It may sound like the title to an unusual movie or book, but the fact is that today it is not at all uncommon for an eco conscious e-commerce company (seller) to utilize a fulfillment company, third party logistics (3PL) company, or contract packager to fill, package and ship their customers’ orders. Outsourcing the fulfillment portion of the order process is an excellent way to minimize costs and focus on sales and marketing but it does have a potential down side, especially if the fulfillment company (shipper) does not share the same green values as the seller.
The Biggest Risks of Using a Third Party Shipper
What you sacrifice when you turn fulfillment over to another company is control. For example, the people filling your valuable customer’s order are not your employees - in fact they may not even be the employee of the company you are utilizing. More and more shipping companies use temporary labor services to satisfy their customer’s packaging requirements which can vary greatly with seasonal or other volume surges, so the phrase “here today and gone tomorrow” certainly applies. In other words, there is little or no accountability for the person actually pulling and packing the order for you and for your customer.
Another potential casualty of working with a third party shipper may unfortunately be eco-consistency. The eco friendliness of the packaging materials and the techniques being used, as well as the ultimate appearance of that package shipping to the customer, are completely in someone else’s hands. As a consumer, we all have been on the receiving end of a product that is over packaged, under packaged, or one that uses an excess of packaging materials we hate. For me, it is foam peanuts of any size, shape or color. The shipper is setting the quality AND green standard for you in the eyes of your customers but remember - while the shipper is invisible to the customer, you are not. When things go bad, you get the blame whether you deserve it or not.
Packaging Sustainability and the Third Party Vendor Can Be a Beautiful Thing
We have been fortunate to be the supplier of choice in several of these seller/shipper situations and can tell you that when they work, they work great. One recent situation developed because the customer/seller introduced and recommended us to their fulfillment company. Obviously we had to overcome the relationships the shipper had with their existing packaging suppliers but eventually they saw the many benefits to their customer as well as with other present or potential customers. Today, being a “green fulfillment house” has many advantages as they soon realized when they quickly picked up another, substantial “green” client.