While pet owners enjoy spending money on their pets, the pet supply business is already crowded, cluttered and challenging to break through. But, with a keen eye to opportunity, Deena Bronz discovered an underserved group of customers that were a perfect fit for the *subscription economy (the term "Subscription Economy" was created in 2007 by Tien Tzuo, Founder & CEO of Zuora, Inc.)
Deena Bronz is the co-founder of KitNipBox, a curated monthly box of cat products, including toys, treats, accessories and even Halloween costumes. Deena shares her advice for finding the right product or service to offer, building a community for the members, and focusing on retention.
Discover Opportunities by Digging Beyond the Surface
The single most important question to answer before launching any subscription service, including subscription boxes, is, “Who is my target customer?” While most start-ups fall in love with their product, service, SAAS tool or the contents of their box, the smartest start-ups focus on their target customer instead. Then, they create a product that meets the needs and wants of that potential subscriber.
When Deena started her market research, she focused on the pet industry. She had a long history of volunteering with pets, and she was able to pour her personal interest into her research. And although the best industry includes huge corporate players and several existing subscription boxes, her research revealed a gap in the market for servicing cat owners. Deena reveals that “80% or more of the shelf space in pet stores is dedicated to dogs, and much of the innovation in the pet space has really been focused on dogs.”
Once you have determined your product and target audience, Deena recommends taking a lean startup approach as described in the book, The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. “The gist of my advice would be to test early and test often, and experiment and see if there's demand for your product. Rather than just doing market research, put together the first version of your product and try to actually sell it and see if people subscribe to it.” She adds, “the most important question you can answer before investing a great deal into establishing your own operations, or maybe building that perfect website instead of a basic one, is whether or not people will actually buy your product.”
Member Retention Starts by Delivering a Great Product
Member retention involves staying engaged with the customer as well as continued attention to your product or service. “If you don't have a wonderful and joyful unboxing experience, and if both the owner doesn't feel that there's value and quality there and the cat doesn't engage with the item, then you're going to lose that customer sooner rather than later,” Deena warns.
To keep that unboxing experience positive requires a lot of product testing. At KitNipBox, product safety is their first concern. When a product passes their stringent cat safety requirements, they experiment with features to delight both the cat and the owner. “If the cat doesn't engage with our box, no matter how cute or how high in value the human thinks it is, they're not going to keep subscribing.” Deena adds, “if you do your homework and you do things right, you can satisfy a human personality and similarly, you can have a great product for a cat personality too.”
Reduce Churn and Increase Retention by Engaging Subscribers into Your Community
For most subscription economy businesses, their member retention efforts end with the product they deliver. Too many believe that a great product will drive retention. While the quality of your product is critical, KitNipBox also engages subscribers into a vibrant tribal community. Deena shares that she “invested upfront in creating a very engaged and vibrant social media community. It's just something customers enjoy doing and want to do. They see other people's unboxing videos and kitties enjoying the toys and they want to share their own. We never really have a shortage of subscribers sharing. The community that we built feeds on itself, and there are people that post all the time and subscribers that know each other from our social media channels and just love sharing their experiences with each other and with us.”
To stay in touch with her subscribers, Deena has implemented an email sequence. “We want to make sure that they're always up to date on exactly when they're getting their box and what's going on, and we also try to engage them on social media. For example, on every product insert that goes in the box, we have our social media icons. We encourage them to post pictures and videos and we also make ourselves available.”
Your three keys for maximum subscription growth are a focus on your target customer, delivering a great product experience for your customer and engage subscribers in a vibrant tribal community.
* Subscription Economy: the term "Subscription Economy" was created in 2007 by Tien Tzuo, Founder & CEO of Zuora, Inc.
Learn more about building a successful subscription business from Deena’s interview on Membership and Subscription Growth.
To continue to get membership and subscription growth insights as well as advice from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the subscription economy, subscribe to the podcast Membership and Subscription Growth.