3 Critical 3PL Trends Powering E-Commerce Success

Ever wonder what's really driving all that online shopping growth you've been hearing about? As an e-commerce business owner, staying on top of trends in the industry is key to keeping your company competitive and growing. You already know that third-party logistics companies, or 3PLs, handle the shipping and fulfillment that make e-commerce possible. But within the 3PL sector, several key trends are powering e-commerce success.

The Rise of Omnichannel Fulfillment

The rise of omnichannel fulfillment means providing customers with a seamless shopping experience across all channels - online, in-store, mobile, call center, social media and more. For e-commerce businesses, this means partnering with a 3PL that can handle fulfillment across channels accurately and efficiently.

As customers browse and buy from multiple touchpoints, your 3PL ensures orders are fulfilled from the optimal location based on inventory and customer delivery requirements. They track orders end-to-end, handle returns and process refunds regardless of the original purchase channel. 

Flexible solutions

Leading 3PLs offer omnichannel technology platforms with open APIs for integrating fulfillment data across your systems. This gives full visibility into inventory, orders and shipments so you can deliver consistent service and stay on top of demand. Look for a provider with experience across industries and the scale to handle seasonal spikes.

Omnichannel fulfillment also means flexible solutions. Your 3PL should offer options like:

  • Drop shipping for virtual inventory

  • Branded tracking pages and notifications

  • Customized delivery options (same-day, next-day)

  • Seamless returns processing

When fulfillment is strategic, efficient and channel-agnostic, your customers enjoy a premium experience that keeps them coming back. Partnering with a 3PL enables you to make omnichannel a competitive advantage and not a costly hassle. Focus on your business while relying on logistics experts to power fulfillment behind the scenes.

Increased Use of Automation and Robotics in Warehouses

As e-commerce continues to grow, 3PLs are relying more and more on automation and robotics to efficiently handle the increased volume of orders. 

Warehouse automation, like conveyor belts, sorting systems, and automated storage and retrieval systems, help speed up processes that were once done manually. This allows 3PLs to handle a much higher volume of orders while maintaining accuracy. Robotic technologies, such as automated guided vehicles, automated lift trucks, and robotic arms are also being implemented to transport and organize inventory without human intervention.

Using automation and robotics in warehouses provides several benefits for e-commerce companies. First, it increases productivity and efficiency. Automated systems can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without breaks, allowing 3PLs to fulfill more orders in less time. It also improves accuracy. Automated technologies reduce the chance of human error that could result in lost or misplaced orders.

Furthermore, automation and robotics enhance safety. They decrease the risk of workplace injuries by minimizing the amount of heavy lifting and repetitive tasks done by human workers. While automation and robotics do require an initial investment, they lower costs in the long run by reducing labor expenses. The time and money saved can then be reallocated to improving other parts of the e-commerce supply chain.

In summary, automation and robotics are revolutionizing logistics by making the storage, organization, and shipment of products more efficient, accurate, and cost-effective. E-commerce companies that want to scale quickly would be wise to partner with 3PLs at the forefront of implementing these advanced technologies. By doing so, they can provide their customers with a superior experience through faster, error-free fulfillment and delivery of their orders.

Focus on Sustainability and Green Logistics

As e-commerce continues to grow, sustainability and green logistics are increasingly important to businesses and customers alike. Focusing on sustainable practices will future-proof your e-commerce operations and give you a competitive advantage.

Reduce Carbon Footprint

Work with third-party logistics (3PL) providers that prioritize sustainability to minimize the environmental impact of storing and shipping your products. Look for 3PLs that use alternative energy sources like solar or wind to power their warehouses and fleets. They should also optimize routes to reduce empty miles and limit unnecessary trips. Using eco-friendly packing materials and working to cut down on waste at every stage of the fulfillment process will also help to shrink your carbon footprint.

Streamline the Supply Chain

An efficient supply chain is a sustainable supply chain. Work with your 3PL to identify and eliminate redundancies or bottlenecks that lead to excess fuel usage and waste. Using technology like warehouse management systems, routing software, and data analytics, you can optimize how inventory is stored and transported. 3PLs that specialize in e-commerce are experts at creating fast, seamless supply chains that get customers their orders quickly while generating minimal environmental impact.

