5 ways to get more people to sign up for your subscription business
With the rise of the subscription economy, more and more businesses are looking to increase recurring revenue with subscription boxes and products.
Where some stores have built their business around a subscription model, others have combined subscription options with traditional ecommerce to try and generate recurring revenue.
Shaving razors, sock of the month clubs, beauty boxes — everyone is trying to get in on the subscription marketplace. So how do you get more customers, either existing or new, to subscribe to your product?
Let's look at 7 techniques some of the industry's best have used to increase subscribers.
1. Woo customers with a deal they can't refuse
If you were born around 1986 or earlier, you might remember Columbia House Record's 12 CDs for 1¢ deal.
Image via: youtube
Keep in mind, this was before iTunes, streaming services, or even digital music piracy. If you wanted to listen to music you had to buy CDs or listen to whatever was on the radio, so this was a big deal for music fans.
Even though this was one of those "read the fine print" type offers — you had to buy a certain amount of CDs at regular price to get the offer — it still garnered a lot of attention. Many people were happy to sign up (and still have dusty collections of 90s CDs as a result).
What can we as ecommerce marketers learn from this? Don't be afraid to dream up a promotion that is outside of the box, or even sounds too good to be true. Just make sure you aren't being deliberately misleading or springing hidden costs on your customers, or you will lose their attention as quickly as you gained it.
A more recent example comes from one of the companies that helped popularize the subscription-box business model — you've probably heard of them:
In reality, Dollar Shave Club's subscription cost more than a buck. But this promotion seemed like an amazing alternative to going to the store to buy costly razor replacements.
The other lesson here is this: don't be afraid to sell a product as a subscription that would ordinarily be bought as a single purchase. In both examples, Columbia House and Dollar Shave Club had the ingenuity to sell something not usually subscription-based as a subscription — and it worked!
Further reading: How to use the Netflix trick (convertible subscriptions) to net more subscribers.
2. Don't create content just for the sake of creating content
Content marketing can be a great way to help your brand cut through the ecommerce noise and earn more subscribers. But what is content marketing anyways?
It refers to generating content on behalf of your brand to entertain, inform, or engage with your audiences. Though it may not always directly promote your product, it is intended to generate interest in what you are selling.
Content could include blogs, social media posts, pictures, videos, infographics, webinars, podcasts — anything that starts a conversation with your customers.
Dollar Shave Club's founder Mike Dubin put his company on the map with this hilarious viral video. Sure, it isn't exactly G-rated, but that's part of the reason it went viral!
What can we as content marketer's learn from this? When coming up with a content strategy, play to your strengths. Dubin drew on his background in improv and acting to create the kind of content he knew he could do well. If you're are a writer, write useful blog posts; if you have a good radio voice, consider creating a podcast or webinar. You don't have to break the bank (Dubin's video cost $4500 and he recently sold the company for 1$ billion dollars) to create the right kind of content.
3. Add a personalized touch to keep subscribers engaged
Getting subscribers is one thing, but keeping them requires a bit of extra effort. Whether you create a VIP club with exclusive promotions, or offer free gifts, giveaways, or just some thoughtful personal detail, these small gestures can sometimes make the difference between keeping subscribers or losing them to the dreaded churn.
John's Crazy Socks launched their popular sock of the month club but that wasn't all. When co-founder, Mark Cronin — who was born with down syndrome — first started the business, he delivered each order in person. Today, subscribers receive a box with John's smiling face on the front.
In addition to the colourful socks found inside, customers receive a hand-written note, some candy, stickers, and discount cards. Making it personal is one of the company's four pillars in support of their mission of spreading happiness.
Image via: microsoft
What can we learn from subscription businesses like John's Crazy Socks? Don't underestimate the power of brand loyalty. Simple gestures that give your product a personalized touch and tell your brand story will keep customers engaged and coming back for more.
4. Differentiate your product with a distinct value proposition
With the many subscription-model stores that exist today, coming up with a distinct value proposition can be challenging. Where stores have had success selling subscriptions to everything from boxed water to board games and vinyl records, you don't necessarily have to have a completely original concept to compete in this space.
Crema Joe is an example of a merchant that took a popular and already oversaturated product category (coffee) and found a clever way of differentiating themselves within the marketplace.
True story: the inventor of the coffee pod regrets his invention because of the waste the pods cause.
That's where Crema Joe came in, offering the convenience of instant coffee in environmentally friendly, reusable pods , designed to work with popular coffee brands like Nespresso. Mmm, Nespresso...
Anyhow, the lesson here is that it's ok to build a business around a product that has been done to death, so long as you are able to solve a new problem for your customers. In the case of Crema Joe, they are able to offer coffee drinkers who love the convenience of pods, but are troubled by the environmental impact, an eco-friendly alternative.
Another subscription-based store that has found a way to differentiate itself within a popular niche is Family Dinner. This New England grocery delivery service stands out from other food subscription services by supporting local farmers who grow the food that goes into their meal kits.
Customers pick their "share," add any custom modifications and the folks at Family Dinner go to work putting together their locally-sourced grocery box. Since their start, they have provided local farmers with over $250,000 worth of business. Not only are they serving up tasty food to their subscribers, they're making a positive impact that their conscious customers love.
5. Offer a deal, discount, or promotion - even for subscriptions!
Just because you are selling a subscription product or service doesn't mean you can't offer a discount or promotion. In fact, being able to provide savings in exchange for a longer term commitment is one of the main appeals of the subscription model. Let's look at how Vital Proteins incentivizes customers.
In addition to a lower price, members also get exclusive access to the latest items, special deals, and free shipping. Not bad just for subscribing to something you would buy regularly anyways.
If you are looking to run a sale on your subscription product, here are some additional promotional ideas for inspiration:
The idea is to get the customer to spend a little more after the have decided to make a purchase. It could be a more premium version of the item they want, or a complimentary item for a reduced price. (Read our article on the complete list of upsell and cross-sell types!)
Hairtamin does a great job of offering subscription customers reduced pricing if they agree to purchase a longer duration. As seen below, their 12-month supply is 25% cheaper than a single month. This works particularly well for consumable products that people know they are going to continue to need in the future.
No-fuss smoothie ingredient maker Kencko offers the classic buy-one-get-one promotion with a twist with this buy 3 get 2 offer. Just like with upselling, the goal of BOGO deals is to increase average order value (AOV) while offering customers a deal they can feel great about. Remember, a carefully planned sale or promotion should feel like a win-win for you and the customer.
On the road to recurring revenue
There you have it! Five easy ways to gain more subscribers for your store. If you are currently selling with a single-purchase model and are thinking about breaking into the subscriptions game, all you need is one app to get started.
It's called Bold Subscriptions and it easily plugs into your ecommerce store to give you everything you need to sell subscriptions. Not sure if subscriptions are right for your store? Try Bold Subscriptions now for free and increase that recurring revenue.
Have some other tips you’d like to share? Feel free to add them in the comments field below!
- Bold Subscriptions