eCommerce Insiders

Subscription Commerce: The Pros, Cons and Why I Started a SubCom Business

So here’s the news: as of this week I am completely changing my ecommerce business model.

I hinted about it a couple of weeks ago while discussing my move to carrying own stock as opposed to drop shipping and the upcoming launch of my new company.

Well, the day has come. This week I officially launched MyMunchiesBox.

But, it’s not the move to carrying own inventory the big change I am talking about. It’s moving to a subscription commerce model. This move means that I will now be catering for a completely different audience and, with quite unique needs and going through a possibly more complex buying cycle.

It’s a move I have been preparing for for the last few months, yet now, after officially launching into it, the whole thing feels more than intimidating. So, for your benefit but also mine, let me recap what I have learnt about the subscription commerce model and tell you what attracted me to it in the first place.

What is a Subscription Commerce Model

To begin at the beginning, what actually is this whole subscription commerce model?

Often referred to as subcom, it is a business model in which the subscriber pays a flat, monthly fee to receive some type of “box”. Such boxes can be filled in with samples or actual, full sized products. Quite often these are new products or even a random selection, whereby the receiver doesn’t know what they have got until they open the box adding a form of an element of surprise to it.

Subcom companies usually target very narrowly defined customer niche, trying to cater for quite specific needs or solve very particular problem for their customers.

If you’ve heard of online stores as:

then you know some of the top SubCom companies are (although there are naturally many more on the market).

What’s more, there is even a site reviewing various SubCom offerings, you can check it out at: http://www.mysubscriptionaddiction.com

What Attracts Me to SubCom

I suppose it’s one of those questions that are really hard to answer straight. On one end, my decision of moving to a subscription based model is based on the niche I have chosen and a need on the market I identified. However, I would be lying in saying that I wasn’t personally attracted to subscription commerce.

What I really like about it is the very personal relationship you develop with your customers. After all, in order to make it, I need to build a relationship that will last beyond just one sale. Moreover, I need to get my subscribers interested in what we do and do so continuously so that they don’t cancel their membership.

I guess overall you sould say that I see the subscription commerce model as a challenge, a something new that I want to explore.

The Pros of Subscription Commerce…

  • More In-depth Relationship With Customers

A subcom model allows for a much more in-depth relationship with customers since by buying they are entering a potentially longer lasting relationship with the company. It’s almost like becoming a family.

  • Continuous Recurring Stream Of Revenue

This is definitely a big thing from the business point of view. By its definition a subcom model offers a continuous and recurring stream of revenue from each subscriber without a need to influence their repeat purchase (as it is the case with more traditional ecommerce model).

  • Easier Business Planning

Lastly, a subscription commerce model allows for a much more definite business planning. The model allows to plan the customer acquisition costs, determine the lifetime value of a customer and the churn rate (the rate at which users unsubscribe from the service), allowing to improve your planning ahead your business expansion.

…And the Cons

  • Hard to Attract One Time Shoppers

A subscription commerce is a hard sell to one time shoppers. Buyers looking to purchase what you are selling only once will be immediately put off by the need to subscribe. Naturally, some people might subscribe for a month to get what they want and unsubscribe after they receive their purchase. However, the whole operation is tedious enough to go through for people who are accustomed to making a quick one-time purchase.

  • It’s Hard To Keep People Interested

Since sending similar stuff every month is at a core of the subcom model, it can be quite difficult to sustain user interest over time and prevent them from unsubscribing. Yet at the same time, the whole business model greatly limits the area of innovation. Once someone subscribe to receive a particular type of a “box”, it is hard to justify any changes to their subscription, even if from your point of view, they are for the better.

  • Potentially Short Term Business Model

There is also a potential that the subcom business model will be burnt pretty quickly, just like daily deals and flash sales models in the past. In fact, many pioneers of subscription commerce are slowly moving away from the model (or introducing variations to it) which might suggest that the subcom era might be over.

Personally, I think this is far from truth, at least in several industries, however we might see a decline in others.

  • Low Cost Of Entry

Lastly, the cost of competition entry on a market is relatively low, making the subscription model quite vulnerable to too much competition. Even if you manage to find a niche with low or no competition, keeping it for yourself only might prove quite difficult.

Conclusion

As of this week I am operating in a subscription commerce model. As mentioned already, it is not only a new way of running an ecommerce store for me but also quite intimidating.

Regardless of it’s pros and cons, I have to say, I am quite happy with making the move. And, you can expect quite a lot of articles about subscription commerce from me here on ecommerceinsiders.

Your Turn

What do you think of a subscription commerce model? Do you buy any subscriptions yourself? And most importantly, would you consider starting a subcom store yourself?

Pawel Grabowski

Pawel Grabowski is a copywriter helping SaaS and software companies utilize great copy to boost their growth.

Find out more about Pawel at smashingcopy.com and connect with him on Linkedin.

One thought on “Subscription Commerce: The Pros, Cons and Why I Started a SubCom Business

  1. Sherie

    Hi! Great Article and I can’t wait to read more! I’ve been tossing the idea around for a subcom business, but I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out how these companies get most of their products/samples for their monthly boxes for free. I can’t see these businesses making money if the owner has to go out and purchase all the different products every month. I wish there was more information out there on the “little” things, like getting products, custom shipping boxes, funding, and so on. My niche has only one other competitor and I feel that I could make my subcom business a real hit since my whole life revolves around my niche, and everyone I know is involved in it as well! I can’t wait to read your other articles, and thank you for taking the time to write them so those of us who are wanting to get our foot in the door of the subcom business are able to learn from your experiences.

    Reply

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