There’s been a recent resurgence in the popularity of subscription e-commerce models, with plant start-up, Botanic Box looking to capitalise on this shift in consumer preferences.
Botanic Box is a monthly plant subscription service that allows consumers to jump on the company’s website and purchase a subscription for three, six or 12 months. The online business is still in its first year of development with its owner, Rhiannon Campbell saying the company has experienced a boost in sales as she continues to expand and refine her product offerings.
“Botanic Box was an idea I had earlier this year when I was trying to decide upon a gift for a friend for their housewarming. As we get older, we usually have all the things we want for our home… I didn’t want to give her a cheese platter or a set of glasses and I love plants so would often give people plants as presents,” she says. “Then I thought about how nice it would be to give a couple of plants over a couple of months, to build a nice little urban jungle!”
A big part of her business’s development over the last few months has stemmed from collaborations with local plant growers and artists in Queensland who are responsible for the monthly products that are sent out to consumers. For Campbell, working with other businesses within her community seemed like the most natural route for her. “I wanted to source locally and wanted to be able to collaborate with local brands,” she explains.
Rhiannon Campbell, founder of Botanic Box.
A subscription-based model also seemed perfect to her, as she says she had seen how popular they were in the US and was comforted by the thought of receiving recurring revenue. “Australia usually takes a little bit to catch up [to the US] and having a subscription service means you have the guarantee of repeat customers,” Campbell says.
So far, Botanic Box is only a small online offering, but the business’s founder is keen to see it evolve and become a full-time job for her, and hopefully for other people in the future. Since offering gift cards alongside her standard subscription boxes, she says she has already seen a promising boost in traffic and sales.
“We have seen an increase in sales after we started offering gift vouchers and including cards for gifts. I think people like to see it as an alternative to a bunch of flowers and plants (usually) won’t die after a week! We include care cards with all of our products so even if the person receiving the gift isn’t a green thumb, they can still give it a go,” she explains.
One of the biggest steps the company needs to take to expand its offering is to increase the size of its existing delivery network. At the moment, the business only ships plants to Queensland-based addresses, a limitation that Campbell says she is ‘carefully’ looking to address.
“I’m nervous to send plants and pots interstate but I’m currently trialling with a friend interstate to see how to pack and send and see how the product arrives and how long it takes. One of the most important things with our product is the first impression, so I don’t want it to arrive looking wilted or broken.”
If the trial goes well, she believes that interstate shipping will help the business to evolve into a full-time venture.
In the meantime, one of Campbell’s biggest priorities is building brand awareness for Botanic Box. “It’s hard”, she says, “especially when you are a small business”. However, she has learnt that authenticity is incredibly valuable to both her and her brand, as well as regular communication with her social media followers.
“The main thing I’ve tried to keep is the authenticity of our brand because we are just two people and a dog trying to sell plants! But people like that. I started posting on Instagram every day and building followers with the same interests before Botanic Box went live,” she says.
“I created a Facebook page and added friends and once the first box went live, we invited our friends to invite their friends. I had a friend help me with a press release and I found email addresses for media in Brisbane and sent them emails. On the back of that, we had the biggest month we’ve had, and we are still growing.”
Her marketing has been done with very little capital but a lot of tenacity. Each month when a new subscription box is released she puts $50 into ad spend on Facebook and Instagram, but word of mouth has been Botanic Box’s biggest source of revenue so far. “Our customers appreciate that we put in the extra effort to make sure that they are getting a good product,” Campbell says.
Like most start-ups before it, Campbell says that the biggest hurdle she’s facing in building her business from the ground up is time. “My partner and I both work full time so it is sometimes a juggling act. Weekends are for deliveries, sourcing and markets so we don’t get time for much else!”
It’s still early days for Botanic Box, but Campbell says she’s determined to ensure customers all over Australia can enjoy the brand’s plants, allowing them to build “their urban jungles”.
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