Subscription boxes. You’ve seen them all over social media; maybe you even subscribe to one or two, and you know they could be a boon for your business. But how does it all work? You have an existing online store — how can you add a subscription box to it?
This article will cover everything you need to know about preparing your online shop for the addition of a subscription box, from what to include inside, and to how to market it.
First, decide what you can offer your customers in a subscription box. This will largely depend on what kind of business you have.
In reality, you can box up and ship out just about anything, but the key focus will be creating a clear vision as to why your current target audience should buy the box.
Some boxes are designed as a personalized, fun surprise for customers. If that’s the type of box you want to send, you’d typically start with a quiz or questionnaire to help you get to know what customers want.
Then, you’d tailor the products to their needs and tastes — think clothes from Stitch Fix or wine from Wine Collective. These companies aim to offer a personalized experience for their customers.
Other types of boxes are more focused on convenience. Dollar Shave Club falls into this category. It doesn’t send a personalized surprise razor every month — it sends refills for razors at a much cheaper price, in order to save its customers time and money.
There are also subscription boxes that offer the chance to try popular, but possibly expensive, product offerings to win over the customer.
Subscriptions to makeup boxes like Sephora’s Play! and Ipsy offer small samples hoping customers will buy full-size products in the future.
It’s important to figure out the purpose of your subscription box before moving forward with choosing what you fill it with.
Once you pick your purpose, it’s time to decide what products belong in the box. If you have a diverse product offering, it doesn’t make sense to offer everything you have for sale. To get you started, here are some of the best subscription box product sourcing strategies to make the most of this new product offering.
Just make sure you pick the products you want to highlight and narrow it down from there, based on whether the box is a personalized surprise or regular delivery of key offerings.
The Rules of the Box
You can’t just go out there delivering boxes willy nilly! There are some definite guidelines, rules, and policies you’ll want to have ironed out before you attempt to add a subscription box to your online store. Chances are, it won’t fall under many of your normal policies.
First, you need to decide on a subscription model. Is this box going to be delivered monthly, quarterly, or yearly? Will you let customers choose which products they want? Remember, the more customizations you allow, the more complex your logistics will be, so choose carefully.
Your normal return policy may not be applicable, either.
For personalized boxes (think Stitch Fix), many companies offer free returns — after all, if they don’t like it, why should they have to keep it?
In that case, the cost of the box goes towards any item they want to purchase, and they can return the rest at no charge. If they return the whole box, they simply pay the subscription fee.
Consumable goods (think wine bottles), on the other hand, wouldn’t really work with that type of model. It’s all about what works with your product offering and what makes sense for your customers.
How to Send the Box
There are two parts to sending the box that you need to work out before you launch.
The first is how you’re going to package it. When you send out products normally, you likely don’t spend much time customizing the presentation of the products beyond making sure they’re securely wrapped and packed. With the subscription box, it’s a different situation.
Part of the draw is the experience of receiving and opening the box, particularly if subscribers don’t know what products are in it.
It feels like a gift, and the presentation of the box should reflect some of that excitement and experience.
You’ll not only want a different box or bag that is specific to your subscription box, but also some nicer wrapping material and a nice card explaining what each product is.
The second important part is the fulfillment of the boxes.
Depending on your current setup, you may be able to integrate this operation into your current logistics workflow and ship it yourself, or you may want to enlist the help of a third-party fulfillment company to do the heavy lifting for you.
Speaking of the packaging point above, you may be able to let the fulfillment company handle that for you too — just keep in mind, anything you outsource can cut into your profits.
How to Market the Box
Finally, how do you get the word out about this box you’ve worked so hard on?
First, make sure to properly promote it on your website. Use high-quality photos of the box, the nice packaging, and some attractive flat lays of the products. Another great idea is to use an unboxing video to really drive the excitement of receiving the box.
Don’t just focus on selling them directly, either. Be sure to promote them as an add-on or upgrade when customers are interested in purchasing various products that are included in the box.
Finally, you need a marketing strategy outside of your website.
Social media will be your best bet, as you likely already have a presence on at least one platform (hopefully Instagram or Facebook) and can integrate posts about the subscription box launch, unboxing, and general promotion.
Finding and using influencers in your space are an integral part of this strategy too. You can partner with an influencer in your niche to get your subscription box in front of a much larger audience than you could organically.
Subscription boxes have been trending for a couple of years at this point and show no signs of slowing down. There are still a ton of gaps in the market that you can fill if you get creative and put your customers’ needs and wants at the forefront of your offering.
Need some ideas to get you started? Here are 6 creative subscription boxes to consider selling.
About the Author: Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.