10 ways to win with a subscription program

Thinking of building a subscription program in 2022? We got ya covered. 

Our tips for success. 👇

Types of subscription offers

You can get creative with how you build your subscription program, but there are three main types brands use today. 

1. Replenishment program: For consumable products like food and cosmetics, happy customers will need to restock their items. With a replenishment program, customers don’t have to stress about remembering to re-order. 

Instead, ship them products on a regular cadence, such as monthly, every 3 months, or every 6 months. 

2. Curation Box programs: Think Fab Fit Fun or Hello Fresh. These are monthly boxes with curated items based on a customer’s preferences. 

The products switch every month, keeping the subscription fun and surprising. 

3. Access programs: Similar to memberships, access programs are when customers pay a fee to use services, enter private communities, get merch, hear about products first, or get free shipping. It’s giving customers exclusive access to community-level perks.

You can use a mix-and-match solution by offering more than one of these types to subscribers. 

Tips for subscription success: 👇

1) Master your messaging

What unique value does your subscription give customers? Why do they love your product? Why did they subscribe? 

Understanding your customers and how your product fits into their lives will help you master the messaging to promote your subscription program. Use this messaging consistently on subscription landing pages, emails, and any other promotional assets.

You can collect this information by asking customers through post-purchase surveys. 

Here’s an example from Better Way Health, which even has a video on the subscription landing page about the perks of the program:

2) Give value other than discounts

Many subscription programs tend to offer the standard “subscribe and save.” 

While this is helpful to customers, it doesn’t give them a ton of value aside from not having to remember to restock their items. 

To give customers a good reason to stay subscribed, find other value-adds for your subscription program. 

For one, you can invite customers to programs, communities, and exclusive events. 

Or you could give subscribers bonus discounts, free swag or tester products, first access to new product launches, or free shipping. 

Aisha Chottani, the founder of Drink Moment, told us how she gives subscribers unique value: 

“Customers who subscribe are happier in the long-term – they get moved into a different flow as we know they have committed to us. We love all our customers but have special rewards and discounts for our subscription customers. It ends up being a virtuous loop.” 

3) Always notify customers about payments, shipments, and updates

One of the worst feelings you can give subscribers is making them feel like they’ve been duped into having to continue paying into your program. 

This can happen when you:

  1. Don’t communicate enough about your subscription, like when customers are about to be charged again or when their products shipped.
  2. Make it really difficult for people to unsubscribe.

“Auto-renewing a subscription without notifying the customer has become an unfortunate norm—particularly in software and services—and we’ve seen that some consumer goods companies have followed suit despite having to ship a physical object. 

Avoiding unwanted surprises (and the ensuing returns or poor reviews) should be a top priority for those considering subscriptions,” said Caroline Buck, cofounder of Petaluma.

Let customers know when their renewal is coming up, and for the sake of all the stressed-out subscribers in the world, email them to confirm their canceled subscription. 

Canada Craft Club has a good example here:

4) Design a killer customer experience 

Building off the communication tip… Just like any online shopping experience, your subscription program should be easy to manage.

If people want to change their subscription type, ask questions, and delay one shipment, let them do it by emailing your team, messaging them via live chat, or even sending a text. 

“Focus on designing a digital experience that your customers will find friendly and considerate rather than one engineered to force their hand to subscribe or remain a subscriber,” said Caroline Buck.

5) Let customers test your product before they subscribe

For a lot of consumable products, customers want to test them before they sign up for a subscription program. Petaluma, a sustainable dog food brand, handles this well. 

According to Caroline Buck, “Dog food is a product that many folks want to try before they buy, and we added a free sample program to help our prospective customers evaluate Petaluma before making the jump to a subscription.”

6) Build a landing page to highlight the benefits

Sharing a “subscribe and save” option on your PDPs is one good way to show you have a subscription program, but we suggest creating a landing page that shares all of the benefits, how to subscribe, and general info about your program.

Make sure this page is shown somewhere in your navigation and in your footer. You can also call it out on PDPs.

Check out Amora Coffee and how subscriptions are called out in the main nav bar. 

They even offer subscribers their first coffee bag for only $1. 

7) Target the right audience

The truth is, subscriptions aren’t for every customer. First-time purchasers aren’t always going to return, so sending them an email that promotes your subscription program isn’t the best use of your time.

Instead, focus on those customers who have made three or more purchases at your store. 

Why three? 

One purchase doesn’t tell you if a customer loved your product. Two purchases suggest the customer did like it enough to reorder, but the third purchase is a strong signal that the customer is going to continue reordering, and that a subscription program suits their needs.

Also, Aisha Chottani suggests learning your customer’s needs before offering a subscription: 

“The most important thing is to understand your customer and their needs. Once you do that, you can design a program that suits those. Beyond that, be prepared to pivot and iterate.” 

8) Survey cancellations

When someone cancels their subscription, immediately follow up to find out why. It might not have anything to do with your actual products and more so to do with your communication or process.

In any situation, customer feedback can help you improve your brand experience. 

Send a survey to customers who cancel, asking key questions like 

  1. What was your reason for canceling your subscription? 
  2. How can we improve our subscription experience?
  3. What did you like about our subscription program? 
  4. What didn’t you like about our subscription program? 

Questions like these help you peek inside a customer’s thoughts and discover ways you can improve.

9) Educate customers

Getting a customer to subscribe is one thing, but getting them to stay subscribed requires a strategy of its own. 

And the best way to do that is to continue educating the customer about why they need your product.

Set up targeted SMS and email flows to engage with subscribers to share product values, educational tips, entertaining content, and more. 

“For Petaluma, we know one of the main value propositions is that customers do not want to run out of dog food. 

We can focus on that message by sending text message reminders when their bag may be running low or proactively suggesting a different order cadence or bag size if the customer is running out more quickly than anticipated. 

These notifications are all subscription nudges, but they are rooted in providing a clear value to our customers,” said Caroline Buck.

10) Give subscribed customers loyalty in return 

For customers to continue seeing your value and stay loyal, you have to give loyalty back. 

Remember, people who subscribe are the most important customers for your LTV and retention, so consider how you can continue nurturing your relationship every month.

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