5 Things You Should Ask Before Picking a Cannabis Logistics PartnerInsights • July 25, 2023
Cannabis brands and retailers need to work with efficient and trustworthy 3PL partners. But, with many brands scaling and more logistics partners arriving on the market, how can you tell which partner is best for your brand?
How do you ensure your logistics partner will help with high order volumes and provide essential services like comprehensive tech, warehousing, order picking/packing, and fast, compliant shipping?
You have to ask the right questions.
By asking the right questions, you eliminate worrying about material and product procurement, empty cells, revenue losses and all the other costly headaches. Read on to learn about the must-ask questions brands and retailers should ask potential logistics partners.
1. What is your infrastructure and capacity?
Starting with the basics, retailers and brands must ensure that their logistics partner has the capabilities to compliantly and efficiently fulfill orders.
Think about the essentials. What does your partner need to provide? For example, if you’re working with frozen edibles, your logistics partner better have the capabilities to deliver items without melting. To make it happen successfully, your 3PL partner needs to have the trucks, cooling systems, professionals and tech to consistently execute. Ask about every component.
Space is just as crucial. Guarantee that your logistics partner has the warehouse and trucking capacity to house your products and keep them at their desired temperature. Ask about the trucks’ shipping and storage capacities and temperature control features. Ask the same about wherever products will be warehoused.
Ask about packing capabilities, as well. Confirm that any truck or van shipping your products has the safety features to secure and ship your items safely. And if an unfortunate situation occurs where products are damaged or lost, what will your logistics partner do for you?
Overall, you're looking to confirm that any potential logistics partner has the space and the capable team to meet your product shipping and customer service needs. Once that's covered, you can dive further into their operation.
2. What are your pick and pack fulfillment capabilities like?
Pick and pack fulfillment essentially boils down to your 3PL partner's warehouse team selecting the right products and sending out the correct number of items. At this point, it may seem like an obvious assumption that all logistics partners are professional and capable of handling the job. But, as numerous ordering errors in cannabis and other CPG sectors reveal, not all fulfillment partners pick and pack as efficiently as desired.
The result of working with less-than-ideal logistics partners typically sees brands and retailers complaining about slow order shipments, unsatisfied customers and overall unprofessional fulfillment.
A logistics partner's track record is critical at this point. Ask about their achievements to date and inquire about compliance. Ask if any regulatory issues have come up in recent years. You'll want to do this to ensure that your products get fulfilled in compliance with each state's seed-to-sale tracking laws. Get an idea of the company's track record by asking how many partners they have and the number of products they've shipped in recent years.
3. How does your tech help me? How easy is it to use?
Tech is essential to fulfillment, helping fuel pick and pack operations and just about every other facet of the partnership. In the last two questions, you've begun understanding how a potential logistics partner's internal tech efficiently handles logistics. Now, it's time to learn what they offer you as a customer.
User experience is crucial to every decision we make, from buying cannabis as a customer to finding our ideal 3PL partner. Regarding the latter, brands and retailers should feel comfortable navigating their partner's tech. Find this out before making any deals. Ask for a demo, consultation or a trial to get hands-on experience. If the company doesn't offer you an advance look, that may be a red flag.
Verify that their tech has the solutions to run your logistics efficiently. Your partner should provide a singular tech solution, or else it falls short of calling itself a solution.
4. Am I working with experts?
Brands and retailers often turn to logistics partners not because they can't make high-quality products, but because they can't manage everything under one roof. When the time comes for them to hand off logistics and fulfillment to a partner, brands and retailers must ensure that product quality and service remain at the same level, if not improved. Having the tech and the infrastructure in place definitely helps a logistics company fulfill partner needs. But without the experts behind it all, the results tend to fall short.
Ask about the team at every logistics partner you’re considering.
5. Are there any hidden fees?
Retailers and brands need to leverage a complete platform of logistics solutions. Unfortunately, some 3PL providers price themselves and potential customers out of partnerships.
Hidden fees are one of the more frustrating aspects of any consumer journey. That is no different in cannabis logistics. Sometimes, 3PL partners won't disclose all the pricing details until too late. You may think you're getting an affordable logistics partner. But, back-end charges on licensing fees, additional invoice costs and other purchases can see any savings dwindle fast.
Ask about the total cost of the partnership. Be sure to get a detailed breakdown of all the charges. Then, see if there are any discounts or deals for bundled services.
Bonus Question: What's best for me?
You've asked essential questions about your potential logistics partner. Now, don't forget to ask what's best for you.
You'd be surprised how often retailers and brands can lose track after considering many offers and services. Without remembering your core needs, you could end up choosing a less-than-ideal fitting logistics solution.
Whether it's a physical list or a mental note, always keep your brand's needs and goals at the top of your mind. Ask every question with the intention of solving your logistics needs. Doing so will help steer you toward the best combination of services, expertise and pricing for your fulfillment needs.
Thousands of cannabis brands turn to LeafLink and our robust logistics infrastructure, best-in-class tech and team of experts.
But instead of reading about it, find out for yourself. Get in touch today.