The subscription box fulfillment market is booming. In 2021, it was valued at over $22 billion globally and set to continue growing at an annual rate of 18.3% year on year. It’s not hard to see why either. Subscription boxes provide a recurring stream of revenue for eCommerce brands with the same delighted customers coming back month-after-month.
And lots of them too. 5% of European household spending is on subscription boxes, according to ING, with an average household spend of €130 per year. Why? One reason is value – the added predictability of sales can drive down costs for businesses, and these savings are then passed onto customers..
They also add convenience in several different ways. Subscription boxes can help customers with decision-making, give them more variety, or just provide their monthly supplies conveniently without the need to think about it. There’s no need to go to the shop, transport products, or even remember that you need them. Most importantly, the products are never out of stock. Subscription boxes are always on time with prompt delivery at a certain time of the month (or week).
That’s where subscription box fulfillment comes into play. To get your slice of the subscription box pie – and keep it – you need to be on the ball with picking, packing, and shipping your customers’ subscriptions accurately and on-time – every time. We’ve put together this subscription box fulfillment checklist to help your subscription box business succeed. Here are some key factors to consider.
1. Choose the right box production model
The first thing to think about on your subscription box fulfillment checklist is how you’ll get all your subscription box orders ready to go out on time. For this, you have two options:
- Picking and packing them quickly at the given time of month when orders are due to be shipped
- Planning ahead so you can steadily pick and pack in advance in preparation for shipping
Needless to say, the second option isn’t practical for any perishable products. It could also be problematic as demand grows, with more time taken away from your other eCommerce orders. That said, it’s ideal for subscription boxes which are planned in advance and have steady, predictable demand.
As for fast picking and packing, it simply isn’t practical for small subscription box businesses. However, it’s a suitable option if you have a flexible team who can help with temporary high demand or a 3PL partner to do the same.
2. Be prepared for kitting and assembly
When it comes to subscription boxes, it’s not just about picking and packing. Many subscription boxes comprise curations of different products. That could be food and drinks, cosmetics, or fashion products tailored to monthly trends or even personalised customer preferences.
Because of this, it’s important that your warehouse team or your fulfillment partner is equipped for kitting and assembly. That means having processes in place to kit together items as subscription boxes ready for sale ahead of time, or to assemble different products into boxes quickly after orders are received.
3. Monitor your inventory
One of the best things about subscription boxes is variety. Take the ever-popular beauty box, for example. Customers aren’t just signing up for foundation or mascara, they want all kinds of makeup products, skincare goodies, and accessories too.
With so many different potential products making up your subscription boxes – and various combinations for different customers to consider – it’s vital that you have systems in place to accurately track stock levels for each item.
Imagine the panic when you realise you’re short on one product needed to fill your subscription box this month. That single shortage could stop hundreds of other items being shipped to customers. The time it takes to source a replacement yourself then get it sent out to customers won’t go unnoticed. The result is unhappy customers and lost business.
Here’s what you or your fulfillment partner can do to keep tabs on your stock:
- Add all inventory into the warehouse management system using barcode scanning.
- Perform regular inventory stock counts to ensure the data continues to match what’s on the warehouse shelves.
4. Factor in scalability
In a market worth $22 billion, there’s so much room for your subscription box business to grow. But are you prepared for order fulfillment when it does? Whether it’s word of mouth, a successful advertising campaign, or you catch the attention of an influencer, growth can be sudden in the era of “going viral”.
An ability to scale up at pace means letting customers down – either by delaying their delivery, delivering sub-par subscription boxes, or failing to fulfill their orders altogether. Don’t forget scaling down when demand drops. If you can’t do that, you could end up paying for staff and storage space that you simply don’t need.
Dealing with extra sales demand could require extra storage space and more staff at a minimum. Not to mention the time needed to train those staff in high-volume fulfillment processes. This is where a 3PL company can be an invaluable partner, giving you instant access to the resources and capacities you need to scale up order volumes instantly and seamlessly.
5. Extend your market reach
Remember that those mouth-watering subscription box market value figures we mentioned are global. According to IMRG, almost 90% of subscription businesses make some of their sales overseas. Along with Ireland, some of the most popular markets for overseas subscription sales are France, Germany, and Spain.
If you really want to maximise subscription box success, you may need to ship further afield than you’re used to. The question is, can you do so without delays? Experienced fulfillment partners, like Autofulfil in Ireland, can help you do exactly that while minimising the cost, thanks to close partnerships with national and international shipping couriers.
6. Track your orders
Did you know that order tracking is seen as an important part of the online shopping experience by 68% of customers? Subscription boxes are no exception – quite the opposite in fact. Because they’re typically expected on a particular day, it’s even more important that order shipments and deliveries are tracked and communicated, allowing you to give the most proactive service to customers.
To achieve this, leverage a warehouse management system that integrates with your eCommerce store. With automatic two-way data sharing, all parties will be constantly up to date. This can be done if you’re fulfilling orders in house. Alternatively, make sure your fulfillment partner has this capability.
7. Nail the unboxing experience
Last but not least, there’s the subscription box itself – not just any old box will do. The unboxing experience is a huge part of the curated subscription box appeal for customers. First of all, you need to put some time into designing packaging that wows customers. From the box and void fill to thank you cards and other promotional material, every detail needs to be on brand.
Next, make sure your team are fully equipped to make it happen. We’re talking about the skills and attention to detail to deliver a consistently great product assembly, packaging, and unboxing experience to all your customers. Remember, this isn’t a corner you can cut when things get busy!
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a 3PL partner to do this well, here are some capabilities to look for:
- Branded boxes and bags
- Tying ribbons and bows
- Adding tissue paper
- Hands-on projects
- Product assembly
- Adding stickers and labels
- Adding promotional inserts
- Printing customised gift cards
How to find the best subscription box fulfillment partner
Fulfilling subscription boxes yourself might work at first. But sooner or later, the time will come when you need to scale things up – and fast. That’s where an Irish subscription box fulfillment partner can help. When looking for the ideal fit, consider all of the points above – can they provide kitting and assembly, inventory monitoring, order tracking, and custom packaging?
At Autofulfil, we can do all of that and more for subscription box fulfillment in Ireland and beyond. With our help, you can deliver a quick and high-quality subscription box experience to your customers and secure reliable repeat sales for your eCommerce business.
We’ve also partnered with Ireland’s fastest-growing subscription marketplace, Taly, which makes it even easier for customers to find and sign up for your subscription boxes!
Ready to grow your subscription box brand?
Request a call with our team today for expert advice on how to grow and scale your subscription box in Ireland and beyond!