Why use a 3PL (Third Party Logistics)

By outsourcing your storage, pick/pack & shipping to a trusted Third Party Logistics you can focus your valuable time on building and scaling your brand. Don’t underestimate the cost of you having to unpack, store, QC, print orders, pick and pack, box up and ship out the orders. This can take hours or days every week when you could be building the profile of your site, adding new products, find new influencers and truly scaling your store.

What even is a 3PL, Online Order Fulfilment or Pick & Pack company?

A 3PL or Third Party Logistics is an outsourced service provided by logistics & warehousing specialists that includes transportation, warehousing and delivery of your goods to your customers. Some providers such as Rapid Pack also offer additional support such as branding, product ideas, purchasing support and analytics access.

The nutshell of a 3PL

  1. The 3PL carefully receives, checks and books in your items
  2. Puts away the items in suitable picking locations
  3. Connects your store to their system and waits for orders to come in
  4. Once an order is placed it is sent for picking where it is collected, sorted and packaged up
  5. An approriate courier is selected and the order is sent out
  6. Tracking information is sent back to your store and customer for an easy, transparent journey

At what point should I work with a 3PL?

If you’re already shipping over 100 orders per month then you could definitely benefit from seeing how an online fulfilment company can help your business. Don’t leave it too late when you can’t keep up with orders or your time working ON your brand starts to suffer. Wowing your customer is heavily linked to swift and accurate fulfilment, let a 3PL take on this quest for you.

What are your prices?

Our prices can be found here. It is made up of storage costs, picking fees per item, packaging costs and courier charges.

Can a 3PL save me money?

Of course.  Most 3PLs get substantially reduced shipping rates with couriers and postal providers which they pass on to your business. Not only that but you only pay for the actual storage space you use (calculated in M³) and when is order is picked and packed. Contrast that to doing it yourself or getting your own warehouse, think of the wasted space for stock you don’t have or keeping staff around even when orders a low or paying extra for staff in busy times. A good reliable 3PL allows you to focus on your business, knowing in advance exactly how much order fulfilment will cost and only paying for what you need. This can result in huge operational savings to your brand let alone the positive impact on your time and less stress!

3PL vs. 4PL

If you’ve been searching for 3PLs or online order fulfilment you may have found the term 4PL, so what is it? A 4PL (Fourth Party Logistics), this is usually providing an extra layer of support and services to their clients (known as double brokering) and generally means they handle your whole supply chain. This includes managing resources, logistics technology, infrastructure, and controlling other external logistics and supply chain firms within your business.

Do I have to manually orders to the Rapid Pack system?

Of course not. We will integrate with your website platform such as Shopify, Shopify Plus & WooCommerce. Our sophisticated fulfilment API can integrate with just about any online marketplace or online store and will automatically pull in orders as they come in, updating stock levels and tracking numbers in real time. We do also enable you to be able to input orders manually or via an Excel sheet upload if required (often for B2B orders).

Do our products need to be barcoded?

Ideally, all items that come into our facility should be pre-barcoded. This allows us to rapidly but accurately receive and manage your orders and ensure during picking that there are no mistakes. For barcodes within the UK we advise using EAN-13 format and they should be unique so as to not clash with anyone else’s products, this can be done by signing up for your own range of barcodes with GS1.

Are you able to ship in my packaging?

As standard all orders are shipped in high quality, plain packaging boxes or bags with the appropriate level of void-fill to protect the items. We can though ship using your packaging or include specific notes or leaflets if required, get in touch with Rapid Pack to see how we can help. We also provide ad-hoc personalised printed cards which can be included within each package.

Can you ship dangerous goods?

Various items can be considered dangerous goods such as perfume, cologne, lithium battery devices and more. Check with your fulfilment company to see if they can support these. We have our own on-site DGSA team who can advise on shipping products within the UK and EU and we regularly do so for various companies.

Can you ship DDP?

Yes we can ship DDP (Delivery Duty Paid) but it is a complicated topic and can be expensive, so get in touch with information on the expected monthly volume for your international exports (each country) and we can give you more information on what is required.

What are the top benefits to using a 3PL?

