4 Ways Subscriptions Can Create Long-Term Customers


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Businesses have finally learned what publications knew for years: The subscription model works. However, it takes more than a great idea to grow to the likes of a subscription-based company like Spotify or HelloFresh. It takes strategic planning, including putting an emphasis on initiatives that encourage subscribers to stick around.

See, it’s not always hard to get people to sign up for subscriptions. McKinsey & Company recently found that 15 percent of consumers have opted into subscriptions. And more than one-third of those individuals have no fewer than three subscriptions. Yet not everything is golden in the subscription market. According to Kearney Consumer Institute (KCI) research, many subscribers are planning to scale back.

This means that now is the time for you to make changes to the quality and perceived value of your subscription. (Or, if you’re in the pre-launch subscription phase, to make smart decisions before going live.) Below are four ways you can help build a loyal subscriber base interested in renewals and upgrades.

1. Aim for true customization.

Some subscription services are one-size-fits-all. Not only do they lack excitement, but they make subscribers feel like they’re not very special. That’s unwise in an era where consumers value getting white-glove, personalized treatment from brands.

The great aspect of personalizing your subscription is that you have the freedom to go as deep or wide as you want. For inspiration, consider the case of Nom Nom, the fresh pet food provider that’s getting a lot of press. Nom Nom gathers information, like the dog’s age, weight, and activity level, upfront. Then, the company uses this data to recommend an individualized meal plan based on the subscriber’s dog’s health and nutritional needs. Once the subscriber “pet parent” joins, they’ll receive pre-portioned meals, with the optimal amount of calories for their dog, at the cadence of their choosing. Subscribers can swap recipes based on dog preference or adjust deliveries as needed to best suit changing lifestyles.

What Nom Nom offers is several tiers of personalization. Each tier supports the other and keeps subscribers feeling like they’re heard and in control of their pet’s health. By eliminating the guesswork through Nom Nom’s highly customized subscription pet parents gain confidence knowing they’re doing right by their dog.

2. Give subscribers the power of choice.

People like to feel they have a say into any investment they make, including their subscriptions. One caveat, though: “Choice” doesn’t mean offering prospects three plans. True choice involves letting subscribers guide their needs within the subscription parameters.

A strong example of an emerging subscription-style service platform that leads with lots of choices is Nurx. The website gives people who sign up access to medical services from physician checkups to prescription refills. Nurx isn’t a subscription in terms of requiring a specific amount of money each month or year. After creating an account, Nurx users are charged for each interaction. Nevertheless, Nurx’s site is worth visiting to see how they put decision-making in the hands of their customer base.

What can you learn about a company like Nurx? Above all else, you can let subscribers control their destinies within preset “guardrails.” That way, they maintain a sense of being in charge and your company gets to do what it does best.

3. Plant seeds to grow a branded community.

When you sell a subscription, think of it as selling exclusive access to a gated community. Ultimately, you want your subscribers to think of themselves as part of a selective team. Over time, your community brand may even evolve into a hashtag that aligns with your core company but is distinct.

To grow a branded community, you need to make sure that you get to know your product (or service) and audience well. For instance, the subscription box Cryptid Crate definitely directs its plans directly to self-described cryptozoology nerds. Subscribers receive packages clearly aimed at education and insights into the paranormal and cryptids. Each Cryptid Crate offers so many different elements that it keeps subscribers guessing as to what they’ll get next. It’s a fun way to make subscribers feel like they’re part of a unique club.

How will you know if your branded community is taking off (or perhaps developing of its own accord?) Practice social listening. You want to know if a subscriber is buzzing about your subscription on TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest, or Facebook. The more positive buzz you can nab, the easier it will be to start naming and claiming your community moniker. Once the branded community is formed and solidified, you can leverage it to keep people from unsubscribing.

4. Give subscribers early adopter access.

An enormous benefit to starting a subscription service is having regular customers to turn to. Regular customers are a wonderful source of feedback, particularly for new products and services. Even if you’re only considering upgrading something you offer, you don’t have to go far to test it. Just ask some of your subscribers to participate in a beta test.

Believe it or not, you may get more participants than you might assume. You can chalk it up to human nature. We all like to feel as if we’re insiders from time to time. Consequently, your subscribers will probably enjoy being the first to try something new. Even if they aren’t impressed or have negative feedback, they’ll be apt to stick with your company. After all, you’re not delivering them a poor customer experience (CX). On the contrary, you’re giving them a tremendous opportunity to help your company get even better.

If you’ve never conducted beta testing with customers before, take your time and plan out your approach. Make sure that you control the process and know what your end goals are. Otherwise, you won’t get the effect or outcomes you want. You should also keep your testers in the loop after your testing is over. Thank them for their participation and let them know how grateful you are that they’re your customers.

Retaining subscribers can give your bottom line a nice boost by lowering your acquisition costs and increasing customer lifetime value. But you can’t just hope your subscription model works like a charm. Instead, take steps to make certain your subscription drives lasting success.

Image credit: Ron Lach; Pexels


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