Month: April 2023
Carrier contract negotiation: How to negotiate with FedEx and UPS
This is a guest post from Refund Retriever President Brian Gibbs. Brian founded Refund Retriever in 2006 while running his first eBay-based business and seeing the shortcomings of other shipment auditing companies. Refund Retriever’s primary focus is FedEx and UPS parcel invoice auditing. Gibbs has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other publications discussing parcel auditing, shipping, eCommerce, and more.
FedEx and UPS are vital partners for your business, but unfortunately, fulfilling through them is only becoming more expensive and problematic. That’s why it’s essential to negotiate your carrier contracts to your benefit so you can continue selling your product. (As an owner, you should know well how much the cost of shipping affects your business.)
Introducing more strategic planning into your parcel contract negotiations can enable you to optimize shipping expenses, counterbalance rate increases, and fulfill your customers’ demands more efficiently. For most retailers, shipping and transportation costs account for at least one-third of their budgets, so it’s imperative to research and understand all aspects of carrier agreements before signing to ensure you maximize your savings.
What do carrier contract negotiations entail?
During carrier contract negotiations, each party discusses and agrees upon the details of their partnership. Then, the carrier creates a shipping contract that includes the terms and conditions of said relationship.
The carrier will then issue a proposed agreement for the shipper to sign electronically. Once the proposed contract goes into effect, future shipment pricing will abide by these terms.
Contract carriers want to maximize their profit margins, not yours, and their aggressive tactics reflect this mindset: Pre-negotiated shipping rates are expensive, and your post-negotiation rates will usually be inconsistent with similarly sized shippers. The harsh reality is, parcel carriers operate under a duopoly — two major carriers (FedEx and UPS) control the industry rates.
Understanding UPS contracts
UPS contracts usually feature individual sections for specific pricing items, including accessorial fees, refunds, surcharges, and incentives. The carrier issues a new rate proposal based on the shipper’s volume every time a new shipping contract replaces an older one. This means any price changes at the time of contract renewal will affect all UPS service levels.
The initial pages of a UPS contract outline general information related to UPS customers and the term duration and termination clause.
Under Addendum A of your UPS agreement, you’ll find information about customers’ shipper accounts and commodity tiers. Addendum B is most shippers’ focus during the contract negotiation process, as it includes terms related to portfolio tier incentives, minimum charges, guaranteed discounts, applicable DIM weight factors, and fee adjustments. Fee adjustments relate to accessories like additional handling, residential, and delivery area surcharges.
Understanding FedEx contracts
FedEx agreements are separated into subsections for the Ground and Express service levels. Make sure you have all current carrier agreements on hand before reviewing parcel shipping rates.
The first few pages of FedEx contracts discuss the general terms and agreements (i.e., automation, unexpected volume, and confidentiality) between the carrier and the shipper. Next are separate pricing pages for domestic and international shipping. They include information about shipping volume and applicable discounts based on your total shipping spend over the last 52 weeks.
Other notable terms are minimum transportation charges on domestic shipments and discounts offered on international shipping under domestic pricing or based on shipping volume.
Towards the end of your FedEx agreement, you’ll find accessorial and dimensional weight concessions terms, including applicable discounts on FedEx Ground, Express, Air, and other service levels. Accessorial fee reductions have term limits, which expire and will cause your shipping to increase if missed.
How to negotiate with FedEx and UPS
The foundation of a successful carrier contract negotiation is leveraging your data and established relationship. When planning how to haggle rates with carriers, remember that your carrier wants to retain your business.
1. Minimum charge impact
All service levels have a minimum charge for each package. The standard minimum charge is usually a Zone 2, one-pound package. For 2023 FedEx and UPS ground, this is a charge of $10.10; no matter your discounts, you’ll pay a minimum of $10.10 for that shipment, so it’s important to know how many of your packages hit this mark. Then, determine how much discount to obtain on the minimum charges.
2. Properly structure earned discount tiers
Many shippers aren’t aware of this, but carrier contract negotiations can occur at any time. While earned discount tiers can be beneficial in providing further incentives, you want to monitor your gross spending and understand the entirety of your contract, including your discount tiers. These tiers and the discounts associated with them are negotiable.
3. Beware of Guaranteed Service Refund (GSR) waivers
Some carrier agreements will incorporate a GSR waiver, so it’s imperative that you read the details of your contract. Never sign an agreement that precludes you from receiving refunds when you deserve them. In many cases, this will be a last-minute addition from the carrier to increase their margins. When performing a thorough audit of your FedEx or UPS invoice, we typically see anywhere from a 1%–4% return on total spend when filing claims for late deliveries, manifested-not-shipped mistakes, erroneous residential charges, etc.
4. Know your shipping data
It’s vital to study your shipping history before every carrier contract negotiation. Being unaware of factors like parcel expenses, shipping zones, package weights and sizes, and dim divisor places you at a disadvantage. When your carrier knows your shipping data more intimately than you, it’s nearly impossible to negotiate a better deal. In many cases, hiring a professional audit firm like Refund Retriever that has powerful reporting can provide the information needed to gain leverage over FedEx or UPS.
When to negotiate with FedEx and UPS
Any time you see a significant increase or decrease in your shipping volume, reevaluate your agreement. You could be losing valuable tier-level discounts or missing out on additional volume discounts. Further, FedEx accessorial fee discounts have a term limit; when the time expires, FedEx will charge full price for accessorial fees, so know how long your agreements last.
Navigating shipping contracts can feel intimidating and time-consuming, and contract management, negotiation, and renegotiation tend to be long processes. However, most customers think they’ve already negotiated the lowest price and so sign contracts without calculating savings.
FedEx and UPS carrier contracts contain confusing language, underlying clauses, and other subtle details that often go overlooked, including yearly rate increases, overcharges, shipment exceptions, and late deliveries — all of which hurt your bottom line. Further, poorly implemented shipping and pricing agreements can generate additional excessive overspending. Negotiation is thus essential to control your business’s shipping costs.
As a valued customer, you can review and renegotiate with your provider to continue enjoying the best prices, and Refund Retriever’s carrier contract negotiation experts can help with every stage of the process.
Navigating Amazon’s policies: How to avoid suspension and keep your account in good standing
This is a guest post from AMZ Sellers Attorney. They work exclusively with Amazon sellers to appeal account suspensions successfully and get their clients back to selling.
Amazon is one of the largest online marketplaces in the world, where individuals and businesses sell their products to a global audience. With over 2.5 million active third-party sellers on the platform, competition is fierce, so sellers need to be diligent in adhering to Amazon’s policies to avoid suspension, which can be a costly disadvantage.
In this article, we discuss Amazon’s policies, their importance, and how you can navigate them to keep your account in good standing.
What are Amazon’s policies?
Amazon has a long list of rules and regulations that merchants must abide by when selling on their platform. These policies are in place to ensure a fair and safe marketplace for both sellers and buyers.
Third-party sellers are further bound by Amazon’s Business Solutions Agreement (BSA). The BSA governs the use of Amazon’s business services, including the selling of products on the marketplace. Key points to note in the BSA include:
- Amazon’s right to suspend or terminate accounts that violate the agreement or cause harm to Amazon’s customers or brand
- A requirement to maintain accurate and up-to-date account information, including contact information and tax identification numbers
- Obligations to comply with applicable laws and regulations, including product safety and intellectual property laws
- Amazon’s right to withhold or deduct funds in the event of customer disputes or chargebacks
- A dispute resolution process that generally requires arbitration and prohibits class actions.
The major policies to know
Some of the most important policies to be aware of are those that deal with product detail pages, prohibited content, reviews, and logistics.
Product detail pages
These rules cover a wide range of topics, from product images and descriptions to their pricing. Sellers must accurately describe items and follow Amazon’s guidelines for product listings. This ensures customers have a clear understanding of what they’re purchasing and reduces the risk of returns and negative feedback.
The policies for product detail pages deal with:
- Accurate product information: Sellers must provide correct information about their products, including descriptions, images, and pricing. It must be consistent with the product being sold and not mislead shoppers.
- Images: Amazon sets regulations for product images that specify their quality, size, and content. Images must accurately represent the product being sold and contain no watermarks, logos, or other branding unrelated to the product.
- Titles and descriptions: Product titles and descriptions need to detail the product being sold clearly, avoiding any promotional language or misleading information. Titles should be concise and to the point so customers are well aware of what they’re purchasing. Meanwhile, descriptions should be detailed and informative, giving customers all the information they need to make an informed decision.
- Pricing: An item’s cost can’t be arbitrary; Amazon establishes minimum and maximum allowable prices, as well as rules for price comparisons and discounts.
Amazon also prohibits the sale of certain products they consider to be illegal or harmful, such as:
- Counterfeit items: Amazon takes counterfeiting very seriously and has strict policies in place to prevent the sale of counterfeit items. Sellers must be able to provide proof of authenticity for any products they sell, and Amazon may take legal action against those who violate these regulations.
- Illegal drugs: These include prescription drugs that aren’t approved for sale in the United States.
- Tobacco products: This category includes cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.
- Hazardous materials: Amazon prohibits the sale of hazardous materials like chemicals and other substances that could be harmful to customers or the environment.
