How to Apply the Subscription Box Service to Your Business
The subscription box service is rising in popularity and now almost anything can be delivered on a monthly basis. Just some of the subscription boxed services I’ve encountered lately include:
- Japanese Sweets
- Active Wear
- Healthy Snacks
- Geek Toys and Gadgets
- Men’s Skincare
This all begs the question, what makes a successful subscription box service and can any eCommerce business adapt this new business model?
All of the successful boxed services I’ve looked into over the last few months have one thing in common. Personalization. Those that don’t have many complaints on social media, as customers complain that the boxes aren’t tailored to their needs.
No matter what products are sold, personalization is key. For example:
- Food must adapt to personal tastes and allergies
- Cosmetics must adapt to skin tones and skin types
- Clothes must adapt to style and size
How do you make a box seem personalized without needing to hand pick every product, a task that would easily eat away into any profit?
Most services have three or four box variations to choose from, based on the customer’s preferences. The only successful ones I have seen that don’t follow this model, are the geek toys subscription and the Japanese sweets. This is because they enjoy their own USP. They tailor to a niche market that has a large amount of product scope, to a theme, trend or hobby rather than a necessity or luxury. Much the same way the kit magazines do, as customers are happy to receive the same products as everyone else. This would be the easiest model to replicate, and could be achieved if your products center around entertainment, movies or a particular taste.
For others it’s simple, as Barrett Wissman of Bless Box explains, “As our model focuses on a social media star, we don’t have to tailor make products to every individual. Our customers want to receive what our social media star is using, and so Saz handpicks every product, from scented candles to warm the home to hand creams she swears by. Sazan’s social media followers are thrilled to receive her personal recommendations and to share in Sazan’s lifestyle.”
How to Turn your Own Business into a Subscription Box Service
If you’re in business selling services or products, you no doubt already have a mailing list. Imagine if you could turn this list into paying customers, on a monthly subscription basis?
Almost any business can offer monthly subscriptions, in fact, online services have been offering this for a long time. The difference is, you deliver something to the customer, instead of them coming to you. It takes the effort out, which is why so many love to pay a monthly direct debit, before enjoying the surprise every month. It’s like a treat for yourself and it’s showing no signs of slowing down in popularity.
Here are some examples of how you can adapt this model for your own business:
Clothes – Send an accessory every month. You could upsell by showing how it pairs with a jacket you offer, or a pair of shoes. As long as it’s a surprise, customers would be happy to receive it, in fact there are subscription boxes of this kind already out there.
Marketing – Deliver a real action plan every month. One where clients or students can use the tips straight away on their own business model or website. I’m considering offering this as a service myself! You could also offer advertising vouchers or deals.
If you are struggling to think of an idea, consider a partnership with someone who compliments your business.
What’s in it for the Customer?
Customers currently adore boxed subscriptions as they provide gifts and treats with minimum effort. We all love a surprise, and we all love to receive presents, it’s this psychology that the subscription box model taps into. That’s not all. This year the HMRC released a list of subscriptions that you can claim tax back on. This means your customer could buy a subscription completely tax free.
Another motivation for the customer is value for money. Shoppers like to believe, that by buying together, they are receiving an exclusive deal. You can ensure you offer great value by setting up partnerships with product providers, or by providing extra samples in the subscription box.
Making Partnerships to Provide the Best Value
No matter what you sell or what you offer you can add value to a client or customer’s month by boxing up treats to send, be it information or physical products. As long as the customer has to do very little before receiving the virtual or tangible box, they will be grateful. It also has to provide good value for money, for example, the Bless Box products, add up to more individually than they do if bought in the subscription. This can be achieved with valuable partnerships. To find valuable partnerships look at start ups, and those looking for feedback on their products. Using samples, you can then add a well known, coveted household name brand to the box, to bring intrigue and to inspire subscriptions.
This is a mutually beneficial arrangement, as the customer tries new products, the manufacturer reaches an audience, and you receive products for a discounted rate. You’re still offering incredible value, as the company would be unlikely to provide samples to a single person (unless they are a social media influencer or journalist).
Starting a Boxed Subscription Service
To begin, gather products that you can offer for a set monthly fee, that is lower than the individual RRP. If you can’t create the partnerships needed for this, add extra value to your subscription box. This can be done in the form of cards, tips, advice, recipes, tutorials or booklets. Make sure you include one of your bestselling products, as it’s not such a step up to buy extra if the customer feels they are receiving an extra treat for very little.
Subscription Box Models and the HMRC (UK)
Starting a subscription box service involves a lot of research and development. You need to be sure you’re offering a subscription that will be used again and again. The HMRC have a lot of support for those in the research and development phase, make sure you apply for any grants you’re entitled to, for extra support.
Martina Mercer is a copywriter and digital marketer working extensively in the eCommerce sector. She won the award for "Working Mum of the Year 2014" and has given eCommerce advice on the BBC and in many magazines. She is the editor of eSeller News and the founder of The Consumer Voice, while still offering business copywriting services to brands across the globe. Working with clients such as Shell, Wilko, Calpol and more, she brings her expertise in eCommerce, sales, marketing and copywriting to her articlesRead Full Bio