Mastering the Internal Operations and Logistics Before Shipping
Last modified on October 18th, 2021
Is it even possible not to get excited about shipping?
Subscription business, despite its occasional challenges, brings a lot of joy, primarily through an ongoing, fulfilling connection with the subscribers.
Although you may not be there to see your customer’s face when their package arrives, you can still enjoy the moment when those lovely boxes start off on their journey. It’s so exciting to finally experience the thrill of letting your boxes out into the world!
However, the processes related to shipping can certainly be challenging – assembling, packing, labeling, and the final act of sending the boxes. Therefore, monthly shipping might turn into a confusion fest, despite its obvious charm. It could even feel overwhelming, especially for beginners, starting out in the subscription business.
What will change when you master these processes?
By mastering and optimizing the entire process of preparing the shipment and shipping itself, whether you’re a subscription business newbie or an experienced business person, it will save you a lot of money, time, and nerves.
Each of the mentioned stages (assembling, packing, labeling, sending, and the organization bits in between) can be fine tuned and polished.
Not to mention how nicely packed and safely shipped boxes will improve your customer’s experience. Of course, the subscribers’ mind-boggling thrill is what we wish to achieve, and we will not settle for anything less, right?
Basics of shipping
Shipping is much more than the the mere sending of boxes to your customers. Actually, there are two major processes:
- the internal operations and logistics prior to the actual sending (the ones we’ll cover in this guide) and
- the process of shipping itself – communication and tracking of the order until it finally arrives to your customer’s doorstep.
In the first process, internal operations, there are plenty of activities you need to handle as a business owner and we sincerely hope this guide will make them all easier.
Hence, the internal logistics behind shipping include:
- Planning the package design (type, size, safety, appearance)
- Finding the right carrier
- Fulfillment and packing
- Consider finding a partner
- Labeling and printing
It might seem strange that we’ll ramble about the design while untangling these internal operations. What does design have to do with shipping? – you might ask. The truth is, it’s crucial, just like all the other elements – carrier choice, fulfillment, packing, labeling, etc.
Each of them is made of various elements and require specific attention. Not doing any of them right, might cost you – with damaged boxes, returns and general customer unhappiness.
Knowing all this, pay particular attention to every step of your preparations for shipping.
1. Planning the package design – a) product type and size, b) safety, c) appearance
Weeks and even months before the actual moment of shipping, your preparation for it should begin. As it often shows in life, it’s much better to think ahead than to suffer the consequences later on.
Not the brightest pearl of wisdom, we know, but you’ll surely benefit from reading this guide and preparing for everything on time.
The preparation phase for the shipping process begins with designing the package. First, make sure that the packaging and a style of your boxes is accommodated to the products you’re sending. As an example, nothing is worse than an overloaded box, nearly bursting from inside.
Actually, there is something worse than that – the way shipping takes its toll on your boxes. Parental advisory, this gif is not recommended for the easily agitated readers:
Make sure to plan your packaging, choose the right size and shape, and do whatever is in your power to protect the products inside. The goal is to ensure care-free shipping, that ultimately results in an extraordinary pleasant customer experience.
a) Type and size
The types of products will find their way into your boxes matters. And the size matters too. Truth to say, the process of procurement is the most crucial step when it comes to box designing.
When we say designing, it goes way beyond the outer printing or visual appearance, the term design embraces all the physical aspects of a box.
When it comes to the type and size of products, these are the questions to consider at this phase of preparation for shipping:
- What kind of products would I include in monthly shipments?
- What products could be added sporadically (as a free gift, surprise, bonus)?
- How will these products move around in a package – how do they interact and do they fit together?
- Are the products sensitive to temperature? What is the best way to protect them?
- How fragile are they? What kind of materials should I use to keep them securely packed?
- Is my box half-empty or half-full – should I consider the products of different sizes and shapes, so they could fit nicely? Think about the unused space here.
- Are there any products that can spill, open up easily, and possibly damage the entire package? How can I ensure that this doesn’t happen?
- What is the length and the complete dimension of the products you send?
- How heavy are my products? Can the box endure pressure?
- What about the smell – if you’re shipping food, pet goodies, or cosmetics – is the smell well preserved in the package?
Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the shoulder for thinking ahead in your subscription business. While structuring the box, your sharp mind is already outsmarting the challenges of shipping, how cool is that?
Spontaneously, we slowly dove into the topic of safety. It’s needless to point out the importance of keeping your subscription boxes and all the products inside safe and sound during the shipping process!
Luckily, there is a lot you can do in order to prevent unnecessary issues and headaches:
- In order to keep all products safe and sound inside, what is the material of the box – is it durable and strong enough?
- Do you have an additional support brace or a panel in the package? Can it protect the products and prevent them from being crushed or moved around?
