This is a guest post from Danny Taing. Danny founded Bokksu in 2015 to introduce foodies around the world to authentic Japanese snacks and teas only found in Japan. Offering both a subscription box service and e-commerce marketplace, Bokksu is the only company that partners directly with local artisanal makers throughout Japan to elevate their delicious snacks to the world stage.
There’s no getting around it: The subscription box model is far more than just a passing trend, with a quarter of consumers currently receiving at least one subscription box and about a third planning to sign up for one in the next six months.
People love sub boxes because they address the unique expectations and desires of the modern consumer, offering a convenient, personalized, direct-to-consumer experience with an element of experimentation and surprise. But with the rise in popularity comes a rise in competition, and savvy subscription start-ups need to know the best ways to edge it out.
To get ahead of the competition, make sure to avoid these common subscription box marketing faux pas.
8 D2C marketing mistakes
1) Relying Totally on Social Media
Influencers are no-doubt fantastic for bringing awareness to any brand-new business, whether it’s your snack subscription box or a hot new app. But remember that the vast majority of consumers tend to begin, and ultimately complete, their product searches on Google and Amazon (and, yes, you can sell your subscription boxes on Amazon).
Although it’s good to prioritize social media, especially for growing brand awareness, your marketing efforts can’t stop there. Explore other channels, like podcast ads and paid reviews by bloggers, to appeal to consumers from all angles.
2) Not Following Advertising Ethics
You will have to advertise on social media, and it will probably become your primary marketing channel. Influencer marketing has been a particularly popular option among subscription-based businesses in the past several years, and it works.
But time and time again we see companies not taking an ethical approach to social media and influencer strategies by failing to be transparent (you must follow the Federal Trade Commission’s Truth in Advertising guidelines) or by making empty promises.
Make sure to pay close attention to the laws and ethics before advertising online or risk losing customer trust.
3) Casting Too Wide of a Net
These days, you can’t get away with tossing your marketing into a crowd and hoping for customers. Instead, you have to get hyper-specific with how you market, targeting a very small and precise group of consumers who are likely to sign up.
Guessing won’t do the trick—you actually have to conduct market research to discover your core consumer. We offer a Japanese snack box, so we consider targeting users that belong to Japanese culture Facebook groups or who engage with certain brands, like Nestlé Japan, for example.
4) Not Leveraging SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) still matters in 2019, and that’s good news for you, since many of the basic principles and strategies associated with it are straightforward and attainable for new businesses.
Making sure your website is pleasing to Google and the user is the ultimate goal, and these days, trying to trick an algorithm into ranking it high simply won’t work. You have to focus on tried and true “white hat” methods, like publishing unique, keyword-rich content that’s valuable to visitors and making sure your website has lightning-fast loading speeds.
If you intend to sell subscriptions on Amazon, make sure you know some of the basics of optimization there so that your box will appear higher up on the results page.
5) Ignoring Your Competition
There are over 3,500 subscription box services on the market at the moment, so don’t expect that yours—no matter how unique it may be—will instantly be inundated with subscribers.
High competition means you’ve got to be creative with how you get the word out. Focus on making your brand stand out and emphasizing what makes it different from the other options on the market, and be sure to make it visually interesting compared to similar boxes.
6) Skimping on Customer Service
If you’ve been paying attention to commerce in the past decade or so, you know that customer experience (CX) is a huge deal, and it’s only getting bigger.
In fact, surveys show that 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience and, by 2020, it will overtake price and product as primary brand differentiators. Obviously, CX is especially important to subscription box businesses that need to not only hook but also retain customers month in and month out. You simply can’t give them a single reason to unsubscribe.
7) Forgetting About CSR
In addition to customer service, consumers also care more than ever about corporate social responsibility (CSR), with many shoppers patronizing businesses that contribute to some kind of social initiative.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a buy-one, donate-one model or if you give a percentage of your annual profits to a certain organization, consumers will spend more with companies that do some form of good. Even switching to eco-friendly packaging and fulfillment processes can help boost your CSR and, in turn, your brand’s perception.
8) Not Paying Attention to Consumer Trends
Keep your eye on the latest consumer shopping trends and make sure you’re iterating accordingly. The last thing you want is for your company to fail because you didn’t make a minor update to your website or account for the new ways people find products.
Just think about all the great eCommerce businesses that were left in the dust because they failed to optimize their websites for mobile as consumers rapidly switched to smartphone shopping. Successful entrepreneurship in 2020 and beyond is all about anticipating the customers’ needs and then responding before everyone else.
Addressing the Unique Challenges of Subscription Boxes
At the end of the day, building any successful business in today’s cutthroat economic climate relies on understanding the consumers’ desires and adapting quickly as they inevitably evolve. With that being said, subscription box services face a number of unique marketing challenges that traditional companies may not, so having a solid strategy in place can make or break your business in a flash.