Customer reviews are crucial to a seller’s success on the platform. Positive feedback helps boost sales and improves product visibility, while negative ratings can damage a seller’s reputation and harm their sales. Because sellers can manipulate consumer opinion to their advantage, it’s important to adhere to Amazon’s rules and guidelines regarding customer reviews.
One of their most prominent policies states that sellers are prohibited from offering incentives such as gift cards or other rewards in exchange for positive reviews. Additionally, sellers aren’t allowed to post reviews for their own products, solicit reviews from family and friends, or ask customers to alter their reviews.
Due to the recent case involving The Bountiful Company, Amazon has also taken harsh steps to combat fake reviews on the marketplace, including lawsuits and permanently banning brands for review fraud. The company has established policies to prevent review abuse and continuously monitors for violations. Amazon receives millions of global reviews every week, which they analyze before publishing using skilled investigators and sophisticated, industry-leading tools. Thanks to this diligence, more than 99% of products customers view in Amazon’s stores contain only authentic reviews.
Intellectual property rights
Intellectual property rights (IPR) are a critical aspect of selling on Amazon, so merchants must have the appropriate rights to sell their products on the platform. Amazon takes IPR seriously and has developed a number of tools and programs to help sellers protect their intellectual property and ensure they don’t infringe on the rights of others.
One way merchants can protect their IPR is through Amazon’s Brand Registry program. The program provides a number of tools to help sellers defend their brand, including store creation and management, access to advanced search tools, and the ability to report instances of infringement directly to Amazon. To participate in the Brand Registry program, merchants must have a registered trademark for their brand. Once enrolled, they can monitor their brand and report any instances of infringement with ease. The program also offers customized product detail pages and automatic brand protections.
Additionally, Amazon has developed a number of policies and procedures to govern the use of intellectual property on the platform to ensure merchants avoid infringing on others’ IPR. These include strict rules concerning the use of trademarks, copyrights, and patents, as well as guidelines for product listings and descriptions.
For instance, sellers have to keep invoices showing the provenance of the products they purchase from suppliers. These invoices must contain sufficient detail so Amazon can identify the brand name, the product, the supplier, the merchant, and the number of units. That information helps Amazon verify the authenticity of the items sold on the platform and combats the sale of counterfeit goods.
Despite these efforts to protect IPR though, instances of infringement still occur. According to a recent report, Amazon remains a hotbed for counterfeiters, with many using the platform to sell fake or knockoff versions of popular items. In response, Amazon announced a number of initiatives aimed at cracking down on counterfeit goods and protecting brands’ intellectual property. These include the creation of a Counterfeit Crimes Unit dedicated to fighting counterfeit goods on the platform, as well as the use of advanced machine learning algorithms to detect and remove counterfeit listings.
Shipping and fulfillment
Customers expect fast and reliable shipping, and sellers have to meet that expectation to maintain a positive reputation and grow their business. In that regard, Amazon also enforces specific policies, such as requirements for how quickly orders should be shipped, how to handle returns, and the use of tracking information for each order.
Merchants are required to ship orders within the time frame specified in their shipping settings. They can adjust those settings to reflect their available shipping methods and the time it takes to prepare an item for shipment. In general, Amazon recommends sellers ship orders within two business days of receiving an order notification.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is an Amazon service that allows merchants to store their products in the company’s fulfillment centers. When a customer places an order, Amazon handles the picking, packing, and shipping of the item, as well as any customer service inquiries or returns. This can be a convenient option for vendors who want to take advantage of Amazon’s fast and reliable delivery options without having to manage their own inventory and logistics.
Returns also require care and attention to avoid negative feedback and penalties. In general, customers are allowed to return items within 30 days of delivery for a full refund, provided the item is in new, resellable condition. Sellers are responsible for providing a return shipping label and handling any customer service inquiries related to returns (unless they opt in to FBA).
Proper tracking of every order is essential for both the seller and the buyer. Tracking information allows merchants to monitor the progress of the shipment and ensure it arrives at the customer’s address on time. It also gives the customer peace of mind and avoids potential disputes or claims of non-delivery.
Why Amazon’s policies are important
Adhering to Amazon’s policies is not only important for avoiding suspension but also for maintaining a good reputation on the platform. Amazon has become a household name for online shopping and is known for its customer-centric approach. As a result, shoppers have high expectations for product quality, pricing, and shipping times. Sellers who violate Amazon’s policies and fail to meet these demands risk hurting their reputation and losing consumer trust. This leads to negative reviews and feedback as well, which further damage your store’s name and make it difficult to attract new buyers.
Customers are less likely to trust a merchant who’s been suspended, even after their account is reinstated. It’s also difficult to regain the confidence of current shoppers once you’ve been suspended.
These consequences snowball into a loss of revenue for your store. Amazon is a highly competitive marketplace, and sellers must constantly work to differentiate themselves and win over customers. If you’re suspended, your products will be removed from the platform and you’ll be unable to generate sales until your account is reinstated.
To complicate things further, Amazon has strict procedures in place for appealing suspensions: Sellers must provide detailed plans of action outlining the steps they’ll take to prevent future violations, as well as demonstrate a thorough understanding of Amazon’s policies and guidelines. The appeals process can thus be lengthy and may require the assistance of a qualified Amazon appeals specialist or attorney.
Navigating Amazon’s policies
Abiding by Amazon’s rules can be challenging, but it’s essential for maintaining a healthy account. Here are some tips for navigating Amazon’s policies successfully:
- Read the policies: The first and most important step is to read the rules thoroughly, which are readily available on Amazon’s website. This will help you understand what’s expected of you and what you need to do to stay in compliance.
- Stay up to date: Amazon’s policies change frequently, so it’s imperative to keep up with any changes or updates. Regularly check Amazon’s policy pages and subscribe to Amazon’s seller newsletter to stay ahead of the curve.
- Use Amazon’s tools: Amazon offers a suite of tools to help merchants stay in compliance with their policies. These include the Product Listing Quality Dashboard, which displays how your product detail pages perform and highlights areas for improvement, as well as the Brand Registry and Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), which we discussed earlier.
- Monitor your account: Check your accounts regularly to ensure you’re in compliance with Amazon’s policies. This includes monitoring product detail pages, customer feedback, and order metrics. Taking these actions hones in on issues early so you can address them before they become significant problems.
- Respond to Amazon notifications promptly: If Amazon notifies you of a policy violation, it’s essential to respond quickly and take the necessary steps to rectify the situation. Failure to respond promptly can result in account suspension, so take these notifications seriously.
- Seek professional help: Navigating Amazon’s policies can be a maze-like undertaking, especially for successful Amazon merchants who are busy maintaining supply chains and managing resources. The platform’s internal appeals process can be even more convoluted, prompting many sellers to seek professional assistance. An Appeals Service like Amazon Sellers Attorney offers free consultation to help you understand the marketplace rules, maintain a healthy account standing, and reinstate suspended accounts. Their supervising attorney, Kenneth Eade, also provides legal services concerning intellectual property and Brand Registry support, as well as arbitration.
Wrapping up — Follow Amazon’s rules to stay competitive with uninterrupted operations
Amazon’s policies are crucial to understand and comply with to ensure your store runs smoothly. They cover product detail pages, prohibited content, customer reviews, intellectual property rights, shipping and fulfillment, and other important topics. Failure to abide by these rules can result in negative consequences like account suspension, loss of revenue, and damage to your brand’s reputation.
To navigate Amazon’s rules productively, read them thoroughly and stay up to date on any changes, use Amazon’s tools to monitor your account regularly, respond promptly to policy violations, and turn to outside help if needed. By following these guidelines, you’ll guarantee a positive customer experience while simultaneously protecting your business and remaining competitive on the marketplace.
5 Vital accessibility features for your eCommerce website
As an eCommerce professional, it’s essential to understand the importance of accessibility in the industry. It refers to how well individuals with disabilities can reach and use your website. Making your eCommerce website accessible means everyone, regardless of their abilities, can navigate, understand, and interact with your site easily.
In a brick-and-mortar store, you might think of accessibility elements like a wheelchair-accessible entrance or offering services to meet the needs of your diverse customers. Accessibility is not only a legal requirement but also a moral obligation to ensure everyone has equal access to your products and services.
Recent years have seen a growing emphasis on website accessibility. Various countries have passed laws and policies to ensure websites are accessible to all users. In the United States, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to provide equal access to their services and products for people with disabilities. Then, in 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a rule stating that websites must be accessible to people with disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, or have physical disabilities.
In addition to meeting legal requirements, making your website accessible brings many benefits to your business: Your site becomes easier to navigate, provides a better user experience, and can grow your customer base. Additionally, an accessible website can increase website traffic and even enhances search engine optimization (SEO).
Whether you run a small business or a large corporation, you must ensure your company’s website is accessible to all visitors. To help you meet the legal definition, we’ve broken down eight vital accessibility features for your website. We’ll explore how these features can benefit your customers and your business and provide step-by-step instructions on how to implement them.
