First there was Birchbox with its beautifully presented package of goodies. Then there was Dollar Shave Club with its hilarious YouTube videos. A whole industry soon erupted--subscription commerce, or the so-called sub-comm industry.

For Aussie entrepreneur Kath Purkis, the subscription model seemed like a no-brainer when she was considering a new venture. At the time, she was running Le Black Book--the site she started as a 21-year-old--which offered trend fashion accessories at affordable prices.

Since launching her subscription business, Her Fashion Box, in February 2013, Kath's venture has grown to a team of 15 people and delivered 10,000 boxes in Australia and the U.S.

Here's her advice for building an online subscription business:

Get It out the Door

"Focus on getting something up, the product available, and then execute," said Purkis. "If people sign up immediately and you hit your target in 24 hours, then you can focus on building a new site with a blog, e-zine, and all the back-end functionality needed to scale"

Tools like Shopify and Woocommerce allow you to get a subscription website up and running with a limited technical understanding. Over time, you'll find out what works best for you and what customization you need.

Treat It Like a Publishing Business

Subscription businesses have a lot in common with magazine publishers. Each week, month, or quarter requires a new product to be delivered. Purkis plans her box content up to six months in advance.

"This also enables you to build content around each box from the box itself to your blog, alignments, and cross promotions," she said.

Planning in advance helps manage ordering and logistics, yet also offers room to move, should there be unseasonable weather or an unexpected trend.

Look at the Data

Purkis suggests keeping a close eye on the data if you want to build a subscription business. By understanding the data, you can target subscription options, pursue markets with the most potential, and improve your customer experience.

"We are constantly looking at our subscriber 'style profiles' when putting together our monthly accessories for each box. From our data, we know exactly how many of our subscribers prefer gold, silver, or rose-gold accessories, and we tailor to this."

She suggests keeping a close eye on Google Analytics. User surveys are another method for gathering data.

"The data doesn't lie," Purkis says, "and if 35% of traffic is from the U.S. and you aren't even shipping there yet, then you know you're onto something good. Our focus moving forward is to scale out across the U.S."

Published on: Aug 18, 2014
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