box with coins

Imagine the most beautiful stack of perfectly designed subscription boxes, filled with both useful and appealing products. I know, no need to imagine, as that probably perfectly describes your gorgeous stack of subscription boxes. You would subscribe to your own offer, if only you could, wouldn’t you?

All the time and money you invested in creating those beauties, starting from the thundering initial idea, all the way to packaging, has definitely paid off.

gift boxes
Now, the time has come for them to meet their new owners – your customers. All along our blog series, you learned how to save money on printing, packaging and product procurement. You learned not only how to do it right, but how to truly master it all. In this guide, you’ll discover the best ways to save precious dollars on shipping, as it can surely be a huge expense for any subscription box company.

Few dollars saved today, means a lot of dollars in the future

There are several processes to consider while you plan your shipment. Firstly, you need to determine what service you are going to use for both fulfillment and shipment, what your budget is and lastly, how to stay within that budget. The truth is, shipping carries a high expense and it can be difficult to lower the costs, even as your business grows (which it will, if you keep on learning and optimizing).

motivational gif

The good news is that there are many ways to save on shipping! It might seem that these savings are not big, but the couple of dollars you save every month pay off over time. And they pay off big time.

In this sweet guide of ours, you will learn which aspects to focus on in order to avoid unneeded shipping expenses. Let’s hit the ground running!

Best ways to save money on shipping subscription boxes

1. Use USPS or “Commercial Plus” pricing

USPS’ commercial service, also called “Commercial Plus”, is a great way to ship boxes, as it is based on their volume, not the weight. What good do you get from this?

This might come to your advantage if your boxes are particularly heavy. Calculating the volume, instead of the box weight, immediately lowers your cost in that case!

If your boxes are rather light, this will probably be as important to you as you knowing how many craters there are on the surface of Mars. Nice trivia, but who cares. (There’s more than 635,000 craters by the way. For further informations, please contact 1-800-MARTIANS).

With USPS, you can find it easier to do shipping in general. Keep in mind that switching to First Class shipping can also be a good option for you, if your box weighs less than 16 oz or around 400g. Fly, fly like a feather, you wonderful subscription box, you.
flying box

2. Use slower shipping

This option is possible for you if you have a set shipping date each month. For your existing customers or simply said, your monthly subscribers, you could save money by using slower shipping. But, how can you do this without leaving your customers to wait longer for their life-enhancing boxes?

The boxes will travel slow, but you will ship them much earlier, even before they’re billed! The great thing is that you are still able to advertise fast shipping – either way the box will arrive on time. What a clever, time-bending move. What your subscribers do not know, is that you shipped earlier and everyone is happy – you saved money, and they get their lovelies on time.

Now, you must be asking (or you should) – what if someone cancels before the renewal? Sure, this can happen and if it does, double check how much you’re spending (saving), because it could turn out cheaper in total. Even if some of your subscribers (hopefully, none) cancels. Using slower shipping can pay out for your business in a long run.
robin hood money

In that case, your un-subscriber will get a box for free, right? Seems like a loss, but it isn’t – everyone loves free stuff and maybe they’ll even come back as a (more) loyal customer, that wouldn’t be a surprise! And what a great marketing moment, too, because they’ll surely tell their friends and family what happened. Winner winner chicken dinner.

3. Innovate your packaging

We talked before about custom packaging… Custom printing, to be exact (creating a distinctive design and printing it on the box, instead of using ready-made solutions). The good news is that you can also pick a custom size for your subscription boxes. There are usual sizes, but custom sizing can make big sense when it comes to shipping costs.

top secret
I know what you’re thinking – custom always costs more. And you’re right, it does cost more to customize any part of your business, but think about it this way – it is usually only a one time cost. A cutting die for a custom size box certainly seems expensive, but if you’re going to make that bigger investment at the beginning, you can save up to 2$ per box, paying off that initial stretch in no time.

