3PL, Logistics, Third-Party Logistics, Supply ChainJohn Watkins is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, 3PL Central, 888-375-2368Over the past decade, there has been an extraordinary amount of change within the logistics industry. And with this change has come new requirements, new competition, new technologies, and more. At 3PL Central, we have watched as our customers have navigated this ever-evolving world of logistics. We compiled these observations—along with our own experiences—in our recently released 2018 State of the Third-Party Logistics Industry Report.Our second-annual report is designed to help warehouses increase both their market share and profitability by addressing the most dramatic change of all—The Rising Demand for a Superior Customer Experience.It should come as no surprise that with the growth of e-commerce and web-connected smartphones, consumers now expect a new, limitless array of products, choices, and delivery options. And the expectation to deliver a fantastic customer experience, from order creation to last-mile delivery, falls on the shoulders of the 3PL warehouse. This year's report identifies five opportunities for 3PLs to differentiate themselves from their competition, delight their customers, and be ready for 2018—all with the emphasis on delivering a superior customer experience.1. Handling the Pressure of Growing Customer Support. The demand to provide a superior customer experience will impact every employee in your warehouse—from your customer service reps, to your line workers, to your sales force. Now more than ever, speed, flawless accuracy, commitment to excellence, and "white-glove" treatment of your customers' brand image will be mandatory.3PLs who provide this level of performance will gain a sterling reputation for customer service. This will enable them to differentiate themselves from their competition, land new clients, and retain current customers.2. Supporting Omnichannel Fulfillment to Meet Retailer Demands. With global foot traffic dropping—and customer expectations soaring—today's retailers have no choice but to offer omnichannel purchase options for every product they sell.While this will be a huge challenge for these retailers, it will present a tremendous opportunity for 3PLs who can help retailers satisfy their customers' demands. Warehouses who can do so will have their pick of retailer clients.3. Embracing the Big Data Era. Warehouses have always produced massive amounts of data. And the increased use of technology has multiplied data exponentially. In the past, few 3PLs have used data to enhance their operations. However, this is about to change, as many partners will soon be asking for this information—along with your 3PL's insights as to what it reveals.Savvy 3PLs will be able to evaluate their own Big Data, thus enabling them to identify opportunities to improve their profitability and ability to deliver a superior customer experience.4. Discovering New Technologies to Meet Growing Demands. From artificial intelligence to robotic fulfillment to blockchain technology, a tsunami of innovations are about to hit the logistics industry. And while some may be beyond the means of smaller warehouses, their deployment in larger operations will enable the industry to see which of these advances will pan out before they invest themselves.In addition, our report details some of the easier-to-implement innovations. These, too, could help your 3PL dramatically improve service levels—without breaking the bank.5. Partnering With New and Non-Traditional Fulfillment and Delivery Players. In addition to new technologies, 3PLs will be confronted by a host of new entrants into our industry. These will range from enormous players like Fulfillment by Amazon down to pop-up fulfillment and delivery services.Many of these new entrants could become valuable partners for 3PLs who could help to handle warehouse overflow. Some may also offer an invaluable extra service such as local on-demand delivery desired by many retailer customers. In short, any partner who can improve the customer experience of your recipients will enhance your image both in the eyes of those consumers—and the warehouse customers you serve.While some 3PLs may not be able to embrace all of these new opportunities and changes immediately, their ability to adapt will be necessary for survival as the rising demand for superior customer support continues.We welcome you to access the full 3PL Central 2018 State of the Third-Party Logistics Industry Report to learn more about the opportunities outlined above. It also provides multiple "bonus features" that detail how your 3PL can turn these new challenges into opportunities for new customers and profits. To access, visit 3plcentral.com/2018soi.
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