According to recent research, the average length of time a consumer keeps a subscription service is just 125 days.

With the majority focusing on acquisition instead of retention, this stat is hardly surprising.

So, how can subscription box services improve retention in the long-term?

Here are five ways, as well as a few examples of the techniques in practice.

Offers for loyal customers

Most subscription services entice new users with delivery deals or a lower price for the first three months, and while this remains an effective acquisition strategy, an absence of incentives after this point is likely to be a big reason many jump ship.

It’s no coincidence that people tend to cancel after four months – soon after most early offers expire. 

As a result, there needs to be more of a focus on offers built on loyalty.

Birchbox is one brand that delivers this, using its points program to drive retention. 

Customers can earn points with each box delivered, as well as when they review samples online. In turn, these can be traded for full sized products - a great incentive to stay signed up.

Options to personalise content

Shorr’s survey found that one in five customers cancel a subscription service because they don’t like the products they receive.

One way to combat this is by allowing people to tailor boxes to suit their own tastes. 

Graze does this with its choice of snack boxes, allowing customers to choose between ‘variety’, ‘light’ or ‘protein’. 

It also tells consumers about the snacks that are available, listing the nutritional values on its website.

While this tactic could negate the ‘surprise’ element that some customers enjoy, there are ways to get around it, such as asking about broad personal preferences and tastes.

This could still deliver on the element of surprise, but ensure there is less chance of disappointment. 

Flexible plans

Consumers might be reluctant about signing up to a subscription box service because of concerns over difficult cancellations in future.

So while many brands might prefer to bury this information, being transparent and flexible on this issue could help to increase levels of trust.

Dollar Shave Club is well-known for its personal, easy-going and humorous tone of voice, and this extends to how it reassures customers.

Using ‘All reward, no risk” as its tagline, it’s encouraging from the start. 

Likewise, this kind of copy is littered throughout its website, reassuring customers that there are no commitments involved.

Pact Coffee takes this one step further by providing a number of flexible options around frequency and delivery.

Allowing customers to pause or cancel orders at any time - it gives them the confidence that they are entirely in control.

Likewise, the flower subscription service, Bloom & Wild, uses its app to reflect the brand’s flexible approach.

As well as allowing users to keep track of orders, it also sends out reminders and special offers – similarly useful tactics for keeping customers happy and engaged.

Custom packaging

Shorr’s survey found that 76% of consumers would be very likely to notice custom packaging versus standard brown paper boxes.

One in three have also shared an image on social media to show off a box’s packaging.

So, along with the added bonus of inspiring user generated content, unique or custom packing is also likely to further a positive response. 

Not Another Bill – a subscription service that sends out surprise gifts – is a great example of this.

Reflecting the brand's premium nature, the box acts as an extension of the overall experience. 

Consequently, customers are often quick to shout about it on social.

Additional value through content or education

Alongside monetary incentives, customers are more likely to renew their subscription if they are receiving something of additional value.

Wine subscription box service, Sip and Learn, uses education.

Essentially, the longer a customer is subscribed for – the more they will learn.

By using this as the basis for its business model, it means customers are unlikely to cancel before they have reached the end of the 12-box program.

Similarly, other brands aim to deliver value outside of what’s in the box.

Beauty subscription services in particular tend to use online editorial content to engage customers, using expert advice and tips and tricks to help them get the most out of the products, as well as extra content based on general beauty.

In conclusion...

While attracting new customers is an important part of the subscription box marketing model, it's certainly not the key to success.

Rather, it is vital that brands think about long-term strategy.

By delivering extra incentives and increased value for loyal customers, cancelling will hopefully be the last thing on their minds.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 2 December, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and GDPR Geek at Fresh Relevance

Don't forget that retention includes trying to recover lost subscribers.

Not everyone intended this to be a permanent break. They might have temporarily cancelled ahead of a long holiday, for example, and forgotten to resubscribe. They might have cancelled before moving house and not got around to restarting deliveries to their new address. And they might be unaware of recent improvements to your service that make it perfect for them.

It is straightforward to setup a trigger that contacts lapsed subscribers with e.g. a program of recovery emails - and some of them will return.

over 1 year ago

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