6 Inventory Management Tips for E-Commerce Subscription Boxes
Subscription boxes offered online can be a viable business model, provided you can give the target market what it wants. Finding the items to stock an e-commerce subscription box with is more complex than it seems, but you can use various e-commerce inventory management strategies to ease the challenges.
1. Surprise People With the Contents of the E-Commerce Subscription Box
Many e-commerce subscription box companies build in flexibility by being upfront about how the contents vary. For example, you might promise they contain products from certain broad categories and tell beauty box subscribers they’ll always receive one item for their skin and another for their hair.
That approach frees you from the e-commerce inventory management challenges of having a minimum quantity of specific products. It also enables supplier diversification.
Plus, subscribers should appreciate being surprised but have accurate expectations about what they’ll receive. People may not always get items they love, but they’re prepared for that outcome.
2. Use Data Within Your E-Commerce Inventory Management Strategies
Data can be powerful for helping you improve the handling of e-commerce inventory management for your subscription boxes. Keeping track of metrics like how many customers you gain or lose per month can make it easier to stay on top of what you’ll need to keep the boxes stocked.
Adventuretown Toy Emporium is a Los Angeles-based toy store with a brick-and-mortar and online presence. It recently announced a customized subscription box tailored to kids aged 0–3. The company sources from 35 countries and puts one or two toys in each box.
People curate the boxes based on data from parents about whether their kids are meeting developmental milestones on time and the experiences the children had with previously received items. Those insights help the people filling the boxes choose relevant goods.
3. Sign Deals With Suppliers or Other Partners
Navigating the e-commerce subscription box landscape usually requires adhering to supplier minimums. That might mean you must buy in bulk from your box supplier. However, before placing an order, it’s better for businesses to see if they can request a sample. If boxes don’t assemble easily, it might not be worth it. Saving 5 seconds per box assembly can make teams more efficient and get products to customers quicker.
Another possibility is to enter exclusive deals where an in-demand artist creates several box designs you’ll send out in a single month. That’s a great way to increase influencer traction as those personalities make their ever-popular unboxing videos. It also increases anticipation because people will wonder which designs they’ll get.
4. Be Honest About Slowdowns
Anything from bad weather to unexpected product shortages could make it more challenging to send subscription boxes on time. High demand can also increase problems. Even Amazon occasionally experiences them — during the 2021 Prime Days event, customers had to wait two weeks beyond the usual time frames to get an in-demand mini camera.
However, telling customers about any delays as soon as you learn about them is usually the preferable option to staying quiet. Besides informing them about slowdowns, be transparent about what you’re doing to solve them. Relatedly, admit which aspects are out of your control.
If necessary, create a dedicated part of your e-commerce subscription box website that provides the latest information as you get it. That could work better than sending out numerous emails customers may eventually overlook.
5. Provide Limited Choices When Feasible
Some subscription box companies let a restricted number of people choose between two offerings. Perhaps you have a snack subscription service and allow the first 1,000 customers to submit their preferences for either a salty or sweet treat from a particular brand. However, anyone who tries to do that too late will get whatever’s available.
Taking that approach should make it easier to engage with your supplier because you only need a minimum of 1,000 packages of each snack version. Beyond that, you have the flexibility to get whatever option is more reasonably priced, easier to source or has some other desirable characteristic.
However, customers typically like when you give them some options. This suggestion makes it easy to do that without putting too much strain on your supply chain.
6. Specialize in Recurring Subscription Boxes
Company leaders often find it easier to source an e-commerce subscription box if the contents are somewhat consistent every month. Statistics from 2020 indicated people spent about $74 per month on food and meal kit subscriptions. If your subscription box is that type, you might allow people to choose a certain number of meals for a monthly rate. However, they need to select the ones they want so you can indicate when specific offerings sell out.
This strategy also works well if you have a well-established supply chain network in a particular region. You might sell a coffee subscription box and promise all recipients of February’s box will get an organic blend from a South American roaster. Mentioning that allows you to engage with all your suppliers on that continent to ensure they’ll collectively have enough products to fill the month’s boxes.
It’s also wise to encourage people to sign up for a minimum number of months and give them the option to renew. Knowing the precise number of people signed up to receive six months of a recurring subscription box makes it easier to figure out how to get adequate stock. Clarifying that people cannot cancel and restart their e-commerce subscription box plan at any time also makes inventory more manageable.
Set Up for Subscription Box Success
Managing subscription box inventory comes with specific challenges. However, planning thoroughly and following these suggestions will help you overcome obstacles.
Listen to your customers, too. If they love or dislike certain items, their feedback might be reason enough to prolong or end your relationship with particular suppliers.