Subscription Box Shipping: Once-a-Month Bulk Fulfillment (Part 3/3)

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we discussed setting your schedule and how to handle ongoing & bulk fulfillment for subscribers. In today’s post, the final part of our three-part series, we’ll take a look at standard monthly bulk shipping.

Part 2 covered the fact that ecommerce’s embrace of free, fast shipping has influenced customer expectations. While we maintain that waiting 30+ days for anything is a poor experience, subscription box shipping is a different animal than standard ecommerce retail. Given that, there are some situations in the subscription business when a longer-than-normal wait is acceptable. Specifically, for subscription boxes built on a communal experience, themed surprises, or heavy curation, a single bulk fulfillment is our recommended fulfillment operation.

Learn more: Download the Subscription Box Shipping & Renewal Billing Guide

As an example, let’s pretend that you run a book club with a community discussion element. In order to avoid spoilers, it’s important for subscribers to start and maintain the same reading pace throughout any given month. Therefore, it’s important that subscribers receive their shipments roughly at the same time in the month.

Any sub box with a heavy community or experiential element could have similar requirements. The good news is this often inspires subscriber engagement – and therefore, retention – despite a longer wait for initial shipments.

Recap: The Difference Between Ongoing and Bulk Fulfillment

Ongoing fulfillment means that you ship on a rolling basis. We recommend this for new subscribers, so they don’t wait very long for that first box. For your other subscribers, though, once-a-month bulk shipping is fine.

Bulk fulfillment means that you pick, pack, and send all of your shipments in a single batch at one set time per month. This operation comes with the same renewal dates and cutoff as other practices, but, rather than shipping new orders as they come in, you wait until after orders are cut off for a particular batch before you send them out. The trick is ensuring that orders that come in before said cutoff ship and arrive before subscribers’ renewal date.

A Basic Monthly Schedule

1. Receive sourced product on or before the 1st of the month.

Because new orders for any given batch are cut off on the last day of the month, you will need to have your product on hand at the beginning of the month in order to pack and ship to your subscribers.

2. On or after the 1st, use your finalized list of shipments to fulfill all necessary orders.

Given that you’re using discrete units of time (calendar months) in order to organize your batches, you will always have a list of all shipments due to be fulfilled on the 1st of any given month.

3. Post all of your shipments no later than the 4th of the month.

Your subscriber’s renewal date is coming up on the 11th, so it is important to get these shipments out by the 4th so that they get a chance to receive the box before they get charged again. Any transactions that took place prior to the last day of the month will be scheduled to renew, and there is nothing worse than renewing for a second shipment when you have not even received the first.

Example Calendars

We set the default renewal date as the 11th because your 10-day cutoff window counts backward from there. If you set your renewal date earlier than the 11th, your cutoff will go into the week of the previous month, and that can get confusing.

Take a look at our standard schedule:

With a renewal date on the 11th, your cutoff window begins on the 1st. That gives you a clean start at the beginning of each month.

Now, look at how the cycle might work if you had a renewal date earlier in the month:

See how the cutoff window starts at the end of the previous month? Not only might that confuse some subscribers, but this setup will cause the start of your cutoff window to change. In the example above, the prior month has 30 days, so the cutoff window starts on the 26th. If that month had 31 days, however, your cutoff window would begin on the 27th.

In short, keeping your renewal date between the 11th and 28th makes your business operations much easier. Even if you’re only shipping once a month.

Keep for later: Download the Subscription Box Shipping & Renewal Billing Guide

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