Subscription businesses abound today, and that’s a great thing. It’s not a zero-sum game. With every new subscription model rolled out—especially in the food and beverage space—demand keeps growing. There’s room for everyone. That means two things.
First, it means that subscription programs for physical products aren’t a fad. They’re part of an inevitable shift in consumer behavior that we’re witnessing in real time. 63% of shopping transactions, across all industries, begin online. That number is not going down.
Second, it means that subscription programs aren’t difficult to pull off. If you think about the component parts of a coffee subscription program, it may seem daunting. Payments need to be recurring and physical shipments must consistently go out. Because customers have ongoing touchpoints with your business, you’ll have to provide regular customer support. Well, things are not what they seem. The right ecommerce platform makes it all surprisingly easy.
And that unlocks all the amazing benefits a coffee bean subscription offers businesses.
In this post, we’ll touch on what you need to consider when looking for an ecommerce platform to launch your subscription coffee program. Full disclosure, we offer an ecommerce platform. But this article isn’t a sales pitch. We’re writing it because we spent years developing the premier wholesale B2B ecommerce platform. This is what all the hard work taught us.
Customizing the Transactional Experience
Subscription programs may not have hundreds or thousands of options, like one-time sales may, but the transaction must be tweaked to customer preference. Recurring payments and online and mobile ordering are the two key features a good coffee ecommerce website has.
Had we written this article with one thing to look for, and one thing only, we could have started and stopped with recurring payments. It is, as is probably obvious, a large part of what makes a subscription a subscription. (You can brush up on what a monthly coffee subscription is if you need a quick refresher.) You’ll need an ecommerce platform that not only offers recurring billing and automatic payments, but that allows customers to:
- Initiate the transaction and the terms of the transaction. In the context of a coffee subscription, this means that they can choose the items and the frequency of payment.
- Easily change or cancel their subscription (if within your terms of service)
- Use a dashboard that lets them simply manage all subscriptions and invoices no matter where they are in the subscription lifecycle.
Online and Mobile Ordering
By the end of 2020, orders placed via mobile apps and smart devices will account for almost 11 percent of all quick-service restaurant sales.
Or, how about this one: Close to 70% of adults in the U.S. shop online, and roughly 87% of those between ages 30 and 49 do it on their mobile devices. By the end of next year, three out of every four ecommerce transactions are predicted to be done through a mobile device.
As consumer behavior continues its migration to the online sphere, mobile has become its fastest-growing component. All ecommerce platforms support online ordering, of course. That’s how they got the first e in their name. But you’ll need to create a coffee ecommerce website with a platform that is totally and utterly optimized for mobile ordering. Not all of them can say they are, so it’s up to you to ferret that functionality and capability out.
A subscription business isn’t typically built around a vast catalog of products, like one-time sales. But for a customer to get the best experience out of the sign-up process, and ultimately out of the subscription as a whole, everything you offer should be discoverable.
Digital analytics firm Clicktale looked into thousands of ecommerce sites and released two telling statistics about product discovery:
- Small retailers had an average time-on-site of 200 seconds, compared to average time-on-site for large retailers at 70 seconds
- Smaller retailers had an average bounce rate of 34%, compared to the average bounce rate for large retailers at 9.4%
Time-on-site is how long a user spends on your website. Bounce rate is the number of people who visit your site and then leave without continuing on to further pages. In digital marketing, the higher the time-on-site, the better, so the usual thinking goes. That means users are finding your website more engaging and spending more time interacting with it.
But the bounce rate statistic in this example shows what’s really going on. For potential customers using an ecommerce website, these aren't welcome interactions. They’re wrestling with unwieldy, disorganized digital catalogs and failing to find what they want. So they leave. One report we found states that 52% of buyers claim that over half of their purchases are influenced by convenience, while a whopping 97% say they’ve abandoned a transaction because it was just too inconvenient.
Larger retailers with more polished web design and digital marketing operations optimize their product discovery. Users on those pages spend less time on the website because they find what they want and transact quickly.
And according to another report, 72% of people said that browsing a catalog increased their interest in a retailer’s products. And 84% said they purchased something only after seeing it in a catalog. We humans are visual creatures. The better your products are shown, the better they’ll sell.
Whatever ecommerce platform you choose must have a developed digital catalog functionality to make all your great stuff findable. Or people will bounce.
Note: If numbers speak to you, here are some more helpful statistics about coffee club subscriptions.
