A warehouse management system (WMS) with built-in e-commerce 3PL integrations significantly streamlines operational workloads for omnichannel and e-commerce fulfillment. As online shopping continues to outpace retail stores, e-commerce 3PL providers are under increasing pressure to meet the surge in demand. Technology integrations have become an essential part of business strategies to match the pace of today’s logistics and supply chain operations.
E-commerce fulfillment differs from your typical B2B fulfillment, and you must configure the 3PL integrations accordingly. E-commerce 3PL integrations are designed to account for the larger order volume, customized picking and packing specifications, higher rate of returns, e-commerce platform and marketplace integrations, client communication, and variable delivery options.
In this blog, we’ll explore the various 3PL integrations that no e-commerce 3PL can do without in today’s business climate.
1. E-commerce Store Builders Integration
An e-commerce 3PL WMS integration with store builders greatly streamlines the flow of information across the two systems.
Syncing Orders in Real Time with Customizations and Customer Details
Integration with e-commerce platforms like BigCommerce, Shopify, etc. ensures orders are automatically and instantly pulled into the WMS, reducing manual data entry and improving order processing time. If there are any special instructions from the customers as per order customizations or packaging, the 3PL integration communicates all relevant information to enable quicker and more accurate fulfillment.
Moreover, real-time synchronization of customer details facilitates efficient order routing, shipping, and communication with the end consumer.
Syncing and Allocating Inventory to the Sales Channel
E-commerce 3PL integrations create a synchronized system that provides 3PL providers with an accurate, real-time view of inventory levels across various sales channels. This supports effective inventory management, preventing overselling, and maintaining optimal stock levels.
With e-commerce 3PL integration, you can automatically allocate inventory to different sales channels based on predefined rules or strategies, increasing sales opportunities and reducing out-of-stock scenarios.
Creating and Syncing Product Kits and Bundles
Manual paper-based processes can struggle to maintain accurate inventory levels when selling product kits and bundles. With a fully integrated 3PL WMS, you can directly manage and track product kits and bundles for 3PL clients on the e-commerce platform.
This means it can accurately handle inventory levels of both individual items and the overall kit/bundle. It simplifies the process of selling multiple items together, enhances accuracy in inventory counts, and supports more flexible sales strategies.
Product Information Management
E-commerce platforms process massive volumes of orders and require continuous updates to product information, catalogs, and availability. An e-commerce 3PL integration can automatically update product information such as SKU details, product descriptions, weight, dimensions, and more between the e-commerce platform and the WMS. An automated system makes it easier to track inventory and stock across multiple 3PL clients.
This ensures consistency in product data across all systems, improving accuracy, enhancing customer experience, and facilitating more efficient 3PL warehouse operations (like pick and pack processes).
E-commerce 3PL integrations can sync the entire product catalog from the e-commerce platform to the WMS. It’s a simple yet elegant solution to maintaining a unified, up-to-date view of all the products being sold across multiple e-commerce platforms.
It simplifies the process of adding or removing products, updating product details, and managing product categories, even if your 3PL clients are selling products on marketplaces.
Syncing E-Commerce Shipping Status and Estimated Delivery Date
Order fulfillment time and estimated delivery dates are extremely important to today’s e-commerce customers. According to a study by Statista, 41 percent of global shoppers said they hoped to receive their order within 24 hours. Most 3PL clients prefer to have extended visibility into the e-commerce fulfillment pipeline, along with real-time updates and estimated delivery dates.
An e-commerce 3PL WMS integration can automatically provide real-time updates to the 3PL clients about the shipping status of an order and the estimated delivery date. This considerably enhances customer experience as customers can track their orders and access self-service capabilities like requesting redelivery or rescheduling. It also reduces customer service queries about order status, thereby improving operational efficiency.
