Heather Serdoz
June 8th, 2023
Table Of Contents

It’s time to get your ship together. 

Successful eCommerce merchants know that shipping is so much more than delivering goods to their customer’s doors. Shipping plays an active role in the transaction process and can make or break the decision to order.  

Thanks to Amazon Prime, free shipping has become extremely popular and in most cases, expected. 

Truth be told, subsidizing shipping costs can be great for your business, especially if you’re doing a high volume of recurring subscription orders. With that being said, it’s important to carefully price products in a way that allows you to maintain a comfortable margin. 

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at what it means to create a good shipping experience for your subscription customers. 


The pillars of a good shipping experience 

Successful online shops implement multiple shipping methods into one complete strategy that fits their unique business. Regardless of the shipping strategy you land on, there are several key pillars that apply across the board.


Flexible shipping and delivery options 

Today’s shoppers crave flexibility and they want things delivered on their terms. If they’re going out of town, then they want to be able to push their delivery back. If they didn’t finish their last order, then they probably want to skip the next delivery. This kind of flexibility is expected, especially if they’re subscribing to your brand. 

When you’re working flexibility into your own shipping strategy, think out of the box, literally. Integrate your subscription notifications into your SMS strategy. Sending customers a simple text that lets them know their next delivery will be shipped out soon with options to skip or push out said delivery is a great way to keep customers happy and subscribed for longer. 


Communicating clear expectations

When a customer makes a purchase online, they are doing so with the expectation that what they ordered will be delivered in a timely manner. 

We often talk about the post-purchase journey, what happens immediately after a shopper either makes a purchase, subscribes to a product, or is charged for a recurring order, which has a direct impact on their CLTV. This is a great opportunity to communicate with your shoppers and set some delivery expectations. 

While delivery times can get a little wonky depending on things like the weather or even the shipping carrier a brand uses, proactively reaching out to your shoppers with an estimated delivery window right after they purchase helps to build trust and credibility. 

And of course, we can’t forget about those tried and true post-purchase communications that include things like tracking information. Present this information in an easy and accessible way like via SMS to keep your customers abreast of their delivery. 


The unboxing matters 

Finally, the unboxing experience matters, packaging needs to stay intact, and items should be delivered in the best condition possible. Now, sometimes this isn’t always in a brand’s control so it’s important to do what you can to ensure a great unboxing experience. 

If items are delivered broken or damaged, your shoppers are unlikely to return. Similarly, if a shopper is subscribing to your brand, you want to do everything you can, within reason, to make sure when they open that box they are excited by what they see. 

Now, packaging can take up a pretty big chunk of your product margins so maybe a custom-branded box isn’t in your budget and that’s okay. Think about including a couple of stickers with your orders, or branded packaging tape to make the delivery feel more personal. In the same way, we eat with our eyes, that first impression when we’re getting a package in the mail matters. 

“Rather than putting your product in a generic box, try making the unboxing experience unique. Provide anything your customer would possibly need (instructions, warning labels, etc.) while including a unique branding experience — letter from the founder, best way to use the product, a coupon or special offer, etc.” — Matt Coleborne, CEO and Founder, Growth Gurus


How shipping can incentivize customers to subscribe 

There are some very standard perks shoppers now expect when it comes to subscribing to a product. First, they want a discount. If they are going to continue to purchase with your brand on a regular basis, they want a good deal. Second, shoppers want free shipping. 


So what’s left? Where else can you use shipping as an incentive to get your customers to subscribe to your product? 


Introduce long-term perks

Long-term perks are great for smaller brands that maybe can’t afford to offer subscribers free shipping right off the bat. Create a “legacy” subscribers club, the longer a shopper stays subscribed, the more perks they get. For example, on their third month of subscribing they “unlock” free shipping. Not only have you gained a very invested customer, but now you’re creating a synergy between your loyalty program and your subscriptions


Working the sustainability angle 

There is going to be a huge push for sustainability. Brands are already working to reduce their carbon footprint and one of the ways they’re able to do this is through their subscription programs. 

Thistle Co. a weekly meal provider, delivers their meals in reusable insulated bags. While the bag isn’t the primary draw of the subscription, it does create this elevated experience and reduces waste. 

Imperfect Produce offers a recycling program that’s absolutely free as part of their grocery subscription. Each week shoppers can leave out their gel ice packs, empty egg cartons, and insulated liners and the drivers will collect them on your next delivery day. 

Hair care brand, Prose has a unique refill solution for their subscribers. Shoppers are given glass bottles on the first order and told to save the containers to refill. Each month a refill is shipped in recyclable packaging that not only cuts down on waste but also packing costs. 

At the end of the day, the shipping experience you create for your customers is a direct translation of your brand and your brand values. This is where you show, rather than tell, your customers how important they are to you. 

It starts with clear communication and appropriate expectations and then ends with nice aesthetics and a great product. 

Contributed to the article: Heather Serdoz