Five Easy Tips for Boosting Product Subscriptions on Your eCommerce Website
Subscriptions Are a Great Way to Guarantee Recurring Revenue—Here Are Some Ways to Bump Up Your Product Subscription Base
Subscription models are becoming an increasingly common part of the eCommerce landscape—and for good reason. They help guarantee recurring revenue and keep customers engaged with brands. Given how fast eCommerce has grown over the years, the competition is steeper than ever, meaning anything you can do to get that repeat business is worth considering.
Subscriptions are a particularly attractive option considering the growing popularity behind the model. The data suggests that there are now 11 million Americans buying their products via subscriptions—we’ve moved beyond the early adoption stage of the technology into a fully charged trend.
Thinking About Offering Subscriptions? Here Are Our Favorite Platforms
At efelle, we’ve had a number of opportunities to implement subscription services on projects over the last year. It’s no secret that we’re big fans of BigCommerce, and when its team introduced credit card vaulting in early 2018, it was a game changer for eCommerce retailers wanting to introduce product subscription services to their business model.
The team over at BigCommerce recently released a thorough blog post about subscription models with a bunch of great food for thought, including insight into the three main types of subscription services, whether offering one of these services might be a good fit for your business, and the stats buttressing the success of the subscription model.
To date, our favorite subscription service platform is Rebillia. Rebillia not only makes subscription management easy for the customer (you can skip a delivery or cancel any time online, all without having to talk to a representative—a potential mood killer for wannabe subscribers), it also makes subscription management easy for businesses. On top of that, Rebillia’s customer service is second to none, and the app integrates seamlessly with the BigCommerce platform.
Tips for Boosting Your eCommerce Website’s Product Subscriber List
Once you’ve got your subscription options up and running, here are some ways to supercharge your subscriber base.
1. Offer a Recurring Discount to New Subscribers
This strategy was perhaps made most famous by Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program. In essence, it’s all about creating incentive—when you offer a discount on recurring orders (five to ten percent is a good target discount), you’re letting customers know there’s an advantage to be had in signing up now versus coming back for more down the road when they want something new or their product runs out.
2. Offer New Subscribers a Free Trial of Your Product or Send Them Their First Order at a Ridiculously Low Cost
Free trials are a common promotion for merchants selling online software, which makes sense when you look at the numbers: According to Recurly—another subscription management tool—well over half of free trial users convert into ongoing subscribers.
Offering a free trial on product-based subscriptions is substantially riskier—but not unheard of, especially if you keep a few considerations in mind. For instance, it may not make sense to offer a free first order on any physical items if your unit cost is relatively high. You will probably also want to charge for shipping on the first purchase, even if you normally offer free shipping on all orders; if a new subscriber cancels before paying for and receiving their second order, you don’t want to be out both the unit cost and the cost to ship the initial purchase. You can make it up to your customers by offering free shipping on all recurring orders (or, as we discussed above, by offering a percentage-based discount on those orders).
Alternatively, you can offer users a steep discount on their first order (like “70% off your first order” or “First order is only $0.99 plus the cost of shipping”) then charge full price on recurring orders. Subscription-based companies like Fabletics have prospered using tactics like this, and customers love feeling like they’re getting a deal.
3. Go All-In on The Subscription Model By Selling (Almost) Exclusively Through Subscriptions
Speaking of subscription-based companies, Netflix, Ipsy, Birchbox, and Dollar Shave Club are just a few of the companies (alongside Fabletics) that have built businesses almost exclusively off a subscription model alone. While some of these companies do also provide regular single-purchase options, one-time buyers are not treated to the same discounts and bonuses as subscribers—all incentives are tied to the subscriptions, and the subscriptions are the primary revenue generator for the business.
Taking away—or limiting—the option of a one-time purchase is, of course, risky. You may lose a few customers who are unwilling to commit to buying more than one product. But the upsides are huge—almost all of the customers who complete an initial purchase on a website centered on subscriptions will become repeat customers. And the research is solid on the success of subscription boxes; according to Forbes, “15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products on a recurring basis, frequently through monthly boxes.”
