Book club boxes and food delivery services started in the 1920s, shortly followed by curated cigar selections and, later, music subscriptions. Even today, there are vinyl subscriptions that are thriving and a wide selection of book subscription options. Building a new subscription service may seem incredibly daunting in such a large market, but you can take steps to help your business be successful.
From clothes to gardening, books to baking, every interest seems to have a subscription box available for it lately. The subscription box services industry has been exploding over the last 10 years. Since 2003, visits to subscription box webpages have gone from 700,000 to 21.4 million today. With the first of these super-popular e-commerce subscription services, Birchbox, focusing on makeup and sampling, the original consumer base that is responsible for this growth is women, and they continue to be the main demographic for these services.
Across the board, subscription boxes thrive on the value of niche interests, customization, and personalization. While they have enjoyed marked growth in the 21st century, the idea of subscription boxes is far from new. So what is making them so successful now?
How Subscriptions Work and Why They Thrive
While a given subscription’s focus varies from service to service, the same basic principle applies to all of them. There are several payment models for subscription boxes, but the basic format is this: for a fixed, recurring price, customers receive a curated box of goods that is focused on a hobby, interest, or idea.
Most subscriptions offer a monthly rate, while others allow customers to stagger their boxes, or skip some months entirely, adding a level of personalization that allows the customer to stay in control of their finances. This is only one of the reasons that these boxes have thrived.
There are several reasons that subscription boxes are so popular; the first is variety. While some boxes are centered around a specific brand, all of them offer a chance to experience a variety of products related to a specific niche interest. This is the same for “ugly” food boxes, makeup subscriptions, and even introvert-focused subscriptions.
Another major draw is that they allow for greater budgeting and planning. This is especially true for food delivery box services that have an estimated number of people to whom each box caters.
For hobbies and interests, subscriptions allow subscribers to allocate a certain budget for their interests, staying within their household budget while still finding enjoyment in one of their niches. When preparing to create your own subscription service, begin by deciding what niche or customer you will be catering to.
Define, Research, and Refine
The first step in building any successful business is to define your niche and who your customers are carefully. The more specialized you can make your service while meeting quotas and budget, the more successful your service is likely to be.
Rather than a plant-and-gardening box, maybe you decide to focus on indoor plants. Instead of a coffee box, consider coffee sourced from small independent roasters. Find something about your subscription that makes it special.
Once you have defined your focus and demographic, begin to do some serious research. The average age of subscription holders is between 25 and 44, with a household income between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. This is a pretty wide range, so use the niche that you have chosen to narrow it down.
If you are running a subscription refill service, like Amazon’s subscribe-and-save feature, you will be appealing to a different financial and age bracket than a luxury clothing subscription. Getting as specific as you can early on helps you plan exactly who your target group is, what your budget looks like, and build the type of service that your customers are looking for.
Once you know who you are marketing to and what you are marketing to them, it’s time to put together mockups and trial subscriptions, and get your product in front of real live consumers. This is the time to be willing to fail fast, put out a new product in a simple, effective way, and integrate feedback from your test audience. This is the point where you will begin to refine how you source, market, and deliver your product.
Sourcing, Delivering, and Succeeding
As consumers become more and more aware of where they are spending money and where their products come from, consider finding sustainable and ethically sourced materials and resources for your service. This will not only give you another unique value proposition, it will show that you have considered every aspect of the service you are providing.
Similarly, you will need to be discerning in your choice of vendors and sources for your products. This will affect your production timelines, marketing, and the need for any additional employees. Some businesses will buy their products in bulk and then distribute them individually, while others may source items individually, especially if they are working with small companies or artists.
No matter what type of subscription box you offer, you have to be aware of factors that affect your product’s timely delivery. These include production timelines, inventory management, and any blockages that shipping companies are experiencing. Holidays are a common source of stress for any business that relies on delivery, and you will need to keep your customers apprised of any delays.
Once you have found a product, production method, and demographic that work harmoniously together, make sure to keep your subscriptions engaging. This may mean offering discounts, coordinated products, or free trials of another brand for refill subscriptions. For all boxes, this will mean staying within your client’s preferences while showing them something new that they will love, and may request in the future.
Subscription boxes are a current trend that shows no signs of slowing down. As their growth has continued, more and more options are coming to the market as new businesses find their niche audiences and build personalized experiences that leave customers feeling taken care of, and satisfied.
By finding a niche that both you and your customers are passionate about, researching and testing your service, and keeping the customer at the center of your business, you can build a successful subscription box.