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What is 3PL’s Role in the Supply chain: Services Offered by 3PL’s

A Brief Intro

The rapid growth of e-commerce has made logistics more complex than ever. For online sellers, efficiently managing warehousing, order fulfillment, and shipping can be overwhelming. This is where third-party logistics (3PL) providers play a critical role.

3PLs have become indispensable partners that enable ecommerce success. By outsourcing logistics operations to these services, online businesses can streamline their supply chains, reduce costs, and focus on sales, marketing, and growth.

This guide will explore the breadth of essential services 3PLs offer and why they are key enablers of growth for modern e-commerce. Read on to understand how partnering with a 3PL can transform your business’s delivery capabilities and bottom line.

Table of Contents

What Services do Third-Party Logistics Providers Offer?

Third-party logistics (3PL) providers offer crucial services that help e-commerce businesses streamline operations and focus on growth.

What are the main services offered by a 3PL?

Inventory management

  • Monitoring stock levels regularly to prevent overstocking or shortages. Using data to optimize inventory planning.

Order fulfillment

  • Receiving and processing orders quickly and efficiently. Activities include picking items from warehouse shelves, packing orders safely and securely, shipping orders using discounted carrier rates, and providing tracking information and status updates.

Returns processing –

  • Managing the complicated reverse logistics of product returns and exchanges. Tasks include receiving returned items, inspecting and processing returns, issuing refunds or exchanges, sending items back to the seller, or re-stocking.

What are the main services offered by a 3PL?

3PLs handle every step of the order fulfillment process for sellers, from receiving inventory to providing tracking information to buyers. This streamlines fulfillment operations so sellers can focus on sales, marketing, and product development.

Receiving inventory

  • Accepting seller’s products into the warehouse and logging into inventory system.


  • Safely storing items on shelves, pallets, or racks in optimal pick locations.

Picking –

  • Selecting the right items from inventory to fulfill each order. Accuracy is critical.

Packing –

  • Carefully packing orders in shipping boxes with any needed padding and inserts.


  • Generating shipping labels, confirming best rates, and tendering packages to carriers.


  • Providing order status updates and delivery tracking information to buyers.

What are 3PL storage and warehousing services?

3PL warehouses are strategic assets, not just storage spaces:

  • Flexible space to easily accommodate inventory fluctuations and seasonal peaks.
  • Advanced tracking of all inventory with scanning and software integrations. Detailed reporting on stock levels, value, turnover, etc.
  • Quality control with processes for accepting, inspecting, and securing inventory.
  • Order integration with warehouse management system tied directly to online sales channels.

What are 3PL distribution services?

3PLs have distribution networks optimized for fast, efficient delivery:

  • Local warehouses strategically located near key fulfillment centers for quicker transport.
  • Carrier relationships to secure reliable service and discounted shipping rates.
  • Route optimization using data to maximize efficiency and minimize transit time.

Third-Party Logistics: The What, The Why, and The Where That Matters to You

3PL services offer strategic advantages like cost reduction and operational efficiency.

Let’s take a dive into the What, Why, and Where Third-Party Logistics fills into your businesses potential .

What is a 3PL Company?

3PLs have become integral partners for ecommerce success, offering integrated services that optimize the entire supply chain. A sidebar with interesting facts and figures about the 3PL industry could be added here.

Why Should You Consider Using a 3PL Company?

The benefits of partnering with a 3PL include cost savings, expertise, scalability, flexibility, and reliability.

How do You Choose the Right 3PL Company?

Key factors in selecting a 3PL include compatibility with your business model, proven track record, inventory visibility, seamless integrations, and transparent pricing.

What is a 3Pls role in Supply Chain Management?

3PLs enhance efficiency, speed, and visibility across the entire supply chain.

Third Party Logistics: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

A quick Overview on 3PL services:

  • Who are 3PL customers? Any company that needs outsourced logistics like ecommerce, retail, or manufacturing.
  • What services do they offer? Warehousing, transportation, fulfillment, and more.
  • When are they used? At any point products need storing, moving, or distributing.
  • Where do they operate? Global networks of warehouses, carriers, and technology.
  • Why use a 3PL? To gain efficiency, expertise, speed, and scalability.
  • How do they work? Via seamless integration and management of supply chain.


The rise of ecommerce has brought logistics to the forefront. Brands can no longer treat warehousing, fulfillment and shipping as an afterthought. By leveraging 3PL services, online sellers can optimize their supply chain to delight customers with faster deliveries.

Outsourcing logistics to third-party specialists unlocks measurable advantages for ecommerce businesses. It enables you to tap into advanced technologies, infrastructure, and expertise to scale your operations.

Partnering with a 3PL tailored to ecommerce provides flexibility, cost-efficiency and peace of mind. Focus your energy on what matters most – growing your sales. 3PLs have become bedrock partners for success in modern online retail. Their indispensable services are key to competing and thriving in the world of ecommerce.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About 3PL Services

Who typically uses 3PL services?

3PL services are utilized by e-commerce businesses, retail companies, and manufacturers who need to outsource logistics operations such as warehousing, shipping, and handling returns.

What services do 3PL providers offer?

They offer a range of services including inventory management, order fulfillment, warehousing, distribution, shipping, and reverse logistics for returns and exchanges.

When should a business consider using a 3PL?

A business should consider using a 3PL when it wants to scale operations, reduce logistics costs, improve efficiency, or lacks the in-house expertise to manage logistics operations effectively.

Where do 3PL companies operate?

Many 3PL companies have a global presence, operating in networks that span across multiple countries to offer localized solutions as well as international logistics services.

Why should a company use a 3PL provider?

Using a 3PL provider can lead to cost savings, access to logistics expertise, better scalability, focus on core competencies, and improved customer service.

How do 3PL providers integrate with a business's operations?

3PL providers use advanced software systems to integrate with a business’s sales channels, inventory management, and customer service platforms, providing seamless operation and real-time visibility.

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