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on March 21, 2022 by Jenna Frey in Fulfillment

How to Customize Your Brand Experience with a 3PL

Brand customization is one key to a winning customer acquisition and retention strategy. Unless you manage your own fulfillment, making this possible requires the willingness and ability of a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, but not all 3PLs are created equal. The variety of options your third-party logistics company will offer can vary greatly. From gift slips to branded packaging, we’re here to break down what customization fulfillment options are out there, which are smart choices for your brand and what the payoff is to offer your customers a truly brand-centric experience.

How do third-party logistic companies help with brand customization?

Brands want to deliver more than just a product — they want to deliver a true experience. Doing so can be difficult when outsourcing fulfillment to another provider, so when it comes to ecommerce shipping, fine-tuning that brand experience is becoming a bigger piece of the puzzle.

Brand experience customization options come in a wide assortment, ranging from custom boxes, inserts, tape, stickers, gift slips, bundles, repeat-buyer gifts and so much more. Each of these types of customizations brings unique advantages and challenges to execution. Take a look at some customization options (and their pros and cons) below:

Custom Boxes

Who doesn’t love the uniqueness of a branded box at their doorstep? It immediately stands out from the many other deliveries most of us receive each week. Custom boxes are a great way to deliver a branded experience from the moment of delivery but are expensive for brands to purchase and need to be designed with shipping in mind. For example, white is a tough box color for transportation. (Carrier trucks aren’t exactly sparkling clean and packages endure lots of bumps and scuffs along the way.) Also, sturdy tape needed to ensure boxes pass the “drop test” may block brand logos depending on placement. Illustration of packing tape

Keep shipping in mind when designing custom boxes: avoid white cardboard and consider whether packing tape will cover your logo.

Inserts

Custom box inserts, also known as packaging inlays, create fitted spots for your products within the box. Inserts are a fun way to change up messaging and serve the purpose of securing your products but may require lots of runs and differentiation, which may not have a large payback due to the additional fulfillment costs. (Learn more about fulfillment costs here.)

Custom Tape and Stickers

Custom tape and stickers are an interesting way to provide an interim brand experience for a lower cost than custom boxes but may require additional labor investments and/or inventory tie-up in order for a 3PL to execute this at scale. Most 3PLs use a standard tape dispenser with pre-cut lengths to make the packing process faster, so be sure to check with your 3PL to see if this is something they can accommodate. Adding custom tape to an order can add additional labor and time to get the order out of the door, but it can also delight customers as part of the packaging experience! Be sure to weigh the tradeoff between cost and experience to make the best decision for your business.

Bundlesillustration of bottles

Bundles are groups of the same product sold together as a set. For example, instead of selling individual boxes of cookies, a bundle would be a four-box pack. Bundles are a great way to package different basket offerings and potentially expand product interest but may tie up your inventory unnecessarily, meaning individual units aren’t readily available for sale. When considering 3PLs, it may be worth asking how they manage bundles. A 3PL provider like Whitebox can process some bundles on the fly to alleviate this risk. 

Kitting

Kitting, on the other hand, groups different, yet related, products together in one package. An example of a kit would be a gift set of seasonings containing a variety of flavors. Similar to bundling, this customization option can also unnecessarily tie up your inventory.

Repeat-buyer Gifts

Repeat-buyer gifts are a tried-and-true for incentivizing and rewarding your customers. Customers feel valued and appreciated for giving you more of their business and this helps build brand loyalty. One thing to consider when implementing these gifts is that your 3PL will need to have technical solutions in place to communicate these order requirements to the packing team. 

Gift Slips

Gift slips are a great way to enhance the branded experience for your customers. In the ecommerce age when many gifts are ordered online instead of delivered in person, adding a personalized note to an order makes the process more special. Printing gift slips requires additional technical capabilities to match content with an order, so be sure to check with your 3PL provider ahead of time to see if it can be done. Whitebox is proud to offer gift slips through brands’ Shopify stores, Amazon orders and API orders. Our team can also include branded messages to the end consumer as well.

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Customer Service

Brand customization doesn’t stop at the cosmetic touches of branded boxes and inserts. Customer service presents another opportunity for customers to enjoy a seamless branded experience. The voice of a brand is extremely important, especially when it comes to customer service. It’s important for your 3PL provider to know how your brand wants to respond to customer questions because this plays a huge role in the customer’s impression and ultimately their satisfaction.

Inventory Management

Inventory management, especially when it comes to kitting, is a factor that should be prioritized when selecting a 3PL partner. Keeping track of individual packaging supplies, products and inserts leads to critical decisions about when and how a brand should restock inventory and/or run promotions to deplete stock of specific items. Whitebox provides real-time data insights on products, packaging and inserts so brands have instant access to information that helps them understand their sales velocity and days of cover. 

Returns Management

Knowing how a brand wants to respond to returns and what to do with returned inventory is important for brand integrity. While it doesn’t quite fall under the category of brand customization, it’s an important element in a cohesive brand experience and something you should be on the same page about with your 3PL provider.

Are all 3PLs created equal when it comes to customization? 

Not all 3PLs can handle the variety and diversity of requirements for brand customization and it’s important to understand this when you are looking for the right partner to meet your fulfillment needs. Before you can begin to evaluate 3PLs, you have to ensure internal alignment between your marketing, operations and finance teams about your company’s ultimate goals and the flexibility you have to achieve them.

Different customizations will require different pricing structures, so understanding your brand’s flexibility on customization costs is important. When discussing customization requirements with prospective 3PLs, brands should be clear about their requirements upfront to make sure the 3PL can deliver on those expectations at a mutually beneficial price point. 

How Whitebox breaks the mold in brand customization 

Whitebox has built a highly efficient and quality-oriented pick-and-pack system that allows for customized outer packaging, bundling on the fly and the inclusion of inserts or gift slips — all of which can happen naturally in our outbound processes. 

Whitebox provides kitting services for brands who have complex inner packaging, require branded tape or want clear packaging tape to deliver on an even more differentiated brand experience. 

Ready to make your brand stand out?

Give your customers a unique brand experience with customization options through Whitebox. We offer flexible solutions to meet your fulfillment needs and keep your customers happy. Reach out to us today!

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