Textual accessibility features
One of the most important aspects of website accessibility is ensuring your website’s text is easy to read and understand. That involves making the text size and color contrast suitable for all users, including those with visual impairments. This is an important detail because:
- By allowing users to adjust the text size, visitors with visual impairments can increase it to a level that’s comfortable for them to read.
- A high contrast between text and background colors makes it easier for users with visual impairments to read your website.
Another important textual accessibility feature is text-to-speech software, which reads website content aloud to visitors. To implement this feature, you can add a plugin to your website that gives users the option to hear the content. Text-to-speech software is beneficial both for users with visual impairments and those who prefer to listen to content instead of reading it.
It’s also critical that the language on your website is clear and easy to understand. Avoid using technical jargon or complicated verbiage that may be difficult for some users to comprehend. You should also provide simple instructions on how to use your website’s features so people can navigate the site easily.
Screen readers: What are they and why implement them?
Screen reader compatibility is another way to increase site accessibility for the visually impaired. Similar to text-to-speech, screen readers are software programs that read website content out loud.
To make your website screen reader-friendly:
- Include alt text in all images: Alt text is a brief description of the picture that screen readers can read aloud. This helps users with visual impairments understand what the image depicts.
- Organize your website’s layout and structure: Clearly structure your site with headings, subheadings, and lists to make it easier for screen readers to move through the content and provide a more pleasant user experience.
- Ensure all forms and interactive elements are easy to use: Use labels and descriptive text to explain each field or button’s purpose in your forms and interactive elements.
Navigational accessibility features
Navigation is a core characteristic of any website. As such, yours must be clear and easy to use in general but particularly for users with disabilities.
In addition to screen reader compatibility, you can improve site navigation accessibility by:
- Making your website keyboard-friendly: Users with physical disabilities often use keyboard shortcuts to navigate through a website. This means all website features, including menus and buttons, should be accessible using only a keyboard. You can achieve this using standard HTML tags and attributes that enable keyboard accessibility, such as “tabindex” and “aria-label.”
- Creating simple menus: This includes using clear and descriptive labels for menu items, avoiding drop-downs, and maintaining a consistent menu structure across all site pages. Providing a site map or search functionality can also be helpful for users who have difficulty finding specific content on your website.
Visual accessibility features
We discussed the importance of alt text in images for users who are blind or visually impaired. However, there are other visual accessibility features you can incorporate to achieve a more inclusive site experience:
- Closed captions for videos: Closed captions are text descriptions of a video’s audio content that appear on screen. This feature allows users who are deaf or hard of hearing to understand what’s said in the video. You can add closed captions easily using various tools or plugins available on most video hosting platforms.
- Suitable color scheme and design: Include high-contrast colors on your site, avoid relying on color alone to convey information, and use easily readable fonts. You should also ensure the layout of your website is consistent and easy to follow.
- Legible text and interactive elements: Adopt a responsive website design that adapts to different screen sizes and resolutions. Also, offer options for users to adjust the size of the text or the zoom level on the page.
Cognitive accessibility features
This category of features is essential for users with cognitive disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or autism. These users may have difficulty with reading comprehension, memory, or processing information, which can make it challenging to navigate and use a website. To lower these barriers, you can:
- Include simple language and clear instructions: Avoid complex sentences or technical jargon that can be difficult to understand. Instead, use plain language and concise sentences to convey your message.
- Employ a consistent design and layout: Featuring consistent design elements, such as color schemes, fonts, and page layouts, makes it easier for users with cognitive disabilities to comprehend your website. Additionally, maintain a clear and uncluttered website layout, with a logical hierarchy of content.
- Provide support: This can include providing audio recordings of your content or using text-to-speech software. Additionally, you can provide a glossary or list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help users understand your website content.
- Offer clear feedback to users: Display confirmation messages when users complete an action, such as submitting a form or making a purchase. Be sure your error messages are clear and concise as well, with suggestions for how to correct the error.
The subtle benefits for you
By making your website accessible to all users, you can increase your consumer base and improve your brand reputation. Not to mention, it’s simply the right thing to do.
In terms of technical aspects, accessibility significantly improves SEO. Search engines like Google prioritize websites that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. As such, implementing accessibility features such as alt text for images and closed captions for videos boosts your website’s search engine rankings, which can ultimately lead to more traffic and conversions for your website.
An accessible website is also necessary to comply with legal requirements and prevent potential lawsuits. Failure to abide by accessibility laws can result in legal action against your business, costly lawsuits, and negative publicity. By prioritizing accessibility in your website design, you can mitigate these risks and ensure that your business is complying with legal requirements.
Finally, it enriches the overall user experience for every visitor, not just those with disabilities. Features like clear navigation and easy-to-read text create a more user-friendly website that’s simpler to use. This can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, resulting in higher conversions and revenue for your business.
Wrapping up — Open access to your eCommerce website to all visitors
Ensuring your eCommerce website is accessible to all users is both a legal requirement and a moral obligation. You can transform your website into an inclusive experience using textual, navigational, visual, and cognitive accessibility features.
Incorporating these elements provides a smoother experience for all visitors, which serves to expand your customer base and strengthen your site’s SEO. Additionally, you’ll prevent potential lawsuits by complying with legal requirements.
Accessibility is an ongoing process, and you should regularly evaluate your website’s to make sure it meets the needs of all users. By prioritizing accessibility in your website design, you’ll create a more inclusive online environment and set a positive example for others in your industry — while reaping the rewards of greater consumer loyalty.
eCommerce 3PL Data and Seller Insights: 2023 Survey Results
As customer expectations evolve, eCommerce retailers must adapt by implementing advanced solutions that cater to their clientele’s growing demands. One aspect that plays a vital role in achieving this is logistics management, with third-party logistics (3PL) providers emerging as indispensable partners for online merchants.
To better understand eCommerce sellers’ current priorities, challenges, and objectives, we conducted an extensive seller survey, gathering insights from business owners across various channels and industries.
Our survey provides a comprehensive overview of the online retail landscape in 2023, highlighting the ever-increasing importance of logistics and 3PLs for eCommerce merchants as they navigate the digital road to success. Read on and dig into some of the most interesting eCommerce 3PL data we uncovered.
The role of logistics and 3PLs for eCommerce merchants
Logistics and 3PL providers are integral for robust eCommerce operations, as they encompass everything from inventory management and order fulfillment to shipping and returns.
Logistics management directly impacts customer satisfaction and the overall shopping experience. By streamlining that process, businesses can ensure timely delivery, maintain adequate inventory levels, and offer exceptional customer service.
This is where 3PLs come into play. Outsourcing logistics to a 3PL allows eCommerce retailers to leverage the expertise and resources of seasoned professionals, enabling them to focus on their core competencies.
With a 3PL, eCommerce merchants can connect to a wide network of distribution centers, carriers, and other resources. This results in lower shipping costs and faster delivery times. 3PLs also offer the flexibility to scale operations up or down, depending on the business’s needs, ensuring optimal efficiency. Additionally, 3PLs often employ cutting-edge technology to help businesses optimize their supply chains and streamline the fulfillment process.
However, the journey to successful logistics management has its challenges.
eCommerce merchants often face obstacles such as finding the right 3PL partner, overcoming integration difficulties, and ensuring seamless communication between all parties involved.
Navigating these challenges is critical to effective logistics management. It lays the foundation for a fruitful partnership with a 3PL provider, ultimately driving growth and success for eCommerce businesses in the long run.
Interested in other results from our 2023 Seller Survey? Check out MyFBAPrep’s Seller Survey Insights 2023.
Most common 3PL partners among eCommerce merchants
Selecting the right 3PL partner is a crucial decision that significantly impacts a business’s growth and success. According to our recent survey, the most common 3PL partners that eCommerce merchants contract with are:
- FedEx (58.9%)
- UPS (43.9%)
- Amazon FBA (43%)
- Amazon MCF (35.5%)
- USPS (29%)
These industry giants have established themselves as reliable and efficient logistics providers, making them popular choices among eCommerce retailers.
But how do merchants find their ideal 3PL partner?
How eCommerce merchants choose a 3PL partner
Our survey revealed the most common ways to find a 3PL partner are referrals, social media, online ads, and industry events:
- Social media (39.2%): Social media platforms are a valuable resource for discovering and researching 3PL providers. Many 3PL companies maintain a presence on popular social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to showcase their services, share industry news, and engage with prospective clients.
- Referrals (15.9%): Many merchants rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from their peers or industry contacts. This approach leverages firsthand experiences and insights, which can help businesses identify a partner with a proven track record of success.
- Ads outside of social media (12.2%): You can often find ads for 3PL providers on various digital platforms, search engines, and industry-specific websites. These spotlight potential 3PL partners and educate sellers about their services and offerings.
- Industry events (11.2%): Attending conferences, trade shows, and other industry-specific events can be an effective way to meet 3PL providers and learn about their offerings. These events often feature presentations and panel discussions that reveal valuable insights into the latest trends and best practices in logistics management.
Take advantage of these portals to find and select a 3PL partner that aligns with your unique needs and objectives.
What merchants consider when choosing 3PLs
When selecting a 3PL partner, eCommerce merchants consider several factors to ensure their chosen provider meets their unique needs and objectives.
