Cheeseboard and cheeseknife and cheeses

There’s been a lot of interest in the subscription e-commerce business model lately. It’s a model that I think is particularly powerful.

Getting Someone to Buy is Hard

Anyone who has run an e-commerce website will tell you that getting a website visitor to buy something is hard.

Think about what’s involved:

First, you have to get them to your site (often no easy feat in itself).

Next, you need to explain your product and service in a clear and compelling way.

Then, you must reassure them that your website is a safe place to buy something.

Even if they’ve stayed with you this far (and most won’t have), there’s still a good chance they’ll abandon their purchase part-way through, leaving you in the dark about why – perhaps their friend just called; maybe they fired up Amazon to see if they could get your product cheaper elsewhere, then got side-tracked into buying the latest DVD boxed set; or they might have just changed their mind.

Put all this together and you can appreciate why, on average, only about 2% of visits to a typical e-commerce website result in a purchase.

Subscriptions to the Rescue!

Subscriptions are powerful because, with them, you only have to get each customer through that difficult funnel once. Then it’s up to you to provide a wonderful service. As long as you do, your customer will, more often than not, remain subscribed.

Six UK Cheese Retailers can’t be Wrong

What’s that? You don’t believe me that subscriptions are powerful?

It turns out I’m not the only person to be keen on subscriptions. UK cheese retailers seem to be particular fans. Incredibly, there are now at least six subscription e-commerce cheese services in the UK alone:

1. Pong

2. Norbiton Fine Cheese Co.

3. The Cheese Yard

4. The Cheese Gig

5. The Corbridge Larder

6. The Cheese Shed

What could You Sell by Subscription?

I’ll be interested to see where this trend of subscription e-commerce goes over the next year or two. With the emergence of technology making it ever easier to launch subscription e-commerce services, I expect lots more things to be tried. Who knows… perhaps there’ll even be more cheese subscriptions on offer.

What do you think about the recent interest in subscription e-commerce? How far will it go? And what would you like to see sold by subscription?

Update: I’ve now launched a website about subscription commerce where I discuss the subscription box industry and subscription commerce in general.

Photo by Ben Sutherland


Aaron · February 28, 2012 at 11:29 am

In your article you mention that “the emergence of technology making it ever easier to launch subscription e-commerce services”

Can you expand on this in any way?

Matt · February 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

Hi Aaron,

Great question. I’m thinking particularly of online subscription billing platforms such as Chargify and Recurly.

All the best,

Stephan · November 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your post, i believe this market is not no developed in the UK but is being expanded upon. I’m setting up a business myself within this space. Would i be able drop you an email?

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