Over the past six months, I’ve been transitioning the fulfillment processes at my e-commerce business to a third-party logistics (3PL) vendor.
I didn’t know anything about 3PLs before starting this process, so there were a lot of things I didn’t know to ask about. Here are the list of questions that I recommend e-commerce merchants ask a 3PL if they’re considering working with them for fulfillment.
Customer profile 🔗︎
- Do you have other clients whose order volumes are similar to mine?
- What’s the minimum and maximum order volume you can support?
- Do you have other clients whose products are similar to mine in price?
- Do you have other clients whose products are similar to mine in weight and volume?
Integration with e-commerce platforms 🔗︎
- What’s the process of connecting to my e-commerce platform?
- Do I install an app?
- Do I have to make you admin in my Shopify store?
- How quickly does your order management system sync with my e-commerce platform?
- i.e., when you print a shipping label, how quickly do I see that reflected in Shopify?
- How do I present your shipping rates to my customers?
- Can I present real-time shipping rates from your couriers or do we need to use flat shipping fees?
Recordkeeping / auditing 🔗︎
- How often do you do stocktakes?
- How will you share records of inventory changes with me?
- i.e., When did products arrive at your warehouse? When did they go out for customer orders? When did stocktakes happen?
- Which days of the week do you fulfill orders?
- What holidays do you observe?
- What’s the typical turnaround time for fulfilling an order?
- Which shipping couriers and services do you support for domestic orders?
- Which shipping couriers and services do you support for international orders?
- Can you ship international orders delivered duty paid (DDP)?
- What’s the cutoff for same-day shipping?
- What are your fees?
- How do you accept payment?
- Do you charge a surcharge for different payment options (e.g., surcharge for credit cards)?
Handling issues and unusual orders 🔗︎
- What’s your error rate?
- i.e., how often do customers receive the wrong item or wrong quantities?
- Who absorbs costs of a fulfillment error?
- What if we have to re-ship with expedited shipping to meet a customer deadline?
- What if you sent a more expensive item and the customer has already opened it or refuses to return it?
- How do we handle it if a customer places an order and then emails me to make a change?
- Will changes in my e-commerce platform immediately sync to your order management system?
- How do we handle it when a customer asks us to hold off on fulfilling an order?
- What’s the process of pausing fulfillment on an order?
- Will your order management system recognize Shopify’s “pause fulfillment” feature?
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