As your business grows, you need to make decisions and changes to continue that growth without going crazy! One way you can do this is by finding a dependable partner for your Shopify order fulfillment. Shopify is a great platform that allows eCommerce merchants like you to manage your shop almost entirely on your own. But Shopify also allows you to integrate your account with other CRM, ERP, and even order fulfillment software.
How will you know when it is time to integrate your Shopify with some additional tools and outsource fulfillment for orders? For most business owners, a time comes when they can no longer keep up with processing and shipping orders on their own.
This workload is unique but can happen anywhere between 10 and 50 new orders per day that need to be processed. It can be unsustainable for small businesses to handle their order fulfillment at this level.
If you think now is the time to look into 3PL and Shopify order fulfillment integrations, here is our guide on what you need to know to find the right partner for your Shopify eCommerce shop.
Understanding 3PL Logistics & Shopify
If you use Shopify to manage your eCommerce store, then there are three primary ways to handle your logistics:
- The DIY approach
- Outsourcing to a 3PL
The Do-It-Yourself Approach
You would review orders, package the items, and ship them yourself if you take this approach to logistics management and order fulfillment.
Outsource to a 3PL
With outsourced fulfillment, 3PL fulfillment providers will store, ship, and track all of the orders for you. An experienced 3PL partner makes it easy to setup this integration process with your Shopify account.
With dropshipping, your dropship partner sends items to the customer when an order is placed. Similar to outsourcing to a 3PL, dropshipping would require integration with your Shopify as well.
Does Shopify Have 3PL Integrations?
Shopify has 3PL integrations that make your life easier and help your business run more efficiently. To set up the integration, you must first set up your order fulfillment.
To do this, go to your Shopify admin dashboard and select the fulfillment method you plan to use: in-house (with either automatic or manual fulfillment), dropshipping, or a 3PL.
Once you select that you plan to use a 3PL for order fulfillment, you will connect your Shopify account to the 3PL’s technology. This will ensure that orders send directly to the 3PL for timely fulfillment and that both parties can access inventory levels.
Understanding Shopify Order Fulfillment Options & Integrations
As mentioned above, there are three options for Shopify order fulfillment. Here is a closer look at what you might see on your Shopify admin dashboard so that you can make the right selection for your business.
Shopify Fulfillment Network | New Fulfillment Service Offered Through Shopify
In-house | Automatic Fulfillment
Certain orders (like PDFs) can be sent out automatically to the customer's email once the order is placed, meaning you do not have to spend extra time sending those digital order files.
In-house | Manual Fulfillment
As the most common fulfillment type for Shopify owners, you would manually package and ship orders to your customers. This can be time-consuming and challenging for some business owners to keep up with.
If your dropship partner will be handling the order fulfillment, this selection will allow you to integrate your Shopify store with the dropship technology. This allows them to be notified of new orders.
Third-Party Logistics Partner
Like dropshipping, this option allows you to integrate your Shopify account with the 3PL software, so they can begin processing and filling orders as your customers place them.
What Is a 3PL Integration for Shopify?
We have used the word “integration” several times… but you may be wondering what exactly that means and why it can be critical for your business. Integration is more than just sending the order over to the shipping partner or third-party logistics provider. The integration step can also help with other aspects of the business.
When you are partnering with 3PL fulfillment centers, you want to make sure they can integrate with:
- Your Shopify account for order management
- Your inventory management system for accurate inventory levels
- Any order processing, tracking, or other software you use to ensure an easy partnership
- An existing warehouse management solution if you use one (if not, most 3PLs have their own WMS with space for your inventory needs)
Some 3PLs can directly integrate with Shopify to help with order management system tasks like marking orders as fulfilled, processing refunds, or tracking inventory levels. This is vital to growing your business, scaling your eCommerce sales, and keeping your customers happy!
3PL Process Flow
When you hand off your inventory to an outside party for the first time, many online merchants are concerned they will no longer have control or insight into their inventory.
However, with the right 3PL partner, you will gain additional tools and data on how your business is running. The 3PL process allows your new logistics partner to be just that: a partner. You and the 3PL will work together to minimize any supply chain issues. This includes accurate inventory management, quick and efficient order fulfillment, and satisfied customers that come back for more.
