Subscription growth lies in engaging customers through their entire experience
Bold Commerce has been listed in the Now Tech: Recurring B2C SaaS Billing Management Solutions, Q3 2021, published by Forrester Research, Inc. Bold’s subscription offering is listed as one of 25 solutions included in the report.
"Subscription businesses are having a moment right now and are undoubtedly reshaping how retailers build relationships with their customers," Jay Myers, Co-Founder of Bold Commerce and host of the Own Your Commerce podcast. "When retail businesses add subscriptions to their offerings they are able to understand their customers better, realize greater value from each customer, and ultimately deliver an exceptional service to their customers. Customers also reap the benefits of the 'as-a-service' model, such as greater convenience and more value. We are fortunate to work with some of the best brands in the world, powering their recurring billing models."
Bold powers subscriptions and membership programs for more than 20,000 brands, in sectors such as retail, food and beverage, health and wellness, beauty, pets and more. Subscriptions are a unique way for brands to reinforce their value proposition while engaging consumers — from discovery and checkout all the way to unboxing — to maximize customer lifetime value.
With Gartner predicting that by 2023 more than 75 percent of organizations selling directly to consumers will offer subscription services, brands looking to launch, reinvent or grow their subscription offerings should focus on engaging customers throughout the entire journey.
“Subscriptions turn a transactional purchase into a long-lasting relationship. They can provide meaningful value in customers’ lives while providing brands predictable recurring revenue and greater customer lifetime value,” says Myers. “To build a successful subscription business, brands must engage customers along the whole customer journey.”
Engage customers across the entire customer journey
For leading subscription brands, relationship building starts early in the customer journey with the creation of a compelling subscription offer, continues through a seamless checkout, and maximizes customer lifetime value by reducing churn.
“What we have seen is that those brands that consider the end-to-end customer journey and are relentlessly focused on adding value across the journey are more likely to achieve sustained revenue growth through subscriptions,” says Deanna Traa, Chief Marketing Officer, Bold Commerce.
To realize the benefits of subscriptions both for subscribers and for brands themselves, successful brands apply different strategies and approaches throughout the customer journey phases to ensure shoppers sign up and subscribers stay engaged.
For the discovery, consideration and decision phase, brands should focus on creating unique subscription offerings. For the checkout phase, converting customers is the priority, while in the retention phase, brands will be best served in finding ways to maximize customer lifetime value. Here’s what brands can do for each.
Create unique subscriptions offerings
In the subscription space it’s increasingly common for consumers to have multiple subscriptions. This intensifying competition means the subscription experience needs to be smooth, frictionless, and offer differentiated benefits to subscribers to keep them enrolled. Robust industry-leading apps powering subscription offerings give brands the ability to craft custom subscription experiences ranging from the basic subscribe and save, to curated or build a box formats, as well as monthly clubs, memberships or even rental models.
Brands aiming to stand out should design unique frontend experiences that don’t follow a template model, but are tailored to the brand and its customers.
While popular approaches for subscription offerings include recurring replenishment, curation, and access soon brands will provide a mix of these. “The future of subscription offerings is not in brands offering one single model. Instead, brands will create a 'subscription value stack' that leverages replenishment, curation and access. The three value pillars every subscription stands on," says Myers.
Need more insight and ideas for creating a successful subscription? Get our guide:
Convert customers in the checkout
For any subscription type, the checkout is the place where a shopper or customer becomes a subscriber. The path to subscription success includes a unique, seamless, and frictionless checkout experience.
Market-leading checkouts provide a unified checkout for one-time purchases mixed with subscription products, and also takes into account payment methods, delivery options, and upselling and cross selling during or after checkout. With the benefit of subscriber information and preferences, brands have the opportunity to tailor the checkout experience for subscribers to optimize conversion.
In addition, consumers are expanding the ways in which they shop — online, in-store, social, even voice and SMS. Giving customers the opportunity to subscribe — and subscribers the opportunity to manage their subscription — in any channel where they interact with the brand, means delivering a unified checkout experience across all channels.
Regardless of the channel, a subscription checkout provides brands with the opportunity to delight customers with a highly engaging onboarding experience while starting to collect valuable customer data.
“Often brands leave onboarding in the checkout as an afterthought,” says Myers. "They think onboarding only starts once the customer receives the product. Winning brands know it’s critical to ensure an incredible onboarding experience before and during the checkout experience.”
Maximize customer lifetime value
The retention phase of the customer journey is where brands have the greatest opportunity to deepen the relationship with subscribers and maximize customer lifetime value.
“Subscriptions must deliver more value to a customer than simply the product or service,” says Myers. “Brands should ask themselves: If I took my product away, would my customers stay? Your subscription product should only be a component that adds value to the membership. It should not be what the whole membership is about.” Ideas include building a community around your subscription, providing access to relevant experts or learning opportunities, or unique in-person experiences.
In addition, brands should consider maximizing customer value by creating an engaging subscription portal. A portal’s design and flow has to be engaging, user friendly, and offer customers control of their subscription. The portal also gives a brand a platform to engage, grow and retain relationships with customers. For example, new content, contests or upsell offers can live in the portal to keep subscribers coming back to learn or engage more often.
A loyalty program is another way to drive customer value and engagement. In a recent Bold survey 57 percent of brands that offer loyalty programs reported an average customer lifetime of a year or more, while only 35 percent of brands without a loyalty program reported the same average customer lifetime.
From a more technical perspective, automating complex payment challenges, like dunning management is another way brands can retain customers and protect their recurring revenue. Brands can reduce involuntary churn with dunning management capabilities that automatically prompt subscribers to update expiring payment information.
Throughout the entire customer journey, brands have the opportunity to capture more than one-off transactions. They can transform a shopping moment into a long, and value-driven relationship that delivers predictable, recurring revenue. The future of successful subscription programs will be brightest for those businesses that personalize their offers and cultivate strong relationships with their community.