As consumers increasingly demand convenience and tailored experiences, multichannel retailers are enjoying phenomenal growth by offering a curated range of products on a monthly subscription basis.
There are two types of subscription model. One of which is for FMCG ‘staple’ goods, such as Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service; designed to enable consumers to buy in bulk at discounted rates on a regular, often monthly basis. As for the second type, brands such as Inspire Me Korea offer a selection of goods inside a monthly box designed for consumers who are passionate about a particular area of culture, topic or hobby. In the case of this Mail Workshop client, the subject matter is everything there is to learn about Korean culture.
How it all began
With a background studying marketing and entrepreneurship at university, Diana Chan (Founder and CEO) always had a creative streak, but felt that while learning theory was one challenge, putting it into practice was another entirely. After graduating Diana decided to go travelling for a few months. Visiting Korea, she realised that while there was a lot about their culture that she really enjoyed, it was out of reach for many:
“I realised that it was really difficult for many to be able to travel to Korea and experience the culture first-hand, so when I returned to London I came up with an idea of developing a brand that makes Korean produce that isn’t available through conventional, mainstream channels more accessible, arranging an assortment of unique products into a box, such as a magazine about the nation’s history and culture, accompanied with snacks, beauty and souvenir items.
“We’ve also worked with small independent designers and artists, making exclusive products such as calligraphy items and origami pieces. Last Christmas for example we had a festive box, and more recently we launched our motivation-themed box, designed to help many of our subscribers, who are current students, through their April exam period. Generally we try to make our box contents fun and educational at the same time.”
Growing the brand
During the brand’s launch phase, Diana’s sister Alice (now Chief Marketing Officer) had been travelling around the world. With a background marketing for global brands such as All Saints, Alice’s skill has been a welcome addition; a vital component for ensuring the retailer’s future success.
On her return to the UK, Alice shared Diana’s enthusiasm and decided to join, helping not only with marketing, but customer service, fulfilment, day-to-day operations and social media campaigns.
This enabled Diana to better focus on video production, photography, magazine creation and managing their team of writers, photographers, illustrators, magazine designers, not to mention their in-house bunny, Niko (model, actor and mascot). In addition to focusing on their own individual strenghts, both sisters regularly visit Korea to research the latest product trends and to find topics to write about in their magazine.
Selling a range of subscription plans, taster boxes and accessories via their own Cratejoy website and on the Amazon and Etsy marketplaces, Inspire Me Korea has generated demand organically with word of mouth and through social media, connecting regularly with Korean culture-obsessed influencers, and their own box subscribers. With more than 20,000 Instagram followers and over 3,400 YouTube channel subscribers, the customer-centric company engages with their followers for feedback, running polls with photos and videos of new product ideas.
Fulfilment by Mail Workshop; Powered by Parcelhub
Inspire Me Korea initially carried out fulfilment in-house: “For the first six months, with the help of our mother, we were packing the boxes ourselves in our front room and sending them from our local postal office – as monthly send-outs surpassed the 100 mark it became too time consuming and impractical so we decided to conduct some research and find an appropriate eCommerce shipping and fulfilment provider.”
Over the last three years, Inspire Me Korea have enjoyed strong growth, with monthly subscription shipping volumes increasingly sharply in Christmas 2017. Selling mainly to UK consumers, the retailers also ship internationally, to Canada, USA, Australia and more than thirty other countries.
Like many Parcelhub customers, Diana and Alice decided to outsource more than just their delivery management, by partnering with Parcelhub’s sister company, Mail Workshop.
Diana added: “Whilst Parcelhub saved us loads of time with order processing, we decided that to be able to truly focus on product sourcing, development and marketing we would need to outsource to a specialist eCommerce fulfilment provider. Luckily Parcelhub’s sister company, Mail Workshop offered us just that!
“Donna (Smitton, Head of Account Management at Parcelhub) introduced us to the Mail Workshop fulfilment team and we’ve just been so impressed with their attention to detail. Alex (Grayston, Account Manager at Mail Workshop) has been highly considerate and fast to respond to situations and is deeply involved when we are developing new ideas for packaging and product selection.
“Prior to outsourcing these operations it would take us about four days per month to pack the enormous amount of boxes. Not only is outsourcing more efficient but it has enabled us to better focus on our core competencies; marketing, product design and development”.
Inspire Me Korea ships pallets of wholesale goods to the Mail Workshop fulfilment centre in Nottingham, at which point the sortation team packages the items as per the retailer’s plethora of customisations.
Their subscription boxes are very personalised and the merchants wanted to better tailor their products to different dietary requirements, genders and seasonal events; Diana continued: “some subscribers want gift messages, for example, and prior to outsourcing fulfilment this became very laborious. We’re so happy with Mail Workshop because they are so agile and flexible and able to carry out these highly specific customisations. Other fulfilment providers simply weren’t able to offer that level of attention to detail.”
Going forward, Inspire Me Korea would like to expand their offering with product diversification and establish a stronger foothold in countries they ship to. Diana concluded: “Our goal is to inspire people around the world about different cultures. Our vision is to bring people closer together and understand eachother better – we believe world problems most often result from misunderstanding – by educating people and giving them better access to different cultures, our brand will hopefully make a difference.”
About Mail Workshop – Tailored fulfilment and distribution.
Founded in 2003, Mail Workshop provides tailored fulfilment solutions to retailers, brands, agencies, printers and publishers worldwide, with extensive experience storing and distributing apparel, daily deals products, gifts, homewares, PC hardware, novelty goods, subscription boxes, catalogues, point of sale material, brochures and magazines.