Amazon and the expectations Prime Shipping has created aside, the sub box industry is a completely different animal. We previously agreed that waiting 30+ days for anything is a poor experience (that is still true), but that does not mean the wait is without reason or not worth it! There are some situations in the subscription business when a longer-than-normal wait is totally acceptable. Specifically, for subscription boxes built on a communal experience, themed surprises, or heavy curation, a single bulk fulfillment is the only fulfillment operation possible.
As an example, we’ll take a specific type of bulk fulfilment into consideration: a book club with a community discussion element. Because it is important for subscribers to start and maintain the same pace throughout any given month’s experience, it is therefore important that subscribers receive their shipments, roughly, at the same time.
On a more generic level, any sub box with a heavy community or experiential element could have the same requirements. The good news here is that those elements are typical of subscription boxes that inspire engagement, and therefore subscriber retention despite the longer wait for initial shipments.
Bulk fulfillment means that you pick, pack, and ship out all of your shipments in a single batch at one set time per month. This operation comes with the same renewal dates and cut-off 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 here is to ensure that orders that come in prior to said cut-off are shipped and arrive before the upcoming renewal date.
As always, we’re approaching the finer details of this topic from the perspective of Cratejoy users. That said, these concepts apply to subscription box fulfillment no matter what platform you operate on.
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 pick, pack, and ship to your subscribers.
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.
Post all of your shipments no later than the 4th of the month.
Your subscriber’s renewal date is upcoming, so it is important to get these shipments out earlier in the month. 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 2nd shipment when you have not even received the 1st.
Caveat: Beyond a box element that requires bulk fulfillment, your own level of e-commerce experience may call for a single shipment per month (and there is nothing wrong with that). Starting out, it can be difficult to have your sourcing and fulfillment down enough to promise on-going shipments. In any case, launching is more important than nailing your operational practices from Day 1.