Last week I wrote about the subscription box model, and why it’s such a good one to consider if your world has just tipped upside down and you’re having to rethink your business.
Or… if the pandemic has made you rethink how you want to run your business.
If you haven't seen it already, don't miss my FREE guide exploring some of the practicalities of subscription boxes, giving an overview of what to expect.
So now, let’s dig into types of existing product or bricks & mortar businesses and the kind of subscription box you could have.
First up, a few key points that you need to take into account no matter what you sell…
1. Meet your Customers where they’re at
What are they looking for right now and over the coming months?
Is it a regular treat?
Is it an easy way to have what they need/want to hand if they can’t get out & about?
Is it a way to send some love / a thoughtful gift to someone else?
A mixture of all of these?
Keep your customer’s desires in mind when you brainstorm what your box might look like.
2. Think about frequency
Also ask yourself, how frequently would they want that box?
Some products will suit a monthly subscription box, others might be better every 2nd month or quarterly (and you can always set up the technology to offer multiple options if you want.)
Start by thinking about what your key customers would like and take it from there.
3. Create a box of joy
The difference between a subscription box and an order from an online store should involve a bit of curation and a bit of theatre.
The appeal of a subscription box for your customers is often ease, surprise, and being treated (or treating someone else). You can offer to tell people what they’ll expect in their box, you can give them the option to know, or keep the exact contents a complete surprise.
Your guiding principal, whatever you put in your box and how it looks, should be to create joy when it arrives / is opened.
4. You can collaborate
If you’re looking at what you do and think it won’t sustain a subscription box, you are able to collaborate. This could be sourcing a supplier you’ll use month after month (e.g., chocolate or tea, to compliment your existing product) or you can work with different suppliers.
5. Remember your margins
This one goes both ways - remember your margins, i.e., stay profitable.
But also - remember your margins, in that if you currently largely sell wholesale, when you’re selling direct to customers, you have a bit more to play with. So your £35 value product could be in a £25 subscription box and it still make sense for you.
6. Maybe add in, maybe pivot
A subscription box could become a key earning part of your business; it could be something you decide to focus on entirely down the line, it could be something you wrap up in 12-18 months once something like normality returns to our lives - or you could continue to run one alongside your main business (I can show you how to do this in a lean & time efficient way).
You don’t have to choose one definitive answer right now.
7. There’s always gifting
If you look at this and decide a subscription box is not for you, do make sure you’re set up for gifting.
Whether that’s offering gift wrap, the ability to add a card or gift vouchers… more people will be looking for gifts to be sent directly from you to the recipient, so make it easy for them to do so.
Alright, back to subscription boxes and let’s jump into some examples.
- Skincare products
Think about how frequently your customer will use what you create, whether you could change products each box, or offer a ‘repeat buy’ subscription if they regularly buy the same items - with a little extra treat in the box.
If you sell smaller homewares, could you curate a new box each month, with one key item and supporting elements? Think around the seasons, colour trends and how your customer will be spending their time…
This could be a key one for Nana’s wanting to treat their grandkids to a wee something regularly. Could you curate a regular box around the seasons, and offer handwritten notes from the gift buyer each time?
We can’t pop in the local giftshop for a card, yet many of your customers will want to keep in touch with loved ones regularly, so make it easy for them to do so. Curate packages of cards, or other stationery - notebooks, pens, sticky pads…
Food’s an excellent one for subscription boxes - it’s something you consume, so your customers are always looking for more, and with many amazing smaller brands that people can’t find in their local supermarket, you can curate an experience for them month after month.
I’m a little biased here (I founded and run Craftiosity), but crafts are wonderful for subscription boxes. I’ve never met a crafter who doesn’t love learning and trying new projects, and the happiness your customers will get from creating with the materials / kit you send them each month (especially on lock down) are a key way to spread creative joy.
Similarly, if you’re teaching workshops online now, a subscription box might make sense - and add to your workshop offer. Are there materials you would have provided in person that could be sent in a box? This could be for a recurring subscription model, or it could be a one-off postal purchase (with incentive if they sign up for a monthly workshop with you).
- Candles / Aromatherapy / Home scents
A little like food, for those that love their home scents, you always need more candles (that’s what I tell my husband, anyway!) A curated box of different candles/scents and home comfort treats can work very well with a subscription model.
- Pet / bird food
People love to treat their pets and feathered friends! If you already supply in these areas, you may find your customers are definitely ready for a monthly curated treat for the animals they care for too.
- Gardening supplies
We’re spending a lot more time in our gardens now. For those whose gardens might have been a little neglected in the past, it’s a key time to support them with seasonal tips, seeds, tools and ideas to make their little patch of green a haven over the coming months.
Books are an excellent choice for subscription boxes too - easy to curate around a theme (the topic of the book informs other items in the box), or to introduce new authors to readers who love a certain genre.
If your price points work, jewellery is a beautiful way to gift or treat someone through a subscription box. Vary the box up so you offer different elements in each one, make it easy for people to gift on, and consider the frequency that makes sense with your range.
- Printed T-shirts, graphics, posters and gifts
There has been a recent increase in sales of motivational prints and printed clothing / giftware. As more of us hop online to Zoom call, our backgrounds and mug choices are more visible than before. Could you delight your customers each month, and offer a variety of items across the different boxes?
- Gifting / Self Care Shops
If you’re a bricks and mortar shop looking at the uncertain future and wondering what on earth to do, you probably have access to stock / suppliers to create a box that involves a number of the different elements above. Think about what your shop is specifically known for, and how you can create a niche that will resonate with your customers.
Where subscription boxes don’t work…
- One-off purchases
If you only sell sofas, or wallpaper, or cars - things that people only buy rarely / once a decade - and have no intention to pivot to something else - subscription boxes are not for you.
- High value items
Similarly, most monthly subscription boxes in the UK are under £30. There are some that go higher than that, usually quarterly boxes, but it’s pretty rare.
Not to say it’s impossible, see points 1 and 2 at the top of this page - but always look at what your audience want / will pay.
- You sell one thing
You’re amazing at creating or selling Designer Backpacks / Beeswax Wraps / Penguin-shaped vases, but that’s firmly your niche. In which case, subscriptions might be tricky to maintain, but you can always set up gifting, or look at collaborating on a box with an existing subscription box.
So… getting excited about how these could work for you? Got a tonne of questions?
If you’ve not already seen it, I’ve created a FREE guide that goes through:
You can get it here:
If this has got you thinking about your subscription box idea, you might be interested in Subscription Box Academy, the online programme to transition you from ‘idea’ to successfully selling your subscription boxes in less than 3 months.
All my best,
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