Thinking ahead with packaging can save you from the majority of shipment nightmares. As an example, if your box is too large for the products that are in (meaning, you have unnecessary empty space inside), that extra weight will cost you more when shipping. Give your best to avoid spending those hard earned coins on extra weight, damages or God forbid, returns.

So yet again, always think ahead and wisely choose your investments, so they benefit you greatly in the future.

4. Find shipping partners

What’s better than tackling the business challenges yourself? Oh yes, having someone reliable to do the job!

It’s no shame to reach out for help if you realize that it could save you time, money, and your oh-so-precious nerves. You do need all three of them (money, time, nerves) in order to run and grow your business, right? Hence, finding the fulfillment and shipment partner can be a wise move, especially if you’re a beginner.

Not to mention that these professionals might have access to better shipping prices. Also, if by any chance something goes wrong, the fulfillment centers can usually handle these errors with no extra cost for you, which is truly convenient.

cat in a box
On the other side, there are some things you need to consider before going into actual outsourcing process, such as: does it pay off for you? It’s a big responsibility, to let someone handle the entire shipping for you, so be careful. Look into whether the volume of your shipments would make more economical sense if it were to be shipped out by a fulfillment center.

Make sure that your research goes deep and wide, stick to recommendations (if you have any, lucky you) and take some before making these kind of decisions.

5. Mind the quantity

Buy in bulk – luckily, there are ways to turn the shipment nightmare into a money-saving fairy tale. Another example of smart money management is this one: rather than playing it small, you can reduce the spending by buying in larger quantities.

When you buy in a bulk, whether it’s the purchase of boxes or packing materials, you can negotiate a much lower price this way. Look at you, running a business like a boss. We knew you’d get there.

star trek

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6. Mind the zones and location planning

Start this one by asking yourself (you don’t need to actually stand in front of the mirror, that’s optional) –

  • How far away am I from my subscribers (i.e., the place from where you’re shipping your boxes)?
  • Where are my customers located?
  • Is there a way to minimize the postage cost?

Yup, the postage can also significantly affect your shipping spending. By optimizing and shortening the distance between you and the majority of your subscribers, you will surely avoid throwing the money away because of postage. The smart way to do this is to first define the zone(s) in which your customers are.

Basically, postal zones are the parts of the country, they are predefined and based on zip codes. As you might guess, my clever pupil, sending the boxes inside a) one zone, b) nearby zones or c) a minimum number of zones, will cost less than sending over several zones all the time.

designed box
How to play this smart?

Well, no, you shouldn’t ignore the subscribers who live on the other side of the country. What about sending them a polite, but confident message saying they should move to another zone? Hmm… no.

A subscription box professional would choose the carrier that is nearby (or somewhere in the middle) to the zones(s) where the most of customers are. Determine where the people addicted to your sweet boxes live and especially if you’re sending through USPS, get as close to them as you can. Celebrate this wise business move with investing in making your empire bigger and stronger.

Pro tip for you to use: another way to save more money on shipping is using 1-day shipping or 3-day shipping based on zip codes. This way, everyone gets the box at the same day, wherever they are located. Sweet.

7. Does it really have to be a box?

Think outside the box for this one, literally. What kind of products are you sending, could they fit inside a different package – a smaller or lighter one?
There are (at least) four options when it comes to packaging other than boxes:

– Mailer boxes –

These lovelies are also boxes but smaller. Their size is similar to that of envelopes, but they’re rigid and have square sides.

– Bubble mailer or padded mailers –

This option is also smaller than a regular box, but it keeps your products safe and sound inside (especially a bubble mailer).

bubble wrap quote
– Custom mailer envelopes –

It is sometimes cheaper to buy and ship an envelope, if your products can fit in it, of course. The regular envelopes, which are flexible, resemble a classical, old time letters (remember those?) and could be a good fit if your niche is retro in style. There are different sizes of these envelopes and hey, they are custom and everyone loves custom stuff (hello, creative genius!), so give them a try if you can.

– More rigid envelopes –

What these sweeties have is an added paperboard layer (how fancy). This additional layer makes them more durable, but they are still envelopes – rather small and convenient in size.

