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Planning a Subscription Business? Here Are 3 Tips to Streamline Shipping

Planning a Subscription Business? Here Are 3 Tips to Streamline Shipping
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Successful subscription businesses like Birchbox and the Dollar Shave Club have reshaped the ecommerce landscape. The popular business model can reach thousands each month. Still, it’s a model that creates certain shipping challenges for businesses, ones that can’t be ignored, given the volume of orders. Here are three tips to help streamline the fulfillment process to reduce headaches, hassles and keep customers renewing.

Related: Ecommerce Trend for 2014: Buying Into the Subscription Service Model

Consider timing. The day you ship can make a difference. Mondays are the biggest shipping day because that’s when online businesses fulfill orders that came in over the weekend, John Haber, CEO of Spend Management Experts in Atlanta points out. Pick a different day or stagger shipments over several days to avoid getting caught in the shipping rush, he says, which can result in pickup and delivery delays.

Additionally, ecommerce subscription businesses tend to ship their items during the first two weeks of the month, Haber adds. So bear in mind that manpower needed in the beginning of the month can be deployed in other parts of the operation to prepare for the following month’s orders or to process returns.

Related: Should You Launch a Subscription-Commerce Business?

Stay on top of tracking. Because ecommerce subscription businesses involve a high volume of shipping, addressing delivery problems can be difficult if details are allowed to get lost in the shuffle, notes says Hal Altman, president and co-founder of Motivational Fulfillment & Logistical Services in Chino, Calif. Enter the tracking numbers assigned by your carrier for each package into your own computer system. This will make locating those numbers as convenient as possible in the event of a lost package and help improve customer service, he says.

Take organization to the next level. Every aspect of the shipping process is multiplied in an ecommerce subscription model, so you need to bring your A game to organizing the fulfillment process, says Jason Malinak, an accountant in Colorado Springs, Colo. After advising his wife on her own Etsy venture, Malinak wrote the e-book Etsy-preneurship (Wiley, 2012) to help Etsy sellers run their businesses. 

Make sure you have more than enough shipping supplies ready to go and don’t wait until you’re swamped to hire additional help, Malinak advises. Have at least a one-month supply of extra shipping materials on hand at all times to avoid a sudden shortage, he says. To estimate how much additional help you might need, look at sales for previous months and factor in variables such as special promotions or upcoming holidays, says Malinak.  

For successful subscription businesses, Black Friday occurs every a month, he notes. Possibly the worst-case scenario for an ecommerce subscription business would be shutting down the website for a few days or even a week to catch up on fulfilling orders. “If sales are rolling in you don’t want to turn off that faucet,” says Malinak.