As an owner of an ecommerce store, you probably have a strong grasp on how important convenience is to your customer base. Customers want to be able to order what they want online and have it delivered to them as fast as possible.
For things that customers order over and over at regular intervals, subscription services have become popular. Subscription box fulfillment services make it possible for customers to receive products on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.
Getting orders right and shipped on time are vital to the survival of a subscription based service. Your business might be able to handle that in-house or it might be time to consider partnering with a subscription box order fulfillment company.
What is Subscription Box Fulfillment?
Subscription Box Fulfillment is simply the delivery of a product from an online seller to a customer on a regular schedule, again which may be daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The box may contain the same products every delivery, such as what Dollar Shave Club offers with razor blades delivered every month, or it might be different each delivery, such as what wine of the month clubs might offer.
A few examples of subscription based products that are sold online include:
Meal and diet plans. These are often shipped monthly and contain premade or simple to make meals and shakes. An example of this sort of product would be Optavia. Customers can choose from a selection of pre-packaged options or they can customize which meals they want each month.
Beauty and fashion items. These packages usually contain the same items each time.
Shaving products. As mentioned above, monthly shaving supply clubs are becoming popular, with the most well-known being Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s.
Wine and beer of the month clubs. The original Wine of the Month Club has been shipping out bottles of wine to members since 1972.
Subscription services are great for customers. They know they can expect their delivery at regular intervals, however these services do raise some obstacles for ecommerce businesses including managing their inventory, assembling and packaging subscription boxes, and of course making sure orders are leaving the warehouse at the appropriate time.
Inventory management. This can be especially challenging for subscription based companies that ship different products each month. Packaging these sort of shipments can be very time consuming.
For companies that ship the same products in each shipment, having an efficient inventory management system should still be a priority in order to prevent any kind of shipping delays and always make sure there is enough inventory in stock for upcoming shipments.
Picking and packing subscription boxes. For subscription services sending the same products consistently, this is a little easier to deal with. You can always keep an inventory stocked of boxes ready to ship as orders come in.
For services that ship different products with each shipment, this is a much bigger and more involved task.
When should you outsource subscription box fulfillment?
The most significant factors in deciding whether or not to outsource subscription box fulfillment to a 3PL partner are the level of kitting and assembly needed for your packages and the volume you ship out each month.
Let’s consider two examples:
A monthly razor blade membership that sends the same number of clade cartridges to customers each month. Orders are shipped on the same date in a braided box with some printed inserts that may or may not change month-to-month.
A monthly delivery of dog toys and treats. Each month has a specific theme. The toys, treats, packaging and inserts all rotate each month. There are also different levels of membership based on dog sizes and chewing activity.
The first scenario requires timely shipping, the ability to use branded boxes, and the ability to add a different insert each month. This sort of subscription membership is probably less expensive to handle in-house when you are just starting out. However, the requirements to line up with the strengths of a good fulfillment company. As your volume increases, working with a logistics partner becomes an easy decision.
The second scenario is a much more complex order fulfillment scenario that requires an extra level of attention and care. Having a dedicated fulfillment partner capable of handling the curating of inventory, unique packaging, and on-time accurate delivery can make the difference between a successful subscription service and one that struggles to keep customers.
What should you look for in a logistics subscription fulfillment partner?
The goal you are looking for is a partner that can turn what can be a logistical nightmare into a simple, streamlined process for both you and your customers.
Here are a few things to consider in choosing a 3PL company:
Custom branded packaging
A big part of the customer experience for subscription services is receiving and unboxing their order. Their first impression of your first and every delivery thereafter is the box that they see.
Whether they receive a plain brown box, a shipping carrier branded box, or a unique custom package tailored to your business will make a big difference in how they see your company.
Be certain that you are working with a service provider that will allow you to provide your own custom packaging and will follow specific packing instructions.
Full service kitting
Going along with that, full service kitting is an equally important part of the customer experience. If you want to retain customers through a subscription service, making them feel like unboxing their package each month is an experience will greatly benefit your retention numbers. How your boxes are packaged is almost as important as the items inside it.
Look for a fulfillment company that has a built-in inventory management system with their workflow and one that integrates with your ecommerce platform. This will help you to know what your inventory levels look like in real-time and plan for when you will need to order more inventory.
Every business has unique challenges and you should work with a subscription fulfillment partner that understands this and is willing to work with you. All the benefits of working with a 3PL company are lost if doing so kills your margins.
You should also make sure that the company offers options for special projects and circumstances that may arise.
Of course the hallmark of any good fulfillment company is fast and reliable shipping. For subscription services, this is vitally important. Your subscribers become accustomed to receiving their packages at about the same time each month, often looking forward to when that date approaches. Having a partner who can ship packages on time and make sure they are arriving to your customers quickly will help you to retain those customers.
If you are ready to learn more about the subscription box fulfillment services offered by ShipBuddies, you can request a free quote.