In my last post, I explored the important considerations publishers should make before launching a subscription box, including developing your offer and branding, choosing a platform, finding products and marketing. Now it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll actually get your subscription boxes to your customers. In a third and final post, I’ll share ways you can grow your box revenue.
You’ve got two ways to go about doing the actual fulfillment: You can outsource the task or you can do it yourself. In order to get a real understanding of how the fulfillment process works I highly recommend you do a couple yourself before you investigate a third-party logistics (3PL) provider. I’ll get into what to look for in a 3PL, but before that let’s go over the actual fulfillment process.
Do-It-Yourself Subscription Box Fulfillment
You’ve got inventory in stock and it’s time to get packing. The first thing you’ll need to do is find the right sized box. The most common level of service to use when shipping subscription boxes is USPS Priority Mail Commercial Plus Pricing, and beyond that Priority Mail Cubic pricing. This is the best kept secret in postage. You pay by distance and cubic volume, no matter the weight. As with all Priority Mail shipping, it comes with $100 of USPS insurance included along with tracking. For this reason I like to purchase my boxes specifically for each month’s mailing. I want the smallest box possible that will still afford protection for the products that make up that month’s box. The difference between a .2 and .3 cubic foot box can add up to hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in cost difference depending on your volume.
Check your local area for box vendors, or you can use a national vendor like www.uline.com. If your box sizes won’t vary much from month to month, look into having custom boxes produced. A nice looking customized box can add a unique dynamic to the whole user experience. There are plenty of companies out there that specialize in this type of box production: Packlane and Distinct Packaging are two of the more popular services.
Packing and Shipping
There are lots of software platforms that will allow you to mail through this class of mailing. In the subscription box business the most popular is www.pirateship.com. It’s free software that’s easy to use, doesn’t mark up postage, calculates the best class of mail for your shipments and then gives you the option to choose. It integrates with Cratejoy, Shopify, Chargify, Recurly and others. Once you’re ready to ship, log into your mailing software, update the orders with your integration and choose the variable you’re ready to ship for.
With our BJJ Box we have three or four variables that could possibly affect each shipment. When someone signs up we ask t-shirt size, gender, belt rank and for our VIPs, waist size. We’ve had months where shirt size was the only variable we had to account for, other months we’ve had all four come into play. No matter the case, you’ll want to download and print labels for one group of subscribers at a time. I find this a more foolproof way of reducing the likelihood of shipping errors thanks to the wrong size of something making it in.
If you don’t already have one by now, whether you’re in the subscription box business or not, I can’t recommend enough having a shipping label printer. The Dymo 4XL and ROLLO are two great options. You can pick up 4” x 6” labels for pennies a piece on Amazon. Once you’ve printed your labels it’s time to get packing. In the subscription box business, packing the actual box is referred to as “kitting,” which is just a fancy word for putting items in a box in a particular way. Remember, with a subscription box it’s like a birthday or Christmas every month: You want your subscriber to have a pleasant experience every time and not feel like someone just jammed everything into a box.
Mike Velez is the Publisher of Jiu-Jitsu Magazine and has over 23 years experience in magazine publishing with both consumer and trade titles. He also consults with publishers looking to create growth and revenue by creating additional value offers to their existing readership and advertiser base. If you’d like help with launching a subscription box you can reach him at email@example.com.