- What is the best way to preserve the quality of products inside? Think about the inner package here – paper, bubble wrap, shredded cardboard, or any other material you’re using to fill in the gaps.
- Consider other options of packaging if the products are highly sensitive and easily breakable – maybe a wooden crate will do? Or plastic (go crazy)?
The next thing you should consider is how your package looks like. Not so much how it looks like while peacefully stored, waiting to be shipped, but how it will look when it arrives at the subscriber’s doorstep.
Another thing to think about is what your boxes look like from a distance, what makes them distinctive and noticeable. But, let’s take it one step at a time…
- Preparing for the consequences of transport:Of course, the boxes you ship need to look nice, but it also matters how practical they are. Try to determine how damaged the box can get during transit. Carefully observe the appearance of the packages, which parts are being continuously bruised, pressed, or broken. It happens so often that either the handling or other packages that get transported along with yours wreak havoc, both externally and internally.Look at examples of the damage done every month in your business. Carefully examine which parts are being hurt the most and consider re-designing those parts. The appearance is vital for the subscription boxes, not only because of the first impression, but also because the branding carries an immense marketing power. Why lose it because of transport?
- Achieving the distinctive look:
The feel, message, and look of your brand is the messenger of your business. It connects you with your customers and it helps spread the word even further.Though this aspect might not influence the process of shipping directly, it is still important to mention. There is an immense power in visual presentation, just remember how most of the consumers gladly share an image of the delivery on social media. In order to be shared and worshiped, a package must be unique and eye-catching. We went deep into this topic here, so don’t miss the chance to learn all about smart branding.My boxes are prettier than yours, ha.
2. Finding the right carrier
A good carrier is the pillar of every subscription business.
No matter how hard you work on preparations for shipping, if the job your carrier does is not satisfactory, all that effort could be in vain. Now, once you have the perfect clearance on the endurance and a wonderful look for your subscription boxes, it is time to wisely choose the carrier.
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Those strong and reliable hands will be responsible for delivering the boxes, undamaged and preserved, to your eager subscribers.
Choose sensibly and do not assume that anyone is your only choice. There are many carrier services available, feel free to consider consolidators as well.
There are two types of consolidators can help you out through this challenge: parcel consolidators and delivery services. Think beyond the big carriers, because there’s no guarantee that you’ll be satisfied even though their service is widely known.
Here is a list of things to consider when you face the challenge of carrier choice:
- Get your eyes on the shipment history (if you already have a carrier) and observe the quality of that service – speed, returns, damages, prices, conditions and pay particular attention to further points
- Review the delivery time – what is the best delivery time, 1 day or 2 days? The answer: as soon as humanly possible! One of the favorite ‘premium’ options every customer desires is to know what the delivery day is going to be.
- Knowing the fixed date of shipping is marvelous, but it is so easy to get impatient when you know that the box is on its way. We understand, who likes to wait? Therefore, finding a fast carrier with a proven history of hyper-sonic delivery, can considerably improve the customer experience.
- Is it possible for your customers to easily track the order? As the date of the arrival approaches, the excitement simultaneously grows. And one of the sweetest parts of waiting is following where the box currently is and how soon it will arrive. It’s like watching cookies baking in the oven, waiting for them to turn golden and crispy.
- Making sure that your chosen carrier provides a good tracking system, giving them a sense of control, will turn their possible impatience into fun anticipation. Tracking is usually done via tracking numbers, making the waiting much easier.
- A strong support team – the right carrier also has to provide excellent customer support to quickly answer all the questions that might come up during tracking. The key is that it’s easy for them to access tracking numbers and provide accurate shipping information to the customers. When could this come handy?Sometimes you’ll receive various requests regarding shipping.
- Making sure that the system is simple, customer-friendly, and reliable can definitely help. This way, you’ll also save time, provide better services, and cut costs on employee training as well. USPS is our favorable tracking system, as it’s easy to search with your tracking number, get directed to your package, and keep control of the shipment process. Sweet.
Have you found your perfect carrier service yet? If you did, don’t let it go!
Joking aside, a high-quality shipping service is what your amazing subscription business deserves, so do not play small. Make sure that all of the above elements are satisfied. This will distinguish you from the sea of competitors and finally, make your customers happier.
3. Fulfillment and packing process
Let us begin with the first process, the fulfillment, as it could either feel fulfilling (ha, see what we did there?) or generally unpleasant. Keep in mind that this process could be outsourced or in-house, and you should choose the option that suits your business the best. Whatever the case, your packages should be handled with care and caution.
Also, the area where the fulfillment is conducted should be organized, practical, and convenient.
We’ll gladly cover certain aspects you should consider in this part of the shipping preparations. Focus on these and the entire process should go much smoother:
- Packing line – analyze the way products are stored, but also pay attention to how they’re handled during the actual packing.