Measure and Report

The best way to improve sustainability over time is to track key metrics like fuel usage, waste generation, and carbon emissions. Have your 3PL provide regular reports on these metrics and look for ways to cut down on inefficiencies. Some 3PLs may even help you access sustainability certifications or generate reports on your environmental impact to share with customers. Transparency about your green logistics efforts will build trust and loyalty with eco-conscious buyers.

Focusing on sustainability and partnering with a green-conscious 3PL is the key to e-commerce success today and in the future. By reducing environmental damage, you'll be in a better position to meet customer demands and adapt to changes in the industry. Building a greener business will have significant benefits for both the planet and your bottom line.

Growth of Direct-to-Consumer Business Models

The rise of direct-to-consumer (D2C) business models has been instrumental to the growth of e-commerce. As a 3PL, understanding this trend is key to helping your e-commerce clients succeed.

D2C brands sell products directly to customers without relying on traditional retail channels. They build personal relationships with customers through social media, email marketing, and exceptional customer service. By cutting out the middleman, D2C brands can offer high quality, affordable products while still making a good profit.

For e-commerce brands, D2C models mean greater control over the customer experience, access to valuable customer data, and higher margins. However, it also means taking on responsibilities like order fulfillment, shipping, and returns management. This is where a 3PL comes in.

Outsourcing logistics to a 3PL allows D2C brands to focus on what they do best—building great products and engaging with customers. A 3PL can handle warehousing, shipping, and returns at a lower cost. They have the infrastructure and experience to scale quickly as sales grow.

Flexible, customized solutions are key. As a 3PL, you need to provide services tailored to D2C brands like:

  • Efficient small parcel shipping for sending individual online orders

  • An easy returns process for D2C brands with lenient return policies

  • Analytics and data to help brands optimize their supply chain

  • Scalability to handle fluctuations in volume, especially during peak sales periods

The rise of D2C brands and e-commerce has been a game changer. By understanding this trend and tailoring your services to D2C needs, you can position yourself as a valuable partner for online brands. The potential for growth in this space is huge. Are you ready to tap into it?

Demand for More Flexibility and Agility From 3PLs

As e-commerce continues its meteoric rise, 3PLs have to keep up with the increasing demands of their clients. If you’re an e-commerce business owner, you need a logistics partner that can provide flexibility and quickly adapt to changes.

Shorter Delivery Times

Customers expect fast, low-cost or free shipping. 3PLs have to optimize routes and processes to offer shorter delivery times at a reasonable cost. Some 3PLs now promise 1-2 day delivery for most areas. Flexibility in routing, warehousing and staffing levels are key.


E-commerce businesses experience huge spikes in volume during sales or holidays. 3PLs must be able to scale up (or down) quickly to handle increases (or decreases) in storage, shipping and staffing needs. Look for a 3PL that uses technology and streamlined processes to enable fast scalability.


Every e-commerce business has unique needs. 3PLs need to provide tailored solutions for warehousing, kitting, returns management, and more. They must be willing to customize offerings for specific clients and adapt as needs change. Some 3PLs now offer “control towers” that give clients visibility and control over their supply chain.


Real-time data and tracking have become expected. 3PLs need to provide clients and their customers with end-to-end supply chain visibility through apps, portals and alerts. Data should be accurate, detailed and as close to real-time as possible. Some 3PLs now offer trackers that provide location data for individual items.


Environmentally-friendly practices are increasingly important. 3PLs need to implement sustainable options like alternative fuel vehicles, energy efficient facilities, and waste reduction programs. They should be able to help e-commerce businesses achieve sustainability goals and report on key metrics.

A 3PL that emphasizes flexibility, scalability, customization, transparency and sustainability will be poised to help e-commerce businesses meet the challenges ahead. Look for a provider focused on optimizing these critical capabilities to enable your success.

3PL Trends Can Change Your E-commerce Business

So there you have it, the three trends that are enabling e-commerce businesses like yours to scale rapidly. Partnering with a progressive 3PL, leveraging their technological capabilities, and tapping into their network of resources are game changers. No longer do you need to handle logistics in-house or rely on outdated systems and processes. The future of e-commerce is partnership, connectivity, and automation. Take advantage of these trends, find a 3PL that suits your needs, and watch as your business achieves new heights. The tools and capabilities are out there - you just have to grab them. What are you waiting for? The e-commerce world is your oyster! Now go out there, find your pearl, and make it shine.

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