Months of planning. Exhaustive conversations with partners. Notes of scribbled calculations… All the effort in building your own subscription eCommerce business is wasted if the launch doesn’t go smoothly.
But here’s a secret most first-timers in subscription eCommerce don’t understand:
Much of the success of your subscription eCommerce business is determined before the launch.
The best way to launch an eCommerce subscription platform is to dedicate as much — if not more — attention to the pre-launch as the launch itself. Building buzz, collecting prospective subscribers, and fine-tuning your business model around customer preferences in the weeks prior to launching… these all regulate what happens after you hit that big green “GO” button.
Source: Muslim Girl Care Package
In this article, we’re going to talk about both the launch and pre-launch, and the perfect way to take care of each.
If you’ve been reading our subscription eCommerce series, you already know how to effectively plan a subscription-based eCommerce business. We’ve talked about which industries work best for subscriptions, approaches to partnerships, the most popular customer types, and how to balance your starting-out budget. By the time of your pre-launch, all that preliminary work should already be handled.
The actual pre-launch begins when you release your teaser page. This is a simple landing page that’s part mission statement, part advertisement, and part early-adopter recruiter. The teaser page is vital to subscription eCommerce platforms, and accomplishes three main goals:
- collect email addresses
- generate feedback to hand-tailor the specifics of your service
- demonstrate credibility to potential subscribers and key influencers
We’ll talk about all of these incentives below, but first let’s start with what makes a good teaser page.
Anatomy of a Teaser Page
A good teaser page should follow the rules of a good landing page, more or less, but with a few more considerations unique to subscription eCommerce. We agree with the advice of Jameson Morris, who explains how he structured the teaser page for his Yogi Surprise box.
Source: Jameson Morris
To simplify things, we’ve narrowed it down to 7 essential elements:
- Professional Logo — This provides credibility and brand recognition. If you’re already an existing brand, prominently display your logo along with the subscription service logo to extend your credibility and attract loyal customers. For unknown brands, a professional logo is even more important because it needs to appear authentic enough to legitimize your business. No one is going to give money, or even their email address, to an unknown brand unless they first establish trust.
- Significant Imagery –– Because this is a new venture, your visitors will be looking for any clue to determine what kind of business you are. Imagery is highly influential at this time. You want to display the personality of your business without describing it verbally, so decide the images and color scheme with care. You could feature a photo of your target customer, pinpointing their precise emotional state: are they care-free and ecstatic, or perhaps more solemn and dignified, or maybe even sexy and seductive? You could also show off the products themselves, i.e., a prototype subscription box, in order to shoulder the weight of describing what you’re offering. You can even go with a minimalist approach, where the dynamic visuals are in the typography of the text. Whatever you choose, don’t pass up the opportunity to create the right mood with visuals.
- Memorable Tagline –– The tagline is the best place to introduce what exactly you’re offering. Write out a single line with flair and wit that gets people excited. If you’re having trouble finding inspiration, take a look around the web and see which taglines work on you… or hire a copywriter.
- Succinct Description –– You’ll need a few sentences to describe the details of what your subscription service does. Everything that doesn’t fit in the tagline goes here. This paragraph should be enough to convince people to join, which means you may need to quickly address some common concerns. Relate to visitors on a personal level — explain why subscribing will make their lives easier.
- Email Call-to-Action — Arguably the most important part of your teaser page. Emails from interested subscribers are your main currency during the pre-launch. These emails will come in handy later to attract your first subscribers, but for now pay attention to the rates of signups vs. bounces. This data allows you to gauge customer interest and reveals whether your marketing efforts are effective. Don’t forget to ask for an email address directly with a call-to-action, as opposed to just leaving an empty form and hoping for the best.
- Incentive to Give Email — Especially for unknown companies, it’s difficult to convince people to offer up their emails. Add a little incentive, such as special discount, or a chance to win a free subscription. Visually accent the incentive in a way that grabs attention to ensure it’s noticed, such as bold typography or outlining the message in a box.
- Social Sharing Options — Last, have the option for social sharing. This is the least important item in the list, and your page could still succeed without it. Still, having visitors share your teaser page is free promotion, and simply including that option may have surprising results.
In addition to the teaser page, a pre-launch video helps inform visitors of what you’re offering. These don’t have to be fancy; even a simple video like the All Girl Shave Club’s Pre-Launch Video can help. The founder simply explains what the company offers and why viewers should use it, with the extra advantage of putting a face and voice behind the brand:
With your teaser content in place, it’s time to do something with it: get early feedback and generate buzz.
Fine-tune the specifics
If you’re not getting a lot of attention or email addresses, you may need to modify your business model. Try changing some of your business strategies on the teaser page — for example, see if lowering the price helps, or shipping twice a month instead of just once.
A/B testing can work wonders for teaser pages. By testing two strategies simultaneously, you discover beyond a shadow of a doubt which is more effective. Plus, during the pre-launch phase, A/B testing saves you valuable time by testing multiple strategies at the same time.
