With days full of to-do lists — and a growing consumer reliance on e-commerce — who doesn’t love the set-it-and-forget-it option of subscription commerce when it comes to shopping for essentials? Subscriptions are a major perk for both parties: Customers get to rest easy knowing their favorite products will regularly show up on their doorstep, and you get a better projection of monthly revenue. Win-win!
Types of subscription commerce
The subscription commerce market is booming with variety and enticing customers with novelty, convenience and significant discounts. In general, customers have two main options:
1. Autoship: Regularly recurring purchases of one particular product
Chewy.com’s customizable autoship option is one of the best examples. Customers can shop thousands of pet products and opt into a subscription rather than making a one-time purchase of Fido’s favorite food. Chewy lets customers choose the quantity and set the schedule. Shoppers even get a discount the first time they try out autoship, plus 5% to 10% off their future shipments
Health and wellness companies such as Care/Of and Ritual have gotten in on the subscription game, allowing shoppers to have the vitamins and supplements of their choice shipped directly to them each month, no trip to the pharmacy needed.
2. Subscription kits: A personalized box of various products
Curated subscription boxes are driving the boom in subscription commerce and attracting big bucks from venture-capital firms. About 15 percent of consumers have gotten in on the trend, and as of February 2018, there were around 7,000 subscription box companies around the world offering everything from beauty products to pet toys to food and wine.
Curated subscription boxes have been a huge hit with consumers, who get to try out new products and see what they like best. Birchbox, Ipsy and Sephora’s Play! send makeup, hair and skincare goodies to customers every month, while StichFix and Nordtstom’s Trunk Club offer personalized wardrobe styling. Pet lovers have plenty of options too, with subscpritiion commerce sites like Barkbox or Meowbox sending regularly scheduled toys and treats for their furry friends.
Similar to supplement-centric companies like Care/Of and Ritual, personal-care companies offer replenishment packages on customers’ schedules, too. Razor company Billie, for instance, sells a range of products beyond shaving aids, from lotion and body wash to wipes and dry shampoo — all of which can come in a monthly box alongside customers’ new razor heads and shaving cream. Just tossed out your last toothbrush? Subscription-commerce company Quip can get you sorted out with a new one, plus regular deliveries of new brush heads and toothpaste.
Growth of subscription commerce
The convenience and personalization available through subscription services have helped these businesses’ sales grow by leaps and bounds — from $57 million in 2011 to $2.6 billion in 2016.
Traditional retailers aren’t leaving that money on the table. Customers can access subscription services through Walmart and Target, and Amazon offers nearly 20 types of subscription boxes beyond its Subscribe & Save service. In 2016, multinational consumer-goods company Unilever saw the value, too: They purchased mega-popular subscription service Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion.
The growth fits with our “new normal” as more consumers look to avoid crowded stores and safely shop from home. And just as being able to access weekly deliveries of fresh food from companies like Blue Apron and Sun Basket can be a lifeline for folks stuck at home, the subscription model can be a lifeline for brick-and-mortar retailers struggling in a floundering economy.
Why your business should consider subscription commerce
While retail behemoths are obvious options for convenience-minded consumers, other brick-and-mortar retailers can benefit from offering subscription services, too. According to Business Insider, economists expect a record number of stores to close in 2020, largely because of the COVID-19-induced drop in foot traffic and general economic anxiety.
Whether you’re providing essentials like food and vitamins or simple pleasures like toys and new clothes, now is the time for retailers to consider entering the subscription-commerce market or adding it to regular direct-to-consumer operations.
For one thing, your customers are already seeking these services out. E-commerce subscription-service shoppers tend to be younger, more affluent and in search of convenience, and nearly 35 percent of them subscribe to three or more services.
Subscription commerce is also highly scalable for retailers. When customers sign up, their subscriptions provide reliable, recurring revenue that allows you to plan and project in a way that their traditional brick-and-mortar or e-commerce shopping habits can’t. Getting a handle on those numbers allows you to scale up and boost your profit margin.