According to our survey, the most crucial aspects that influence their decision-making process are:
- Price (56.6%): Cost is a top concern for eCommerce retailers. They look for competitive pricing structures and strive to balance affordability with quality service. Pricing encompasses warehousing, order fulfillment, shipping costs, and any additional fees.
- Delivery speed (46%): Fast and efficient delivery is mandatory to meet customer expectations and enhance the overall shopping experience. Merchants prioritize 3PL providers that offer quick turnaround times and efficient same-day, next-day, or two-day shipping options.
- Reliability (45.4%): Online sellers need a 3PL partner who consistently delivers on their promises. Reliability includes meeting delivery timelines, maintaining accurate inventory levels, and minimizing errors in the order fulfillment process.
- Ease of use (40%): A user-friendly and intuitive interface is essential for seamless integration and efficient management of logistics operations. Merchants prefer 3PL providers with simple and straightforward systems that remove the complexity of managing inventory, tracking orders, and handling returns.
- Customer service (33.2%): Responsive and proactive customer support is foundational to a successful 3PL partnership. Sellers value providers that offer dedicated account managers, timely issue resolution, and regular communication to ensure smooth logistics operations.
- Services (30.4%): A 3PL provider’s range of services can be a decisive factor for eCommerce merchants. Businesses look for partners catering to their specific needs, such as kitting and assembly, customized packaging, or international shipping.
Consider these factors carefully to identify a 3PL partner who aligns with your requirements and streamlines logistics operations.
Your business may benefit from a 3PL partnership. Read our blog on why you should outsource your eCommerce logistics.
Most common concerns when partnering with 3PLs
Despite their advantages, 3PLs have a few concerns that cause eCommerce sellers to hesitate. Identifying and addressing these concerns is crucial for fostering a successful and lasting relationship.
According to our survey, the most common concerns include:
- Shipping mistakes (42%)
- Expensive shipping costs (37.2%)
- Poor communication (28.2%)
- Inventory loss, theft, or breakage (27.2%)
- Lack of services (23.2%)
- Inaccurate receiving (20%)
To address these issues and ease merchants’ worries, 3PL providers are taking proactive steps like:
- Investing in internal processes: Implementing robust quality control measures, investing in advanced technology, and providing continuous training for staff can help reduce shipping errors. Scheduled audits and performance evaluations also ensure 3PL providers maintain robust operations.
- Cutting shipping costs: This includes transparent and flexible pricing structures, negotiating better rates with carriers, and providing access to a wide network of shipping options. Regularly reviewing and optimizing shipping strategies can yield cost savings for merchants.
- Strengthening communication: 3PLs now focus on establishing clear lines of communication, offering dedicated account managers, and adopting efficient communication tools to improve the flow of information between them and their clients. Regular updates on order status, inventory levels, and other logistics-related matters also build trust and enhance the partnership.
- Protecting inventory: To reduce theft, loss, and damage, providers are implementing stringent security measures, investing in warehouse management systems, and conducting regular inventory audits.
- Expanding services: As eCommerce needs increase in complexity, fulfillment providers see the need to expand and diversify their service offerings, stay abreast of industry trends, and customize solutions to cater to the unique requirements of eCommerce merchants. This enables 3PLs to become versatile partners capable of adapting to the evolving demands of their clients.
- Refining receiving processes: This involves streamlining the receiving process, utilizing barcode scanning technology, and ensuring accurate documentation. 3PLs also run regular audits and staff training to improve the accuracy of their inventory-receiving processes.
By addressing these concerns and demonstrating a commitment to excellence, 3PL providers can instill confidence in eCommerce merchants and establish themselves as trusted partners in the online retail ecosystem.
Wrapping up — Learn from our eCommerce 3PL data
A robust logistics strategy with the support of a reliable 3PL partner can significantly impact your business’s overall success and growth.
As customer expectations evolve, effective logistics management becomes even more critical in ensuring a seamless shopping experience and, ultimately, higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Diligently assess your business’s unique needs and objectives and conduct thorough research on potential 3PL partners to secure a logistics solution that streamlines your operations and propels your eCommerce venture to new heights.
AI for Amazon listing optimization — Is it worth it?
This is a guest post from Hammad Nafees of Zonguru. A marketer by trade, a writer at heart, and an Amazon evangelist around the clock, Hammad lives and breathes the world of the smiling A. You can often find him discussing the ins and outs of the eCommerce marketplace across the web. In the very rare instances when he’s not busy educating audiences, he likes to sit down and enjoy some me time watching football.
With millions of Amazon sellers competing against each other on a daily basis, optimizing Amazon listings is essential to improve your store’s visibility, attract potential customers, and increase your in-store sales on the eCommerce marketplace.
However, optimizing listings can be daunting, especially when you have dozens of ASINs to list and manage.
This is where AI assistance can be a major boon.
AI listing tools are designed to churn out well-honed listings in bulk in a matter of seconds. Some also perform keyword research, image analysis, and pricing optimization to help you create a high-quality product listing and draw more eyes to your Amazon store.
In this article, we’ll explain why AI is a powerful asset for optimizing product listings at scale. We’ll discuss the typical challenges sellers face when refining their listings, how AI in its various forms can help overcome those obstacles, and where it may fall short. We’ll also show you some examples of AI tools in action.
But first thing’s first…
Why is it important to optimize Amazon product listings?
Amazon is an eCommerce smorgasbord where customers can shop for practically anything and everything. Even within a specific niche, there are hundreds of products that compete for daily impressions and clicks. However, those ranked in the top spots in Amazon’s search results have the best chances of grabbing shoppers’ attention and generating sales.
Product listing optimization is the only surefire way (outside of paid ads) to secure that enviable top position in the search results. It’s a worthwhile investment for any Amazon seller who wants to increase product visibility and drive sales.
Here are three ways Amazon product listing optimization can pay off:
- Improve product visibility: More than 80% of clicks on Amazon go to products that rank on the first page of search results. Listing optimization increases your chances of appearing on page one, thus boosting your visibility and discoverability on the marketplace.
- Drive more sales: Optimized listings tend to have a higher conversion rate — sometimes twice as much — than non-optimized listings. Polish your Amazon product detail pages, and you’re more likely to convert potential customers into actual buyers.
- Enhance the customer experience: About 88% of Amazon shoppers say product descriptions are extremely important when deciding what to purchase on the marketplace. Ensure your listing provides an accurate and complete description of your product and resonates with the audience to build their confidence and encourage them to complete checkout.
Although there are clear benefits to listing optimization, many sellers fail to capitalize on it due to its difficult process.
What makes Amazon listing optimization so challenging?
Even when all the data and keywords required to create high-quality listings are available to sellers, optimizing listings can be an arduous task, with the most common reason being the difficulty of inserting keywords naturally into an Amazon listing.
The eCommerce giant has strict guidelines and character limits for product titles, bullet points, and descriptions. Complying with these requirements while ensuring the listing flows well and includes all critical keywords is challenging.
Moreover, not all Amazon sellers are fluent in English and struggle with the writing portion of a listing. The final copy may sound clunky as a result, which can cause potential customers to hesitate.
Lastly, listing optimization takes a lot of time for sellers with dozens of ASINs and SKUs to manage. These merchants may have to hire multiple Amazon VAs to get the job done, which means spending a significant amount of money. Even then, it can be hard to maintain listing quality across the board.
AI offers a solution to all these challenges and can save you a ton of time and effort while improving your copy and overall listing quality score.
How AI writing assistants and chatbots can help create high-quality Amazon listings
Whether you struggle to come up with a catchy title or want to create a unique description for a range of similar products, there are many AI writing assistants and chatbots available to generate quality content for your listings.
ChatGPT is usually the first one that comes to mind due to its astronomical rise in popularity over a short period. Its abilities range from answering basic and advanced questions to writing lines of code to produce Amazon listings quickly.
Other noteworthy options are Jasper, Copy.ai, WriteSonic, and AnyWord.
All these tools require prompts to craft content for an Amazon product detail page. Below are some real examples of AI writing assistants and chatbots in action:
This ChatGPT-enabled listing optimization used the prompt, “Create an Amazon listing for Bluetooth speakers. It should contain the keywords bluetooth speakers, portable speakers, compact speakers. Target audience is college students.”
This AnyWord-enabled listing optimization shows three variations of the requested prompt.
After running these simulations, we found:
- ChatGPT returned the most impressive results out of all the tested tools, displaying the title, key features, and product description in a clear format.
- The quality of listings can vary greatly according to the quality of the prompt you feed the AI writing assistant/chatbot.
- None of the above AI tools, including ChatGPT, are especially Amazon seller-friendly. For instance, they don’t offer insight into Amazon keyword research, which is integral to building optimized listings. In fact, AnyWord doesn’t even allow you to specify keywords you want to include in your copy.
Alternatively, Amazon sellers can use AI-powered Amazon seller tools to modify their listings.
Just like AI writing assistants, this category also boasts many choices. Some of the top tools in the industry are ZonGuru’s Listing Optimizer, Jungle Scout’s Listing Builder, and CopyMonkey’s Product Description Generator.
