Product Procurement: Choosing the Products for Subscription Boxes
Last modified on August 1st, 2019
A perfect subscription box comes with a lot of thinking outside the box. The same goes for our next challenge: procurement – choosing the products for your subscription boxes. It is a determining step in your business and a pretty exciting part of the entire process.
Depending on how well you tackle this challenge, your subscribers are going to ask themselves: Should I stay or should I go?
Don’t worry, there’s no need for you to have a boxing match with your boxes – we have the best tips on how to create a perfect package for those eager subscribers of yours. And make them stay, of course.
A subscription business can cover various kinds of products, focused on different niches and lifestyles. In general, the successful subscription box should be based on at least some of these factors:
- The audience hungry to discover new products
- Satisfying the recurring, actual need
- Making the subscribers happy or enabling them to make someone else happy (a relative, a friend)
- Creating the emotional connection/relationship with customers
- Making people want more
- Contributing to different lifestyles
Combine three or more of these factors and you’ll be on a good path for a successful, long-term subscription business. Now that you know what makes a box awesome, it’s time to get really productive with products. Let’s roll!
Types of products
Almost anything that can fit into a box and is not a weapon or a drug can be a product in a subscription box. That is the beauty of this business, as it gives you the creative freedom and a possibility to merge fun, usefulness, and profit.
Start with thinking about products you’d love to see on your doorstep regularly, then consider which niche to pick (we’ll dig into niches soon, stay tuned).
Here are just some of the categories and ideas you can explore, while brainstorming your subbox offer. The truth is, whatever people love to buy could find its place in a subscription box!
- Beauty and fashion related products –
- Either focused on women, like make-up, accessories, jewelry, luxury bags, or men in particular for shaving accessories or neckties, as an example
- Deodorants (this one is great as it is regularly used and if you could think of a unique brand behind it, what a powerful product line that might be), dental care products, soaps – especially natural ones are a great product idea
- T-shirts, connected to a specific community (gamers, artists, police, Martians, etc) or a subscription for socks and underwear
- DIY, arts, crafts –
- Books, comic books, magazines –
- One of the most popular types of subscription boxes! Some ways to elevate this business is to send out signed copies or posters beside the regular book offer. Also, creating an engaging community might be the key to a steady growing subscription business
- Children books, toys, education products –
- Either in the form of science experiments, art projects, or games and toys, this category is a true playground for your entrepreneur creativity. The key is to offer products that are both fun and educational – the best possible combination, right?
- Food, beverages –
- There are restrictions on mailing alcohol, but you can offer home brew kits to people! A kind of drinkable DIY project, can’t get better than that.
- Someone mentioned food? Eatable subscription boxes exist too, such as those for healthy meals, pie of the month (yum!) or microwave-ready ingredients. Truly a niche you can go wild with ideas in. Oh yes, and could you please make another chocolate subscription box? Never enough of chocolate. Appreciated.
- Pets –
- Because our furry friends also deserve a box (beside the litter box, sure) – whether for dogs, cats, birds, lizards, or any other kind of the animal, there are various subscription boxes. We know it’s difficult to put yourself in an animal’s position and realise what they would like, but yet again, this field is opened for creativity and innovation.
- Fitness, health, outdoor activities –
- From bird-watching, sport equipment, vitamins, and even sport clothes, this category it is certainly a fertile one.
- House and garden –
- Gardening boxes with seeds, herbs, or flowers fall into this category, as well as cleaning supplies, decoration, etc.
- Car cleaners, rags, and similar, because it is also a part of everyday living
- Gaming and similar topics –
- Beside sending out the games themselves, you could dive into a mystery and puzzle subscription if that’s what you’re passionate about. Boxes such as this one provide intriguing challenges every month, maybe something like that could be a good option for you?
- Magic learning products, like tricks explanation, special cards, etc.
- This one is focused directly on the already pretty addicted audience – trading cards and games are an endless field of possibilities.
