Welcome to the first in a series of articles examining the burgeoning subscription commerce (“subcom”) industry. Before we begin, please allow me to acknowledge that this series in intended to focus on internet-based, often nationally distributed companies in the business of providing consumers a membership or subscription style club. We will be examining the industry from the perspective of merchants, consumers, and prospective entrepreneurs in the process of starting a subcom business. (I’d like to note that any attempts at humor you find funny were absolutely intended, and any jokes or references that appear to fall flat are of course due to typos and/or the work of extremely-specific hackers.)
Subcom companies exist, in the broadest sense, to provide consumers with periodic (often monthly) goods or services in return for periodic payments. There are endless variations to the basic model, but if you have ever heard of a “Wine of the Month” club, you already have a pretty good idea of this style of business. For a more substantial view of the huge variety of companies already available, check outmonthlygifter.com which devotes section to listing unique and locally-focused subcombusinesses.
Interest in the subcom space has begun to rise as evidenced by the increase in the number of web-based clubs and related venture capital investments. Although to some this trend may seem like an exciting new, internet-specific business model (Doesn’t the word ‘subcom’ sound kind of techie? Or at least like the name of a secret hide-out for a James Bond villain?), to call it so may be considered inaccurate. Rather, it is based off an old model (remember Omaha Steaks, how about Columbia House Records) that is getting dusted off and revitalized by recent consumer interest combined and new e-commerce tools available. NYC-based entrepreneur Mark Birch has already written an interesting blog post highlighting some of the fundamental issues inherently facing the industry, which I will address in a future article.
As with any new (or revitalizing industry), perceptions and understandings are constantly being redefined, and with this in mind, I encourage readers to challenge these articles with the goal of adding to the collective knowledge of the greater subcomcommunity.
Forthcoming articles in the series will examine the different types of club models available (by product, theme, etc.), specific subcom companies (established vs. newer rivals), and some of the peripheral players that are becoming more important to the industry. If you have any topics in particular that you’d like covered, please feel to reach out to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via twitter @monthlygifter
I hope to make this blog a sounding board for any and all to reference in their own learning about the growing subcom industry. There are many quality articles emerging on the subject, to which I will reference within the series, and I encourage readers to contribute any additional readings they have found interesting or helpful.
Please also note that the term ‘subcom’ can be attributed to Sean Percival who has written several excellent articles covering this industry as well.