What do specialized AI-powered Amazon listing optimization tools bring to the table?
AI tools like ChatGPT essentially serve as writing assistants. They generate whatever you ask them to without contextualizing the settings in which an Amazon listing is meant to be used. For example, as pointed out earlier, none of them provide insight into the discoverability of listings or the potential search volume of the keywords to include. Instead, you have to conduct a separate keyword analysis and manually select the words to add to your prompts.
With a specialized AI listing optimization tool however, you enjoy features that help you construct robust product listings for your store. These tools combine AI and consumer data to produce listings that rank and convert well.
Below is a walkthrough of ZonGuru’s Listing Optimizer to demonstrate how this class of AI tool works and incorporates built-in keyword research and listing analysis.
Step 1: Identify keywords to add to the listing
Provide the ASINs of at least five of your competing products. The tool relies on these to generate an extensive list of keywords you can add to your listing. It also specifies their total search volume and expected sales revenue.
Step 2: Generate listing content based on keywords
Select high-performing keywords relevant to your product and import them to generate an Amazon-compliant listing title, bullet points, and product description in less than 30 seconds.
Step 3: Analyze and compare your listing
Finally, analyze your listing’s performance using metrics like optimization score, search volume, and combined revenue. You should also compare it to other listings in your niche to understand where you rank among the competition.
Here’s a quick comparison of the features you get in a general AI tool versus one specifically designed for Amazon listing optimization:
|Capability||Amazon Listing Optimization Tools||ChatGPT (and other similar tools)|
|ASIN-based keyword research||Yes||No|
|Keyword import||Yes||Not always|
|AI-driven content generation||Yes||Yes|
|Search volume and revenue data||Yes||No|
|Listing analysis||Yes||Not always, and the analysis may not be relevant|
Wrapping up — Polish your Amazon listings using AI
Optimizing your Amazon product listings is crucial for increasing your visibility, improving sales, and helping you stay competitive on the Amazon marketplace. While it’s a lengthy and involved process, AI can remove the bulk of the headache for you.It creates professional listings that effectively engage shoppers and drive sales for your store, saving you time and money.
However, it’s not without its limitations: A general AI tool like ChatGPT can produce good copy, but it may not be the best solution for crafting a listing from scratch. Meanwhile, AI-powered Amazon seller tools designed explicitly for listing optimization can provide everything you need but may be pricey.
Consider the constraints of each AI tool you look at before adopting one. Although no solution is perfect, your burden will become significantly lighter. By embracing AI, you’ll receive quality Amazon listings that attract buyers — without the hassle.
ZonGuru is an all-in-one Amazon toolkit that assists private label sellers with product research, niche evaluation, competition analysis, listing optimization, inventory tracking, customer review acquisition, and running the day-to-day operations of their Amazon business. Our tools bring you the most accurate data from across 10 Amazon marketplaces in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Australia, Germany, and India. We make selling on Amazon easier.
Customer Service Automation for eCommerce Businesses
Customer trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. After a single negative experience, 76% of consumers will stop doing business with a company.
In eCommerce, providing exceptional customer support is crucial to set your business apart from competitors and maintain consumer loyalty. However, offering 24/7 support can be challenging, especially if you have limited resources.
Luckily, automated customer support solutions can help. Using technology like chatbots and AI, you can offer fast, efficient, and personalized customer support with zero human intervention.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the benefits of implementing automated customer service solutions for your eCommerce business and offer tips to help you get started.
What is customer service automation?
Automated customer support refers to the use of artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, and other technology to automate various aspects of customer support. Popular tasks to streamline include answering FAQs, providing real-time assistance, and guiding customers through the purchasing process.
Implementing this option brings many advantages, such as round-the-clock availability, support consistency, cost savings, and more. Automated solutions come in many forms though, and which will work best for your business depends on your channels, your budget, and your available resources.
Types of customer service automation
As an eCommerce business owner, you have several options to improve your customer service. We’ve listed the most common solutions below.
Chatbots are AI-powered software programs that can engage in automated conversations with customers through chat windows on your website or messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. Some can even interact with buyers through voice commands, providing quick answers to commonly asked questions.
Email automation tools allow you to send personalized emails to customers automatically based on their behavior, such as abandoned cart reminders or follow-up emails after a purchase.
With automated phone solutions, customers can receive support even outside of business hours — allowing you to provide 24/7 support and thus improve the overall customer experience.
This reduces the workload of your support team, which saves on staffing costs while still providing high-quality customer service.
Automated social media
Social media automation tools help you manage your social media accounts. Automatically respond to customer inquiries, comments, and messages for top-notch service.
Implementing automated customer support
Introducing automated customer support solutions can streamline your customer service processes and improve the overall customer experience. However, the task can be complex if you jump in without preparing ahead.
To ease the transition, here are some helpful tips to implement automated customer support smoothly in your business.
Choose a robust solution
Consider these key factors when selecting the right solution for your business:
- Customer needs: Consider your customers’ specific needs, including the type of support they require and their preferred communication channels.
- Scalability: Your chosen solution must be able to grow with your business and handle an increasing volume of customer inquiries and interactions.
- Integration: Ensure the software can integrate with your existing systems, such as your eCommerce platform and CRM.
- Ease of use: Search for a solution that’s easy to set up and use, with an intuitive interface your team can learn quickly.
- Cost: Look into the total cost of the solution, including any ongoing fees, and ensure it provides sufficient value for your business to justify its expense.
- Analytics and reporting: Look for tools that provide data on customer interactions, enabling you to delve into and optimize your support processes.
Integrate your solution into existing systems
When choosing an automated customer support tool, look for one with robust integration capabilities like APIs, plugins, and third-party integrations.
Assess your existing systems, including your eCommerce platform, CRM, and other tools, to determine which integration points are necessary for smooth integration. Then, test the integration between your customer service automation solution and your existing systems to ensure everything works as expected.
Even after you join these two elements, you should continuously monitor the integration and make necessary adjustments to optimize performance.
Train your staff
Provide your team with comprehensive training on your adopted automated customer support system, including its features, functionality, and how to use it most effectively.
Throughout the process, encourage your team to provide feedback on the new software, such as any issues or areas for improvement. This will help you refine the system before it launches and ensure it meets the needs of both your team and customers.
Then, develop a knowledge base or training materials your team can refer to when using the automated system. Access to this knowledge base will help them troubleshoot problems quickly and provide efficient support to customers.
Launch and promote
Test the solution with a small group of customers to identify any additional issues or areas for improvement and make necessary changes.
Once you’re confident the system works effectively, launch it and promote it to your customer base through your website, social media, and email marketing.
How customer service automation benefits your eCommerce business
eCommerce customer support software is designed to improve customers’ experience by providing them with fast, efficient, and personalized service around the clock—without requiring human intervention.
Here are a few ways in which automated customer support solutions can benefit your business:
With automated support systems, you can provide your customers support anytime, day or night.
This 24/7 availability can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, as customers will appreciate being able to receive assistance whenever they need it.
Reduced workload for support teams
Automating common support tasks can free up your support teams to focus on more complex issues. This improves both their productivity and job satisfaction, as they can spend more time on challenging and fulfilling tasks.
Increased efficiency and speed
Automated support systems respond to customer inquiries instantly, providing fast and efficient service that delights shoppers and minimizes their frustration.
Consistency in support
With automated support systems, you can achieve consistent and accurate responses to customer inquiries. This ensures everyone receives the same high level of support, regardless of the time of day or the representative they interact with.
By automating common support tasks, you reduce reliance on your support team. In turn, that cuts down on staffing and training costs without sacrificing the quality of customer support.
Improved data analytics
Automated solutions collect data on your customers’ inquiries and behaviors, revealing valuable insights into their needs and preferences. You can then use that information to improve your products and services, as well as personalize your marketing and customer support strategies.
Leverage this data trove to better understand your customers and provide a more tailored and fruitful customer experience.
Challenges of customer service automation
It’s important to be aware of the challenges of implementing automated customer support solutions before you rush into adding it to your eCommerce business:
- Lack of personalization: Many solutions lack the personal touch of human support, causing customers to feel dissatisfied or frustrated.
- Language barriers: Automated support systems may struggle to understand non-native speakers or customers with unique dialects or accents, which can result in miscommunications or misunderstandings.
- Technical issues: No piece of tech is perfect, but with automated support systems, you risk technical issues such as bugs or system failures, leading to downtime or inaccurate responses to customer inquiries — all of which can significantly hurt your business.
- Difficulty handling complex issues: Some solutions may struggle to accommodate complicated customer inquiries, requiring escalation to a human support team and thus delaying a resolution.
- High implementation costs: It can be costly to incorporate an automated customer support solution, as they entail significant technological and training investments.
- Maintenance and updates: These systems require ongoing maintenance and updates to remain effective, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Understanding the challenges of automated customer support solutions is the first step in addressing them properly.
By facing these obstacles head-on, you’ll ensure your system meets the needs of your customers and business goals. This may involve investing in additional training for your support team, upgrading your technology infrastructure, or implementing new processes to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your automated customer support system.
