Adding One-Time Purchasing to Your Subscription Business

Your subscription business doesn’t always have to be all recurring revenue. One-time purchasing can be a powerful tool to boost revenue, pilot new ideas, and even support your brand partners.

Subscription businesses put emphasis on recurring revenue. Here, we consider customers not simply as “customers” but as subscribers, a special type of buyer defined by a repeated behavior.

Though there is this fundamental uniqueness to subscription businesses, that’s not to say you can’t benefit from one-time sales and shouldn’t pursue them.

In fact, one-time purchasing offers unique opportunities to capture additional revenue from your subscribers, test demand for new products or product ideas, and even support brand partners. One-time purchasing also offers an opportunity to profit from excess stock that you may be otherwise unable to use for your subscription business. Short-dated products or items that no longer fit your theme can easily be marketed with deep discounts (20, 30, or even 50% off retail), giving you a stream of revenue that also helps you with operational realities of your business.

Recently, Cratejoy has released a new feature (at no additional cost) for one-time purchasing, making it easy for you to integrate this traditional sales channel into your existing subscription business. Here are a few cases you might find useful to consider when implementing your one-time purchasing functionality.

Strategy 1: Flash Sales

Flash sales are a type of ecommerce sale that emphasizes a deep sale on a product for only a short period of time. You’ve likely come across the Groupon or Living Social deal sites. This is essentially what they offer, and you can use this same approach with your subscription business.

Step 1: Choose the Right Product

First, consider what it is you might be flash selling. A successful flash sale will include an item that is interesting to your audience and the fits your business’ niche. This could be a full-size product that they recently tried in your box, or something that goes along with your subscription, but didn’t fit inside the normal subscription/is meant to be complementary to the experience.

Step 2: Determine Procurement

Ask yourself if you’ll need to procure the items before the sale, or if you’re having the vendor fulfill the orders (ship them to customers). If you’re doing a flash sale for your own stock, you’ll be the one fulfilling the orders. If the vendor is housing the item and fulfilling it, you’ll likely need to negotiate margin splits and walk through operations with them.

(As a side note, setting up flash deals separately with brand partners can be a great way to create measurable results for them!)

Step 3: Choose a Great Price and Market it!

Once your product is figured out, you’ll need to determine the price. Offering a deeper discount may be more appropriate for the flash sale of your own excess stock, whereas a new item procured from new vendors may have more sensitive margins. In both cases, be sure to understand shipping and handling costs when determining your price.

Marketing this can be done through your newsletters, social media, and on your site. Consider building a specific call to action in your menu, making it easy for members to navigate to your shop. Remember to emphasize the time limitations of the product to truly inspire that flash sale marketing!

Strategy 2: Extra Boxes

Another great use of one-time purchasing is to clear out any extra boxes you might have at the end of the month. Simply add the box to your store, notify subscribers or potential new customers, and fulfill the orders when completed with the sale. This is an easy way to allow some last minute purchases for a month while ensuring you’re fulfilling as many orders as possible.

Strategy 3:Bonus Boxes and/or Lean-Testing Alternatives

In a similar vein to extra boxes, you can use one-time purchasing to capture additional revenue from customer by offering bonus boxes, like a Spring bonus box, a special cooking box, or some other theme that goes along with your subscription business. For example, if your subscription focuses on handmade goods, perhaps a one-time bonus box with handmade products from a specific country would resonate with your audience.

It’s here that you can also lean test for new box ideas/new product offerings for your subscribers. One example would be to offer a larger, more premium option one month. Try the idea out by marketing it to your subscribers as a one-time bonus box. If it goes over well, consider building it into your normal offerings.

Here, it’s important to think about how this affects your product offerings, the margins you make on each transaction, and what operational implications this has (like increased procurement or need for new materials).

Understand One-Time Purchasing

As you begin to work through a few sales, the operations and user-cases you might experience will become clearer to you, but in general, there aren’t many additional tasks you need to cover.

In fact, the planning process is mostly similar to your regular operations each month: Set expectations clearly on the sale page (like fulfillment date, restrictions, and what’s included), be sure to plan ahead with your packing and fulfillment, and be creative with how you market and use this new feature.

Importantly, remember that making flash sales part of your monthly offering can entice subscribers, and that means your business will capture more share of wallet, which means more revenue!

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About Jesse Richardson

Jesse Richardson is an author, educator and co-founder of several successful subscription businesses. He focuses on building engaging communities and has been described as "insanely customer centric." Find him in the Subscription School group or at his blog.

2 Responses

  1. Will

    Thanks Jesse, adding one time purchasing to our website is something we’ve considered at VetBox for a while but were worried it may distract/confuse potential (more valuable) subscribers. Definitely a helpful way to get rid of any short dated stock as well as for customers to top-up on any of the products they get through quickly.

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