- Make sure that the cleanliness of the storage area is up to par, well organised, and neat.
- Also, make sure that the moving of finished boxes around is possible, and that the mail carrier can move with ease while picking up packages, with enough space to operate properly.
- The size of the space – it is much better to have a large, customizable space, if you can. Having this kind of fulfillment (and packing) area will ease that already challenging stage of your subscription business. Depending on the quantity of the boxes, you’ll choose the right size, so everything could run effortlessly.
- The location of the fulfillment/packing space – pick one which is near to commercial shipping docks. This way, you can get boxes out the door faster. This will help you to scale up more easily. We mentioned before that you can outsource or do this in-house, so if you choose to outsource it, then look for this qualities in order to make your life as a business person as simple as possible (and think ahead, always).
- Set clear standards on aesthetic quality – do you need to make more space in-between products so they don’t get damaged? Also consider rethinking whether your boxes should be stacked on one another or separated, in order to avoid rubbing and scratching.
Speaking of aesthetics, if you have some printed materials for your packages, consider prioritizing them or even handling them separately. Product integrity is also important, so observe how much the products are moved around during the fulfillment and packaging operations.
Of course, try to minimize the moving as much as possible.
As you can clearly see, fulfillment and packaging also contains some challenges that need to be solved. Preparation is the half of the mastery, but in some cases, it is difficult to handle all alone. Other obstacles also appear and it might feel overwhelming to satisfy every need and solve every issue.
That is why you should…
4. Consider finding a shipping partner
There is nothing shameful in looking for a little help, especially when it comes to operations and logistics behind (before) shipping. The title of this article seems scary enough, we understand.
So, freely reach out for help if you happen to realize you need it. This smart move could save you a lot of nerves, time, and even money. True, you’d still have to pay for various services throughout the pre-shipping and shipping activities, but having someone reliable and trustworthy could prevent other issues.
Besides the obvious advantage a subscription business newbie would gain with a shipping partnership, there’s another excellent opportunity. You see, those professionals might have direct access to better conditions and, most importantly, shipping prices.
A chance to save some dollars? Bring it on.
Errors and difficulties of all kinds happen, that’s the nature of life (and business). But, if something turns bad, keep in mind that the fulfillment centers can handle common errors with no additional cost. Finally, if you determine that partnering with someone for shipping operations might help you out, then consider this option.
Do the research, as having someone else handle your products requires a major investment, not only when it comes to money, but also your trust, your time, and your precious boxes.
Make sure that this is the right option for you.
5. Labelling and printing
Bit by bit, we got to the closing section of our comprehensive guide to operations and logistics behind shipping. In the final part of this guide, we touch the very tip of the iceberg – labelling and printing.
As the actual moment of shipping approaches, the topic of labelling becomes important. You can find broad and deep guides on printing and labelling, as well as guides to generally everything that has to do with the appearance of subscription boxes, in our blog. Feel free to explore them, as they will provide useful insights you can almost instantly use in your business.
Now, how is labelling and printing connected to preparations for shipping? Not in many ways, true, but there are certain aspects you should consider:
- For labelling – Mind the surface of your subscription boxes, as not all labels act the same in contact with them. Some surfaces are more accommodating to adhesive, but some can cause you unnecessary stress. As always, prior research could prevent these (literally) sticky issues. Though, sometimes one needs to experience the labelling and figure out what’s causing the problem.
- Maybe it would be a good idea to test with small quantities first? If you’re a beginner in the subscription business world and do not have huge orders yet, try labelling one part of the stack with one type of labels and another with the other type.
- It could cost a bit more, but it will save you from big losses in the future, as your business grows, even the smallest investment turns into waste.
- For printing – If you can, pick a label printer that doesn’t take too much time. Depending on the number of subscription boxes you’re going to print, the process can last pretty long. While choosing the printing option for your business, make sure it’s both high-quality, so it doesn’t require frequent repairs or replacements. But also, try to choose the fastest one, it will pay off for sure.
In this guide covering the internal logistics and operations prior to actual shipping, we focused on these complex, but hopefully now simplified topics:
- Planning the package design (type, size, safety, appearance)
- Finding the right carrier
- Fulfillment and packing
- Considering a shipping partner
- Labelling and printing
True, preparation for shipping can be challenging, especially if you’re just starting out in the beautiful jungle of subscription business entrepreneurship.
We hope that these tips made your journey easier and stay tuned, because we are just warming up!
Running a subscription business is a rollercoaster of learning, trying, experimenting and evolving. But, do not give up, no matter how difficult it may seem and feel free to ask us – is there anything you’d like us to cover in these extensive guides?
We’d be glad to help!
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