09 Aug Subscription Clubs: An Overview
Subscription boxes are everywhere you look these days. From meals to prepare at home to monthly wardrobe selections to craft and hobby items, you can pay for both wants and needs to show up at your doorstep each month.
Independent craft-products creators were among the first businesses to offer subscription clubs to their customers. What could be more fun than knowing you’ll get exclusive hand-dyed yarn or fiber in your mailbox every month? From there, the concept has expanded in a number of ways. In a two-part series, we’re going to look at the different models of subscriptions clubs and see how they can work as a strategy for extending your brand.
Curated or Single-Creator
Most retail-product subscription boxes that you see advertised in your Facebook or Instagram feeds are curated collections. That is to say, they feature a selection of products from different manufacturers and sources, put together by the subscription company around a theme or a season. A single-creator subscription club assembles boxes from one creator’s products. There may be supporting items included in a box, but very often they are also products made by the creator. Yarn clubs run by individual dyers are a familiar example of single-creator subscription clubs.
Both curated and single-creator subscription clubs can operate with as many or as few options as the subscription company desires. The simplest model offers the same content in each box to each subscriber. It grows more complex from there: some creators offer multiple clubs, each with a different focus; others give new subscribers the opportunity to answer a few questions that determine which box variant they will receive in a given month. It’s up to the company to decide which options they can offer and fulfill successfully to their customer base.
What Do Crafters Want?
Meal preparation companies like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron sell their service as both valuable and convenient. Ingredients come pre-measured for the quantities required for the recipes subscribers have chosen and the number of mouths each meal should feed. It takes the hassle out of finding exotic ingredients and reduces the risk of having one’s kitchen shelves cluttered with jars of specific spices with one teaspoon missing because everyone in the household decided they didn’t care for that flavor. You get to try it, and if you like it, you can invest in the ingredients to have them available in your own pantry. If you don’t like it, you never have to taste it again. In addition, all of it comes to your door, portion-controlled and ready to start cooking. The time-saving factor alone makes the service attractive.
Selling the materials for crafts, however, is a different experience. Customers are shopping not out of necessity, but out of desire. While cooking can be creative, the meal subscription companies are also meeting the need to eat. For crafters, often the shopping is part of the pleasure of the craft; your subscription club is fulfilling the enjoyment of finding new materials; it is also giving them more time to engage in making part of their craft, rather than the shopping part, by bringing new products right to their doors. Novelty seems to be a big draw for many crafters. The popularity of swaps, where crafters are paired to exchange materials for a specific craft, and mystery-alongs, where crafters begin and complete a project in which the instructions are given in intervals as clues, suggest that the element of surprise attracts many participants. Subscription clubs need to balance members’ desire for known value with their enjoyment of regularly-timed surprises.
Cost and Value
How do you determine how much to charge for your subscription? Obviously, you have to cover your costs: product, time, shipping, plus a profit, but you also have to make those numbers add up to something customers are willing to pay. You’re giving them convenience and possibly exclusivity, like colorways dyed only for club members; depending on their geographic locations, you may be offering access to your products that they wouldn’t otherwise have. All of those factors add to the value of your box.
Including an exclusive pattern or a small notion or favor (a stitch marker, hand lotion, tape measure, or another small item) also increases the perceived value of your subscription price. Totaling up the retail value (including shipping costs) of your standard monthly offering gets you to a baseline price before your profit; most club pricing includes a discounting plan for longer-term subscriptions, so that the total of the payments for a 12-month subscription is substantially less than an individual box, a 3-month subscription or a 6-month subscription.
As someone offering a craft-supply subscription club, you needn’t be wedded to the monthly delivery model. Bi-monthly or quarterly may work better for you and your products–it gives customers time to create with the materials they’ve received and leaves them anticipating the next shipment, rather than feeling guilty about all the yarn, beads, or fabric that’s piling up in their crafting space.
Again, the frequency of shipments will affect both the composition of your subscription box and thus its price. Let’s say you’re offering a fingering-weight yarn club that includes a pattern. At a monthly frequency, a single skein of hand-dyed yarn along with a pattern for a scarf or shawlette is reasonable. Going to a bi-monthly or quarterly frequency could allow you to include more yarn and a larger pattern, like a full-size shawl or tee. The less-frequent subscription would cost more per box but would be generally of equal value averaged over a year.
Finding Your Customers
We know our Instagram feed is full of creative designers, dyers, and crafters of all types. It’s there that we find the yarn dyers or project-bag makers whose products we covet, but we can’t always time our online shopping to their Etsy shop updates. When one of them announces a club, that gets our attention.
Instagram may be the first place we spot enrollment offers from indie craft-supplies makers, but it’s not the only place. Other social media platforms can be just as useful, especially if you advertise or make announcements in craft-specific groups or on craft-specific platforms like Ravelry. Both Google’s and Facebook’s algorithms certainly identify crafters, as we get sponsored content offering craft club subscriptions in our feeds or at the top of our search results. And of course, you can use your Etsy store as your subscription club enrollment center, especially if you don’t also maintain a website for direct e-commerce.
In Part Two, we will talk with some industry figures offering craft supply subscription clubs, and hear their insights into the advantages and disadvantages of selling your products by subscription.
Stitchcraft Marketing offers a wide range of services to help you expand your craft-related business. To learn how we can make magic for your brand, click here to contact Leanne.