- Further ideas –
- Subbox about national parks (examples, recommendations, history, guides, maps) – this nice idea could be expanded to traveling in general
- Vinyl sales and similar vintage geeky products
- 3D printing – cartridges and designs many hobbyists would enjoy
- Strings for instruments or other musical equipment could be a lucrative option
- Novelty subscriptions – cigars, disguises, and spy boxes
- Fan boxes of different kinds (focused on TV shows, sports teams, music, or movie stars, and similar).
As you can see, there are many possibilities for you to explore when it comes to potential products! But how can you decide what to focus on when they all seem so tempting?
You could begin with a topic/product you are passionate about, or the one(s) you think are underrated or not utilised enough. Still, you can avoid many errors and losses by defining who your ideal subscribers are and in which niche they belong to.
So, we’ll begin with defining who your perfect customer is exactly, and how can you use the best of this knowledge.
Defining the niche and the target market
What is a niche? Is it bird, is it a plane?
It’s neither a bird, a plane or Superman, it is the lifestyle, market or a trend that your subscription business (or any business, really) is serving with goodies of all kinds.
Is the business idea the same thing as a niche? Let us elaborate: no. An idea itself is worth almost nothing, until it’s put in the perspective of real human need or desire.
As an example, if the products of your subscription business are healthy snacks, think beyond the products themselves and discover what kind of people would benefit the most from it. Try to grasp the entire culture or a trend behind the particular product.
This will make the procurement easier, more focused and productive, at the end.
Some of the questions you could begin with are:
- What is the story behind this product(s)?
- Who are my typical customers (try to define this as detailed as possible – age, gender, location, profession, interests, etc.)?
- Do they belong in a community – what kind of community?
- What are the products they are already using, what is missing?
- Do those products have something in common?
- The most successful product in that niche is…? (As always, try to learn as much as you can from your competitors)
- Do I have a ‘secret ingredient’, something that sets me apart from the completion?
- How similar am I to my target audience – can I connect with them through boxes and how?
- What are the ‘extras’ I could bring into this market?
- How can I make my target market’s life easier or better?
Once you have chosen your niche and your target market (well done!), it will be much easier to select the right products for those customers. The combination of what they truly and regularly need, with a pinch of extra surprises or something that enhances the experience, might be the right path to follow. If you cover these steps with focus and intention, you’ll be ahead of many unprepared subscription box amateurs. A dose of healthy competitiveness is definitely needed in this world.
Defining the value of your box and the story behind it
When crafting your amazing subscription box, which will be nothing like any other box on the face of this planet, there is one more thing to consider.
Defining the value of your subscription box goes way beyond the mere monetary value. It is the story, a message, or an idea you want to share with your subscribers. Basically, the reason why you’re offering exactly what you are offering, and in a specific way.
Remember when we spoke about healthy food products? Good, let’s see what kind of value lies behind that offer.
First of all, think of a way to make the entire experience, from unboxing to actual consummation, pleasant and rewarding. You’re not going to focus on nutritional values only, but tackle the philosophy of happy, energetic living as well. Also, merge it with the design, choice, and arrangement of products too, to get the entire picture. Skip the plastic and keep it organic. Catch our drift?
Do not skip this part, as not keeping the value of your business can negatively affect your reputation and even draw people away from what you have to offer. When it comes to the product procurement in particular, see if they are aligned to the value you are advocating in your business.
Is the box half-empty or half-full?
Your box can either make the recipient feel optimistic or disappointed in the subscription box and its product(s).
Even if you got everything covered, from the type of product you will use, the particular niche/target market, as well as the value with a strong message behind it, there is a step that if done wrong, could make your customers want to unsubscribe.
As simple as it might be, what really matters is how your box looks when it’s opened up. Here are some questions to consider:
- Do your products look nice, representative, attractive?
- Is there too much unused space in your box, making it feel ‘half-empty’?
- The filling between the products, is it aligned with the overall design and does it look messy?