Data and Analytics
That so much buying behavior has moved online has been a boon to small businesses. Every action taken online leaves a trail, and a team of analysts isn’t necessary to sort through it. Any good ecommerce platform captures and collects all those actions, then organizes and presents them in ways that help its users draw actionable insights. It should be easy, too.
Analyzing the numbers, for most ecommerce entrepreneurs, should be a matter of using drop-down menus. But two distinct metrics are especially important for two pillars of any successful business: customer acquisition and customer retention. They are user adoption and customer lifetime value. Coffee businesses can then use those numbers to delight existing customers and win back churned ones.
Having an ecommerce solution is not enough. It’s pretty much the baseline for conducting business online. But having a good ecommerce solution that more and more people use sets you apart. That’s why you’ll have to make an effort to drive user adoption. So look for a coffee ecommerce platform that makes it easy to monitor user adoption numbers and promote ecommerce to users who have yet to transact via your subscription model. And, ideally, that platform that will actually partner with you to help drive adoption. Platforms like that are out there, trust us.
Customer Lifetime Value
User adoption rates are black-and-white. Someone either does or doesn’t sign up for a coffee subscription. Customer lifetime value numbers, on the other hand, quantify how valuable certain customers are compared to others. Look for an eCommerce platform that allows you to see all your active subscription sales and break it down by customer. Then you’ll know who your best customers are. And those are the customers you should put those most effort into nurturing relationships with.
Targeted Deals, Promotions, and Product Discovery
With all that juicy data in your hands, you’ll know exactly what every customer’s bought, how often, and how long ago. You’ll be able to target customers with relevant offers or win back churned customers with loads of actionable insights.
The more interactions a customer has with your business, the more potential need for customer support. Even if a subscription only requires one active step—visiting the website and signing up—the rest of the steps are passive. They’ll still be monitoring their payments, receiving your products, and checking delivery and order statuses.
Being able to provide support to people in an ongoing relationship with your business is mandatory. Communicating with prospects or customers throughout the purchase process, and post-sale, is now easier than ever with the help of the right coffee ecommerce platform. You can use live chat on a website or messaging on a mobile app while leveraging data and insights from your CRM to create a customized support experience.
A good coffee ecommerce platform can get you there.
Refunds and Returns
Any ecommerce platform that successfully propels a coffee subscription program needs to manage returns and issue refunds and credits. If you have a speedy process for handling errors and changed minds, and you can communicate what’s happening to customers in real-time, you’ll enhance the customer experience in a big way.
Make sure the payment processing on the platform you choose is flexible enough to handle returns, refunds, and credits immediately. And that you can issue them directly to customers.
Customer Relationship Management
Check out the reviews for any business and you’ll notice two themes: people review the product or service or people review the customer support.
As an online, subscription-based business, customer support generates almost as much word-of-mouth marketing as the quality of your coffee. Think of Zappos. They built their reputation and customer base almost entirely on customer experience.
Nurturing relationships with your best customers (with special offers, immediate customer support, white glove programs, etc.) is the easiest way to keep revenue coming in. As the old saying goes, it’s easier to keep an existing customer than acquire a new one.
Ability to Scale
Your coffee ecommerce platform should not need to be abandoned because you’ve done everything right and your business is taking off. That would be about the worst thing you could do—switch operational platforms—just as your business is turning the corner. It needs to grow with you.
- Are there bigger and better plans available for when your business needs them?
- Does the platform itself integrate with any payment processing or other operational plug-ins you may end up using?
- Does the platform’s team of devs have cool, new features in the pipeline and a progressive, growth-oriented attitude toward their company and its products?
If yes to all three of these, you’ve found an ecommerce platform that will grow with your business.
The vast majority of successful, large companies base much of their strategy around improving the customer experience. The right ecommerce platform is a crucial part to realizing that strategy. And a huge part of how to successfully start monthly coffee subscription boxes.
There are a lot of ecommerce platforms out there, but not all of them are tailored to the food and bev industry. Not all of them were built in collaboration with food distribution experts with decades of experience. BlueCart was. It was built, specifically, to get food and bev products out the door quickly and seamlessly. That’s what makes it uniquely qualified to be the engine behind coffee subscription businesses. In short, the best coffee ecommerce platform out there.
Book a demo and we’ll walk you through exactly what BlueCart can do to get your coffee subscription business up and running. And exactly how BlueCart helps thousands of businesses just like yours—including some of our best coffee roasters—succeed every day.