Effective management of multiple e-commerce 3PL clients requires continuous visibility and control over inventory and product data. A simple misstep can lead to order cancellations, returns, and cost wastage. Integrating a 3PL WMS with an e-commerce store builder enables a seamless flow of information between the systems, which increases the efficiency of the 3PL warehouse operations and order fulfillment process. A better customer experience is all about keeping customers informed about their order status and estimated delivery date.
2. Marketplace Integration with E-commerce 3PL Provider
The biggest e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba each have specific rules and regulations for packing, labeling, and shipping. Not complying with these guidelines can lead to penalties or even suspension.
Here's how a marketplace integration can streamline e-commerce 3PL processes:
Product Information Management
With the e-commerce 3PL integration, the WMS can directly pull product data from the marketplace (like SKU, product name, price, weight, dimensions), which is essential for managing storage, picking, packing, and shipping processes in the warehouse. It can push real-time inventory levels back to the marketplace and market products below a certain threshold as "out of stock" or "limited quantity" to prevent overselling.
Centralized Order Management
Once an order has been placed on the marketplace, the 3PL WMS can automatically fetch order details, including customer information, product details, and delivery instructions. This includes updating any changes to the product catalogs on the marketplace based on present orders. You can also add new products or remove discontinued ones directly to the WMS to sync the changes across multiple marketplaces.
Marketplaces often have strict guidelines regarding the type of packaging material, size, and weight of packages. Some also require special packaging for specific categories of products. An integrated WMS can store these packing rules specific to each marketplace to ensure that every order is packed according to the respective marketplace guidelines. This prevents non-compliance issues and reduces the risk of damage during transit, enhancing customer satisfaction and reducing returns.
E-commerce marketplaces have specific requirements for warehouse labeling practices, including the information to be included, the format, size, and placement of labels. For instance, Amazon requires specific FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) labels for inventory tracking. A 3PL WMS with marketplace integration can automatically generate labels based on each marketplace's rules, ensuring each product is correctly identified and tracked.
E-commerce Shipping Requirements
E-commerce marketplaces might have preferred carriers or specific e-commerce shipping methods. They may also have rules regarding shipment tracking and documentation. An integrated WMS can align shipping methods to marketplace guidelines, auto-select preferred carriers, and ensure tracking information is accurately communicated back to the marketplace.
Real-time Updates and Communication
A 3PL WMS integration with e-commerce marketplaces will allow you to provide real-time updates on inventory levels, order status, and tracking information. You can synchronize product identifiers and barcodes, manage buffer stock, and sync inventory between the 3PL WMS and the seller central, all from a centralized dashboard. This transparency is crucial to maintain seller ratings on marketplaces, prevent overselling and ensure customers are always in the loop about their order status.
Marketplaces have specific policies for returns and refunds. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates approximately 16.6 percent of total US retail sales were returned in 2021. An integrated WMS can manage and process returns in line with marketplace policies, automatically update inventory levels upon return, trigger QC workflows, and ensure swift refunds or exchanges, leading to a better overall customer experience.
Integrating a 3PL WMS with e-commerce marketplaces can greatly enhance the efficiency and compliance of the fulfillment process, which in turn helps maintain a positive seller standing on the marketplaces.
3. 3PL WMS Integration With Shipping Carriers
The primary aim of e-commerce 3PL integration is to streamline the logistics and fulfillment pipeline every step of the way. Connecting the shipping channel to the best 3PL provider is the final step to reducing data silos and building a smoother and more efficient operation.
Retrieve Shipping Rates and Delivery Estimates for a Range of Carriers
Multi-carrier integration enables a 3PL WMS to instantly pull in shipping rates and delivery estimates from each carrier based on package details. Real-time access to a range of shipping options gives the seller flexibility and control over the shipping costs and delivery times.
Finding the Best Prices and Quickest Deliveries
With the information retrieved from various carriers, the 3PL WMS can automatically retrieve the best prices and fastest delivery options. This optimizes shipping costs and delivery timelines, leading to greater customer satisfaction and potential cost savings for the business.
