It seems like there is a subscription box for just about everything these days! From clothing to makeup to cooking seasonings to dog toys, you can get a box for all of it. If you sell a subscription box and you’re looking for a way to manage the fulfillment each month or quarter, we can help make subscription box fulfillment easy.
If you’re not entirely clear on whether what you sell is a subscription box or not, here’s how you can determine if our subscription box fulfillment services are right for you. A subscription box typically uses product kitting to include multiple products shipped regularly.
There are two key ingredients when it comes to subscriptions:
Depending on what you sell, these boxes could be themed to the month or season, or they could be more random. They could all be the same where every single subscriber receives the same items, or they can be customized to each subscriber’s preferences (set when they signed up). They may even be the same item or items in every single order, like personal care items or cleaning supplies.
There can be a few big challenges for companies offering subscription boxes:
Subscription box fulfillment is the process of packaging and shipping out the boxes to your subscribers each month or quarter. To successfully fill every subscription on time every time, you need to pay attention to your inventory and the timeline of renewals (which may be all at the same time or at various times throughout the month, depending on your subscription model).
Whatever subscription box you sell and the fulfillment model you follow, there will be a similar process that must be followed to get everything out the door accurately and on schedule.
No matter if you fill subscriptions in-house or outsource to a third-party logistics provider, the general fulfillment process will follow a similar plan. All of this should be done very quickly so that subscriptions can be received at a regular cadence.
It may seem straightforward, but it can be complicated to manage all of the moving pieces with subscriptions – especially when they come in at different times of the month. Here’s what the renewal and fulfillment process should look like in five steps:
If you use a 3PL, the inventory needs to be sent to the warehouse or fulfillment center and input into their warehouse management system. If you are doing it yourself, you need to account for your inventory in your software and organize it in a way that makes sense for you.
Recurring order information is often automatically created with subscription management tools. These tools can also help you integrate subscriptions with your 3PL and eCommerce platforms when you are working with a 3PL for fulfillment. This means that you will be able to easily view all of your subscription orders to begin the fulfillment process.
After the order information has been received – including any customizations your customers requested – a package slip is created for each order, allowing you or the 3PL to begin picking and packing each box (this is where good inventory management skills in step one are very helpful!). Each order is picked and packed in a box, often branded for subscriptions.
Part of the fun of subscription boxes is the unboxing experience. You’ve probably seen it – or your company might have even been tagged – in it on Instagram or TikTok. This is the fun part of opening a subscription box, so adding a little extra to these creates that experience that makes it shareable content (which can bring you more subscribers who also want in on the fun).
Ensure the items in the box are in a specific order and kitted or packaged nicely. Stickers, tissue paper, crinkle paper, confetti, and other fun elements add to the satisfaction of unboxing a subscription.
After the items have been packed and the unboxing experience created, it’s time to ship the box. Many subscription box fees include shipping for the customer, so most companies use economy shipping unless they have negotiated good rates for faster shipping speeds. Be sure to provide tracking numbers to your customers so they can follow their subscription’s journey to their door.
Most eCommerce platforms automatically send out these tracking emails once the information has been input by your company or your fulfillment provider.
As with just about any industry, order fulfillment has its challenges. 3PLs are often set up to handle some of these challenges. However, when it comes to subscription fulfillment, there are some unique challenges that some fulfillment companies are just not prepared to tackle.
Some of the biggest challenges that subscription boxes bring to the order fulfillment role include:
Subscription customers have come to expect an order at the same time each month, so making sure these orders are filled on time and shipped quickly is critical — especially when these orders are recurring refills or subscriptions of necessities (including coffee, tea, or other daily essentials).
You can’t miss a subscription renewal, especially if payment has already occurred, so processing a subscription box as soon as the order comes in will keep customers happy.
If your subscription box is a monthly curated box that changes regularly with different items from time to time, then your fulfillment provider needs to make sure that their inventory matches what your box will include.
This can be managed by good inventory management practices and integration between eCommerce and warehouse platforms, as well as good communication between your team and the 3PL.
