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What Does Successful 3pl Onboarding Look Like?

What Does Successful 3pl Onboarding Look Like

An Onboarding Checklist for eCommerce Brands

Working with a 3pl offers multiple advantages for eCommerce brands; they take on your end-to-end order fulfilment, and offer a range of add-ons allowing you to scale successfully. Like any great partnership, though, you’ll need time to adjust to working together, and this takes the form of ‘onboarding’. This is where you can make or break your relationship, so we’ve come up with a checklist outlining what successful 3pl onboarding looks like.

What is Onboarding?

When you take on a new role in a business, you go through an onboarding process in which you’re inducted into the business and its systems. It’s the same for an eCommerce brand partnering with a 3pl. Onboarding covers the period from agreeing to work together, through system integration and testing, to successful launch. It’s a critical period for both parties, and every 3pl does it slightly differently.

An Onboarding Checklist for eCommerce Brands

Successful 3pl onboarding facilitates a seamless transition during which systems integrate, processes are personalised and transferred, and customers are untroubled by glitches or changes in the service offered. It’s a big project for eCommerce brands, even if you’ve been through it before, and there are a number of ways that you can prepare for a successful outcome.

  1. Know Your Order Fulfilment Requirements
  2. Make a Visit to the Fulfilment Centre
  3. Scrutinise Your Contract
  4. Create Your 3pl Onboarding Project Team
  5. Integrating Your System
  6. Testing Time
  7. Managing the 3pl Launch
  8. Working With Your Account Manager

1. Know Your Order Fulfilment Requirements

If you’re an eCommerce brand looking to change your 3pl partner, you’ll no doubt have a clear idea of what you’re looking for. It’s often the case that online retail companies outgrow their initial order fulfilment outsourcing providers, and are looking to a third-party logistics provider for the value-adds that will allow them to scale successfully.

For eCommerce retailers who are looking for their first 3pl partner, it’s worth starting the planning process prior to talking with potential partners. Create a list of what you will need them to provide and prepare detailed questions designed to discover whether they are a good fit for your product and your brand.

2. Make a Visit to Order Fulfilment Centres

A 3pl sales team is committed to bringing you onboard as a client, and their job is to persuade. Before making any decisions, organise a visit to your potential partner’s fulfilment centre. This will allow you to get a feel of the culture of the place, the skills and motivation of the workforce, and the infrastructure that will support your order fulfilment.

Make a Visit to the Fulfilment Centre

Take time to meet with the senior team, too. Are they interested in your brand? Curious about your plans for the future? Do you sense that they will work proactively on your behalf to open up new opportunities?

3. Scrutinise the 3pl Contract

Whatever you agree to during the sales process needs to be noted by each party and included in the contract. Whilst the potential for a great partnership should include a level of trust, this doesn’t means that agreements are not itemised. If something you’ve spoken about doesn’t appear in the contract, request its inclusion prior to signing.

Be aware that all 3pls cost services slightly differently. Go through the pricing structure and make sure that you understand how it works in every aspect, before agreeing to it.

4. Create Your 3pl Onboarding Project Team

The team that takes you through onboarding will determine how successful the process is, so you need the right people involved. You can expect your 3pl partner to appoint a Dedicated Project Manager and a Dedicated Account Manager to the team. Check with them early on how much time they will give to the process, and the proposed launch date.

To ensure the best outcome, 3pls should include their operations leaders in the team, as well as representatives from product suppliers. During the onboarding process you should expect daily contact from your 3pl, and opportunities to meet with and get to know the specialist teams that make up the fulfilment infrastructure.

Systems Integrations

5. Systems Integrations

This is a critical element of the 3pl onboarding process, and ideally your fulfilment partner will have an IT team to take you through a seamless integration of your data. Once your two systems are talking to each other, you’ll be able to:

  • Achieve end-to-end visibility on orders.
  • Manage orders from multiple channels.
  • Download real-time data for ordering, kitting, returns etc.
  • View your inventory levels.

6. Testing Time

This is the point at which all the work by specialist teams throughout onboarding gets combined as order fulfilment. Test orders are put through every process:

  • Receiving goods
  • Ordering via your brand’s channels
  • Inventory management
  • Picking and packing process
  • Shipping

A detailed process of testing should start at least a week before going live. It allows for the identification of any gaps or errors that weren’t picked up by the onboarding process.

7. Managing the 3pl Launch

This is an anxious time for both partners, even if the onboarding has been thorough. A 3pl will want the launch to be smooth and seamless for their client, and if there are any teething problems, they’ll find solutions quickly and effectively. It’s probably not a great idea for eCommerce teams to be present at this time, as it simply adds to the stress. Show your trust in your new partner by letting them get on with what they do best.

8. Working With Your Account Manager

“Once an account is running seamlessly my time is no longer taken up with immediate problem solving. So, my attention switches to ways we can improve the process going forward and maximise the value we can offer them. At Prolog we look for ways that we can help our accounts to grow – not every fulfilment company does that.”

– Senior Account Manager, Prolog

As the day-to-day running of an account is bedding in, it’s a good opportunity to debrief on the onboarding process, and schedule in regular communications moving forward. All clients should expect a Quarterly Business Review for an ongoing formal consideration of the partnership.

About Prolog Fulfilment

Prolog has a total commitment to making a success of our 3pl onboarding process; it’s how we get to know eCommerce clients and they get to know us. We think of it as a creative period which is valuable for both parties. These conversations then move naturally into the post onboarding considerations of added value and scaling potential.

If you are at the point where you’re looking for a 3pl partner who’s willing to invest in a long-term relationship with your brand, we’d love to talk. Prolog has an established fulfilment centre, located at the heart of the UK, with flexible warehousing and a trained, highly motivated workforce.

Prolog doesn’t just offer the basics; at every stage of the order fulfilment process, we provide a personalised service, tailored to your brand. We’re designed to deliver great service to you and your customers.

Would you like to find out what makes us different? Call Prolog Fulfilment today on 01623 724000 to speak to a fulfilment expert or message us.

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