Wrapping up — Satisfy your customers with automated service
Automated customer support solutions are invaluable for eCommerce businesses seeking to improve their customer service processes and drive growth. They provide 24/7 support, faster response times, and personalized service while reducing costs and freeing up resources for more complex business issues.
However, implementing customer service automation is not without its challenges, such as language barriers and technical issues. Consider these obstacles carefully when selecting a solution to encourage a smoother integration.
Look for an eCommerce customer service software that meets your business needs and establish procedures for any issues that may arise. By leveraging automated customer support, you’ll provide exceptional customer experiences that build loyalty and drive sales.
How to Leverage AI to Improve the eCommerce Customer Experience
Eighty percent of customers consider their experience with a company to be as important as their products and services. This underscores how vital it is to deliver a personalized and seamless experience to compete in the eCommerce industry.
As online shopping continues to gain popularity, businesses must adapt to increasingly complex customer expectations. To remain competitive, many have turned to artificial intelligence (AI), which has proven invaluable for creating tailored consumer experiences.
Keep reading as we explore how you can leverage AI in your eCommerce business to improve your customer experience and increase satisfaction, loyalty, and sales.
Personalized customer experiences
AI improves the customer experience by delivering personalized content and product recommendations. With 91% of customers more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and suggestions, AI is a powerful tool to make your company stand out. Listed below are the specific advantages AI brings to businesses.
Tailored product recommendations
AI algorithms analyze customer data such as browsing and purchase history and preferences to generate tailored product recommendations. These suggestions increase the likelihood of customers finding relevant products — whether they were searching for them or not — which, in turn, boosts sales.
Collaborative and content-based filtering are popular techniques used in AI-powered recommendation engines. Collaborative filtering relies on users’ past behaviors and preferences, while content-based filtering considers item features and descriptions.
Targeted marketing campaigns
AI can help businesses segment customers based on behavior, preferences, and demographics to create targeted marketing campaigns. These campaigns have higher open and click-through rates and yield greater conversions.
Natural language processing (NLP) and sentiment analysis enable AI to understand customer emotions and feedback so businesses can tailor their marketing messages accordingly.
Intelligent site search
AI-powered site search engines understand natural language queries and provide accurate, relevant search results. This makes it easier for customers to find the products they’re looking for, producing a smoother shopping experience.
To achieve this, AI relies on machine learning (ML) algorithms, which learn from customer search behavior to improve search results and provide better recommendations continuously.
Personalized website content
AI can also analyze customer data to identify patterns and preferences, enabling businesses to personalize website content such as layout, product display, and promotions.
By delivering a tailored user experience, you can improve customer engagement, increase conversion rates, and boost customer loyalty.
Automated returns processing
AI software can automate the return process by generating return labels, processing returns, and issuing refunds. Removing the manual aspect from these tasks reduces the time and effort required to manage returns so customers enjoy a more satisfactory experience with fewer headaches.
Want to improve your returns process? Discover how MyFBAPrep can help you refine your reverse logistics.
AI-powered customer support
You can leverage AI in your customer support across a variety of communication channels, such as:
- Email: AI email assistants can respond to customer inquiries and provide personalized recommendations based on the consumer’s purchase history and behavior.
- Chatbots: Chatbots and live chat software offer real-time support and answer queries 24/7. AI-powered chatbots can learn from customer interactions and become more efficient and effective. You can also integrate them with your CRM system to access customer data, ensuring personalized support.
- Social media: AI-backed monitoring tools help companies track consumer feedback on social media platforms and address their concerns in real time.
- Virtual assistants: AI voice assistants and IVR systems provide customers with automated support or route them to the appropriate agent or department that can solve their more complex problems. Virtual assistants can also offer personalized product recommendations and promotions based on customers’ preferences.
- Self-service portals: AI self-service portals give customers access to relevant information and resources such as FAQs, tutorials, and troubleshooting guides.
By applying AI to your various communication channels, you’ll provide customers with seamless and consistent support, regardless of the portal they use to ask for help. All of this leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction, reduced response times, and ultimately, increased loyalty and sales for the business.
Visual search and augmented reality
AI-powered visual search enables customers to find products using images instead of keywords, simplifying the search process and enriching the customer experience.
AI algorithms can analyze and recognize images to match them to products in an eCommerce store’s inventory. This allows customers to upload photos of items they’re interested in and receive relevant product suggestions.
Visual search can also help businesses identify trends and patterns so they can stock up on popular items and improve their product offerings.
Augmented reality (AR)
Combine AI and AR to create immersive shopping experiences. The two enable customers to visualize themselves using your products in their environment before purchasing, which reduces the likelihood of returns and boosts satisfaction. You can also use AR for virtual fitting rooms so shoppers can try on clothing and accessories virtually.
In 2019, online fashion retailer ASOS launched an AR feature in their app that allows customers to view 3D images of clothes on different body types. It superimposes virtual clothes onto the user’s body to give a more realistic idea of how they’ll look and fit.
Optimize pricing and inventory management
AI can optimize pricing and inventory management to ensure businesses remain competitive and meet consumer demands.
AI algorithms can analyze various factors like competitor prices, shopper behavior, and market trends to determine the optimal price for products. This dynamic pricing strategy helps brands stay competitive and maximize profits.
ML models can continuously learn from that data and help businesses adjust prices based on changing market conditions in real time.
AI can help businesses predict customer demand and send automated notifications when stock is running low, allowing them to optimize their inventory levels and prevent stockouts and overstocking.
ML algorithms analyze historical sales data, seasonality, and trends to forecast demand accurately. Businesses can then leverage this data to make decisions about their inventory, leading to increased efficiency and reduced costs.
Streamline order processing
AI-powered tools and robotic process automation (RPA) can automate repetitive tasks in order processing, such as order entry, data validation, and updating order status. This reduces manual intervention (which minimizes the risk of human errors) and speeds up processing.
AI can also optimize warehouse operations by automating picking, packing, and shipping procedures. These tools can determine the most efficient routes for order picking, cutting the time to fulfill orders and lowering the risk of errors.
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AI can help you spot scams through anomaly detection. By analyzing large volumes of customer data, AI-powered fraud detection systems can identify unusual patterns or behaviors that may indicate fraudulent activity.
For example, suppose a customer has a history of making consistent and relatively small purchases but suddenly makes a large purchase and returns it soon after. The system may flag this as an anomaly to be investigated for potential fraud. Similarly, if a customer frequently returns items without a clear reason, this could also be tagged for further review.
With AI-powered fraud detection, you reduce your risk of losses due to fraud and maintain the trust and satisfaction of your customers.
Improve product quality
AI can significantly improve product quality in eCommerce by optimizing various aspects of the product life cycle, from design and development to manufacturing and customer feedback.
AI-powered predictive maintenance tools can analyze sensor data from manufacturing equipment to detect potential failures and schedule maintenance before issues arise.
Predictive maintenance helps maintain consistent product quality and reduces downtime in the production process.
Quality control automation
You can also enjoy automated quality control processes like visual inspection and defect detection with AI. Applying computer vision and ML algorithms, AI can identify defects and deviations from quality standards more accurately and consistently than human inspectors, ensuring higher-quality products.
Automation can extend to testing processes — such as software or product testing — as well to increase accuracy and efficiency while slashing the potential for human error.
Returning to consumer sentiment, AI can use NLP to analyze customer reviews and feedback to identify patterns and trends in product quality. This information helps you address product issues, make improvements, and better accommodate customer preferences.
Wrapping Up — Harness the power of AI for more eCommerce conversions
AI has the potential to improve your eCommerce customer experience significantly by delivering personalized content, enhancing customer support, streamlining operations, and ensuring a secure shopping environment.
To maximize the benefits of AI in your eCommerce business, invest in the right tools, integrate automation into your existing processes, and evaluate and refine your strategies continuously based on data-driven insights. By leveraging AI technology, you’ll stay ahead of the competition, keep up with evolving customer expectations, and drive growth.
Best fulfillment companies: The best 3PLs and 4PLs for eCommerce and retail brands
Customer expectations for shopping experiences are higher than ever. Fast, reliable, and trackable deliveries are just some of the perks customers assume as standard. These assumptions have become so mainstream that 42% of shoppers leave their carts due to issues with the estimated delivery date, while 24% abandon orders due to no delivery date provided.
As you step into your next growth phase, having an extra pair of hands can ensure your fulfillment and supply chain run smoothly. That’s where 3PLs and 4PLs come in. We’ve compiled a list of top-performing providers for eCommerce and retail brands to help you find your business match. Before we dive in though, let’s clear up some definitions.
What’s a 3PL?
A third-party logistics (3PL) provider handles fulfillment-related tasks that eCommerce brands outsource, including warehousing, inventory management, picking and packing, shipping, and returns.
What’s a 4PL?
A fourth-party logistics (4PL) provider covers the same tasks as a 3PL but also takes care of the entire supply chain, including freight booking, legal and customs clearance, reverse logistics, and other tasks.
First impressions count. Partner with MyFBAPrep to build a stellar post-sale experience.
3PLs vs. 4PLs
The difference between a 3PL and a 4PL lies in the tasks they handle within a supply chain. A 3PL is limited to a set list of duties so the eCommerce business maintains most of the control over their supply chain. With a 4PL, the company hands over the responsibility for managing their entire supply chain.
