Subscription box services are a fairly new idea, but they have quickly been established as a popular commodity. In fact, the number of available subscription box services increased by 890% between April 2014 and April 2018! Starting a subscription box service is a great way to reach new customers and grow a company’s brand, but it can be challenging to get the idea off the ground. Read below to learn more about starting a successful subscription box service!
What Are Subscription Box Services?
The subscription box service business model is quite simple. Companies deliver boxes full of their products directly to their customers for a flat rate. Boxes can be delivered in any consistent interval of time, but monthly, weekly, and quarterly are the most common. Many companies are incorporating subscription boxes into their already existing business models, but these services can also stand alone as their own business or entity.
Subscription Box Ideas
As is the case with all businesses, the key to starting a successful subscription box service is a great idea. There is an endless number of options for subscription box service ideas. Grooming products for both men and women, makeup, clothing, wine, pet products, and monthly book deliveries are some of the more popular ideas.
Another popular sector of the subscription box service industry concerns food and dining. Some companies provide subscribers with materials and ingredients for full meals, and others provide an assortment of delicious packaged snacks and treats. These boxes are an excellent way to expose customers to meals and snacks they would not usually purchase, and they usually incorporate seasonal and calendar events such as upcoming holidays. If you really want to think outside (but also inside) the box, you can cater to specific types of snacks from around the world. For example, Japanese snack boxes include all sorts of snacks that come straight from Japan!
What’s in the Box?
After deciding on a subscription box idea, deciding what specific products go into the box comes next. According to the consulting firm McKinsey and Company, subscription box services usually fall into three categories: replenishment, curation, and access. Replenishment boxes replace similar items on a consistent basis to save customers time and money. Curation boxes provide customers with new items similar to ones they have already expressed an interest in, and access boxes provide exclusive exposure to VIP “perks” or products.
Customers love subscription boxes for the consistency and variety, which is why replenishment and curation boxes are the most popular types. They appreciate the consistent arrival of their box, which saves them from traveling to the store or constantly ordering items online for individual use. They love the variety because it exposes them to new products that they may not normally purchase. To appeal to customer’s consistent needs, a replenishment box service is an excellent idea while curation boxes are excellent to appeal to those who want variety in their service.
Customer Feedback and Customization
Regardless of the box type, there needs to be a feedback or communication line for customers to voice their opinions. Even if it is not a curation box that is completely dependent on customization, customers need to be able to express what items they do or do not want in their box. Questionnaires, surveys, and telephone or text hotlines are excellent ways to communicate with customers. Not only is this beneficial for the customers, but it also helps the business grow its brand as an honest, trustworthy, and dependable company.
Customer feedback also allows businesses to test new products and see what is successful. If a company wants to see how a certain item will do, they can introduce it into some of their boxes. Soon they will have enough data and feedback to determine if it is successful. If it is, they can incorporate it into more boxes and find similar items for customers. If it is unsuccessful, they can remove it and replace it with either a new idea or a product with already established success.
The financials of operating a subscription box service are not very complex. There are the obvious logistic and operation costs and expenses such as employee wages, the product itself, accounting services, shipping, and storage. Many prefer to handle as much as possible when just starting out, to minimize expenses. As the company grows, some of these can be outsourced, but this is an additional expense.
Another cost is the box packaging. Some opt to use generic boxes, and there is nothing wrong with this because it is the cheapest and easiest option. However, others opt to get creative and print their logos or artistic designs on the box. The subscription box is the first impression made on the customer, and it can be used to symbolize the product and company as a whole. This is entirely up to the business owner, and there are countless ways to get creative with the packaging. Putting extra effort into the box could go a long way into growing the brand and bringing in new customers.
Pricing the product is another financial issue. To properly price the box, there are four factors at play, and they are customer acquisition cost, customer churn rate, customer lifetime value, and profit margin. Customer acquisition cost is how much it costs to get one customer, the churn rate is the speed at which subscriptions are canceled, lifetime value is the total value of all purchases by one customer from sign up to their cancellation, and profit margin is profit divided by selling price. Estimating or calculating these four factors and considering other costs provide a good starting point for the box price. However, the box price can be changed if needed.
Marketing is key to growing the brand of any early-stage business. It helps grow brand loyalty and exposure, which leads to more customers and revenue. It can be outsourced to a specialty firm, but this is another expense, so many prefer to handle this themselves when first starting their operation. With the internet, it is very easy to market an early-stage company, and this will help attract customers outside of your physical area. Search Engine Optimization and social media are just two of many excellent digital strategies that can grow the customer base.
In conclusion, subscription box services are a fairly new and innovative business idea. Starting a business is a fun challenge, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to go about the process. There will be ups and downs, but, with a positive attitude and the ability to adapt to the changing market, any company can be successful!