcoming International Challenges

Importance of Logistics for eCommerce

Like we mentioned above; partnering with logistics professionals virtually guarantees that your order fulfillment will run smoothly without any hiccups. Of course, there are variables outside of their control such as weather, economy, and carrier rates - but such is the nature of ecommerce and logistics (“ship” happens!). 

In addition to seamless order fulfillment, most brands save at least 10% of their shipping budget in their first year of using a fulfillment partner! For smaller brands, this could mean the difference between breaking even and earning a good profit.

However, there are a number of other crucial things to consider when you are looking for a fulfillment partner on the other side of the planet. Below, we’ve put together a [non-exhaustive] list of tips for how to best position yourself for success overseas!

What to look for in a US Partner

Trusting someone else to handle your order fulfillment is stressful enough on its own, let alone shipping your inventory across the world. Thankfully, there are many resources across the internet to help you navigate the path to finding your best fulfillment partner! 

Cost

A common mistake in finding the right fulfillment partner is focusing too much on the price. While price is a very important factor in choosing the right partner, being able to trust your fulfillment partner is more important for the health of your business. 

Often, fulfillment partners who appear cheap tend to have many hidden fees you won’t know about until it’s too late. Be sure to ask about every aspect of your prospect’s pricing: picking/packing cost, onboarding fees, storage, and everything in between. Additionally, it is helpful to know whether or not there are order minimums involved. Many smaller 3PLs have a minimum order volume requirement to retain a level of revenue. (Not at Atomix!)

Industry Specialty

Depending on how specific your product niche is, it may be worth considering a fulfillment partner with expertise or experience in your specific industry. Especially if you serve a very specific market, making sure your 3PL knows how to handle your products carefully and make deliveries on time is crucial. 

In the same way that ecommerce businesses are all different, fulfillment centers are just as unique. Some 3PLs may provide specialized services based on their target demographic (for example - providing frozen storage for an ice cream brand). These special services may drive up cost, but knowing your products are being handled properly will feel a lot better than saving that 5% and worrying about where your inventory is. 

Adaptability

No matter how well thought-out your plan may be for expanding your business to the US, [ship] happens and plans might not work out. When things go sideways - having a partner that can adapt to any situation is crucial to maintaining your brand’s image. 

You should be able to trust that your fulfillment partner understands your business’ needs clearly enough to overcome any obstacles that may arise (with your guidance, of course). Besides potential challenges and obstacles, your 3PL must be able to scale with your business model as well. Whether you are shifting to a new market, changing your product offerings, or rebranding entirely - adaptability is the key to staying “on top” in the world of ecommerce.  

Technologies

While the previous points are all essential for expanding your business to the US, few of them are achievable without implementing the right technology to support your 3PL. Modern ecommerce relies heavily on the use of cutting edge technology for anything from advertising to order management, both streamlining operations and lowering costs.

Following suit, fulfillment partners are also implementing the latest in Warehouse/Order management software to simplify order fulfillment. For brand owners expanding to the US, this means you get a “birds-eye view” over all of your inventory and orders, as well as seamless store integration and instant communication (no more waiting days for emails!).

SLAs (Service Level Agreements)

Reading through testimonials and 5 star reviews is a great way to define expectations for a potential partner, but creating an SLA is a lot more effective. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a formal agreement between two or more parties, clearly defining what each party wants out of the relationship. 

Finding a 3PL that provides SLAs is rare, but they are definitely becoming more popular. Creating an SLA conveys trustworthiness and a full commitment to the longevity of the partnership - as well as what steps will be taken in case mistakes are made. If possible, speak with current customers of the fulfillment partner(s) you are considering - word of mouth is [usually] more believable than anonymous Google reviews.

Overcoming International Challenges

When it comes to order fulfillment, there are many different challenges that arise when beginning to ship internationally. Especially in the case of exporting to the US, the rules for transporting goods in the US can be very different when compared to your native market. Below, we’ve included some of the most common challenges to face when exporting to the US. 

Customs/Import Duties

The most complex part of importing goods to the US is the labyrinth of customs fees and import duties. Luckily, a strong fulfillment partner will be able to help you navigate the maze of paperwork to ensure a smooth import process. Yes, you could watch a ton of Youtube videos to learn  more about the process - but using professional expertise will be much simpler in the long run. 

Even if your fulfillment partner can handle your paperwork for you, there are a few important things to know: 

  • Not every country imposes import duties, and countries that do will sometimes waive duties for specific types of products (furniture, paintings, professional books, etc.). 
  • More often than not, your customers will be responsible for paying international shipping costs. If you can  afford to offer free international shipping for your customers, they will be much more likely to shop with you again and recommend your brand.
  • Some countries will charge import duties to prevent sellers from selling below market value, as an attempt to keep market value stable (also known as “anti-dumping”).

Reverse Logistics

The vast majority of modern 3PLs offer reverse logistics (returns) services to help keep your customers happy after an unsatisfactory purchase. When your product is overseas, returns can become expensive and complicated if a proper returns process isn’t put in place. 

Establishing trust in your fulfillment partner to handle your returns will not only reduce your stress, but it will also provide your customers with a seamless shopping experience - from purchase to re-purchase!

Modes of Transportation

Depending on where you are located and where your customers live, shipping your products internationally will likely include a variety of transportation methods. Your budget and delivery timelines also influence the methods used, but the end goal is always timely and careful delivery. 

Whether your products are moved with freight shipping, air, sea, or ground shipping - making the right decision comes down to considering the time, cost, and reliability of each mode.

Conclusion

All in all, international shipping is a stressful process for any business owner. Having a partner like Atomix will help you jump through those pesky hoops, making it that much easier to launch into new international markets! It’s never too early for your brand to begin considering the obstacles behind shipping overseas - if you’d like to learn more about how Atomix can help you crush the competition, reach out to us here!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Prev Post
Next Post
All Blogs
>
The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Reliable 3PL Partner in the US (2023)
Get a free fulfillment quote

E-commerce entrepreneurs partner with Atomix for a customizable and cost-effective approach to building and scaling fulfillment operations.