(If you want a breakdown of the benefits of working with a 3PL, check out our blog post on the topic here.)
XPO is a large-capacity logistics provider specializing in Truckload (TL) and Less Than a Truckload (LTL) shipments. They use cutting-edge technology to formulate optimal carrier volume and capability. XPO also offers services such as truck brokerage, last mile, expedited, and global forwarding.
Service highlights: TL, LTL, and temperature-controlled shipping
Best for: Businesses requiring road transportation
APL Logistics prides themselves on simplifying complex fulfillment processes and making them seamless. Through services such as global shipping, distribution, and order management, plus visibility through analytics, they build streamlined systems to move goods from point A to point B efficiently.
Service highlights: End-to-end fulfillment solutions, socially responsible practices, global offices in more than 60 locations, over 100 years of experience
Best for: Brands with complex supply chains and fulfillment requirements
Some fulfillment providers shy away from transporting fragile, temperature-controlled items, but Americold takes the task head-on. During their 120 years in business, Americold has mastered the art of shipping and storing specialized goods safely, sustaining them with purpose-built transportation, warehousing, and integrated technology. So, whether you’re a retailer, producer, or food service provider, Americold has what you need for worry-free logistics.
Service highlights: Temperature-controlled warehousing and transport, storage for fragile items
Best for: Businesses selling perishable goods
Shipping goods across Africa? Partnering with Imperial Logistics could be a wise move.
Tap into the company’s growing strategic partnerships and geographies. What’s more, Imperial Logistics also offers a unified route-to-market solution for their clients that incorporates shipping, warehousing, distribution, and supply chain management.
If you’re looking for a team to take the stock purchasing process off your hands, Imperial Logistics can execute this for you as well. Fulfillment with a purpose is important to this 3PL provider, so you can pride yourself on partnering with a company that regularly donates resources to charitable causes around the globe.
Service highlights: Diverse industry experience, comprehensive fulfillment, and supply chain management services for Sub-Saharan Africa
Best for: Brands with cross-border sales from or stores in Africa
Living up to their name, Landstar is a widely connected, safety-focused shipping company specializing in land transportation. Boasting an extensive workforce of 1,200 agents, 11,000 leased-owner operators, 18,000 trucks, and 90,000 approved trailer capacity providers, Landstar has everything you need to transport goods overland securely. They also offer land shipping services globally.
Service highlights: Flexible logistics, integrated transportation, safety-first practices
Best for: Businesses with fragile and high-value goods
Shipping goods that require refrigeration or freezing? Consider partnering with Penske. They have extensive experience hauling food and boast state-of-the-art technology to back it up.
Penske remains competitive in their offering too. From contract carriage and supply chain management to transport management and freight brokerage solutions, Penske maintains an impressive supply of services to keep your inventory cold.
Service highlights: Vast service capabilities, tech-enabled, data-backed supply chain management
Best for: Businesses selling perishable items
Global logistics provider Mainfreight is on a mission to help their customers construct dependable and efficient supply chain logistics. Combining air, ocean, and land shipping with warehousing and technology, Mainfreight provides effective, complete logistics.
The company is a visionary, relying on a 100-year strategy that shapes everything from their recruitment and culture to their growth tactics.
Service highlights: Large workforce with over 11,000 team members, 44 years in business, ships to 26 countries, end-to-end supply chain management, 315 branches globally
Best for: Businesses that want to outsource control of their supply chain management
ShipBob is an omnichannel fulfillment provider specifically for e-tailers and retailers.
So, if you ship orders from Canada, the UK, the U.S., or Australia, look into ShipBob’s global network to fuel your cross-border expansion.
The company offers various services to help brands scale their fulfillment capacity with their growth. These include receiving goods, pick-and-pack capabilities, and order customization.
ShipBob also provides apps and APIs for smooth integration to help you build a powerhouse tech stack.
Service highlights: Custom pricing, extensive shipping territory (to over 220 countries), strategic integrations, proprietary apps, and APIs
Best for: eCommerce startups ready to scale
From freight forwarding to distribution and storage, Omni Logistics steps up to the plate with a diverse range of services spanning the entire supply chain. Whether you need help with trade show logistics, white glove logistics, relocation, customs, or compliance, Omni Logistics’ flexible approach to fulfillment makes them a solid candidate.
They also have expertise in many industries and can customize solutions for retail, eCommerce, tech, healthcare, and more.
Service highlights: Flexible approach to fulfillment, a diverse range of offerings, customizable services, cost-effective
Best for: Brands needing specialized fulfillment or those that want customized fulfillment solutions
Shipping large orders cost-effectively, safely, and quickly can be challenging for even the most experienced shipping company. But for Red Stag, their services allow them to excel at it.
Red Stag understands the importance of creating a fantastic customer experience through your fulfillment and is dedicated to providing seamless service to keep those almighty five-star reviews rolling in. Their services include warehousing, kitting and assembly, and pick and pack, and Red Stag integrates with many major eCommerce platforms as well.
Service highlights: Specialization in shipping heavy and bulky items, accommodation for goods that need special attention and handling, cloud-backed solutions, omnichannel fulfillment
Best for: B2B and B2C retailers and eCommerce brands selling wholesale or large items
ShipNetwork (formerly Rakuten) offers fast ground shipping (as quick as one to two days) at low rates for 98% of the U.S. Pick from a host of 3PL services, including freight, one-day order fulfillment, returns management, and kitting, as well as specialized services like temperature-controlled shipping.
ShipNetwork cares about doing the job right — so much so, they guarantee 100% accuracy along with U.S.-based support to keep fulfillment on track.
Service highlights: U.S.-based fulfillment services, fast shipping
Best for: Brands that sell only in the U.S.
Great customer experience through fine-tuned logistics is Radial’s specialty. This fulfillment expert offers tailored solutions for eCommerce solutions that scale with your brand.
Services span transport and fulfillment management. Some of the perks you receive as a Radial client include extended holiday cutoffs, actionable reports and analytics, and an expansive carrier network to simplify management.
Service highlights: Personalized eCommerce fulfillment, customer-centric services
Best for: Growth and customer-focused eCommerce brands
Shipwire isn’t just another fulfillment provider focused on shipping products; they care about their customers’ growth and actively support it. On top of logistics and warehousing services, Shipwire offers a cloud-based order and inventory management platform, live intelligence tools, and customizable reporting.
Clients can also integrate with popular sales channels, and hands-free parcel routing for each order ensures optimal shipping times (all of which the system manages).
Service highlights: Full-service fulfillment, insight-backed approach, global shipping
Best for: Retail and eCommerce brands
AFS’ secret to success lies in their data: Having managed $11 billion in transportation transactions, they’ve transformed the insights gleaned from this experience into actionable strategy. Their data-led approach has also enabled AFS to secure $183 million in savings for their clients.
This 3PL provider can help you with LTL, TL, express, and ground shipping, as well as parcel and freight audits. If your company prioritizes insights, AFS could be a strong match.
Service highlights: Cost-effective services, transportation management solutions, parcel and LTL solutions
Best for: Data-focused brands and businesses looking for a complete suite of supply chain services
AIT is a global freight forwarder offering flexible and cost-effective fulfillment services like intermodal, ground distribution, and warehouse management. Sustainability is important to AIT, so they pursue shipping options with less of an environmental impact. If you need help balancing the books for your supply chain, the company also provides lending assistance.
Service highlights: Supply chain finance and auditing, fulfillment, warehousing, chain cold transportation, import/export customs assistance, reverse logistics, green logistics
Best for: Brands looking for flexible and environmentally friendly fulfillment options
Capacity focuses on helping brands pick, pack, and ship goods. This commerce-focused 3PL has value-added services and efficient transportation options, as well as warehousing within carriers’ commercial zones across Europe and the U.S. for swift collection.
Service highlights: eCommerce and retail specialization
Best for: Retail and eCommerce startups
This 3PL eCommerce provider boasts strong warehousing and distribution. Fulfyld helps budding online stores streamline their order fulfillment and back-end processes for a two-day delivery window that’ll delight customers.
The 3PL also offers specialized services such as omnichannel fulfillment, B2B distribution, Amazon SFP and FBA Prep, crowdfunding fulfillment, and subscription box management. As a bonus, Fulfyld assigns a dedicated account manager to each client.
Service highlights: Two-day delivery guarantee, extensive range of fulfillment types, returns management, subscription box management
Best for: eCommerce businesses of all sizes
If you need flexible fulfillment assistance for your in-house operations, FedEx can help. Offering efficient packaging options, an accommodating pickup schedule, and delivery seven days a week, you’ll quickly gain a handle on your back-end operations.
FedEx’s global coverage and affordable rates also make cost-effective freight accessible for even the smallest of operations.
Service highlights: Global shipping, seven-day home delivery fulfillment, extensive knowledge bank
Best for: Startups with in-house fulfillment setups, fluctuating order volume, and global following
C.H Robinson is a 3PL and Fortune 200 company that combines robust logistics solutions and high-spec technology to create optimized supply chains. Their longstanding carrier relationships and global network allow them to achieve competitive rates up to 15% less than what’s offered on the market.