Automatically Generate and Print Shipping Labels
By connecting directly to the carrier's API, the WMS can automatically generate carrier-compliant shipping labels. This includes all necessary details like recipient address, sender address, package weight, tracking number, and barcode. The labels can be instantly printed, minimizing errors and reducing the time spent on the packing and labeling processes.
Track Every Step from Pickup to Delivery
The 3PL WMS can monitor each stage of the delivery process in real time, from pickup and during transit till final delivery. This information can be synced with customer-facing systems to provide real-time updates to customers, improving the overall customer experience.
Track Performance Metrics for the Carriers
By integrating with carriers, the 3PL WMS can collect and analyze valuable data about individual carrier performance. This might include on-time delivery rate, damage rate, cost efficiency, and more. Such metrics can guide data-driven decision-making around key improvement areas, including information on which carriers to continue partnering with, and how to negotiate better rates.
A 3PL WMS with multi-carrier shipping integrations can greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the fulfillment process. Real-time insights into shipping costs, delivery times, and carrier performance are invaluable when it comes to running a tight ship.
4. E-Commerce 3PL Integration With ERPs
Most mid to large-sized 3PL providers that deal with multiple e-commerce clients understand the importance of a common technological platform. Most of these 3PL clients have varying levels of technological maturity. As such, the out-of-the-box integration capabilities of the 3PL WMS play a significant role in streamlining operations.
3PL clients with an existing ERP solution offer a unique opportunity under these circumstances. If the business in question is already running enterprise resource planning (ERP) software like SAP, you can ensure seamless data exchange and operational alignment via e-commerce 3PL integration.
Syncing Inventory Information in Real Time with Client's ERP Systems
An integrated 3PL WMS and ERP can automatically communicate changes in inventory levels instantly to the ERP system. This real-time visibility into inventory levels allows the client to make informed decisions about production, sales, and procurement. You can sync orders to and from the 3PL WMS, update fulfillment status, carrier tracking data, and more.
From the 3PL provider's perspective, this real-time syncing helps manage 3PL warehouse operations more efficiently and reduces the likelihood of errors that could occur due to discrepancies in data.
Creating Purchase Orders (POs) and Managing Vendors
ERP systems often handle purchase order creation and vendor management. When the 3PL WMS is integrated with the ERP, it can pull in this information to better predict incoming inventory and plan warehouse space and resources. This helps the 3PL provider better manage their warehouse operations.
You can continuously update the 3PL warehouse inventory as the product goes through different stages in the fulfillment process. For the client, it means that they can trust their 3PL provider to be ready and prepared when new inventory arrives.
Retrieving Product Information and Details from the ERP
An e-commerce 3PL integration enables easy retrieval of product information stored in the ERP — like SKU details, product specifications, packaging requirements, and more. This ensures that the WMS has all the necessary information to correctly store, handle, and ship products. It improves the accuracy and efficiency of warehouse operations, and it ensures that the 3PL provider is meeting the client's specific requirements for each product.
Synchronized Financial Data
One of the primary functions of an ERP system is managing financial data. With an ERP integration, the 3PL WMS can push data on warehousing costs, e-commerce shipping fees, etc., back to the ERP. It also functions as the centralized hub for your clients to record and sync payment details across all e-commerce marketplaces and platforms.
This allows for accurate, real-time financial reporting and analysis for the 3PL client, and the 3PL provider can maintain accuracy and transparency in their billing practices.
5. 3PL Integration With Accounting Systems
Accounting integrations between a 3PL WMS and a client's accounting software, can streamline financial operations, provide a real-time, accurate view of costs, and reduce the risk of errors. This helps both the 3PL provider and their clients manage their businesses more effectively.
Sync Information Regarding Inventory Storage and Movement
The value and quantity of inventory on hand, its location, and movement history, all have financial implications. For instance, the cost of holding inventory and the cost of goods sold are directly based on this data. When the WMS integrates with the accounting software, this data can be automatically updated in the client's books, providing an accurate, real-time view of inventory costs.
