Best Practices

Hypercharge your subscription strategy with these 8 hacks.

 3  min read

I recently sat down with  Ordergroove to talk about how brands can optimize their subscription experience.

Here’s what I shared:

Subscriptions have exploded in recent years– and for good reason. Not only do subscriptions engage customers, encourage loyalty, and help combat the increasing cost of customer acquisition, but they also have the potential to support sustainability.

Subscriptions reduce waste by getting customers what they need when they need it, consolidating shipments, and reducing return rates. There are even subscriptions that inherently promote a mentality of “renew, reuse and recycle” – like, for example, rental subscription service Rent The Runway.

So how can you optimize your subscription program? And what opportunities do subscribers present to your brand? Here are 8 tips to take your subscription experience to the next level.

Tip 1: Offer a Build-a-Box Experience

Build-a-box is a little different than just order-replenishment because it allows customers to customize their own subscription experience.

The potential value to your brand is to amplify customer discovery: a build-a-box feature becomes a regular opportunity for your customers to fall in love with products that they might not already be familiar with. It’s something that brands like Honest and Kind do really well.

However, the challenge with build-a-box is that it also has the potential to overwhelm customers with too many options. My recommendation is to make sure that you do surveys or a/b testing to figure out what your customers actually like about your products’ varieties and then create a build-a-box experience that plays into those desires.

Tip 2: Incorporate a Loyalty Program

Loyalty is a proven retention technique, so adding loyalty to subscriptions is bundling two powerful strategies for growth in one. Subscriptions are a regular touchpoint with a customer so they’re a great opportunity to make that customer feel valued.

Whether it’s through points, or recognition for how long they’ve been a member, customers respond to rewards. And remember that rewards can be intangibles like early access to sales, exclusive content, or even meet-and-greets with founders and other luminaries.

Another idea that I’ve seen work is to set up a support channel that is exclusive to members of your loyalty program. That ability to cut the line when it comes to support goes a long way to making subscription customers feel valued and increasing their commitment to the brand.

Tip 3: Enhance Your Customer Portal

Convenience is key, so ensuring that your customer portal allows for user flexibility, visibility, and control is essential. Remember that one of the major attractions of subscriptions is convenience, so carrying that convenience into the tools that customers use helps deliver on your subscriptions program’s value proposition.

It may seem like table stakes, but it’s also worthwhile to check that your customer portal makes it easy to do delivery changes, add-ons, sku-swaps, and adjustments to notification and communication preferences.

Customer portals are also a great opportunity to collect powerful first party data. Subscription customers are engaged and responsive, so asking basic questions that are relevant to the brand (What’s your birthday? Sizing information? etc) can be a chance to personalize a customer’s experience brand-wide.

Tip 4: Use SMS

SMS has become a major trend in subscriptions and throughout the ecommerce space in general. I know that when a text pops up on my phone it grabs my attention and it’s hard to ignore!

SMS is a great way to get in front of customers with reminders and notifications–  and that makes it a perfect fit for subscription services. People want to know the status of their orders and brands want to be able to reach subscription customers to update a credit card or let them know that they're just a few more points away from a great reward.

Considering that it’s relatively easy to adapt pre-existing email marketing to SMS, and that a lot of ESPs already offer an SMS extension, it’s definitely worthwhile to try communicating with your subscribers via text.

Tip 5: Use AI (to Power Personalization)

Customers want a more personalized shopping experience and AI is a powerful tool to make it happen.

Communications are a great place to leverage personalization, making customer’s experience feel customized just for them. And it’s definitely worthwhile to use data from similar customers to offer your customers products related to their purchase that are often bought together.

When it comes to personalization, make use of some of the great tools available to you: Shopify has excellent integrations for up-sells and cross-sells, and Ordergroove offers a “churn score” that can help you guide your customer relationships towards successful retention and conversion.

Tip 6: Integrated Checkout

In the past, it wasn’t possible to integrate a subscription experience into your normal checkout process, but those days are well behind us. Now, Shopify allows for a fully integrated checkout meaning that customers can add a combination of subscriptions and one-time product purchases to the same cart.

PAT McGRATH (a shared client of ours with Ordergroove) is a great example of an integrated cart: showing how you can have both subscription and non-subscription products in the same checkout experience. They make it super easy for customers to get exactly what they want.

But the truth is, today integrated checkout is table stakes. Consumers expect the convenience of an integrated checkout, and if they don’t get it, that friction is going to cause a decrease in conversions.

Tip 7: Winback Campaigns

I always say that canceled subscriptions should be seen as an opportunity. So when you see cancellations don’t panic: instead, test various winback campaign strategies (the more personalized the better).

Discounting is a tried and true strategy, but there are others:

When selecting or developing a winback strategy focus on why a customer canceled: If customer cancels because they were overstocked, that’s an opportunity to discuss changing their subscription cadence.

Even if a customer is leaving because they’ve become unhappy with your product, if you can learn what their pain-points are, that's potentially powerful information for improving your processes going forward.

Remember too that, especially in this era of high customer acquisition costs, winback campaigns for subscribers who canceled, or even one-time buyers, can be incredibly rewarding.

Tip 8: Prepaid Subscriptions

Finally, another exciting idea is allowing customers to pre-pay subscriptions for a longer period of time, like for example 3 months, 6 months, or even a year in advance.

The benefits of prepaid subscriptions are considerable. It’s an approach that reduces brand-side risk (since customers have made these longer commitments) but it also actually contributes to increasing customer lifetime value. Pre-paid subscriptions are also a great opportunity for gifting. With prepaid, customers can easily give a subscription without having to be involved in its maintenance on a month-to-month basis. Brands that have positioned their pre-paid subscriptions for gifting have really reaped it’s rewards.

Something We Can All Subscribe To

Subscriptions have blossomed into these exceptionally experiential events. Your products make their way to your subscribers’ homes on a regular basis, integrating into the rhythms of their lives, and vibrantly displaying your brand message on their kitchen tables.

Subscriptions are truly a powerful tool for growing ecommerce brands. Hopefully these tips can help you grow yours!

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