C.H. Robinson excels in helping businesses digitally transform their back-end operations, leading to the provider being named in two Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ reports for TMS and live visibility platforms.
Service highlights: Proprietary bidding system, on-demand freight services, transport management, and brokerage, freight forwarding, and live tracking systems, plus over 85,000 carriers and 100,000 customers
Best for: Established eCommerce and retail brands
Fourth-party logistics companies (4PLs)
MyFBAPrep is a flexible fulfillment provider offering a full suite of fulfillment services for DTC, marketplace, and omnichannel brands, including picking, packing, shipping, and returns.
For value-added services, MyFBAPrep has you covered, with solutions including product kitting, pallet bagging, sorting and segregation, subscription box creation, and co-packing. Also, through their proprietary inventory management, Preptopia®, MyFBAPrep helps their clients spot both problems and opportunities while establishing direct communication with their warehouses. MyFBAPrep also works as a partner for 3PLs and 4PLs.
Service highlights: Expansive warehousing (over 50 locations globally), value-added services, transparent and fair pricing
Best for: Scaling eCommerce and omnichannel brands, 3PL and 4PL partnerships
Want to level up your fulfillment process? Learn how MyFBAPrep can help.
Maersk is a world-renowned integrated container shipping and logistics provider. Their digital approach to supply chain management, extensive industry experience, and global service has allowed them to build an impressive reputation in the transport and logistics industry.
You can also secure instant prices and custom quotes through their website. In addition to digital and transportation solutions, Maersk provides risk, insurance, and payment solutions.
Service highlights: Integrated container logistics and supply chain services, digital supply chain and customer order management, financial services
Best for: Established brands going global
XPO is a 4PL provider specializing in TL and LTL road shipping. Focused on efficiency, this service employs advanced technology to streamline processes and make tracking deliveries easy. Services include expedited global forwarding, last mile, and managed transportation. If you’re ready for your goods to hit the road, give XPO a call.
Service highlights: Trucker brokerage, LTL, and TL transporting
Best for: Companies looking for road transportation of goods
An experienced 4PL provider, Kuehne+Nagel combines cutting-edge technology with their extensive supply chain expertise to drive efficiency and cost-savings for their clients.
Services include sea, land, and air freight forwarding, as well as contract logistics. Data guides Kuehne+Nagel’s every move, and IT architecture integrates with more than 40 technological solutions for seamless insight sharing and supply chain visibility.
The company’s efforts have paid off, earning the title of “most visionary leader” in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for 3PL Logistics in 2022.
Service highlights: End-to-end supply chain management, including transportation, order management, and fulfillment consulting
Best for: Brands needing to simplify and digitize their entire supply chain
ShipHero is a modern 4PL focused on making shipping easier for eCommerce brands. Whether you opt to outsource your entire supply chain or want to cherry-pick fulfillment solutions, ShipHero can support your business needs.
They offer a wide range of fulfillment services, including mobile pick and pack, B2B order fulfillment, putaway, order and return management, and inventory management. ShipHero has warehouses across the U.S. and provides a warehouse management system clients can subscribe to for end-to-end visibility.
Service highlights: Expansive carrier network, experienced eCommerce fulfillment providers, tech-backed
Best for: DTC eCommerce brands
As a growth-focused 4PL provider, DSV helps brands large and small scale sustainably with their 75,000-strong team. DSV offers global transport and logistics by road, air, sea, and rail freight, plus solutions like warehouse management, purchase order management, and distribution.
One feature that sets DSV apart is their self-service tool: Aside from requesting quotes, you can manage POs, book shipments online, track and manage products in your business ecosystem, and more. So, whether you’re looking for a 4PL to take over the entire supply chain management process or want to manage everything yourself, DSV can help.
Service highlights: Self-service tools, large skilled workforce, accommodations for various growth stages
Best for: Retail and eCommerce businesses of all sizes
Boasting 739 locations in over 49 countries and regions, Nippon Express has the connections and infrastructure necessary to ship goods internationally without breaking the bank. Choose from air, sea, rail, or road freight or a combination to create your optimal shipping journey.
This 4PL provider also boasts specialized transportation such as fine arts moving, cross-border fulfillment, and heavy goods, construction, and halal logistics.
Nippon Express caters to many industries spanning fashion and retail to food and electronics. So, if you need supply chain management, global transport services, and warehouse and distribution solutions rolled into one, Nippon Express is a great option.
Service highlights: International coverage, specialty shipping, extensive industry-type experience
Best for: Brands needing global supply chain services or having special shipping requirements
Schneider is committed to helping their clients “get and stay ahead” by offering one of the largest ranges of logistics services. This 4PL serves both shippers and carriers through services such as dry van truckload, intermodal, bulk, refrigerated, flatbed, and LTL shipping.
They also provide a trademarked online marketplace where businesses can find carriers and services, obtain instant quotes, and access shipping documents on demand.
Service highlights: TL, intermodal, cross-border freight, brokerage, cross-dock logistics, supply chain management, and port logistics
Best for: Brands that want more control over managing logistics
Dubbed a 21st-century logistics company, Logistics Plus focuses on executing tasks with precision to drive customer satisfaction. The 4PL provider maintains a broad range of services covering transportation, global freight forwarding, customs and compliance, Importer of Record services, warehousing, and 3.5PL and 4PL. Their dedication is recognized in the industry, with Inbound Logistics magazine naming Logistics Plus a 2022 Top 100 3PL.
Service highlights: Specialized shipping setups, warehousing, international, project cargo, supply chain solutions, warehousing, fulfillment installation
Best for: Brands anticipating high growth
Hellmann Worldwide Logistics is an experienced fulfillment provider that’s been in the industry for 150 years and counting.
Their services span rail, road, and sea freight, as well as contract and perishable logistics, special services, and customs brokerage. If you need specific industry experience, there‘s a strong chance Hellmann has it. Some of the industries they serve are fashion, consumer goods, and perishable items.
Service highlights: CEP services, customs brokerage, perishable goods logistics
Best for: Brands needing various shipping types and fulfillment services
Hub Group is a technologically advanced trucking 4PL with strengths in eCommerce and B2B. They offer end-to-end supply chain services and a strong omnichannel fulfillment network. Hub Group will partner with you to customize your solutions and provide tech tools to establish supply chain visibility.
This 4PL is all about trucking, so their shipping solutions include intermodal, dedicated trucking, and truck brokerage.
Service highlights: eCommerce and B2B omnichannel fulfillment network, supply chain management, tech-backed, consolidation, final mile fulfillment
Best for: Brands seeking a straightforward fulfillment option
4PL J.B. Hunt empowers their clients to win with a tech-, people-, and capacity-focused approach. Utilizing self-service and done-for-you solutions, J.B. Hunt creates supply chain strategies that give their customers a competitive edge.
Aside from their catalog of fulfillment services, clients can access the company’s Shipper 360™ and Shipper 360™ purpose-built shipping solutions, which simplify the ordering process and provide transparent supply chain visibility.
Service highlights: Intermodal, flatbed, temperature-controlled, international, and expedited shipping, plus managed logistics
Best for: Brands focused on digital transformation
LynnCo takes supply chain management best practices seriously. Leveraging technology, their experienced task force, and innovative strategies, they craft and execute procedures for well-oiled operations.
The 4PL helps customers identify the source of disruptions in their supply chains to construct tailored solutions and strategies for optimal performance.
The hands-free nature of their services combined with their great track record make LynnCo a great match for enterprises hoping to offload all their supply chain management tasks.
Service highlights: Supply chain management, digitization, and consultation
Best for: Enterprises that want to outsource supply chain tasks entirely
Formerly DSC Logistics, CJ Logistics isn’t your average fulfillment provider. They feature engineering and consulting services to help their clients build well-optimized supply chains and customized operations.
To set their customers up for long-term success, this 4PL offers supply chain packaging, greenfield warehouse execution, warehousing engineering and automation, and other critical services. CJ Logistics also has experience with managing eCommerce and omnichannel fulfillment, so you’ll feel confident they know what they’re doing.
Service highlights: Supply chain engineering, intermodal and integrated logistics
Best for: Brands seeking customized supply chain solutions
In their 190 years of operation, CSX has been through many transformations, from horse-drawn rail cars to their present-day fast, brand-owned railroading. At their core, CSX has always maintained a commitment to improving customer service, controlling costs, optimizing asset utilization, and making a positive impact on the community.
These days, CSX focuses on helping their clients transport goods efficiently in North America, Canada, and, soon, Pan America by rail. So, if you’re looking for experts in rail transport, CSX could be your match.
Service highlights: Rail-to-truck, intermodal, and rail logistics
Best for: Brands seeking pureplay rail transportation
Wrapping up — Find your right fulfillment partner
Bookmark this article as your go-to list of 3PL and 4PL providers for eCommerce and omnichannel businesses. With our trove of recommendations, streamlined fulfillment is within your grasp. Research the options in this list and decide whether a 3PL or 4PL is right for your business needs.
Let us know what 3PL and 4PL options you would add to this list and why.