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Six Steps to Finding the Right Beauty 3PL Partner

September 25, 2022
September 25, 2022
Capacity LLC

Selecting the right logistics partner for your beauty brand is a big decision. Determining what you need from a 3PL, researching the many providers on offer, and then filtering out providers that don’t meet your criteria and vetting those that look like a good fit all place significant demands on your time.

Even after all that work, it’s possible you may overlook some key considerations and end up selecting a provider that isn’t right for your business. Sometimes relationships simply don't work out as expected, sending you back to the drawing board.

In this article, we’ll look at six steps to finding the right third-party logistics for your business. These include traits that lie at the heart of a successful relationship with your 3PL.

As a committed service partner to our clients, and winner of Best 3PL at the 2022 BeautyMatter NEXT Awards, the team at Capacity has a deep understanding of order fulfillment. These are six factors and qualities that we consider to be the hallmarks of a truly productive order fulfillment partnership.

1. See beyond size

It’s true that size and cost can be key factors in your decision to engage a beauty 3PL, but there are other important considerations that are less tangible.

Not every quality is as clearly visible as a rate sheet or number of facilities, but such intangibles often highlight the difference between a standard service provider and a true partner for your business.

Some areas to focus on include:

  • A desire for the provider to learn about the nuances of your business and ask questions that highlight important aspects of your operation.
  • Frequent suggestions for areas of improvement, such as cutting shipping costs, adjusting packaging processes, and enhancing the customer unboxing experience.
  • The ability to scale with your beauty brand as it grows, demonstrated either through past clients or a clear plan to adjust operations when your orders spike.

The true costs of selecting a logistics provider on size or price alone, such as unsatisfactory response times or subpar service, tend to show up too far down the line to make an immediate change. Such an arrangement might work for a short time, but becomes an expensive error for some beauty brands as they start to scale or make long-term operational adjustments.

2. Find the right tech

As tempting as it might be to imagine drones whizzing through the warehouse and automated everything in your fulfillment process, the reality is quite different. Identifying the right blend of appropriate technology and passionate people is the right approach to building a fulfillment solution that will effectively scale with your beauty brand.

For example, employing automation to perform repetitive tasks like building your boxes or using AI robotics to sort your beauty products into the correct pick locations is a great way to streamline your processes.

But when it comes to value-added tasks like assembling all those items into a carefully presented package or adding personalized items to an order, a more attractive approach is to have an engaged 3PL team member who understands your brand handle this work.

From integrated automation to underlying software integrations powering EDI and e-commerce fulfillment, searching for the appropriate level of tech for your beauty brand is preferable to a long list of technology that you’re unlikely to use. Make sure that the technology on offer accentuates the qualities of the 3PL you choose, improving customer service and making your order fulfillment more efficient.

3. Do they understand (and share) your values?

More than any other third-party partnership, who you choose as your 3PL service has the potential to directly impact your beauty brand's reputation. A 3PL is often the last one to touch your products before they head out to your customers, meaning they have the responsibility of ensuring that every order meets your exacting standards.

Similarly, it helps if your chosen 3PL understands the values you enshrine as a brand. If sustainability is a core value, for example, your 3PL needs to be obsessed with making sure that packouts meet your eco-friendly requirements. If not, you can be sure you'll hear about it on social media soon enough.

Better yet, if your 3PL embodies those qualities in their own operations, they will be in a better position to offer enhancements that build on your existing values and brand offering.

4. Omnichannel experience

The pandemic delivered many lessons for beauty brands and retailers alike, not least of which was the value of operating across diverse retail channels.

Brands with limited digital experience struggled to adjust as consumers rapidly moved online during lockdown, while direct-to-consumer care brands found retail partners like Target, Ulta, and Sephora invaluable as in-person activities bounced back. Overall, it became evident that no individual channel is sufficient for an ambitious beauty brand with plans to significantly expand its customer base.

In the world of third-party logistics, there are plenty of providers specializing in select channels. Some offer cheap and (not so) cheerful e-commerce fulfillment, while others focus on tried-and-trusted B2B retail fulfillment.

Those who propose to do it all are inevitably attractive, but take care to probe these claims for case studies and real-world experience. If a 3PL has been around for a while and has embraced both e-commerce and traditional roads to retail, they should have some engaging success stories to show what they can do.

According to data from Think with Google, omnichannel shoppers have a customer lifetime value 30% higher than those who shop using only one channel. Partner with a 3PL experienced in multiple channels to deliver more for your customers and make the most of that additional value.

5. Look for listeners

How do you put a price on a service provider eager to learn about your brand values, targets, and the intricate details of what matters most to your customers?

The evergreen adage that refers to listening twice as much as you speak is something that a genuine 3PL partner will apply, particularly in the early days of your engagement.

A desire to learn what motivates your customers, what aspects of your beauty brand matter to them, and the kind of things that make them unhappy with an order is a positive indicator that this is a logistics partner whose thinking extends beyond the warehouse doors and into your customer’s experience. They should also take an interest in your medium- to long-term objectives as a brand and identify where those goals overlap with order fulfillment responsibilities.

This is where the customization of your fulfillment solution begins: by taking time to hear what you want to achieve, sharing ideas for your specific situation, and explaining how the right type of fulfillment setup will help you get there.

6. Custom solutions

As your beauty brand grows, it’s likely that you’ll find a need to try new things and enhance your unboxing experience. Creative branding ideas require creative design teams and engineers to make them a reality.

It’s not often that order fulfillment is described as straightforward in the cosmetics sector. Even brands with low SKU counts and basic packouts have a desire to deliver order experiences that stand out from the competition.

To build a trusting, loyal customer base that keeps coming back, that experience must be delivered reliably every time. Each order provides a chance to develop a deeper bond with your customer and enhance that all-important brand reputation. Conversely, any gaps that could detract from the experience need to be flagged by your 3PL partner and resolved, fast!

Customized fulfillment from a 3PL partner in sync with your beauty brand is what turns this vision of engaged customers sharing their exceptional order experience with your brand into reality.

Look for a commitment to data analysis, running fulfillment simulations, explaining ship method optimization, and a team of engineers with the ability to come up with creative solutions to your challenges, as well as the right client team and technology to action that plan.

When all is said and done, successful fulfillment for beauty products comes down to delivering not only what your customers want, but delighting them with a unique brand experience. To turn your brand vision into a reality, it often takes a 3PL fulfillment partner to become an extension of your brand.

From that initial understanding and acceptance of your beauty brand’s core values and position in the marketplace, through suitable technology solutions and all the way down to the intricacies of how your product should appear in the packout, your choice of 3PL is crucial.

Find a 3PL with a passion for your business and a proven track record in understanding what beauty brands need to scale and expand across diverse retail channels. When your 3PL understands that every order they touch has the potential to delight your customer, that partner is likely to become an essential part of taking your beauty brand to the next level.