3 considerations before you start a retail subscription service

Subscribe to success

Even if you have a booming retail business, starting a subscription service is like building a brand-new business. Although you’ve built up your retail expertise, it takes hard work, commitment, and a comprehensive understanding of eCommerce sales and customer service. With that in mind, here are three considerations before you start a retail subscription service.

Create a retail subscription service positioning statement

Before all else, you need to understand your customer and know the value your subscription service brings.

Your positioning statement should come from the four P’s: Product, Price, Promotion and Place.

 

Here are some questions to ask for each of the four P’s:

Product

Since you’re starting a retail subscription service, your product is the contents of the box you send each month. To truly have a good product, you need to understand:

  • What needs do your customers have that you are trying to fill?
  • What are your customers’ shopping behaviors
  • Why would they shop for this specific service?
  • How will you differentiate from your competition?

Related: Find your unique selling proposition 

Price

Price isn’t just about covering your costs and adding markup. How you set your price is essential to attracting and retaining your subscription service customers. According to Akash Modi, founder of Expese:

“I wish I would have known how to set a right price for my subscription service. Too high will make it hard to attract and retain new users; too low could signal poor service/product and prevent new customers.”

Akash goes on to say, “But after fine-tuning our business model more than 15 times in the past two years, and with tons of customer interviews, we finally got to the right price for our subscription service.”

Ask these questions about price:

  • What pricing do your competitors offer?
  • What term lengths will you offer, and how will you discount accordingly?
  • Do you want to price high for perception of quality or moderate-to-low to beat out your competition?

Related: How to begin budgeting for a new product or service 

Retail Subscription Service Money
Photo: VisualHunt.com

Promotion

Promotion is an umbrella term for marketing, advertising, PR, brand management and more.

Integral to your promotional strategy is the way you manage your brand — or better yet — the identity you want your brand to have in the marketplace.

You should consider:

  • What do you want to communicate to your customers?
  • What channels will you use to communicate your messaging?
  • Where can you make the most impactful connection with a prospective customer?

Related: Quiz — What’s your brand personality? 

Place

Place plays a huge role in the success of your subscription service.

There is a strong relationship between promotion and place.

 

For example, you might use your website to build your brand and establish trust and credibility, but you may find that you drive more new sales through a distribution partner that can help you reach a broader audience. In terms of place:

  • Will you sell solely through your website?
  • Will you work with third party companies like Etsy or Cratejoy?

Once you have answered the questions above, you are one step closer to defining your positioning statement. Consider using a positioning statement template to collect all of your thoughts in an organized manner.

Related: How to start a website from A to Z — A 5-step guide 

Prove your subscription service concept

You should always test the market before you make a full-fledged entry into a business venture. The same rule holds true for starting a retail subscription service. For that reason, consider setting up a single-page website (also known as a landing page) to describe your idea and collect contact information from interested customers. When describing your new subscription service, be sure to follow best practices for writing great product description copy and include high-quality photos of your product .

Related: How landing pages bridge the gap between marketing and sales 

To prove the concept, you need to send traffic to your new page. Consider Google AdWords or Facebook Ads to send real consumers to your page.

Based on the actions of these consumers — namely providing you with their email — you’ll be able to validate your concept and continue investing your time and resources to building out your retail subscription service.

Analyze your retail subscription service competitors

Retail Subscription Service Binoculars
Photo: VisualHunt.com

As with any new business venture, you need to take a close look at the competitive landscape. When you perform a competitive analysis, you’ll be able to:

  • Find gaps in the market.
  • Develop new add-ons or upsells for your subscription service.
  • Uncover new market trends.
  • Market and sell your service more effectively.

It’s important when performing this analysis that you focus on your direct competitors: businesses that offer a similar subscription service within your delivery area. Try to nail down a list of the top three to five competitors, and examine how they operate, what they’re doing right, and what they could improve upon.

With those insights, you can really improve your retail subscription service.

Start your retail subscription service

The three steps above will help you better understand your target market, your product offering, and your competitive landscape. As you start your retail subscription service and your customer base changes and grows, you’ll want to continue to research, measure, tinker and fine-tune. In the end, just know that your retail experience will be a huge value-add, but you’ll definitely learn along the way.

Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan helps businesses elevate their digital presence. A national speaker for Google's Get Your Business Online program and award-winning CEO of Bryan Caplan Marketing, Bryan travels the country, presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics to help small businesses grow and succeed. Bryan has provided digital marketing strategy to well over 1,000 businesses since 2010 and is a guest lecturer at Suffolk University School of Business. He is also a contributing columnist to several publications including WorldPay, Constant Contact, BusinessTown, and the Boston Business Journal. Learn more about Bryan at www.BryanCaplan.com.