The subscription market is growing by 200 percent annually, becoming more competitive in the process. That’s why Brian Runnals, founder of fly fishing subscription service Postfly, recommends merchants lure in subscribers by pairing monthly deliveries with educational tools to successfully use the products, with the power to change their subscription on command. Runnals describes how the company is hoping to be to amateur anglers what Spotify has become for music streamers, inside the latest Subscription Commerce Tracker.
A good angler needs the right equipment, circumstances and skill to catch the perfect fish. To reel in those anglers as subscription commerce customers, one company is hoping the right combination of top-flight service and dependable monthly delivery will do the trick.
Monthly subscription box company Postfly is hoping to be to amateur anglers what Blue Apron has become for home chefs. However, attracting new subscribers and keeping them for the long haul may be more difficult than reeling in a record-breaking bluefin tuna or a massive marlin, according to Founder and President Brian Runnals.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Runnals described how he’s relied on quality products, education and customer service to build and sustain Postfly from a “side hustle” operated out of his basement into a full-fledged company with more than 25,000 subscribers.
Turning to Education to Build a Base of Subscribers
Postfly was born in 2013 out of Runnals’ frustration with the fly fishing information and supplies in his home city of Boston, Massachusetts.
Living in a major metropolitan area meant it was difficult to find local fly fishing supply shops, and he was eager to learn more about his recently acquired hobby. Convinced there “had to be a better way” to get both information and supplies into fishing enthusiasts’ hands — particularly those without easy access to such resources — Runnals decided to create the solution. He filled his first orders by buying equipment himself from well-known fly fishing retailer Orvis.
Though he didn’t initially plan to turn Postfly into a full-fledged business, Runnals quickly realized there were other fresh-faced fly fishermen looking to gain more knowledge about both the sport and the equipment it requires.
“When I first started out, my frustration was that there were no resources available to help near me, and what was available on the internet at the time was just terrible,” he explained. “We’ve found that, demographically, our customer is similar. They’re typically relatively young or a new angler who wants to learn more about the sport, but isn’t in an area that there are fly shops close by.”
Because most of the company’s subscribers are relative newcomers to the sport, Runnals and his team work to do more than simply ship attractive or interesting products. Postfly also works to provide the information and education that can often only be found by visiting stores and asking expert employees about line casting or how to choose the right bait.
“We put a lot of effort into not only choosing and sending the right products, but also educating our customers on what the products are or how to use them, and to ultimately be successful with them,” Runnals said.
Keeping Anglers Hooked
Offering educational tools alongside products has helped separate Postfly from other fishing supply subscription companies — including larger players like Lucky Tackle Box — but tips and tricks are only part of the company’s game plan. To get subscribers hooked on its products, Postfly also works to offer them as much choice as possible.
That means offering multiple subscription packages based on the type of fish a subscriber is looking to catch. The company provides six packages designed specifically for trout, warm water, saltwater, steelhead, salmon and fly tying. It also includes multiple pricing plans, giving customers a choice over whether they subscribe for one month, three, six or a year, offering an escalating per-box discount by length of plan.
“There are advantages to that on both sides, for us and for the customer,” Runnals said. “Obviously, we make the most, margin-wise, on a customer who pays $19.99 a month, but it’s slow-going. We have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep them subscribed and keep us collecting that payment from them every month.”
This control is important to consumers. Each of the top 20 subscription merchants, as ranked by customers in the recent PYMNTS Subscription Commerce Index™, offered these plan options.
Postfly also gives customers control over when they receive their subscriptions and what’s in their boxes, all in the hope of trading that control for longer subscriptions and happier customers. Specifically, that means giving them the option to pause their subscriptions for a month if they don’t want the next month’s delivery or plan to take a break from fishing. Subscribers can also switch between fishing packages — for example, a trout subscriber can opt to receive a saltwater or steelhead and salmon box.
The Future of Fishing Subscriptions
In addition to what they already receive in their monthly deliveries, Postfly is also working to give customers increased purchasing options. Runnals and his team have recently begun to sell more high-ticket items, and customers have the option to incrementally pay for them as they pay the cost of their subscriptions.
“So, essentially what we’re doing is taking products that would traditionally be very expensive and allowing customers to pay for [them] in small chunks over time,” he said. “That’s actually done quite well, so we want to continue to tap into that.”
Going forward, Runnals hopes to keep subscribers coming back for more by giving them more perks and additional reasons to spend some of their hard-earned cash. That includes building a community for fly fishers in metro areas by hosting happy hours and other themed events for subscribers. Postfly also wants to widen its product selection to help it stay relevant.
“We really want to constantly try to improve the overall experience, whether that’s by changing our products up or experimenting with other things to see what moves the needle — anything that gets customers to stick around with us for a longer period of time,” he said.
It seems that for Postfly, it all comes down to keeping amateur anglers on the subscription line for as long as possible.
About the Tracker™
The Subscription Commerce Tracker™, powered by Recurly, is a bimonthly report that explores how companies use subscription-based commerce to build long-term customer relationships and steady revenue sources. The report includes notable developments in the market and the companies that are rapidly innovating the space.