There has never been a better time to start a subscription box service. It’s easier than ever to start one, and the market is growing at unprecedented rates. From 2013 to 2016 alone, the number of visitors to subscription box websites has grown by over 3,000% — from 722,000 to 21.4 million. And as of March of 2016, there were more than 2,000 subscription box services in the U.S.
And the concept of subscription doesn’t just stop at subscription boxes. Many eCommerce stores even offer subscription options for their products. For example, Banish generated $3 million annual recurring revenue by simply offering the option of subscription for their products.
Clearly, there’s a lot of hype around subscriptions and subscription boxes. If you have some of your own subscriptions, though, you know how merited all of that hype is. There’s nothing quite as exciting as receiving a monthly or bi-weekly gift that you forgot you even ordered. On top of that, it’s so convenient!
And today, there’s a subscription box service for nearly every interest, product, and niche. That’s partly because creating your own subscription box business is easier than ever before and partly because there’s no shortage of consumers willing to spill cash for the next-best service.
In other words, now is an amazing time to start your own subscription box store. To prove it, consider some of the current winners.
A Few Subscription Box Service Winners
As with every industry, the subscription box service has a few players that stand apart from the rest. These companies are the ones that have used subscription box services to build a massive audience and even more massive revenue.
And if you think that the businesses I’m going to mention here can’t inform your own strategy, you’re dead wrong. Remember, each of these businesses started small and grew to become world-class subscription box services. With the right combination of interest, product quality, brand awareness building, you can do the same thing — whether you believe it or not.
At the top of the subscription box ladder are Ipsy, Blue Apron, Dollar Shave Club, Home Chef, and Stitch Fix.
Each of these companies offers something different to their customers. And you can gain some inspiration from looking at what they sell.
First, Ipsy. Ipsy is a subscription box service that offers women samples of high-quality hair and skin products, make-up, and a variety of fragrances. The subscribers also receive a new make-up bag with every delivery.
Although the samples are small, Ipsy is winning because people love using high-quality products, even if not for long. And Ipsy’s $10 per month price tag makes it even more irresistible.
Blue Apron is a subscription box service that offers something quite different than make-up samples and bags.
Every week, customers choose up to three two-person or four-person meals from the blue-apron menu. Then, customers select which days they want to receive the ingredients are directions for those meals.
Blue Apron then delivers the fresh ingredients to its customers’ doorsteps and includes helpful instructions for how to make your dinner.
And the food… well, it’s pretty damn good.
Home Chef is another subscription box service that does much the same thing.
Dollar Shave Club, on the other hand, send monthly or bimonthly razors replenishments to men for a measly $9 per month.
You’ve probably heard of them before. Because — as their slogan goes — their “blades are f***ing great.”
Finally, Stitch Fix plants its feet in a totally different market. Namely, the clothing market.
Every month, Stitch Fix sends its customers a personalized set of five clothing items. The customer has three days to choose which items they want to keep and pay for and which they don’t want to keep.
Then, they pay for the former and mail back the latter.
Of course, these are just a few of the amazing subscription box services in the eCommerce world.
But being familiar with them is important for two reasons.
- It can give you inspiration for your own business.
- It illustrates just how lucrative the subscription box world is.
Clearly, we’re living in an age of subscription boxes.
There’s never been a better time to start you own.
People Are Finally Comfortable With Subscription Services
When subscription box services and subscription plans emerged onto the scene, many consumers were wary about signing up.
And that makes sense. Putting your payments on autopilot was a bit… well, scary. Now, though, people trust these services and are far less hesitant to pay for a subscription-based service — box or otherwise.
Just consider the number of people now paying for video streaming subscriptions.
Or more specifically, consider Amazon’s recurring Prime membership, which currently has over 80 million members.
How about subscription box services, in particular?
Well, according to a 2012 report, the average consumer spends $857 on monthly subscriptions. Naturally, that’s a bit dated. But people have become more comfortable with subscription services over the years, not less.
