3 Ways to Use Your Subscription Commerce Program to Truly Connect With Customers
The subscription commerce model is shaking up the retail industry by turning transactions into relationships. A customer clicking “buy” used to be the signal to close the curtain and roll the credits, which made it harder for sellers to re-engage them. Now, subscription purchases signal the beginning of an interaction in which the business must continue to prove that it’s worth a recurring cost.
Many subscription-focused retailers offer free or heavily discounted trials, making it easy for customers to opt in. Unfortunately, that feature also makes it easy for them to cancel after their free trials end. The most successful subscription commerce companies continually engage their customers, and beauty brands such as Ipsy and Play! by Sephora are at the top of their games. Ipsy, for example, does a wonderful job connecting with influencers no matter their follower counts. In return, these content creators are some of Ipsy's most valuable partners in tying customers to the brand.
This isn’t unique to beauty boxes, as any subscription business can capitalize on recurring revenue by connecting with customers in meaningful ways. To build that connection, focus on the following three strategies:
1. Take your time with customer onboarding.
Just as you shouldn’t bombard someone with a slew of text messages immediately after a first date, you shouldn’t flood your new subscriber’s inbox with a dozen promotional emails as soon as she enrolls. Either move can make you seem clingy and desperate.
But don’t play it too cool, either. Customer retention research has found that basic outreach can eliminate 11 percent of customer churn. Take your time and plan an onboarding strategy that makes sense in terms of content and timing. Deliver useful information right when customers need it, digitally and in the subscription box, and they’ll appreciate your meaningful interactions.
2. Prove your worth constantly.
When customers buy one product, they’re conducting a single transaction. If they regret buying the product a few months (or even weeks) later, it’s probably too late for them to change their minds. When customers are regularly charged for a subscription, they have the luxury of constantly re-evaluating whether it’s worth the cost.
As a result, it’s even more important for you to always deliver an exemplary experience. Every month a subscriber remains active is another chance for you to prove that the customer has made the right decision. Whether you’re communicating your worth via personalization, curation, or access to unique or exclusive products, always strive to exceed your subscribers’ expectations. Little things like addressing customers by name; sending personalized, hand-written notes; or including an unexpected gift in the box can help prove the value of the relationship.
3. Overdeliver whenever you can.
Once you’ve won over a subscriber, make it a point to deliver a remarkable experience that overdelivers in terms of customer expectations. This applies to email communications, the unboxing experience, and every customer service interaction. You might send the subscriber a product pre-release to get his or her opinion on it, or you could send a special gift or personal message on their birthday. Dollar Shave Club does this type of relationship building particularly well. When one subscriber joked to a customer service representative that being a subscriber felt like being part of “the family” — a reference to the mob — the agent sent a DVD box set of “The Godfather” as a surprise.
According to a survey from Dimensional Research, 24 percent of customers will keep vendors in mind for two or more years after a great customer service experience. These kinds of positive interactions go above and beyond even the most demanding customer’s idea of service, and the word-of-mouth marketing and lifelong customers make offering subscriptions worth the cost.
The direct-to-consumer subscription commerce model holds exciting potential for companies willing to put in extra effort required to keep the brand-subscriber relationship going. While underappreciated customers will quickly take their subscription dollars elsewhere, the companies that succeed will form long-lasting connections that deliver impressive returns.
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Georg Richter is founder and CEO of OceanX, which makes it easy for large brands to engage customers in a direct-to-consumer model by offering solutions that include a modern, high-volume fulfillment-only option and an end-to-end option that combines order management (including subscriptions), personalized fulfillment, customer care, and rich customer analytics.