16 marketing lessons from subscription box businesses

The subscription box business model has become more and more popular in recent years, but what makes it so popular? 

Modern consumers love the idea of subscription boxes when they have to do with a niche that they’re personally interested in.

It’s the convenience of receiving your favourite snacks, games, beauty products right on your doorstep that makes subscription boxes appealing, while many consumers like the idea of discovery, or even the mystery a surprise box may bring.

According to a recent survey by Hitwise, the visits to subscription box sites have increased almost 3,000% in US since 2013, counting 21.4 million visits during January.

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The success, and even the mistakes, from these sites are offering us useful insights about design, customer experience, content and marketing.

What can we learn from them?

Be unique

How will you stand out from the rest if you don’t find a way to showcase your uniqueness?

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Focus on design

Your uniqueness should also be highlighted by great and functional design which will allow your customers to enjoy their visit to the site. Even the smallest details matter.

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Solve a problem 

Every business idea starts with a goal and this helps customers understand how they can benefit from each subscription. Gousto, for example, is promising to help you cook healthy and delicious food.

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Think like a user

A great site search function that allows the right amount of customisation for the user’s needs is always useful and helps customers stay longer to your site, until they find what they’re looking for.

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Improve the user experience

I like how Pact coffee guides users from one page to another in a simple and appealing way. Once you add all the details about your coffee preferences it suggests the best option for you.

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Be helpful

It’s important to provide all the details on the most important pages to increase the chances of converting a visitor into a customer.

Here, Natural Blender tries to answer all the common questions (delivery, box contents etc) in a visually appealing way.

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Create a community

People love being rewarded about their sharing spirit and social media has taken gamification to a whole new level.

By encouraging a customer to share a unique code, the business reaches a new audience, but also strengthens its bonds with the current customers as they are rewarded for their actions.

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Serve like an expert 

Build trust with your expertise and help consumers subscribe even faster to your services.

Whether it’s a page that we’re introduced to the chef, or a blog that shares tips and tricks, there is always a new way to gain the much-desired loyalty.

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Show your passion for your niche

Your creativity and your passion about your niche will be appreciated, especially when they are presented in a clever and appealing way.

How about this pop up window from BarkBox?

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Help customers s(h)ave time

Time is a crucial factor for many customers and they appreciate it when a business understands that they are busy.

That’s what Dollar Shave Club promises to achieve, by sending new shaving razors to its customers every month.

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Don’t be annoying

Sorry, Pact coffee, but I think you’ve sent me too many mails. Not every user wants to be bombarded with messages. It’s important to find the right email frequency.

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Test, test, test (and only keep what works)

Both these images appear on the slider of the homepage of BRUU tea with the first one being rather different than the rest of the homepage, while the menu buttons are not even clearly visible.

This reminds us the importance of testing every image and its effect on the product, especially when it’s placed at the homepage.

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It’s also important to pay attention to the details. For example, the fonts used by Borough Box could be better.

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Use social media

As new subscription box services emerge every day, it’s not always easy to reach a target audience.

Social media and targeted advertising is an ideal start for the promotion of the business and many subscription boxes used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to spread a word about their unique services. It may not be effective on its own, but it’s certainly a great start to increase traffic and attract a bigger audience.

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Provide options

People don’t like being offered just one option, but they also don’t like feeling paralysed from too many suggestions. Glossybox offered four options to its customers, highlighting the preferred one to ensure that it is not ignored.

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Use email marketing

Email marketing along with social media promotion are crucial both for old and new customers and they get even more effective when combined with a great offer.

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Goodbye should be hard, but not complicated

Subscription boxes are all about building a bond between the business and the consumer. However, not everyone stays loyal and a business should respect this decision in the most helpful and understanding way.

There’s no need to make it complicated for the consumer who wants to cancel a subscription, but rather, try to keep a pleasant experience until the end, hoping they will come back soon. It’s not a bad idea to provide suggestions on how they are able to return and even offer them a discount for that, but always keep the process simple.

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