Here are the primary steps in the 3PL process flow:
Once the inventory leaves your hands (or your manufacturer’s) and heads to the 3PL warehouse, logistics specialists first need to receive it. This task is simply inputting the data into the warehouse management system so they can keep accurate track of what has been received.
After the items are accurately input, they will be stored on shelves, bins, or pallets that are designated for your inventory. This allows the next steps of the process to move along seamlessly.
After an order is placed, the 3PL warehouse will automatically be notified through the integration into your Shopify software. The warehouse will print the packing slip and pick the items for each order from the shelves, bins, or pallets.
After everything has been gathered, orders are securely packed. You can even customize the packing materials with branded boxes, envelopes, or packing tape, so your customer knows it is the order from your store upon first glance.
After the order is packed, it is labeled for shipping and sent to the warehouse holding area for the carrier to pick up. You may even gain access to more carrier options than before with your 3PL’s relationship with different shipping carriers.
Orders might be returned – and that is okay, it happens! 3PLs can handle return management services for your Shopify store and take care of the entire process, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Benefits of Shopify 3PL Partnerships
If it is time to consider a Shopify-3PL relationship to manage some of your business tasks, you can get more benefits than you may realize.
Here are some of the top benefits that Shopify owners enjoy when they make the switch to a 3PL order fulfillment strategy:
3PLs have technology and processes to ensure more accurate inventory management and stocking levels, so you do not have to notify customers that they purchased an out-of-stock item.
A 3PL may even help you predict upcoming spikes in sales, so you can plan accordingly and get additional inventory to the warehouse, so there are no delays in processing orders.
Order Processing & Shipping
Order fulfillment is the number one reason that online businesses turn to 3PLs. Logistics partners can quickly and accurately pick and pack orders for your customers as they come in, reducing the processing time and ensuring accuracy in your order fulfillment.
You can also take advantage of additional shipping services, like expedited shipping or international destinations.
If you find yourself running out of space and considering investing in additional warehouse space, a 3PL can help. Warehousing your inventory is a part of the order fulfillment services, so you will have room to store your products while waiting to be shipped to customers.
A 3PL warehouse management system also helps to ensure accurate inventory levels and organization, as well as insights into your company’s data.
Instead of having boxes and envelopes piled around your office – or running out of them just as a surge of holiday orders comes in – a 3PL will have the right size and shape package and packing materials to keep your products safe when in route to their destination.
Rate Negotiation & Discounts
3PLs often negotiate rates and discounts with different shipping providers. UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL work with 3PLs to give bulk rates on domestic and international shipping and specialty services like overnight or other expedited rates.
Bring Together ShipNetwork & Shopify
ShipNetwork integrates with Shopify, helping Shopify eCommerce sellers like you fulfill orders accurately with the SmartFill fulfillment solution. With SmartFill, you can quickly integrate Shopify with our 3PL services, so you can start to automate and streamline orders coming into your online store.
When you partner with ShipNetworks for your Shopify 3PL needs, you get access to our quick and accurate fulfillment services, two-day delivery network, and lowered shipping costs.
To get started, request a quote today to learn about how we can help grow your Shopify store!
What does 3PL mean in shipping?
3PL stands for Third Party Logistics. The company will handle all aspects of your shipping process, from receiving orders at the facility to delivering them on time and accurately to your customers!
Does Shopify have 3PL integrations?
Shopify has several integrations with 3PLs. Shop directly from your site, or connect via API so that other software systems can also access order information!
What is a 3PL integration for Shopify?
The 3PL (third-party logistics) integration for Shopify is the perfect solution when you need to have another company handle processing and shipping. Using this service means that your products will be handled by shipping experts, which will reduce shipping and labor costs!
Is Dropshipping a 3PL?
No, the difference between a 3PL and dropshipping is the fulfillment warehouse. A manufacturer or distributor will send individual orders to customers when using a dropshipping method. When partnering with a 3PL, leverage logistics experts that specialize in packing and shipping each incoming order efficiently, so it can get delivered quickly with no hassle.