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Shipping on Subscriptions ("Recurring Purchases")

brettbrett FoxyCart Team
in Important News edited August 2007
Hello all.

We've just had an interesting epiphany: Subscriptions are not the same as "recurring orders" (aka "auto-ship"). As we see it, subscriptions (like Netflix, magazines, wine of the month, etc.) are effectively a uniquely "subscribable" product, with the shipping price built in.

Recurring orders, on the other hand, are normal products (like vitamins) that you happen to want delivered every XX days/months. In this case, you definitely want shipping added to the recurring order.

So we have a few questions for you all. Follow our train of thought if you're interested:
* Live shipping rates seem like the best way to go, for many reasons.
* Problem is this: Let's say the customer orders 2 jars of vitamins *and* 1 jar as a recurring order ("auto-ship"). Customer wants the initial shipment delivered overnight.
* Where do you (as the store owner) decide how you want to ship the future recurring orders? The customer probably doesn't want to pay a ton of money to get them shipped overnight every month, right?
* So our thought is to build a store-wide "default subscription shipping method" selection, where you (as the store admin) could say "All subscriptions with shipping will go parcel post/FedEx Ground/etc." (Separate defaults for domestic and international.)

We'd really love some "real world usage" type examples and feedback. If you have *any* experience with recurring shipments where shipping is charged, please let us know how it's worked in your experience, and how you'd like to see it work.

  • Hmmm ... I like the idea of recurring shipments/auto-ship happening at a fixed shipping method (e.g., ground).

    With that in mind though, and just to keep you on your toes, you should be able to set a first-time shipping method, then select the recurring method for the next shipment. That way you can get your Mega-Gain 4000 muscle powder in 2 days, and every 30 days thereafter.

    This does bring up the question of do we stagger the shipments so they keep on the "30 day cycle" or whatever it is to accommodate potential expedited first orders vs. the subsequent recurring orders? This gets rather dicey and potentially needlessly complex. I tend to lean towards automatically adjusting their next ship/bill date forward by a few days so they stay on schedule in the event of recurring orders (another admin preference).
  • brettbrett FoxyCart Team
    The first shipment will be selectable on checkout as normal. Subsequent (automatic) transactions would use the store-wide default. So I think that answers your first thought.

    We discussed the staggering of shipments, but I think it is needlessly complex. Let's say you get Mega-Gain 4000 and get 2 day on your first shipment. Subsequent orders are shipped 30 days later using ground (5 days). So you get your next shipment 33 days after you got your first shipment. The *next* shipment, however, would (conceivably) be 30 days out, since it's still 30+5. So... I don't really see it adding more than 3-5 days of stagger, and at that, it'd only do it once (with the first "automatic" shipment).

    Do you see this as a problem? I can't really imagine a situation where 3-5 days of stagger on the first shipment would be a deal-breaker, but then again, it seems like every time I say that, somebody shows me a good example proving me wrong ;)
  • Do you know how important MegaGain4000 is--especially in chocolate banana flavor?

    In all seriousness a 3-5 day stagger on nutritional or consumable products IS a big deal. You're giving someone plenty of time to break a habit (and an excuse to cancel an autoship program). Ask a doctor if skipping 3-5 days of medication is a big deal, and if it's an even bigger deal up front when a new "dosage" is starting.
  • brettbrett FoxyCart Team
    And there's the good example proving me wrong. I think my assumption is in a product being a 30day supply, exactly. Obviously, skipping medication is a big deal, but... whatever. My assumptions are clearly wrong ;) It just surprises me that people would trust shipping enough to go exact on the dates. I do think that the percentage of people this particular issue would affect is pretty slim. But again, I'm not selling Chocolate Banana MegaGain4000.

    So, what would you suggest? If the customer sets up a 30d subscription, I don't think it's "fair" to modify that time period, but I don't think continually using an expensive shipping method is fair either... So if the first automatic shipment was bumped up (admin preference)... that definitely starts to get complex if we're going to do things automatically. Odds are that most people *don't* get their first shipment expedited, so if you apply a bump to everything you're probably going to send the majority of people their stuff early.