Once you’ve solidified your business model and the look of your teaser page, the next step is spreading the news about your upcoming launch.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to get support from influencers. Because subscription eCommerce platforms are mostly niche-based and circulate among niche communities, influencers hold even more power.
Try reaching out to influencers directly. First, make a list of between 100 and 300 influencers in your field. Bloggers, v-bloggers, social media personalities, reviewers… whomever has an impressive following among your target customers.
Then, message them personally. Explain who you are and what your subscription platform will do. Don’t be shy about asking for their support, and even mention straightforward what you’d like them to do for you. As compensation, offer them a free box or product as soon as you launch.
At the same time, you also need to build your own social media channels. Start posting about topics related to your niche, and at this point focus mainly on increasing your followers than soliciting them. Read our article on advanced content marketing for traffic and brand recognition for specific techniques.
Source: Bespoke Post via Facebook
Just like your email address collection, a large amount of followers now will come in handy later when you’re ready to launch.
While you’re drumming up new potential subscribers, don’t neglect the ones you already have. Keep your existing leads interested with periodic email updates.
There are few different types of emails to choose from to avoid being repetitive:
- Thank You email — This is the automatic email that goes out when a visitor first gives you their email. This is mainly a token of appreciation, but also serves to reassure them that they made the right decision. Remind them of your platform’s benefits, and keep the mood happy and delightful.
- Update email — This is a periodic update on the behind-the-scenes progress of your subscription eCommerce platform. Similar to a weekly newsletter, this will be what you send out most weeks. Inform your subscribers of any noteworthy news as you build your brand, for example, the inclusion of a new type of product, or perhaps a beneficial new shipping option.
- Call to Action email — In the later stages of the pre-launch, or the weeks approaching the actual launch, it’s time to actually close the sale. Reiterate all the reasons why they should subscribe and remind them why they signed up in the first place. It helps to include a clickable button in the email itself.
- Reminder email — A second- or third-chance call-to-action, in case the first one wasn’t effective. If you’re offering a special discount to early subscribers, include a “ticking clock,” in this email. For example, “Only 3 days left to receive 30% off as an early subscriber!”
Obviously, you want to avoid being spammy, but you also want to remain relevant. Try limiting your emails to once a week for the bulk of the pre-launch phase, but increase this to 2-3 times weekly starting a couple weeks before the launch.
The actual launch of your subscription eCommerce platform should actually consist of two phases: the very first shipment, with special bonuses for the original subscribers, and then the subsequent shipment, which will set the tone for all shipments to follow.
Jameson Morris recommends starting the launch phase about one month after the pre-launch, or when you have received 2,000 – 5,000 emails from your teaser page. This phase is marked by actually allowing visitors to subscribe, instead of just receiving their emails.
New Landing Page
The first step is to beef up your teaser page and turn it into a legitimate eCommerce page.
Source: Jameson Morris
This requires adding:
- More incentives — An early subscriber discount (explained below) works well, although you could also offer an additional giveaway.
- More descriptions — By now, your business model should be set in stone, so you can tell visitors exactly what you’re offering.
- Retail value — With a cemented business model, you can show potential subscribers how much exactly they’ll save.
- Sales call-to-action — As opposed to a sign-up for emails in the teaser page, now is the time where you actually elicit a sales. Plan your page copy with the appropriate sales techniques.
Design this page with care, as most likely it will be the basis for your subscription eCommerce site going forward.
Early subscriber discount
An early subscriber discount is the perfect way to balance out the risk for customers signing up for an experimental subscription eCommerce platform. These first adopters are putting more on the line by subscribing to an untested service, so a little extra incentive/compensation may help convince them.
Source: Happy Rebel
Be clear about the acceptable dates for the early subscriber discount. This saves you the headache later on from dealing with late subscribers complaining they didn’t receive a discount, and it also allows you to advertise with a “ticking clock” strategy for extra emphasis.
First and second shipments
When it comes time for your first shipment to go out, don’t forget to include the influencers to whom you promised free packages. Not only are you fulfilling your end of the agreement, but chances are they’ll be so excited to receive it, they’ll post about it again for extra publicity.
For here, you gradually transition into a regular subscription eCommerce platform. For the second shipment, though, you may need to put in some extra effort to accelerate your young business.
Try a second round of recruiting influencers, which should be easier now that you have your first shipment to demonstrate what you’re offering. You can also do another early subscriber discount… although don’t make it as lucrative as the first one. If your second early subscriber discount is better than the first, you will alienate and possibly lose your first subscribers.
Launching a subscription eCommerce business is like a duck floating on a lake. On the surface, the ducks looks so calm, but you don’t see how furiously it’s kicking its legs under the water. The first shipment is how the duck looks to the observer, effortless and well-organized, but the pre-launch preparations are the furious kicking that goes on behind-the-scenes.
Do you have any questions or advice from personal experience? Share your thoughts in the comments now.