All Aboard! Helping brands weather the storm
Plus a bonus startup for PreSeed Now members
We recently revisited an early startup profiled in this newsletter with a short update, and today’s time for the reverse: a startup that got a brief mention earlier in the year gets a full profile.
They’ve developed quite a bit since I first met them in May under their previous name. Scroll down to read all about Aboard.
PreSeed Now members get the full story, and it really is worth upgrading because not only will you get to read the full article about Aboard, you also get a bonus startup in the healthcare space. Members can scroll to the end of the newsletter for full details of that one.
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Aboard wants to help brands and consumers forge a new relationship
As inflation bites harder, consumer spending is likely to take a serious hit. And this likely means tougher times ahead for ecommerce and direct-to-consumer brands. At the same time, these brands can benefit from a closer, ongoing relationship with customers who love their products, even if they’re not as flush with cash as they once were.
Aboard thinks it has the solution. The Manchester-based startup lets brands launch paid monthly memberships, build ecosystems, and develop communities.
Co-founder Matt Bird sees brand membership schemes as a win for business and customer alike. He believes that while consumers might be cutting back on subscriptions, this is often a value-based, rather than purely financial, decision.
“People are trying to figure out what they need and what they don't need. If you can trim out the bits that aren't valuable to them and add stuff that is more valuable to them, I think it actually works out a better solution than a traditional product subscription.”
When setting up a membership programme through Aboard, a brand can include exclusive products and content as well as exclusive prices.
“Any brand with any product can now generate recurring revenue and engage with their community on a much deeper level,” says Bird.
“The customer gets a price benefit, they get any other kind of perks and benefits that the retailer wants to offer, but without it being attached to a single product. They've got a full choice of all the products that the brand sells.
“And the biggest thing for a consumer is the price element of it. So they're giving their loyalty to a brand in exchange for a better price on the products that they buy from them.”
An intriguing extra layer here is multi-brand subscriptions, where brands can create bundled memberships that include benefits from other, complementary brands.
“The anchor brand is giving their customer more choice, control, and flexibility over their subscription and the other brands are getting increased brand awareness and traffic, and cross-marketing kind of opportunities as well,” Bird explains.
How to hop Aboard
Bird says brands can get set up with Aboard in as little as 30 minutes if they know what they want to offer as part of their subscription. It doesn’t require deep integration with order management or inventory systems.
Once the product is up and running, customers will see an option to subscribe with Aboard (the startup is building its own consumer awareness here too). The customer then signs up to the membership through an iframe on the website and once their recurring payment is set up, the brand has a new member.
The multi-brand subscriptions are currently more of a manual process for brands to create with the help of Aboard’s founders. But that’s just a temporary situation, Bird explains:
“What we probably will be able to do by Q2 next year is build a gallery. Brands will pre-approve the offers, deals, whatever they want, and list them in a gallery. And then when brands want to set a multi-brand membership up, they'll simply go to the gallery and choose the ones that they want to bring in.”
This is actually the second time Aboard has featured in PreSeed Now. I gave them a brief mention back in the third edition of this newsletter back in May when they were called Bypass. The idea has developed a lot since then, adding the ability for brands to offer member-only content, but the multi-brand subscription feature is the big shift.
“It's better for retailers because they can align themselves with other brands that complement theirs,” says Bird. “They can give the customer way more value that way, and keep them retained for a lot longer.”
Bird says consumers benefit from multi-brand subscriptions as it provides more choice and value for a single fee.
Bird understands the challenges of direct-to-consumer brands, having worked in that space for the past decade, running a menswear subscription business.
“We wanted to build the subscription and the membership on Shopify, using the plugins and the tools that were available, but there was nothing that quite did what we wanted it to do. We wanted customers to be able to choose the products that they got under that subscription. It sounds quite simple, but there was nothing out there that allowed us to do it. So we ended up developing and making the platform and subscription engine ourselves.”
The Covid pandemic killed demand from men to look good around the office, so Bird looked for a way to take the tech and the ideas he had been working on and turning them into a service for other brands. He co-founded the startup that became Aboard last year with Steve Tucker, who previously founded ecommerce recommendations tech company Bunting.
The pair launched an MVP in February this year and tested it with a small number of customers. Aboard is still just the two of them but they aim to expand the team next year.