So you’ve built a strong subscription box product. Your subscriptions are growing steadily every month. However, you now dread the day when YOU have to box up your product, make the assortment shine in the pretty, perfect box and then send them off one-by-one to your customers. You never dreamt that the actual subscription box fulfillment would take so much of your precious time. Time you could be re-investing into new ideas, negotiating lower costs or upping your brand marketing game. Sounds like you’ve hit the ceiling of in-home fulfillment and need a 3PL (Third Party Logistics) partner. So how do you choose a 3PL for your subscription box company?
Characteristics of a Strong 3PL Partner
- Subscription box experience. There is no substitute for real life experience — subscription boxes are no exception. You need to choose someone who understands what your customers expect and be prepared to go above and beyond. Ask prospective 3PLs about their current customer assortment in the subscription space. Most 3PLs shy away from subscription boxes due to the added cost of customization. You need to be sure you are partnering with a company that make your vision come to life each and every month.
- Central location. If you want to save shipping costs overall there is no easier solve than to have your product centrally located. Look for a company that has their warehouse headquartered ideally in the Midwest. This will save you money with every outbound package to your customers. If you choose a 3PL on the West or East Coast or even in the South you will have longer mileage from the warehouse to your customers on average. This always leads to a higher shipping cost per package.
- Strong communication. Communicating the details of your subscription box monthly will just be an example of one of many touch points you will need to have with your trusted 3PL. Early communication with a potential partner will be signs of how they will likely communicate long-term in your relationship. Because they are an extension of your company you need to be sure not only can you count on them when needed, but also that your valued customers can, as well.
- Onboarding process is key. Ask a lot of questions about their onboarding process and how you can ramp up orders with them if you are feeling uncomfortable about a full transition. Look for standard processes, collaborative software and the ability to get in touch quickly if needed. Also, ask the prospective 3PL how long the onboarding process typically takes. Understand what will be needed from your side and what the clear expectations are on the 3PL side.
- Simplified Price Structure. A lot of 3PLs can have ‘accessorial fees’ such as monthly account management fee or monthly minimums. Look for 3PLs that have transactional fees only. Usually, pricing for subscription boxes is dictated by the number of ‘touches.’ Each time a warehouse laborer has to touch any contents to make the box complete the labor is usually accounted for in the pricing. The structure is usually similar to something like this (depending on the complexity of the product and assembly process):
- $1.50 for up to ‘X’ items included
- $.20 for each additional item
- Box and Tissue Paper typically count as an item
Running a subscription-based business brings with it several shipping and order fulfillment challenges. Thankfully, there are e-commerce fulfillment companies that can help take some of the extra load off your plate so you can focus on improving your e-commerce business. Lessgistics checks all of the boxes and more. Our founder also founded his own successful subscription box company! With that comes invaluable expertise and experience unparalleled in the marketplace. We understand that your subscription box company is “your baby” and what it takes to trust someone enough to not only complete the tasks you have been doing, but to do even more for you and your customers. Please reach out to us directly to talk through your business needs and how we can help. Lessgistics knows how to take your subscription box company to the next level and beyond!