Pay the subscription fee and play as much as you like
Pley is a toy rental service that is good, not only for the children, but also the parents: while their kiddies are distracted by play, they’re also learning useful skills.
The average child owns 248 toys, but only plays with about ten of them. He or she will pay attention to a new toy for an average of 12 minutes. Those are the statistics for children in the USA, as determined by the authors of Pley’s research study, which included 1500 American families. Another interesting piece of information is that by the time their child is 10 years old, the average American family will have spent 11,000 dollars on buying toys.
Ranan Lachman had a similar experience. While filing his tax return, he found that in the previous year, he spent 3000 dollars on Lego alone. His five-year-old son had over 200 toys in his cupboard, and only wanted more. Lachman took the matter very seriously: surely there must be a more efficient way to give your child new and exciting toys without having to break the bank?
Pley subscribers were able to choose from over 500 different play boxes, which cost them a minimum of 24 dollars a month, depending on how often they wanted them replaced.
Lachman founded Pley in 2013 along with Elina Furman, a mother of two, who also realised that she’d been spending a fortune on Lego. They decided to establish a toy-focused subscription economy model, as part of which, subscribers would be sent a box of Lego each month. In the first nine months, their company sent around 75,000 boxes of Lego to over 15,000 families. Lachman’s two sons were the testers for the variously-themed boxes.
Later, their service expanded to include other toys. One of their play packages was designed with a Disney princess story motif, another was prepared in collaboration with National Geographic; the selection soon included the American Girl brand, as well as Magformers, Star Wars, and more.
Their subscribers could choose from over 500 educational play boxes. In line with the life per month principles, they paid a monthly subscription fee of a minimum of 24 dollars, depending on how many toy boxes they wished to receive. The more expensive boxes included tiny surprises, and the delivery usually took about two days.
The young enthusiasts would play with the toys for as long as they pleased, after which they returned them and waited for the new box. Each time Pley received a returned package, they disinfected the toys, but they didn’t always notice if pieces were missing.
Children are usually too focused on playing and on the toys to notice such a thing. However, their parents took issue, and it seems that the problem was a contributing factor to the reasons why Pley shut down its online rental service in autumn 2018, after five years of operation.
For many subscribers, this bitter end came as no surprise. Even before, online forum posts reported long delays in deliveries, issues with accounting, switching packages, problems with ending their subscriptions, etc. When they tried turning directly to Pley, their complaints often fell on deaf ears or were met with indifference and an unwillingness to help.
It seems that for Pley, the last straw was ignoring one of the key laws of the subscription economy – constant care for customer satisfaction.
One of Pley’s long-term goals was to help decrease the piles of abandoned dolls and blocks in landfills, and they seriously studied ways to shift children’s focus away from mobile devices. They tried to act as a socially responsible company, but did not manage to address customer dissatisfaction, resulting from shipping and delivery issues, effectively and in a timely manner.
The numerous comments from disappointed subscribers on various message boards, clearly show that Pley ignored one of the key conditions for the success of a subscription economy model: you need to take constant care of your subscribers, and getting customers to subscribe is only the beginning.
There is probably no perfect model, but if a company wants to achieve long-term success in the subscription economy, its users need to believe that possible issues will be solved quickly and effectively. If not, they will cancel their subscriptions and might never come back.
Pley did not elaborate on the decision to end the service. Their website published a letter thanking their subscribers, and added that every good thing must come to an end - including Pley. But at least for a while they managed to prove that there is a way to give a child exciting toys, without having to break the bank.