This brings us to the world of “curated boxes.” According to McKinsey Insights, when it comes to online subscriptions, “Curation services, with 55 percent of total subscriptions, are by far the most popular, suggesting a strong desire for personalized services.” In other words, users are highly incentivized by the idea of discovering new products and collections through regular delivery of products or product samples. Some boxes are monthly, some quarterly—each are loaded with tips and treats for their repeat customers.
Companies like Ipsy, Birchbox, Fabletics, etc, have paved the way for other businesses who want to take advantage of the subscription-centric approach. Note that Ipsy and Birchbox are particular standouts; they send curated kits of makeup and hair product samples, every month giving users the option to buy full-size versions of the products they like best—often at discounted prices. (Hello bonus revenue! According to Statista, “45 percent of subscribers often purchase products they discovered in their boxes.”)
And if you, like Birchbox and Ipsy, are a retailer of beauty products, it’s worth noting that these trailblazing companies have helped the beauty market ascend to the top of the subscription-model world—the beauty market, in general, accounts for over a third of all online product-based subscriptions.
That said, the beauty industry isn’t alone in embracing the subscription-dominant trend. Other common industries where businesses are pivoting toward near total reliance on the subscription model include the following:
- The food industry. Meal kit boxes (like Blue Apron) give convenience a whole new meaning; similarly, a ton of our staff members here at efelle are huge fans of Imperfect Produce, an “ugly” produce delivery service.
- The clothing industry. Fabletics is not the only player here—apparel subscription services are on the rise in general, with popular choice Stitch Fix recently posting more than $730 million in sales in a single fiscal year.
- The nutraceuticals industry. Multivitamin company Ritual is making pill-taking look sexy, while Hims, a multivitamin and hair growth company for men, now has Snoop Dogg aboard its marketing train.
4. Offer Other Perks for Subscribers
If your revenue stream can’t handle offering regular discounts to subscribers, there are other things you can do to encourage sign ups and make subscribers feel special. Maybe you send exclusive coupon codes out a few times a year (encouraging subscribers to head to your online store and make purchases outside their normal subscription—win win!). Maybe you offer the occasional subscriber-only contest or raffle. Maybe you have a subscriber-only newsletter that shares special content and industry insights. You can also offer subscribers attractive, premium packaging complete with info cards and bonus content.
Or maybe you offer free shipping exclusively to subscribers. After all, the stats on free shipping are impressive. According to Marketing Land, nine out of ten consumers cite free shipping as their main incentive for making purchases online. Making free shipping exclusive to subscribers may inspire some of your regular shoppers to subscribe instead of checkouting with a one-time purchase.
5. Make Subscriptions the Centerpoint of Your Search and Social Marketing Campaigns
None of the above will provide you with sensational results if your potential customers don’t know the benefits of signing up for a subscription. Heck, you may already have willing subscribers that don’t even require an incentive at all—they just need to know it’s an option and they’ll be there.
This is where your online marketing strategy comes in. You need to get the good word out about all you have to offer, so sharing across each of your channels is key. We’ve got lots to say about what social media platforms are best for your business (if you haven’t set those up yet), and it’s important not to forget about your blog and other online assets.
You can even set up most major newsletter platforms (like Klaviyo) to automatically retarget customers that have completed a one-time purchase of a product that you also offer subscriptions on; these follow-up emails can remind customers of their options and incentivize them through a one-time discount or other special promotion.
Sure, it all takes a little upfront research and manual work to get your strategy together and running. But once the automation is in place, you’ll be able to sit back and watch the recurring revenue streams roll in.
Accelerate the Revenue from Your Online Store with an Optimized eCommerce Strategy
At efelle creative, we’re eCommerce obsessed—we’ve been building eCommerce websites since 2005 and have been Elite Partners with BigCommerce since 2017. We believe in creating beautiful, high-functioning online stores that convert browsers into buyers. If you’re looking to rev up sales, give us a shout. You can find us by phone at 206.384.4909 or online via our online contact form.