Subscription e-retailers could soon have a chance to distinguish themselves from the competition by earning a seal of approval.
The creation of industry standards and certification for retailers that meet them is one of the key goals of the newly created Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA), launched May 30 at the second Subscription Summit conference, held this year in Austin, Texas.
Founded by the organizers of the Subscription Summit, SUBTA is a for-profit association that aims to support the growth of subscription businesses through networking and professional development opportunities, the creation of customer service benchmarks, and fostering a “socially conscious” culture in the subscription box industry.
“Over the next decade, the subscription box industry is on track to generate more than $90 billion in annual revenues,” says Paul Chambers, CEO of digital marketing and web development company Element5 Digital and one of the co-founders of the association. “We believe forming SUBTA is a natural next step given the growth that is ongoing in subscription commerce as a whole, and creating a global network that helps grow enduringly fantastic subscription businesses just makes sense.”
In addition to his role at Element5, Chambers co-founded Gentleman’s Box, a subscription e-retailer that sells boxes containing fashion and lifestyle accessories, such as ties, socks, wallets, sunglasses and skin care products.
Chambers says SUBTA plans to create a certification program that will allow subscription e-retailers to display a “SUBTA Certified” seal on their websites, marketing materials and packaging. To earn the seal, retailers would have to meet certain standards related to customer service, product quality and other criteria, though details have not been determined, Chambers says.
Going forward, the Subscription Summit will operate under the auspices of SUBTA. The organization also plans to hold other events, commission surveys to collect data on the subscription retail industry, launch an online community for members and offer a “mystery shopping” service that will allow retailers to evaluate the online experience of customers as well as fine-tune customer service and product offerings.
Down the road, SUBTA plans to send a monthly newsletter, created podcasts hosted by industry innovators and others, and provide offers to members from partners.
Among the initial members of SUBTA is Bulu Box, which builds subscription box programs for other companies and also has its own subscription box business. At Bulubox.com, the company sells health food and dietary supplement sample boxes on a subscription or one-time basis, as well as full-size packages of health food and supplements.
“I’m really honored, excited and stoked to be part of this,” says Paul Jarrett, co-founder and CEO of Bulu Box and a member of the association’s executive board.
Jarrett said the need for an organization like SUBTA became apparent as subscription box entrepreneurs began to seek each other out informally to discuss common concerns, such as how to fight frivolous lawsuits and minimize fraud. That interaction helped lead to the creation of the Subscription Summit, and then the association.
Jarrett says retailers and vendors should benefit from the opportunity to learn from each other at SUBTA-sponsored events and, potentially, take advantage of special discounts and offers negotiated for members of the association.
There are two levels of SUBTA membership. The basic membership is available at an introductory rate of $10 per month, which will eventually be $15 per month. Chambers said that level of membership is aimed at e-retailers. A “partnership”-level membership—aimed at vendors and service providers that serve e-retailers—is available at $40 and will eventually cost $50 per month.
Additional founding members of the association include:
- SmartPetLove, which makes pet supplies that are sold in stores and online at Amazon.com, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500; PetSmart.com (No. 365) and Chewy.com (No. 57), which PetSmart bought.
- Vivabox, which works with retailers design and create sampling packages.
- Tiege Hanley, a subscription seller of men’s skin care products.
- Pins+Needles Kits, a seller of monthly sewing project kits.
- Brēō Box, a quarterly subscription service of health and fitness products.