- Are the products separated and nicely arranged? Or does it seems like someone just randomly threw them into the box (unless your business’s message is based on chaos and anarchy, then alright)?
- Is the quality and worth of products apparent, or does the package makes it look poor?
- Is there variety or are there several versions of the same product that does serve the same purpose?
Make sure that your box looks nice both inside and out, trust us, you won’t regret it. When choosing and arranging the products inside the subscription box, think of the way you like things to be organised and presented.
This is the best way, in general, to provide high-quality service.
Think of the boxes you enjoy opening, the products inside you enjoy discovering – how can you make your subscribers faint in amazement? Simple as that.
Choosing the right vendors
Vendors are nice people who provide products for your boxes. It’s needless to stress out how important it is to achieve and maintain a healthy relationship with your vendors. Your business relies on their products, but they will also immensely benefit from all the promotion and sales your subscription boxes will bring.
Just in case, let’s turn the spotlight on the quality, reputation, and reliability of the vendors you choose. Keep in mind that this is the core of your subscription business.
We know that there are a lot of cores, essences, and insanely important parts of the business, but the truth is, everything is important and you should pay attention to multitude of aspects if you wish to do this well.
Choosing the vendors of trust that have proven to give value over and over again is a wise move for any subscription entrepreneur. Use every channel available and make sure you did all necessary calculations in order to evaluate potential vendors.
Choosing the right procurement strategy
Ah, the strategy! The main ones you can use when it comes to this challenge are free samples and product marketing or wholesale, less or at cost buying of products.
The first one, free sample/product marketing, is when the vendor is presented to the highly qualified customers (you already know exactly who they are from step one above). What you basically do is offer the products for your subscribers to discover, being the connection between the vendor and the customers.
As you can imagine, this is an excellent way to create loyal customers, but it comes with a risk – it takes a lot of time and you might need to rely on different vendors.
The second option, actually buying the products, is much more sustainable and easier to grow on. Not to mention that it’s interesting for vendors themselves, primarily because of the large orders volume. In both scenarios, the eager customers are discovering their products and this puts you in a good negotiating position, too.
The downside of this strategy is that you’ll be spending precious money and will need to calculate the expenses with special care and attention. Also, your boxes will need to be priced accordingly.
Maintaining high quality and trust
Once you got things in order, the goal is to maintain the same level of quality, trust, and overall subscriber’s happiness for months or years to come.
The top advice is to become obsessive about product quality. Yes, obsessive. Do not forget the details, take time to make everything as beautiful as possible. We’re not saying that you should focus merely on aesthetics and nothing else.
But, bare in mind how presentation can become a game-changer for your business. It can actually showcase the quality of your products.
This topic is closely linked to the product procurement – try avoiding a random variety of items. Take product selection seriously and put these products together in a sensible, logical package. Do not put socks and earrings in the same box, unless they are following the similar design or should be worn together.
Also, in order to keep the quality steady and rising, constantly gather feedback and analyse the results – which products were welcomed warmly, what boxes came with unwrapping screams of joy, but also, which one weren’t particularly interesting or valuable.
Remember, your subscriber’s satisfaction always comes first and that is the fuel to keep your business going and growing.
Look at you go! You’ve learned how to completely win the game of product procurement, no matter how scary it might be!
We covered various topics in this guide:
- What makes the awesome subscription box truly awesome
- The discovery of many product types there are, with ideas to explore
- Defining your niche and the target market like a boss
- Crafting the story and the value of your offers
- Choosing the right vendors and the smartest strategy
- Picking and arranging your products beautifully
- Keeping the high quality and trust between you and your subscribers
A small tip for the end is – never stop observing, learning, and experimenting. The great thing about product procurement is that you can slightly modify your offer from month to month, always improving the complete subscriber experience.
It is much easier (and it is surely fun!) to play with the product choice, arrangement, and variety all the time, in order to keep your subscription boxes as fresh as daisies.
Be wise when it comes to product procurement and the results will surely show.