A 3PL WMS tracks many types of data that can be used for billing purposes, such as storage fees, pick and pack fees, and e-commerce shipping fees. With an accounting integration, this data can be automatically transferred to the accounting software to generate invoices, reducing manual work and the risk of errors. This makes your job easier by streamlining the 3PL billing process and ensuring that the client receives accurate, timely invoices.
Accounts Receivable Management
If the 3PL is also handling the client's order fulfillment, they can use the integration to automatically update the accounts receivable once an order is shipped. This helps the client keep track of what's been billed and what's been paid.
Financial Reporting and Analysis
Integrating a 3PL WMS with accounting software provides a wealth of data that can be used for financial reporting and analysis. For instance, the cost of carrying inventory, the cost of order fulfillment, and the revenue generated from sales can all be calculated using data from the WMS. This data can help both the 3PL provider and the client identify trends, spot issues, and make data-driven decisions to improve their operations and profitability.
Integration with a 3PL WMS and accounting software can streamline and automate financial operations, provide a real-time, accurate view of costs and revenues, and deliver valuable insights for decision-making.
Importance of Out-of-the-box 3PL Integrations in E-Commerce Fulfillment
Out-of-the-box integrations in e-commerce fulfillment refer to integrations between different systems, like a WMS and an e-commerce platform, ERP, accounting system, or shipping carrier, that come pre-built, require minimal setup, and start working almost instantly. They have become increasingly important in the dynamic and fast-paced world of e-commerce fulfillment, especially when handling multiple clients.
According to a study by McKinsey, multi-client fulfillment leads to savings of 7-9 percent as compared to dedicated fulfillment. This further highlights the importance of 3PL WMS integrations in an age of rising costs and e-tailer pressures.
Lower Implementation Times
Out-of-the-box integrations significantly reduce the time it takes to set up and start using a 3PL WMS. This is especially beneficial for businesses that need to get their operations up and running quickly. For the 3PL provider, this means faster onboarding of new clients, and for the clients, it means a quicker start to warehouse operations.
No Manual Data Transfer
With out-of-the-box integrations, the need for manual data entry or file uploads and downloads is minimal. This not only saves time but also reduces the risk of errors or loss of data that can occur with manual data handling. Both 3PL providers and clients benefit from improved data accuracy and reduced labor costs.
Real-time Updation of Orders and Inventory
Out-of-the-box 3PL integrations allow for real-time data exchange between systems. This means that orders, inventory levels, and other important data are always up-to-date. For 3PL providers, this helps in better 3PL warehouse management and fulfillment, and for clients, this provides a real-time view of their inventory and order status, helping them manage their business more effectively.
Full Visibility to Stakeholders
Out-of-the-box integrations ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including the 3PL provider, the client, and even the end customer, have full visibility into the order fulfillment process, right from the get-go. It minimizes downtime of services that can inconvenience the customer and lead to lapses in e-commerce fulfillment. This transparency builds trust and improves customer satisfaction.
Out-of-the-box 3PL integrations follow industry standards and best practices, ensuring a certain level of quality and reliability. This means that both 3PL providers and their clients can rely on these integrations to function according to pre-established SLAs and deliver the desired results.
E-commerce 3PL integrations are designed to simplify the management of 3PL clients through clear communication and information exchange between disparate systems. The WMS platform serves as the backbone for integration and must be capable of handling the diverse needs of multiple 3PL clients. As a 3PL provider, it’s now more urgent than ever to review your supply chain and logistics needs to build a comprehensive system that can cover every aspect of the e-commerce fulfillment journey.
Hopstack’s Library of Plug-and-play Integrations for 3PLs
Hoptack’s powerful Warehouse Management System for 3PLs comes built with the most popular integrations across categories such as e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, ERPs, shipping carriers, accounting systems, and more. The platform enables 3PLs to onboard clients and connect to their existing systems swiftly. Schedule a demo to learn more about how Hopstack transforms e-commerce fulfillment for 3PLs.