Coffee-Subscription Services Match Consumers With The Perfect Bean


After Suyog Mody started testing Driftaway Coffee, he learned a lesson about consumer preferences very quickly: Customers aren’t always good about articulating what they want.

“If you ask people what [they] like, there’s a sort of combination of what they truly like and understand with a little bit of a projection of what they would like to like,” Driftaway Coffee Co-founder Suyog Mody told in an interview.

At Driftaway, which offers fresh single-origin coffee that ships within hours of roasting, Mody thought it would be more straightforward to create a taste profile for consumers instead of asking what kind of coffee they wanted. To help them make this decision, Driftaway sends consumers four samples of different coffees with specific flavor profiles, then they taste and rate each selection. Once consumers discover what they like, they can personalize future selections through the company’s app or website.

To make sure customers don’t get bored of the same coffee selections, Driftaway has its coffee options on a rotating basis that match the company’s existing taste profiles. Driftaway is also mindful of the different coffee-growing seasons around the world. Every country has its own harvesting calendar, so “we try to follow that as closely as possible,” Mody said.

But the rotating nature of Driftaway means that consumers might have a limited time frame to order a particular coffee. As a result, Mody also allows consumers to buy bags of coffee beans individually – on a non-subscription basis – before the company offers another selection. Mody has also noticed a purchasing pattern that suggests customers are seeking to stock up on a particular coffee bean before it leaves the platform.

“Because we have a rotating selection [that changes] every four weeks, in the fourth week we get this huge bump of individual bag orders,” Mody said.

The Subscription Coffee Market

Driftaway is not the only company in the coffee-subscription business. In 2015, for example, Starbucks launched a fresh delivery-subscription program that provides consumers access to selections from its own Seattle Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room.

Every month, subscribers can have access to what it calls “small-lot coffees” that are exclusive to online customers and those visiting the roastery. Orders are guaranteed to be delivered fresh to the customers’ doors within days of being roasted. The subscription options are a monthly or yearly fee.

In addition, Dripkit offers coffee-as-a-subscription – or it delivers coffee on a one-off basis. But Dripkit does see that customers who make a non-subscription purchase sometimes do, in fact, become subscribers.

Gift Subscriptions

Beyond offering consumers subscriptions for their everyday coffee needs, Driftaway offers subscriptions that its customers can gift to their friends, family or coworkers. Mody said he was inspired to create this offering after seeing other subscription companies – such as Birchbox – offer a gifting option.

At the most basic level, consumers can, of course, order a box and give it to a gift recipient. But Mody offers an alternative to consumers who might not want to make an in-person delivery of Driftaway coffee beans as a gift: Consumers can have their coffee beans shipped directly to them. And, if consumers want to allow their gift recipients to choose their own coffee beans, they can opt to have Driftaway send an electronic gift card by e-mail to the recipient instead.

To develop its subscriptions even further, Driftaway bundles its service with other product offerings. Gift-givers, for example, can add a brewer or grinder to the gift of a coffee subscription. As a result, Driftaway has made it easier for gift recipients to start using the service.

“It’s amazing because then [gift recipients] can instantly go and start trying out the tasting kit or whatever [they] get in the first box,” Mody said.

Mody thinks there is still potential to bring customers more ways to give Driftaway to friends and family. In the future, he hopes to offer more gifting options and, in the process, potentially work with other companies to make that expansion happen. Either way, Mody said he wants to find ways to get people to experience quality coffee – and have that coffee shop experience right in their own homes.


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