Why Don’t you Have a Subscription Service? A Personal Narrative


“Why don’t you have a Subscription Service?” This is the question I asked myself when I was in a major retail store trying to buy a new cell phone. I know what I want, I am the type of person who does not step into a retail store unless I know exactly what I want, just give me the same phone with the newest version. It took me two hours to get my buy one get one free smartphone. My contract had expired five months ago and I would have bought another phone quicker if I knew it did. But, with a five month old baby and a soon to be four year old toddler, my wife and I lose track of time. My wife is a stay at home mother and I work in the Technology industry.

I am a very skeptical and penny pinching consumer who only buys the store generic brand and I coupon clip even though I know it is not worth my time. I was cheap…that is until all of my free time disappeared with the appearance of my two new overlords who appeared on the scene starting almost four years ago. I used to have one boss at home, now I have three bosses. In fact, my boss now has two bosses. We like to make lists of things that we want to get when we go out so we won’t forget anything important.

But, between chasing after my toddler and mind numbing screams from the baby, our memory and concentration is severely compromised. We walk out of every store we visit forgetting a vital item we need. A key product often sits on the shelf even though it was on the list, it was targeted to be bought, maybe next time. We chronically run out of something and I have to make a late night trip to CVS, Walgreens or Target at least once per week to go get something. But I hate getting back in the car when I am dead tired.

Who is your ideal target demographic for your brands or retailer’s subscription services? My family, especially my wife. And 3,855,500 other people who had a birth in the US.

I am proud of my wife that she is able to be a stay at home mother, I am thankful to have a job that supports the fact that I am one of those millions of dads that don’t care about making a lot of money and climbing up the corporate ladder at this time of life. Having the title of daddy is by far the role where I put most of my priorities. In the past four years, we went from buying cheap clothes and products in retail brick and mortar stores to subscriptions. Stich Fix, although it is more expensive than buying at a discount store, is great because my wife does not have time to go out to try things on.

Although I won’t ask her to confirm this, during the past four years, she has gone up and down then up and down at least four sizes. This includes baby clothes, a lot of clothes don’t make it past a year, some don’t make it past a month. My wife delights in anticipating getting a new Stich Fix order. She loves that she has customized styles sent to her on a regular basis. If her size has changed, it is no problem returning an item, which at this time in our lives, is likely. But these are her favorite clothes because they are so unique and there will be no “Oh, she must have gotten that at (insert retail store).” I don’t ask her but I think she gets a smug feeling that she wears one of a kind items that are custom fit for her and look awesome.

I don’t care how much money it costs for these premium brands. My wife is exhausted and although I am normally a very analytical person, I will pay anything to get more convenience, to not have to think about ordering new razors because Harry’s delivers them for me. After forgetting to cancel a subscription order from them once, I got extra razors that I didn’t need. During this time in my life, I like to stockpile items because I have severe scarcity mentality issues.

After the kids go to bed, the first ten minutes of our nightly conversation is what we ran out of and when we will make it to the store to buy items we are out of.  When we are low on any baby item, that is an extreme emergency. I have to get in the car and go get it ASAP or the bosses will have their way with me. I have to drive to the nearest convenience store and pay a premium on that item. Not on sale? I don’t care. Price is marked up an extra 20 percent? I don’t care. I am in a distressed state and all I care about it hearing, “Thanks honey”. I want the crisis to be over. I admit, I don’t like shopping like this, when I am emotionally compromised, it has to be done.

But if I had my analytical way I would get everything delivered and everything scheduled.  Heavy bulky items? All subscriptions. Anything I can think of that needs to be replenished on a period basis? Subscriptions.

If I knew if anybody has a subscription service for anything I buy, I don’t care about the price right now. Price is not important, convenience is. But what I do want is good service. After a hard day at work, I have to provide excellent service to my family. I want my subscription service to provide good service to me. If I have to be on my A game with my family, when I call your service, you need to make sure you are on yours.

After I received my subscription of razors I didn’t want, I got a follow up e-mail from Harry’s asking me how things went. I was angry because I forgot to extend the interval in my razor subscription. The reason why I didn’t need the order delivered at that time is because due to getting only four hours a sleep per night and feeling like a zombie, and the fact that I’m a slob, I lost some of the razors months ago but recently found them. I had 20 razor blades sitting on my shelf, which makes me feel good due to scarcity mentality. I currently have a phobia about running out of anything due to reasons mentioned above. I don’t want to have to think about anything except taking care of my family.

Back to Harry’s. I told Harry’s that I didn’t want the razors but I forgot to return them because I just had my second child and it was a very low priority for me. I wanted to find out how to return them but thought that I would just add to my stockpile of razors, which I didn’t like but didn’t care much. After all, I would eventually use them. The response? Not only did the representative tell me to keep them, I was refunded the entire cost of the order, AND she went ahead and cancelled my subscription. When I am ready, I can start it up again. Customer. For. Life.

In the 21st Century, automation is the key to survival. In my line of work, I need to automate as many processes as possible or else I will be out of a job. You would think that a company would quickly run out of things to automate but I haven’t come across that yet. Your product also needs to have an automation plan or else survival will be very difficult. As with the case in buying a new phone, I would have gladly bought the latest and greatest phone five months earlier I have had known that my contract had already expired. But I got no notification that it did. The carrier did not allow me to have an automatic subscription or even reminder set up to tell me that I could spend, spend, spend.

Would you rather have someone buy your product exactly when the consumer needs it or is it acceptable to let the consumer just forget that they need to reorder even though they are almost out or have run out and it will take a stressful crisis to realize that they did. Every line of business needs to make it easy for their customer to not have to think about receiving your product any longer than necessary. Subscriptions mean automation, automation is revenue. Lack of automation is delayed or lost revenue.

At OceanX, we are committed to providing exceptional levels of service. We have the technical expertise to market your brand, the technology to scale up to any size business, and even provide fulfillment services so that you can focus on your product. Visit us at oceanx.com to find out more about how to get your subscription service up in running in less time than you think.

Richard Lee is a senior programmer at OceanX. He leaves and breathes automation. He is a father of two and volunteers coaching youth sports and loves reading and playing softball.

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