Standing Orders and Continuity Order Types Explained

Do your customers ever need to reorder supplies on a regular basis? Or have you ever had customers who want to buy one of each new product you release for a particular category of products? Do you need to supply customers with a featured product each month that ships automatically?

We often get questions such as “What is the difference between a standing order and a perpetual continuity order?” This article attempts to define the similarities and differences between several types of orders you can process through InOrder.

Standing Orders – Allow customers to sign up for an offering they will perpetually get until they cancel their standing order. This type of order is normally used when a customer will get the same product at regular intervals. For example, a customer who signs up to receive regular shipments of beauty cream, motor oil, or coffee cake, forever. In this case, the quantity on the order indicates how many each customer receives when his or her interval comes up.

Another typical use for standing orders is a “Something of the Month Club.” A customer signs up to receive a different product every month, for which they pay or are billed each month as products ship to them. In this case, all customers who sign up will receive the same product for the month. This is accomplished by adding standing orders for a phantom product that is never in stock. Then, each month define a different substitution for the phantom product, and fill the monthly standing orders to ship that month’s product to everyone who signed up.

Another feature of substitutions is called “standing order trigger items,” which allows you to order one product that substitutes into shippable products, plus a “trigger item” that is used just to automatically generate the standing order for that customer.

Continuity Orders – Similar to standing orders, in that customers sign up and receive shipments until they cancel. The difference is that the items they will receive over time are from a pre-scheduled “series,” so each customer will receive the first issue in the series at the first interval, and the second issue of the series at the second interval, and so on.

So, if you have 100 customers signed up for standing order A101, then this month they will all receive A101, or else the “item of the month” that you are sending out through a substitution for A101.  But for 1000 customers subscribing to a continuity item C101, each customer will receive the next item in that “series” they did not yet receive, and this will depend on how long they have been signed up for this series.  In the same month, some of these customers will be new and will get the first item in the series, and other customers who have already received that item last month will get the next item in that series, and so on.

When you are setting up the schedule for the series of products in a continuity series, your goal is usually to find the sequence of products that keeps customers subscribing to the series for as long as possible. You can define varying versions of the series, and then define rules to assign these versions of the series to different customers, allowing tests to be conducted, or to vary the series sequence based on the needs of the customer.

Additionally, the features of InOrder allow for three different types of Continuity series to be defined: Regular, Perpetual, and Standing Continuity Series.  A Regular Continuity Series will send a list of items to a customer at regular intervals until the customer cancels or the end of the series is reached. A Perpetual Series will send the customer all items in the series until the customer cancels.  In this case, if the customer reaches the end of the list, it will start again from the beginning, and repeat the shipments again and again, forever. A simple example of this is a series that sends customers motor oil every 3 months, but includes an oil filter every other time, and fuel injector cleaner with every fourth shipment.

The Standing Continuity Series behaves similar to a Regular series (expiring at the end), but rather than starting with the first item in the list, all subscribers to the series receive the same item in any set of generated orders. (Example: In January, all subscribers get item A1, in February, all subscribers get item A2, etc.) Subscribers can join at any time, and any issues they missed will be sent when the series restarts. (If a subscriber joined in June and started with A6, then they will receive A1 – A5 the following January – May.) Subscribers are able to opt-out of any of the scheduled shipments, and an order will not be generated for them in that order fill. The InOrder default web cart even supports this series schedule listing with an opt-out feature.

In these cases for standing orders and continuity series, the filling interval can vary, each shipment to a customer is done by generating an actual order, the inventory is tracked for the items that ship, and “adjust to invoice” credit card processing can be used based on the original order.


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