How 3PL Central Preps for the Holidays

This summer and fall, ShipEngine users and partners will share how they typically prepare for the holiday season, how things are different this year due to COVID-19, and how the ShipEngine API helps empower their holiday-related goals and priorities. Read below to hear from Director of Marketing Chelsea Mori about how 3PL Central prepares for the busiest time of the year.

How do you typically prepare for the holiday season?

For many third-party logistics (3PL) warehouses, preparation for the holiday or peak season begins months before what is among the busiest times of the year. We see many 3PL Central customers begin planning as early as July with a larger push in September.

As one of the greatest opportunities for warehouses to prove their value to their customers, especially when they need them most, it is crucial everyone in the warehouse is aligned to better service and support every customer. Many warehouses start with a review of their operations, workflows, and systems to make sure they are in tip-top shape. Considering the staggering rise of ecommerce sales, and a total projected increase of 18% by the end of 2020, this year may be one of the most important for many logistics businesses looking to meet customer, and consumer, demands.

What are your priorities leading up to and during the holiday season?

I like to recommend that warehouses begin by creating a checklist of what they must evaluate to ensure operations are working smoothly. In addition, are there any quick technology wins a warehouse can make or any best practice workflows a warehouse can implement to get a jump start on peak season?

Begin by reviewing, testing, and confirming that all connections to the warehouse management system (WMS) are in perfect working order. With so many moving orders, inventory balances, and other critical shipment information, the ability to share data flawlessly between the warehouse and their customers is key.

Testing should also include all ecommerce shopping carts. 3PLs serve as their customers’ advocate, partner, and real-world link to their online shoppers. The higher level of confidence in shopping cart connections, the higher chance for holiday success.

Lastly, check in with warehouse partners to ensure they understand what is needed for a smooth holiday season. If it connects with the tools a warehouse uses to manage inventory, billing, shipping, and more, partners need to be aligned with the warehouse to meet their SLAs.

What does a successful holiday season look like for your business?

In a word: seamless. Today’s warehouses want to achieve maximum profitability in addition to complete customer satisfaction. Many 3PL Central warehouse customers are already experiencing 81% growth year-over-year in ecommerce order volumes. With warehouses feeling like they are already operating at holiday season levels and seeing an increase in ecommerce order volume in excess of 5x, making sure operations are optimized for increased efficiency and productivity is vital. Hearing a 3PL say they were able to meet the demands of their customers with the right technology and processes, and doing so with ease, is a good day for 3PL Central as the WMS partner to these essential businesses.

How are your customers that sell in-store being affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

With consumers turning to ecommerce more and more often, retail sales have already seen a decline. In March, retail sales declined 8.7%, with clothing and accessory stores seeing the biggest sales plunge at 50.5%. In fact, it is predicted that more than 15,000 stores could close in 2020, nearly double from the previous year, which reached a historic high of 9,300. In a recent survey of retailers, 50% of respondents expected business revenue to see significant downturns. This is going to make an impact on warehouse businesses who do not embrace the rise of ecommerce and omnichannel fulfillment.

How do you expect COVID-19 to affect your business during the holidays?

As mentioned, many 3PL Central customers are seeing increased ecommerce volume. When you consider that FedEx has delivered 5.99 million packages already this year, with a total of 6.2 million in 2019, the increase is astounding. Not surprisingly, ecommerce order growth is up 54% compared to this time last year, heavily stimulated by consumer buying shifts driven by stay-at-home orders.

The peak holiday season is going to compound these unprecedented changes in the logistics industry. 3PL warehouses must prepare now to better serve ecommerce and omnichannel customers to succeed in this new and stimulating environment. With ecommerce sales predicted to reach $4.2 trillion in 2020, logistics businesses need a plan to diversify and optimize current warehouse management system (WMS) technology and workflows to remain competitive.

How does ShipEngine help you achieve your goals during the holiday season?

3PL warehouses are directly connected to every player in the supply chain. As partners, 3PL Central and ShipEngine work together to ensure our warehouse customers are able to use best practices that deliver repeatable and scalable workflows to enhance 3PL ecommerce performance and accuracy.

When using 3PL Warehouse Manager WMS with ShipEngine, our customers can flawlessly print labels, connect with carriers, and select the best shipping rate from within the WMS.

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