If you’re still not convinced, then just consider your own habits. How many subscription services do you pay for? Do you ever think twice about those? Probably not.
Thanks to companies like Dollar Shave Club and Ipsy, people don’t hesitate to sign up for subscription box service that they are interested in receiving. And once they’re signed up, they rarely leave.
Which is why people like Jesse Richardson can build a subscription box service that grossed over $50,000 in just six months while working only ten hours per week.
Seem crazy? Well, it doesn’t have to be.
If one person can do it, then that’s proof that you can do it as well. You just need the right tools and strategies at your disposal.
People are comfortable with subscription box services and — dare I say? — they love them.
Not just that, though. Building your own company around those monthly deliverables is easier than it’s ever been before.
Provides Predictable Revenue and Singular Customer Retention Goal
It isn’t easy retaining your customers. You have to figure out different angles and ways to follow up to convince your past customers to buy from you again.
…what a hassle.
That’s where subscription businesses have the advantage. The subscription model allows you to have a simple and singular customer retention goal, which is to reduce churn.
It’s a lot easier to keep people from unsubscribe than to pull out their credit card to pay for something else especially when you already have their credit card on file.
The whole SaaS (Software as a Service) industry runs on subscription and churn management simply because it’s a very effective revenue model.
Building Your Subscription Box Business Is Easier Than Ever Before
Building your own business around a subscription box service is easier than it’s ever been before in history. Here, we’re going to discuss two different reasons why that is.
These are practical tips that will make building your delivery service easier and less financially risky. Because that’s what we all want, right?
Let’s dive in.
1. Test Interest Before Investing
Here’s what you don’t want to happen.
You don’t want to walk away from this article inspired to create your very own subscription box business, do so, and then walk away broke because things didn’t work out.
Fortunately, you can practically guarantee that doesn’t happen.
By gauging the market’s interest in your product and business before investing any significant amount of money.
Sure. You could ask your friends what they think of your idea. And you could pick your family’s brain as well. But what you really need is information from the people who matter most: your target market.
And the best way to get those people to tell you whether they are interested or not is by creating a temporary landing page where people who are interested can join your email list to vote for the creation of your product.
In return, you promise to keep them updated on the creation of your business via email.
Something like this, for instance.
The countdown timer adds a bit of incentive and realism for visitors. So you might want to consider including that or some similar type of social proof that you’re a legit business.
Because the biggest obstacle that you’ll experience with this strategy is how much visitor’s trust you.
Which is why lots of different “Coming Soon” landing pages have a countdown timer.
It adds a bit of pre-emptive legitimacy to the business.
Then, whenever someone enters their email address, you know you have someone who’s interested.
If you’re driving traffic to the page but not receiving any opt-ins, then you know you probably have a dud of a product.
Stop and think of a new product idea.
Then do the same thing. Rinse and repeat until you come across an idea that people are actually interested in paying for.
Or if you’re using a WordPress website, you can go here for a list of landing page plugins that will make the page building process even easier. And for LemonStand users, many themes come with built-in Coming Soon landing pages.
However you do it, make sure you don’t invest too much money before gauging the interest of your target market.
In this case, you’ll want to make the most effort retaining these “voters” aka potential future customers. Here are a few email tips to help you stretch your budget:
- Use videos in your email updates – It’s not actually a video. It’s more like a thumbnail image of a video (with a play button) that links to the video. Emails with videos have 5.6% higher open rates and 96.38% higher click-through rates.
- Personalize your emails – Personalize elements such as name and location. You can increase email open rates by 26% just by personalizing your subject lines.
- Segment your list – You can segment by using a survey and reason they are interested in your product. You can segment your list by adding a drop down to your opt-in form with a few different reasons why they are interested in your product.
You might have a great idea, but if no one buys, then… well, it isn’t really a great idea.
2. Consider Crowdfunding To Grow Your Budget
Look. You want to build the best subscription box business that you can build. You don’t want to run a business into the ground, and you definitely don’t want to half-ass the process.
