This year’s holiday season is going to look different from past seasons, with heavy emphasis on eCommerce versus in-store -- a potential win for tech-savvy DTC brands. Early reports indicate retailers are searching for creative ways to generate shopping excitement online beyond “hot” prices -- such as offering early start dates, exclusive products, personal shoppers, virtual reality, credit/payment plan options, social and gamified interactions, and more.
Another potential area ripe for experimentation? Your subscription program. We recommend not only leveraging the holiday season to bring in much-needed sales, but also to build your subscription customer base to set your brand up for increased recurring revenue all year long.
First, the essentials
The holiday season can make or break a brand – for some retailers, the holidays bring in up to a third of their annual revenue. So, before we talk about maximizing subscriptions, first make sure your eCommerce site has the basics in place to ensure shoppers can find what they want and check out quickly. This includes intuitive navigation, fast site speed, easy search and discoverability, and personalized recommendations and content.
Why you can’t afford to ignore subscription customers
Also, subscriptions are a growing trend you can’t ignore. Research shows that about 15% of online shoppers have a subscription, and over the last five years, the subscription eCommerce market has grown more than 100% year over year. Working to retain subscription customers during all times of the year makes good business sense.
Furthermore, you probably spend a significant amount on marketing to drive new customers to your eCommerce site during the holidays. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could increase the number of customers who came back to shop again? Or increase average order value? Leveraging holiday marketing to introduce your subscription program to new customers, as well as shower some love on existing subscription customers can help you realize more value from your marketing investment.
Show subscribers some VIP treatment
Customer experience is a key selling point for consumers. In fact, according to a Salesforce report, 57% of customers said they stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.
Subscribers are a prime target for VIP treatment during the holiday season. Beyond discounts (which are always appreciated!), think “experiential.” Special benefits for subscribers could include “pre-sale” shopping hours before Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday, or exclusive access to special product lines or events.
Also, brainstorm ways you can surprise your subscribers and make them feel special. For example, send them a pre- or post-holiday gift that ties to the products in their subscription, such as a sample of a new flavor of a favorite product, or a water bottle to use during their workouts. This little something extra makes customers feel valued, develops a sense of community, and increases customer loyalty.
Promote subscription gifting
As part of your holiday marketing, make sure everyone knows about your subscription program and its benefits. For example, while shoppers are browsing your site, offer them a subscription (possibly at a discount) for themselves. It’s ok to shop for yourself while shopping for others! According to a Deloitte survey, more than three-quarters of us do just that.
One way to make it easy for subscribers to gift a subscription or recommend a subscription is by integrating a referral system into your customer portal, such as the ReCharge Customer Portal. Taking it one step further, you could provide ready-made “I thought you might like this” or “A gift for you!” text messages for customers to quickly send to friends and family.
You can also make subscription gift-giving attractive by being thoughtful about the gift-giving process. A great example of this is XXX, which allows the user to customize when they would like the first shipment to arrive, if they would like the first shipment to be delivered to them versus the gift-recipient, so that they can present it in person, elect gift wrap, etc.
Emphasize your flexibility
We are living in uncertain times and everyone values a little flexibility.
This season is a great time to demonstrate the flexibility of your subscription program and the control that subscribers have. For example, ask subscribers prior to the holidays if they will want to change a delivery window or skip the next shipment. Be sure to make it convenient to do so directly from the email, customer portal (i.e., ReCharge customer portal), or via text message.
Why is this so important? The most common reason why customers cancel subscriptions (besides issues with a product), is the inability to adjust subscription parameters when needs change. Enable subscribers to easily change quantity, delivery timing, or shipment address (instead of shipping to your home, ship to your mom’s home!). With the stress of the holiday season, you may find that subscribers are more likely to say “forget it!” and cancel instead of dealing with one more hassle.
Personalize, personalize, personalize
The great thing about subscription customers is that you know a lot about them – from what products they like to how frequently they use them. Use this data to your advantage to customize the customer experience. This includes not only product recommendations, but also content that will be interesting and extend the value of the product they purchase, such as blog posts, tips, recipes, instructions, user-generated content, and more. You also could generate goodwill with subscribers during the holidays by highlighting that a percentage of their subscription purchase will benefit a good cause.
Leveraging subscriber customer data, you can cross-sell while also providing value. For example, before the holidays, email or text to ask if they would like to add stocking-stuffer sizes of their favorite products to their next shipment. Or, amazing accessories to glam up a holiday outfit. What other needs during the holiday season can you anticipate and fulfill?
Also, don’t forget to follow up with subscribers after the holidays with personalized communications. A National Retail Federation report showed that more than two-thirds of holiday shoppers intended to continue buying into the New Year. And more than 80% of 18-24-year olds said they planned to shop between December 26 and January 1.
The tools you can use
How do you make all of this subscription magic happen? The Shopify Plus platform integrates with ReCharge to manage subscriptions. The ReCharge Theme engine is a tool that allows you to create a customized and branded ReCharge Customer Portal to give customers control to manage or modify their subscription, including changing order quantity, delivery timing, billing information, and more.
The ReCharge Customer Portal also can provide a great opportunity to feature new or recommended products that can easily be added to a subscription – right in the portal.
Furthermore, be sure to leverage your analytics tools to provide personalized customer experiences during the holidays (and beyond). We talk about some strategies and platforms that can help you achieve this in this blog post.
Beyond technology tools, you’ll need ways to understand what will appeal to or provide value to your subscription customers at the holidays. Spend time talking one-on-one with customers, or send targeted surveys. Check in with the customer support team to get insights into what questions subscription customers are asking.
Then, go forth and conquer the holiday season! May you have a great eCommerce gifting season! But by also putting some of these subscription strategies in place, you might be surprised to see how many new customers become long-term fans.