Selling physical products on a subscription basis

Just like any pretty girl, I (!!!) always shop my cosmetics online. I use the same brand that suits my skin. Shopping is interesting but replenishing my cosmetic kit every two - three months has become really tedious. And boring, to be honest. Until one day I had a pleasant shopping surprise…

On the cosmetic brand’s website, the subscription tagline said, “Doorstep delivery of your favorite cosmetic kit at recurring intervals. Customization available.” Interested, I saw the pricetag. More interested, I read what all they offer. And I immediately hit the “Subscribe” button.

What Made Me Do So?

The laziness. Being a lazy person (but busy enough) I had to rid my schedule of this not-so-productive routine. Not only this but the subscription offered me more than just a package of relief. They offered convenience and value.

The gist is that it’s all about convenience, time saving, interest and value for money. A subscription ought to offer these, and they usually do in their own context.

Be it cosmetic kits for busy ladies, shaving kits for busy men, school kits for cute and busy children or Christmas gifts every year. You could sell it all on a subscription basis. But wait, when will a customer want to subscribe?

The Decision Making Pattern

Let’s dig a little bit into what really intrigued me and let’s start with the tagline…

  1. Doorstep delivery - Obviously, it is an online store.
  2. Cosmetic kit - Right, that’s what I’m looking for.
  3. Recurring intervals - Good, I can choose between 1 - 6 months.
  4. Customization - Great, I can easily choose what products I need.

But a tagline is not enough to get me to click the Subscribe button. I turned to the price tag. It had a pleasant number. I did the math in my mind and realized that it was just actually a few bucks less than buying products individually.

Then I went on to read about other important details like:

  • Products that come under the subscription.
  • Variants of kits like general kit, eye product kit, perfume kit and so on.
  • Types of subscription intervals - 1 to 6 months, 1 year combos, etc.
  • The Unsubscribe button - because preferences may change.

I decided to give the subscription a try. Being familiar with the website I didn’t have to worry about the payment security. I am also familiar with their service quality. In case a customer is new to that site, I am sure there is an equal chance that they’ll give it a shot too.

When And Why?

Let us take J2Store as our living example here. Based on our subscription services, here is a small analysis about customer and merchant behaviour:

  1. When do customers go for subscription?
    • When they feel they want “Premium” and exclusive content.
    • When they are tired of existing services or looking for easier options.
    • When they do not want to miss out on a regular release product.
  2. Why should merchants start selling on a subscription basis?
    • To bring in exclusivity factor to their content/products/services.
    • To make the customers more involved into their service.
    • To give customers a service that would make them come back for more.

I personally found myself going for a subscription because I was too lazy. The reason could be anything but at the end it comes to convenience and value.

The Right Thing To Do

Being an online seller, if you are putting in the effort to make your customers’ shopping experience better, then you are doing the right thing. A subscription is just that. In my case, considering the reduction in the effort I put, and the increase in the effort they have put (assembling the right products, subscription development, etc) into this offer, I understand that the sellers want their customers satisfied. Gaining this kind of trust from customers is what makes you a brand. Selling subscriptions alone is not enough but selling it the right way matters.

How Late Is Too Late?

To start selling on a subscription basis, it is never too late. Never. The sooner the better but never too late. But then there is something to keep in mind. The offer must be valuable. A good subscription will lead to customer loyalty. Like I stick to my cosmetic brand. But a poor service might lead the customers to go back and google “How late is too late to cancel a subscription”. Neither the merchant nor the seller wants such a situation.

What Can Be Sold As Subscriptions?

Each day is fluctuating. Each day something new is trending. Subscriptions are recurring, but the content you offer with the subscription is the key. In the cosmetic kit offer I subscribed for, there is an option for customizing the products. The combinations keep varying based on the trend. This is good for both me and the seller. They probably would be seeing more people unsubscribing if they continue to give the same variants of the same products (Say same color lipstick every month). You can keep up with the trend even if your product is traditional. For example, let us consider you sell traditional handicrafts. You can still be in trend or even be a trend setter by making modern designs on them. You could offer a subscription of new handicrafts every year. It is freshness that the customers look for. But on a categorical front, these are some stuffs you can offer as a subscription plan or package:

  • Any product - Magazines, Beauty care, Baby care, Coffee refills, Flowers and so on.
  • Any service - Premium support, Regular software updates and so on.
  • Exclusive content - Inside scoops, members-only videos, articles, etc.

From a general as well as personal perspective, selling products or services or anything, for that matter, as a subscription is a good idea. Customers like to be treated as the Elite class and they are ready to pay for it. Online sellers just have to make sure that their service classifies as Elite. As I said earlier, it is never too late to sell subscriptions. Check out how J2Store Subscriptions and Memberships can help!

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