The holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year for subscription sales. Cyber Monday, in particular, proved to be a significant driver for new subscriber acquisition in 2019 – 30% higher than an average day, according to Recurly. As shoppers steer clear of stores this year due to the pandemic, gift subscriptions promise to be an even bigger trend since they’re easy to buy and send online.
Recognizing the potential for growth, smart subscription companies are promoting gift-giving, this season and throughout the year. Whether you already offer gift subscriptions or are thinking about adding them, it’s helpful to understand some common best practices. Following are seven tips to get you started.
Define Your Offering
You may choose to offer gift subscriptions to your regular monthly program or offer a special, holiday-themed option for new gift subscribers. While it may require a little more work, it’s possible to create a holiday-specific box that’s more personalized yet scalable (see “Ensure Efficiency” below).
Start Them Off Right
In order to build your subscriber base, offer subscription options in varying lengths (i.e., 1-month, 3-month, 12-month) that gift givers can purchase for someone else instead of allowing them to purchase a one-time gift box. It will be easier to convert gift recipients into permanent subscribers since you will have already captured their contact information. Offering a renewal incentive like a discount or a free month will increase the likelihood that they’ll extend their subscription.
Spread the Joy
Look for ways to engage subscribers and encourage sharing. For example, design the packaging with a holiday-themed cutout and encourage subscribers to post pictures on social media to generate additional exposure.
Make the order fulfillment process easily repeatable and scalable to accommodate growth. For example, consider using a preprinted insert with a standard message for all your gift boxes. Personalized messages are more complex because they require integration with your website so they can be printed during order processing. They also require individual order handling rather than mass processing during order fulfillment.
If you’d like to offer gift wrapping, consider using festive corrugated sleeves instead of traditional wrapping paper. This gives the illusion of gift wrap with much less labor handling and, therefore, less cost.
If you are able to forecast your holiday demand, pre-kitting subscription orders in advance can help to spread out the workload and accommodate holiday spikes in volume.
Determine order volume projections in advance. If this is a new initiative, you may be able to base projections on your marketing strategy. For example, consider your typical response rate for a campaign and extrapolate the anticipated number of boxes from there.
If you’re adding gift subscriptions to an established subscription box offering, you may be able to compare “bill to” and “ship to” addresses for current subscribers and base projections on the number of those shipped to different addresses last year.
Based on your volume projections and packaging plans, determine requirements for product inventory and packaging supplies and plan accordingly. To streamline order processing, make sure to have sufficient staff on hand and any resources they may need – forklifts, RF scanners, packing materials, etc.
Keep in Touch
Share your plans with third-party partners. Provide your 3PL with a forecast at least a few months in advance of your expected volume increases and discuss any requirements for integration, packaging, etc. Also, let your parcel carriers know your projected volume well ahead of schedule. That is especially critical this year, given current capacity issues across all carrier networks.
The time required to get a gift subscription program up and running depends on the level of complexity. Basic options can be planned and implemented in as little as one month while more complex initiatives might take six months or more, particularly if they require technology integration.
With strategic planning and careful attention to order fulfillment operations, gift subscriptions can become a dynamic avenue for growth all year long.
Nicole Lee is Director of Fulfillment for Saddle Creek Logistic Services