Subscription boxes have gained immense popularity in the e-commerce world, offering a convenient way for consumers to discover new products from the comfort of their homes. However, managing a subscription box business can be challenging, especially when it comes to order fulfillment. That's where third-party logistics (3PL) providers come in. However, not all fulfillment providers (3PLs) are well suited for the unique needs of a subscription box program which can require bulk kitting, light assembly, kitting-to-ship, variable SKUs or other nuances that require work outside the standard order fulfillment process. In this article, we'll provide tips to help you find the right 3PL for your subscription box fulfillment needs.
Subscription Box & Kitting Experience
First and foremost, you want a 3PL provider that has experience with subscription box fulfillment. Your specific requirements may differ from traditional e-commerce orders. For example, subscription boxes often involve kitting, which means assembling multiple products into a single package. This requires attention to detail and the ability to modify existing processes to fit the needs of the project. Look for a 3PL provider that excels in subscription box fulfillment and ask these questions:
Does the 3PL have good experience in subscription box kitting & fulfillment? How long have they worked with their subscription box clients?
Does the 3PL only offer kit-to-store options? Or will they offer kit-to-ship? Kit-to-ship means that shipping labels are applied as part of the kitting process to eliminate having to store them and then label them again later. This is time and cost-effective.
Will the 3PL accept non-barcoded items as components for your subscription box?
Customization Options & Overall Flexibility
Subscription boxes are all about providing a unique and personalized experience for your customers. That's why it's important to find a 3PL provider that can offer customization options. This could include adding personalized notes, custom packaging, or even creating unique product combinations for individual subscribers. The more customization options available, the better you can tailor the experience to your customers' needs. This means that your 3PL must be flexible and willing to adapt their procedures to meet your needs.
Will the 3PL accommodate box variations (t-shirt sizes inserts, etc)? How do they charge for variations?
Does the 3PL provide light assembly services?
Can you provide your own kitting & assembly guide to the 3PL to ensure boxes are packed in the manner you prefer?
Will the 3PL match customized inserts or notes to each subscriber’s order?
Scalability in Subscription
As your subscription box business grows, so will your fulfillment needs. You want a 3PL provider that can scale with your business. This means having the ability to handle larger order volumes and offer additional services as needed. Make sure to ask potential 3PL providers about their scalability options to ensure they can meet your future needs.
How many kits can the 3PL complete in a day? Will they be able to keep up with your growing business?
How many square feet of their facility is dedicated to kitting services?
Will the 3PL barcode leftover box inventory for you to sell as individual items?
Subscription Friendly Technology & Integrations
In today's digital age, technology is crucial for managing a subscription box business. Make sure your 3PL has a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that can meet your unique subscription needs. This could include integrating with your e-commerce platform or providing real-time tracking information for your customers. The more integrated the technology, the smoother the fulfillment process will be.
Can the 3PL’s Warehouse Management System hold subscription orders until the scheduled shipping date?
Will your 3PL assist in subscription software integration on your own site?
Does the WMS offer kitting/assembly setup and tracking?
Frequent Communication and Customer Support
One thing about subscription boxes is that they are relentless. This means that communication and customer service are essential when it comes to subscription box fulfillment providers. You want a 3PL that is responsive and can quickly address any issues that arise. Make sure to ask potential providers about their communication and customer service policies to ensure they align with your expectations.
Does the 3PL offer weekly meetings to monitor inventory and progress toward kitting projects?
What are the timeline requirements to have all materials to the facility prior to kitting and shipping?
Does the 3PL offer direct access to customer support or only a help desk?
Will the 3PL notify you prior to kitting if they expect any abnormal or unexpected fees associated with the project?
As you can see, finding the right 3PL provider for your subscription box fulfillment is crucial to the success of your business. Look for experience with subscription box fulfillment, customization options, scalability, technology integration, and communication and customer service. With these tips in mind, you can make an informed decision and find a 3PL provider that meets your unique needs.
Bulu is a subscription-first, full-service 3PL. We’ve launched and fulfilled subscription boxes for Fortune 500 companies like Disney, GNC and Crayola as well as growing ecommerce companies. Our warehouse, processes, training and software is designed to meet the needs of subscription first. We’ve seen how subscription boxes or subscribe & save functionality can grow customer lifetime value, increase customer retention and grow a business overall. That’s why we’ll install subscription buying options to a Shopify site FREE when you partner with us for fulfillment.
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