The newest and fastest growing segment of online retail is the subscription box. Startups like Watchgang and industry giants like Express are all joining the subscription box marketplace.
What is a subscription box?
A subscription box is a relatively new marketing strategy where a company sends products repeatedly. The products are often from an industry niche, like watches, yoga equipment, survival gear, and just about every other industry you can imagine. In most cases, consumers don’t know what they’ll be receiving each month but may have filled out a style profile so the subscription box company can cater to their likes and dislikes.
Why are subscription boxes so successful?
From the consumers perspective, they are making a smart purchase. The value proposition of the boxes is that the consumer is getting a deal. Most boxes are valued at double or more than the cost for consumers. Watchgang, for example, has an entry-level tier that for $30 gets a consumer a watch valued up to $150. Some boxes are about convenience. Gobble, for example, offers easy one pan dinners that you can cook in 15-minutes or less with no preparation needed.
From the advertisers perspective, they’ve increased the lifetime value of each client while shortening the lifespan. The average subscriber stays with a box for six months, therefore ensuring six monthly purchases. That’s a far cry from industry norms where a brand may go months or years without a recurring purchase from the same consumer.
Subscription Box Marketing
Marketing subscription boxes are like most other products. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach, but the fundamentals of marketing still apply. Of course, with all marketing campaigns, the budget plays a large roll in how well you can promote. Don’t let that scare you though. There are many inexpensive ways to get a box in front of subscribers. Here are a few tips, tricks, and insights that will help you on your quest to dominate the subscription box marketplace.
Start an Affiliate Program
Having an affiliate program is like hiring a sales team to promote your brand that only gets paid on commission. Affiliates are incentivized to promote brands because they make a percentage or flat-rate for every sale they are responsible for bringing to you. A typical affiliate will use a trackable link that drops a cookie in the customers’ browser which tracks whether a sale resulted. At the end of the month, or when your affiliates hit a set amount of sales, you’ll pay them for the sales they brought to your subscription box. There are many different types of affiliates, from bloggers to cashback sites, but the best place to start is with your current customers.
Satisfied customers are often willing to share their experiences with friends and family. Compensating them for their efforts will motivate them to advertise more frequently.
When you first start, you may track your affiliate sales “in-house”, but that quickly becomes tedious and hard to manage. Once your program grows, it’s time to consider joining a network.
Join an Affiliate Network
Not only do networks/platforms give you more robust tracking and statistics, but they also provide you with access to bigger, better, and more affiliates. Affiliates also trust networks more than advertisers to report accurate sales data and commissions. With an affiliate network, the average Instagrammer can log in, apply directly to your program, and see exactly how well they are doing at promoting your box.
Some popular affiliate networks include:
Do your homework before joining any network/platform, as there are fees associated and their services vary. Find out what competing subscription boxes are on the network; this could give insight into the affiliates who are on the network. What you’re looking for are affiliates who can drive traffic, get your brand exposure, and provide a ROAS (return on advertising spend). Since the platform costs money, you need to account for that spend too
Start and Influencer Program
Another way to increase the sale of your subscription boxes is by reaching out to social media influencers. Influencers differ from the average affiliate. While affiliates can be a company or website, influencers are individuals with huge followings on social media. These people have influence over their followers. Their opinion matters and if they are willing to promote your brand, you can capitalize on their reach.
Just like affiliate marketing, you can do this manually to start. However, influencers are no stranger to the game. Many influencers nowadays want to be paid on a per-post basis instead of receiving “commission” from the sales they drive to your site. If you don’t have the budget, put this idea in your back pocket until your marketing dollars increase.
Join an Influencer Network
Some affiliate networks have influencers or a separate influencer platform, but there are also influencer specific networks like Webfluential. Webfluential has over 36,000 influencers and 9,000 brands. They use IBM Watson technology to link influencers and brands together. With a platform like this, you can specify the demographics, psychographics, reach and more of the influencer you want to work with. Then you can design a campaign and a budget. The influencer will then come to you!
Build Your Own Social Media Community
The key to building a presence on Social Media is to be social, not promotional. Potential customers are continually hit with advertisements, and the last thing they want is to subscribe to more. It’s ok to promote and even buy ads, but what you want is engagement. Ask for feedback, input, advice; get your followers involved and don’t forget to talk to them.
Creativity is often the key to successful Social Campaigns. Be unique and let your brands voice shine through. Don’t always focus on your product. Show your followers what’s happening behind the scenes, let them get to know you or your staff, and do your best to respond to their engagement. When someone asks a question or comments, it benefits your post and visibility. When people see that you’re responsive, they are more likely to engage now and in the future.
Join Review Websites
People do their research before purchasing almost anything these days. Subscription boxes are no different. If your box comes as a surprise, people will want an idea of what’s been sent in previous months. This is where reviews can be your best friend.
Typically, reviewers work for a free product, affiliate sales, or both. So, there may be an upfront cost for a free or discounted box, but there are numerous benefits to review sites.
First, review sites trigger buying behavior better than your website. Review sites are seen as impartial and more honest. Of course you think your box is great, but what does that other Mom from Florida think? When a consumer hears a positive review and sees a product they like, their inclination to buy increases dramatically.
Second, you’ll get a boost in SEO. Organic search position drives free traffic to your site if it’s optimized. One ranking factor is backlinks. A backlink is a link from another website to yours. The more high-quality backlinks a site has, the better it will rank. So, when someone reviews your product and links back to your site, Google sees that as a vote of confidence for you.
Make your box design attractive
Millions of dollars are poured into product design every year. We’re not suggesting you need a Superbowl ad sized budget though. Individuality is what you’re after here. Stand out from the crowd by avoiding the brown box. This is all about the subscription box, not just what’s inside, but the box itself. Create a design or color scheme that embodies your brand and leaves no question of where it came from. You want your customers to see that box on the front step as their driving up to their house and have no doubt it’s the package they’ve been waiting for all month.