    Otherwise we'd need to do some math and say something like "Express is 2 days. Subsequent are ground, which is 5-10. Bump next start date by ... 5? 7? 10?" It definitely starts getting interesting. And what if it's a 90d or 3m or 6m subscription? Do we need to bump things that are that far out?

    If we allow the store owner to set the "next transaction date" manually that might be the best way, but if you have tons of subscriptions it might get tedious.

    You can set subscription start dates in the future, so you could say, "Hey, send me my MegaGain4000 OVERNIGHT! But start mE a *future* subscription (to be send cheap-o) 3 weeks from now." You could create a bundle that would add the future subscription to the cart automatically, so if they want a 30d subscription, you could set the start-date 25 days in the future, which probably would be a good move anyway if you *absolutely* don't want your customer to go a day without MegaGain4000.

    I like that one ;)
  • The last option totally works, but it may be a bit complex for the end user. The whole situation is really. lol

    I think I'd like the last option best really, that way it's totally in the customer's hands. What's the best way to set that up from the MODx perspective you think? (Go ahead and use the as an example, por favor)
  • brettbrett FoxyCart Team
    Not the ideal solution, but for the time being, v0.2.9 allows the store admin to change the subscription dates and prices, which at least allows a little flexibility in the meantime.
  • pbuickpbuick Member
    edited September 2007
    I am always a fan of keeping things simple, especially for the end user. Bundling the product with the subscription make complete sense, just so long as it clearly differentiated in the cart, Other wise I know customers will wonder why there are 2 MegaGain4000's in the cart.

    I think that the store wide default ship method for subscriptions makes the most sense.

    Regarding 2.9

    So if we go in and edit a subscriptions (re-occurring shipment ) info so that the price reflects shipping, does that mean we will have to change it back once the new shopping cart that adds shipping to the price will be implemented? to clarify, lets say a customer subscribes to a product and the product cost $30, I then go in and edit the price to reflect shipping, so now the subscription is $36.50. Now when the new cart that supports shipping and taxes on re-occurring orders is implemented will the shipping be added to $36.50, essentially being charged for shipping twice? Does this make sense? I am trying to figure out if I want to implement this technique now, or wait until it it better supported.

    Any word on a time line for such updates?
  • one other thought, if we could manage the shipping option through the categorizes that would work as well.
  • Any update on recurring product sales?

    1) Tax is not charged on future orders and this is a critical oversight.

    2) Ditto for shipping.

    (Reporting requirements make a hackish solution of artificially adjusting future subscriptions not a viable workaround)
  • lukeluke FoxyCart Team
    We put this one behind multiship so we're hoping to get back on it soon. Hopefully it will be part of 0.3.1 or 0.3.2.
  • This oversight prohibits selling FoxyCart to an account with an opportunity to do well over 1000 stores, FYI.
  • brettbrett FoxyCart Team
    Should be here in 0.3.1.

  • Just bumping the tax on subscriptions issue...there a really no way around this without eating the tax for your local customers as "tax included". (And I'm not sure the actual tax implications for this either...) I would consider this essential to add.

  • lukeluke FoxyCart Team

    We should not have said 0.3.1 (or 0.3.2) since it didn't make either. We had some other big ticket items that took precedence and discussed these changes to the time line with customers waiting for recurring shipments.

    We're currently redesigning the checkout system which should allow us to do this in a different way. We've always thought about "subscriptions", not "recurring product sales" so it's taking some redesign of the subscription process to do it right.

    Thanks for posting, it helps us know what our users need most.
  • No, thank you! Support here is great, and one of the main reasons we're making foxycart work (aside from being, well, a beautiful cart in look, function, code, and price).

    Looking forward to the "recurring product sales" redesign. =)
  • Whoops, I must have missed this post before posting here:

    It seems clear that many would benefit from additional tax/shipping options for subscription-based products... What's the latest status since 0.3.2?
  • brettbrett FoxyCart Team
    0.3.2's been here for a while. Our next version's status:
    It's taking a while, but once we're done we'll have a much more flexible foundation on which to build, so it's a very necessary improvement for us.
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