  • Get your time back to focus on your business
  • Have access to easier and swifter flexibility & scale
  • Provide more options and services to your customers
  • Decrease turnaround and shipping times, increasing customer service metrics
  • Reduce or eliminate overheads such as warehouse rent, staffing, packaging, health and safety and much more
  • Get benefits on shipping costs with reduced courier costs and higher quality service

Do you have any minimum order requirements per month?

No! We will ship any amount per month. We recommend order fulfilment for stores with over 100 orders per month but if you have less than that and a need for order fulfilment then we are here for you and will gladly assist.

Can a 3PL offer a proper eCommerce service for my brand?

You’re right to check. Many 3PLs are traditional warehouses and transportation businesses that now also deal with fulfilment. However they are often using older systems and not able to adapt and grow to keep up with the fast ecommerce environment such as for Shopify stores, Instagram shops, WooCommerce websites and Amazon & eBay.

The meteoric rise in online shopping in particular since the pandemic has changed the logistics and warehouse industry. When looking for a 3PL and order fulfilment provider you check that they are truly experienced and eager to work with online brands and have suitable integrations with webstores to be able to do so. What extra services can they provide to support YOUR brand, how can they decrease customer service issues, improve service offerings and work with you to build your brand. After all, they should be your partner and want you to succeed and take them with you.

Firms such as Rapid  Pack offer a wide plethora of services from the bread and butter, storage, picking and packing to personalised in-parcel cards and branding support. Not only that but a transparent and simple dashboard lets you keep an eye on every order and access the data within it.

How long does it take to get set up?

This is a very open ended question and depends heavily on how complicated your business is, such as the number and type of products, where your orders are coming from, any requirements in branding, size of the products, destinations for your orders and much more. For relatively small stores or simple product catalogues (less than 50 different SKUs) hosted on platforms such as Shopify or WooCommerce, the set up can usually be done within a matter of days. Once you have gone through onboarding, you will be provided with a login and can start adding your products and connecting up your store. Then its just a matter of sending in your products and you’re pretty much good to go.

A larger range of products or more complicated solutions can take 3-4 weeks as the process is methodical and careful. Products are individually booked in, weighed and measured, checking against your barcodes to ensure complete accuracy. The best time to get started as up until around August as after that most 3PLs will be getting very busy in the run up to Black Friday & Christmas.

Does a 3PL handle returns?

Most 3PLs will offer some form of returns service but it’s always important to check and to what scope they do. You need to be sure that if a customer returns an order back to them that they will quickly but carefully check the items and prepare them where possible for resale in the shortest time possible. If the order needs to be refunded, disposed of or other customer service queries they should pass these details on to you/your customer service team for actioning.

At Rapid Pack we aim to have returns processed within 24 hours and items that can be resold are available for sale as soon as they have been through Quality Check, they don’t have to be put away beforehand which keeps the impact of returns low.

What are your fulfilment payment terms?

We run our billing system weekly and provide a full statement of costs including storage (actually used) and orders picked and packed. This is taken weekly by Direct Debit.

What don’t you handle?

We don’t handle hazardous, long (over 1.75m) or very heavy items (over 30kg). We cannot ship consumable alcohol, furniture (unless it is flat packed and weigh under 25kg) or substances/items that are deemed illicit within the UK.

If your average order value is under £25 you may find online fulfilment uncompetitive compared to doing your fulfilment in house

Who are some of the top order fulfilment companies in the UK?

Now you have more knowledge on what to look for in a 3PL you can start looking for providers. Here’s some of the top ecommerce fulfilment firms in the UK

  1. Rapid Pack Fulfilment
  2. 3PL Logistics
  3. James and James Fulfilment
  4. Fulfilment Crowd
  5. Huboo Fulfilment

What are your green credentials?

We care passionately about our environment, that we live, work and play in.

We only use renewable energy within our company.

Our packaging is majority originally recycled and the rest is from sustainable sources. We are always working to reduce the amount of packaging of any kind used and working with suppliers to look at even more sustainable, ethically produced and bio-degradable packaging.

We work with couriers who utilise electric and green energy vehicles where they are able including DPD & Royal Mail. We promote the use of this mode of transportation and participate in any trials they offer to boost this.