Example of creative, wallet friendly packaging:

Grazebox innovated and designed their packaging in such a way, so they could fit their snacks in a standard letter box. This way, not only did they save on shipping (much smaller and lighter packaging, but still gets the goodies delivered), but this also enabled non-signed delivery – the package is surely arriving to their subscribers.

8. Re-think the insurance cost and returns

Are your packages getting returned? How often and what is the most common reason?

If your rate of the returned boxes is rather high, than insuring them does make sense. On the other side, if you do not have many returns in your business, than insurance could be an unnecessary spend. Another thing worth considering is how valuable your subscription boxes are and consequently, the more they’re worth, the biggest should be your insurance investment.

subscription boxes
When you’re thinking about the most common reason of returns (if there are any), consider how reliable your carrier service is. It might be a wise decision to consider other options and carrier services to use. Remember, the satisfaction and the overwhelming joy of your subscribers is the most important thing in this business (and any service-focused business, for that matter).

Every time a return happens, take the matter seriously and consider a simple questionnaire or simply reach out to your subscribers to politely ask what you can do to improve their experience. Also, consider a small token of attention and, after all, an apology.

9. Never stop learning and researching

Take it slow and wise when it comes to shipping calculations. Choose carriers wisely and make sure that you’re not assuming anyone as your only choice (truth: there are always multiple choices available, they might not be visible right away).

Also, consider consolidators too, whether those are parcel consolidators or delivery services. Nobody said it has to be a big carrier and no one else.

On the other side, always take time to get back to your shipment history with a current carrier and see how you could arrange better conditions and rates for yourself. Things to observe in your shipment history days are zones (as we already mentioned before), patterns, but also frequency and of course, spending.

Wednesday packing

10. Recycling and reusing material

This is also an amazing way to save money on shipping, while doing something good for the environment too. Win-win, hi-five Mother Nature!

Recycling is always welcome – if your customer is able to return anything from the packaging back to you, then consider reusing that material in various ways. This way, you’ll can significantly cut costs. Keep in mind that you can recycle a part of the packaging or entire boxes, it depends. Help the environment, save your establishment.

Summary (or a cheat sheet for you?)

homer simpson quote

This is what you have learned today, our bright-eyed scholar!
How to save money on shipping with:

  1. USPS or “Commercial Plus” pricing – based on volume, not weight (perfect for heavy packages)
  2. Slower shipping – an excellent way to both make your monthly subscribers happy and save money on shipping
  3. Creative packaging – a custom size for your box can change this game of win or lose. Adjusting the size for your needs might be an initial cost, but it most probably pays off in time
  4. Shipping partnering – if that could save you time, money and nerves, consider reaching out for a fulfillment and/or shipment partner (also a way to get to some better prices only insiders know of)
  5. Buying in a bulk – buying in larger quantities can also save you some precious, precious $ and enable you to negotiate better
  6. Postal zone planning – finding the way to minimize the shipping spend by analysing where the majority of subscribers live and adjusting your plan accordingly
  7. Changing the shape/type of the package – consider mailer boxes, bubble mailers, custom envelopes or rigid envelopes for your packaging needs
  8. Rethinking insurance and returns rate – if the rate of returned boxes is high (how reliable your carrier service is?), then insuring makes sense, but if it is not, this could be an unneeded spend
  9. Always learning and doing the research – choose your carrier wisely and make sure that you’re aware of all possibilities, including consolidators and various delivery services – analyse, analyse, analyse
  10. Recycle and reuse whatever you can – if your customer can return some of the packaging, great, see how you could use that again and save more money this way.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to save on shipping, so make the most of ‘em! If you use just a few of these wise tips, you’ll surely manage your shipping costs much better. At first, it might seem that they’re not big savings for your subscription box business, but trust us on this one and you shall not regret it – small savings will surely turn into lots of money in the long run.

Always think in the long run, have a lot of fun while managing your business moves and enjoy all those saved dollars!

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By Una
Сontent creator at Subbly