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March 28, 2011 4:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm researching starting a candy business, initially selling at craft shows and farmers markets and online. I'm planning to do a new-flavor-of-the-month subscription, and am researching the best way to manage these purchases.

Here's how I envision it:
A customer buys a subscription for themselves or as a gift. Whether they buy it in person or online, they (or the gift recipient) receive a nice physical card that says, Hey, you got a subscription! Then every month for 3 or 6 or 12 months they (or the gift recipient) get a cute little box of candies.

But how? What tools can I use to make this system easy and appealing for customers and time-saving for me? Any good examples out there of people doing similar things? I haven't chosen a shopping cart system for my website yet, is there a relatively inexpensive program that can manage this kind of purchase in a user-friendly way? I've seen people use Etsy for subscriptions like this but it seems sort of clunky and Paypal-limited.

Here are features I'd like-

-the ability to buy multiple gift subscriptions at once and give them to different people at different times.
-the ability to give subscriptions to non-web-savvy people (is going online and entering a code to start your subscription a barrier to too many people?)
-the ability for me to keep track of subscriptions purchased and subscriptions activated, and subscriptions of different lengths expiring
-automatic updating things like shipping lists and numbers of orders to produce
-nice design
posted by doift to Shopping (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For non-tech people, you should an order by phone option - that feeds to an answering machine.

"Thank you for calling Doift's Candy subscription line. Our operators are busy making candy, but if you would leave your name and number, someone will call you back shortly, and help you set up your subscription."

Check the messages periodically, then call people back sitting in front of your computer, and you enter the info for them over the phone.
posted by Flood at 5:14 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

One idea that might help grow your business:

when someone buys a subscription, they have the option to send a tiny sample of candy (maybe one small piece of each different flavour?) to [any address that is not the subscription address] for a very small price / or for free.

This way, your customers are spreading the word about how delicious your candy is to all their friends and relatives...
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 5:32 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a surprisingly successful company in the UK selling subscription "healthy snack" packs. You wouldn't go far wrong by having a look at their website to see how they do things: http://www.graze.com/

A big difference of course is that you intend to have more gift sales while they are more focused on direct sales. Like Sockpuppets suggested, one of their main marketing tools is giving their existing customers vouchers for free trials of the service to give to their friends. It's on the usual "give us your credit card now and we won't charge you if you cancel" basis.

Shopify is popular as an online shop management system but doesn't seem to have much if any subscription support.
posted by Morbuto at 6:16 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

the once-a-month subscription model is pretty common in the indie yarn-dyeing world. it's a great way for smaller operations to have a steady source of income and knitters/spinners go nuts for exclusive, one-of-a-kind hand-made yarn or fiber.

most folks do three, six or twelve month prices (usually a little discounted for the longer periods) through paypal on their personal site. and then shipping begins before a specific cut-off date. if you join the club after the cut-off date, you start the shipping period in the next month.

i am not sure how they handle shipments/payments internally - seems like an excel spreadsheet of customers and billing dates grouped by order amounts and ship dates would be the easiest way to keep track of everybody.

here's one example for you to look at - spunky eclectic. here's her club payment form, and the faqs.

these clubs are usually capped at a certain number - and they can get pretty exclusive. another example is the rockin' socks club by blue moon. it sells out super fast and is well known within the knitting community.
posted by chickadee at 6:20 PM on March 28, 2011

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