As discussed above, having a unique unboxing experience will keep subscribers coming back for more. A 3PL that can provide custom boxes and special packaging will keep this unboxing experience front of mind when filling subscription orders.
There are a lot of costs with creating a subscription box service. Some of the standard ones include the products and shipping, which are often the biggest expenses. But also included in running a subscription box service are credit card fees, marketing or advertising costs, custom box design, and packing materials.
When you decide to outsource subscription box fulfillment, there is an additional cost with that service. A lot of times, subscription box fulfillment is done at a per-box rate, which means that the cost of fulfillment services will depend on how many subscribers you have. Shipping costs are often included with the per-box rate for subscription fulfillment, so that can help reduce the overall shipping costs when using a 3PL that offers discounted and negotiated carrier rates.
But it doesn’t have to be more expensive than doing it yourself. When you consider that you will save time on packaging and shipping, warehouse or storage costs, and may even get cheaper shipping rates with faster speeds, you could save money.
As you look at what you need for your subscription box fulfillment, consider all of the daily overhead costs you take on as an eCommerce subscription box business. Also, consider how a subscription box fulfillment company can help reduce your overall overhead.
When you look at what you need for subscription fulfillment and how much subscription boxes can cost, there are a few key ingredients:
This will help to create a customer experience that is worth sharing! Those unboxing experience videos will garner new subscribers, so having packaging that is custom branded – while coming with a cost – will serve you well in the long run.
When it comes to subscription boxes, processing, and shipping orders quickly will keep customers happy and renewing those orders each month. Some 3PLs have negotiated great shipping speeds and rates for their customers, so you can take advantage of low-cost, two-day shipping for your subscription boxes.
Products have the highest cost of subscription boxes, but when you have products worth buying, it is worth the cost. Whether you have a recurring order that is a daily necessity for your customers or a unique grouping of fun items to bring joy to your customers, make sure your products are something that your customers will love to open their boxes and see.
Now that you know that outsourcing subscription box fulfillment doesn’t have to be a scary, overwhelming cost, you may be wondering about the benefits. When you work with AMS Fulfillment, you are getting expertise in filling B2B and B2C orders across the country.
Our warehouse and fulfillment subscription box services mean that your subscription box customers get exactly what they ordered when they want it. By choosing AMS, you’re going to get these benefits:
AMS accurately processes tens of thousands of orders daily across the country with warehouses on each coast. Our teams work hard so you can have quick, cheap delivery of subscription boxes to your customers across the country. You’ll save on warehouse rent, utilities, warehouse technology, and tools needed to fill and ship orders, and you can access our heavily discounted shipping rates.
Because AMS has more than 1,000,000 square feet of warehouse space, you won’t need to have your own warehouse or storage space for inventory. As you prepare your subscription boxes, you can ship inventory to our warehouses so products are ready to go as orders come in – meaning we can fill your subscription box orders or renewals as they come in!
Our teams are experts in eCommerce order fulfillment and stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so you don’t have to. Because subscription boxes require accurate assembly and fulfillment, having this kind of knowledge and experience can make the process run smoother.
Negotiating shipping rates, quick and accurate picking, and creating an unforgettable unboxing experience are all things that require the right skills. By partnering with a 3PL like AMS that specializes in subscription box fulfillment, you can rest assured that everything will be done correctly the first time.
AMS knows how to deliver when it comes to subscription box fulfillment! We offer our clients quality control and a proven ability to process fluctuating rotations of subscription boxes promptly.
As with everything we do, we serve our clients as if their businesses were our own. We’re eCommerce experts, providing expert shipping in your customized boxes, packaging, and shipping materials! No matter if you sell food or beverage, personal care, health, wellness, or clothing subscriptions, we can provide fulfillment services for you.
And as a B Corporation, we always do what’s best for you, the community, and the environment. Our commitment to doing good as a company means that you and your customers can feel good about working with us.
AMS ships more than 25,000 packages every day and specializes in eCommerce for many different industries. We have discounted shipping carrier rates and warehouses on both sides of the United States, meaning our teams can process and ship your orders quickly to customers in the U.S. or internationally.