Online sales have been growing steadily for the past several years. In 2019, consumers spent close to $138 billion during the holiday season. In 2020, shoppers came back even stronger, spending over $200 billion during that last holiday quarter. Now, as the 2021 holiday season approaches, EMarketer predicts that e-commerce sales will rise by 11.3% to $206.88 billion.
Mastering the art of subscription gifts is more important now than ever. We sat down with Akeelah Kuraishi, CEO and Co-Founder of Little Global Citizens, a subscription box that teaches kids about cultures & countries of the world, with a goal of fostering open mindedness, global awareness and compassion towards others. Kuraishi gave us her experienced perspective on maximizing returns on the subscription market this year.
Kuraishi discussed how to balance sanity with sales. Here are some of her tips and tricks for subscription gift businesses to tackle the holidays this year.
Types of Subscription Gifts
When it comes to subscription gift businesses, you can choose between several different time frames, payment options, promotions, bundles, and more that meet your business’s needs during this year’s holidays.
Barkbox, EveryPlate, and Book of the Month all offer monthly plans in which you can cancel or skip your month at any time. Additionally, they often have promotions for first-time buyers and discounts for those who choose an annual plan upfront.
Some companies offer annual upfront payments for their subscription gift boxes, whereas others offer three- and six-month commitment plans.
Perks of Annual & Monthly Subscriptions
Kuraishi emphasizes the importance of not overwhelming people with too many options. Often, she explains, the upfront cost of an annual subscription is simpler than three- or six-month subscription options, so she encourages owners to capitalize on that simplicity.
Furthermore, annual subscribers are the most likely to renew when the subscription takes care to fit seamlessly into users’ lives. Kuraishi explains: “Usually, people feel like they’re much more a part of the community, and if they’ve enjoyed their subscription, it becomes a part of their routine.”
Kuraishi believes an annual subscription also lends itself to repeat holiday purchases the following year. “It allows customers to put a finite dollar amount on what they’re going to buy,” she says. The annual commitment also lowers the acquisition cost for business owners, making it often an ideal subscription model.
In Kuraishi’s business, she and her team discovered that the annual subscriptions were very successful, so they decided to prioritize those plans in their marketing. However, this is not the case for all subscription gifts.
“You need to look at your own price points, audience, and know where that comfort level is,” Kuraishi explains. When asked how to determine an audience’s comfort level, she said analytics tracking, email questionnaires, and social media surveys are all effective.
Know Your Audience
In advertising for holiday subscription gifts this year, it’s crucial to know your audience’s comfort level, psychographics, and desires. Remember that your audience may not always fall into the subcategory you’d expect. Take the time to consistently analyze data to see where to find new audiences.
At Little Global Citizens, subscription gifts are designed to introduce children to the world and its many cultures. Kuraishi initially targeted parents who loved to travel, knew it would be tough to take their children, yet still wanted to broaden their kids’ horizons.
Over time, however, she’s learned that Little Global Citizen’s audience also includes individuals she didn’t expect. “We have a lot of families come to us because they live in very rural communities and they feel like there is not necessarily that level of diversity in their hometown,” Kuraishi said.
She explains that these families “want to expose the kids through something that is conveniently delivered to their doorstep.” It’s certainly not the audience that Kuraishi initially envisioned, but it’s one that she learned more about through focusing on her audience and chose to highlight.
Consider Your Audience’s Comfort Level
Building off of knowledge of her company’s rural buyers, Kuraishi now targets people from both ends of the travel spectrum—rather than only focusing on families who enjoy traveling a lot.
She credits acknowledging where customers are in their own lives – such as recognizing that people are more inclined to buy kids boxes when kids are home more, whether that’s a result of homeschooling, for the summer, or for the winter break – as the key to planning your marketing and promotions.
Furthermore, recognize where customers are in the world. For Little Global Citizens, buyers in rural communities are more likely to purchase Kuraishi’s subscription gifts around the holidays than at other times during the year.
“I’ve also discovered that around the holidays, people are open to spending a lot more money than you would expect they are,” Kuraishi says. Additionally, the easier you make the subscription gifts purchase process, the more customers you’ll attract.
Kuraishi says, “There’s decision fatigue around the holidays, so let them know what your bestsellers are to make it easy for them to click, buy, and be done.” Making decisions for your buyers will give them clarity and precision in buying subscription gifts for their friends and family members.
Email questionnaires and social media surveys help determine your audience’s comfort levels, as do Instagram polls and quizzes for your business’s current followers. These informal tools help give business owners a real-time window to consumer’s feelings, and they’re a useful addition to hard data.
Prepare Before The Last Quarter
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Preparing everything from your services to products to customer service representatives is vital for a successful holiday season. Subscription gifts are more popular than ever, so don’t delay your preparations.
Product placement and promotions should be finalized well before the last quarter. Kuraishi recommends that businesses put their premium products front and center when advertising for the holidays.
“Don’t be shy,” she says. “When it comes to the holidays, people want to give something that feels really special to them, so put those premium products out there.” Remember: Consumers enjoy their shopping experience more when decisions are made for them, so don’t hesitate to push your best products.
You should also assume there will be shipping delays. Order early to save yourself time just in case. It’s also good to include a buffer between final order dates for your clients and your deadline to deliver the product — this gives you a little cushion in case your suppliers run late.
Every subscription gifts business wants to stand out and beat its competition. One way that you can stand out is through impeccable marketing. Kuraishi says offering a teaser of a small gift to the gifter is highly appealing.
Starting content creation and audience building early is a must. Kuraishi encourages businesses to begin this marketing step in July so that they’re all set for the holiday season. “Online publications are starting to put together holiday gift guides in July, so you need to be front and center,” she explains.
She also believes being transparent will be useful to all subscription businesses. When you’re sold out of your product or subscription box, don’t be afraid to advertise it as such. Then, when people preorder the subscription gift, they will get even more excited for its arrival.
Assuming you’ll need help and seeking it out in advance will save you heartache and a headache when the holiday season arrives. Kuraishi said hiring people early on and getting firm commitments is key to a smooth online-ordering process.
“Well before November, start to look for people [employees]. Meet with them, interview them,” she says. “If they’re friends and family, look at your schedule and their schedule to get firm commitments so that during the Q4 scramble, you’re not hiring, training, and just now meeting the people who will be helping you.”
Lastly, Kuraishi says preparing your customer service team will decrease your stress. Giving them pre-planned answers to common questions will help them feel confident enough to assist your future subscription gifts customers. If you and your team don’t answer customers quickly enough, somebody else will, and you’ll lose the sale.
Use Subscription Gifts To Give Back
As you already know, your holiday season sales numbers will likely increase, so it’s a great time to give back to the customers you love.
“The more you prep for it, the more you’ll enjoy the season,” Kuraishi says. “It’s a season of celebrating and a great time to remind your customers how much you appreciate them.”
If you’re planning on donating a percentage of your revenue to charity, she suggests you let your customers know because consumers are often drawn to companies that give back.
As you prepare for the holiday rush – whether this is your first season or your fifteenth – offering the flexibility of gift subscriptions is an excellent way to be introduced to new customers and build loyalty with existing ones.