Ideally, you want to outsmart and outperform any pre-existing competition. But, of course, to do that, you need cold hard cash.
While you can start and run a business on a tiny budget, having a bit of capital to invest can help your business get off the ground.
Fortunately, crowdfunding is a great way to get that capital.
Already in the U.S., there are 191 online crowdfunding platforms. And crowdfunding has created a total of 270,000 jobs and added 65 billion dollars to the global economy.
So yeah. Crowdfunding is quite popular and has the potential to make a big difference for your business.
Can you, though, launch a successful business off of crowdfunding efforts?
In fact, 50% of crowdfunding campaigns around the globe are successful.
How can you ensure that your business falls into the right 50%?
Well, here’s a few noteworthy things to keep in mind. First, successful crowdfunding campaigns post at least four updates over their lifespan.
Second, one-third of successful campaigns ran between 30 and 39 days long.
In other words, crowdfunding takes time. And the more time you give your campaign to generate start-up capital, generally speaking, the more money you’ll receive.
Don’t give up if your campaign doesn’t receive many investments after just a few weeks. In fact, 42% of funds for crowdfunding campaigns are raised in the first and last three days of the campaign’s lifespan.
Third, successful crowdfunding campaigns add an average of 12 additional perks to their products after launch.
Make sure you offer crowdfunding investors some sort of special perk, membership, or gift if they invest a certain amount of money.
Inform them that the gift is only available if you hit your overall goal, however. That way, you’re not accountable if the crowdfunding campaign is unsuccessful.
Finally, crowdfunding campaigns that have a pitch video on the landing page raise four times more funds than campaigns without a video.
That’s a simple way to increase the amount of funding you generate.
And with more funding comes a better product and a more promising business.
3. Use an eCommerce Platform That’s Designed for Subscription Box Services
Launching a subscription box service for the first time requires you to manage a whole lot of details: inventory, customer orders, shipping locations, and more. If you’ve never done it before, it can quickly become overwhelming.
But just because your starting a subscription box service for the first time, that doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. You can use an eCommerce platform to help you manage many of the logistical details.
But not all eCommerce platforms are created equal. Some don’t offer any features that are geared toward subscription services. You’ll want to research your options carefully to make sure that you get the most out of your eCommerce platform.
Some are solely designed for subscription services. If you’re only planning on selling to customers who are ready to sign up for a subscription, then this is a viable option.
But some platforms function as a hybrid. They’ll allow you to offer your customers standard one-time purchases and subscription services. Using a hybrid platform will give you more options in the long run.
For example, LemonStand is optimized for subscription box services, but they also support “one-off” purchases. If a customer wants to buy a product without signing up for a monthly subscription, they’ll have the flexibility to do that.
And LemonStand’s built-in subscription management software includes features to help you track customer details, organize your products, and automate your shipping with ShipStation. They also include website themes that are specifically designed for subscription services.
Whichever platform you choose, remember the purpose of an eCommerce platform: to make it easier for you to manage your online store. Be sure to choose one that offers you the most help possible.
You have plenty to worry about when you’re launching a startup, but a good eCommerce platform can go a long way toward getting you off the ground.
The subscription box service niche is ripe for the taking. As more and more entrepreneurs flood into the space, though, competition is on the rise.
Which means that standing out from the crowd is going to be harder than ever before. With giants like Ipsy, Blue Apron, and Dollar Shave Club, you have your work cut out for you if you want to compete.
Still, though, there are plenty of un-implemented subscription box ideas. If you’re the first to run with a great idea, then you’ll make some serious money.
Fortunately, even though there are some big players, there’s also no better time in the history of the world to start a subscription box service. Even if you don’t have much cash.
Not just because people are finally comfortable with subscription services and products, but because you can test the interest of your audience before investing money and because crowdfunding is a remarkable way to generate startup capital for your business.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there, do your research, crowdfund the money you need, and launch your business.
If you don’t, you might just regret it in a few years when the subscription box space is even more crowded.