Where to start with a subscription model
Where to start with a subscription model

By on in Ecommerce

Where to start with a subscription model

Subscription models have been gaining in popularity for years. And like many other digitally-driven, convenience-focused innovations, the pandemic only brought the benefits of subscriptions into starker relief.

Why haul yourself to the local movie theater when you can catch the new release from the comfort of your own home on HBO Max? Why lug grocery bags out to the parking lot (or even worse, through crowded NYC sidewalks) when you could have FreshDirect sent right to your doorstep?

Whether it’s a subscription for goods (like razors, makeup, or groceries) or a service-based subscription (like streaming channels or Peloton courses), subscriptions are a win for consumers and brands—when done right.

If you’re thinking about dipping your toes into the subscription waters, here’s where to start.

“Everyone else has one,” is not a good enough reason to start your own subscription. Do your customers really want a subscription service? Not every business is suited to the model, and if you’re starting one to keep up with the Joneses, you’re doing it wrong.


Develop a plan

Like any business decision, a subscription program is not something to approach haphazardly.

“Everyone else has one” is not a good enough reason to start your own subscription. Do your customers really want a subscription service? Not every business is suited to the model, and if you’re starting one to keep up with the Joneses, you’re doing it wrong.

When in doubt, ask your customers. Touch base with the people or businesses that buy from you regularly. Ask them if there are any pain points a subscription service might address.

It’s also not a bad idea to check the competition. Are others in your space offering subscription services? If the answer is no, there might be a reason no one else has taken the plunge. Alternatively, if all your competitors already offer subscriptions, is the space too saturated for you to make a significant splash with your offering?


Amp up the value

A great subscription does more than just send something to customers once a month. The best subscriptions offer an additional layer of value. It doesn’t have to be monetary, and it doesn’t have to be something huge (although it could be either of those things!). But it does need to create an extra incentive for customers to sign up for the recurring charge.

An example: I subscribe to a bi-monthly coffee delivery service. It is more expensive than buying the beans at Starbucks, so the value-add is not savings. I do it because it’s a company that works directly with farmers in South America to source top-quality beans. They cut out the middleman, meaning the farmers get a greater share of the profit, and I get a better quality product.

The additional value doesn’t end with the superior coffee. I also love getting to support individuals who are doing the hard work of farming and roasting the beans. The brand includes a postcard with each bag of coffee, detailing the backstory of the farmers—it’s often a family who’s worked the land for generations. That feeling of direct connection to the product and the people who make the coffee is worth every extra penny to me.


Make sure you’ve got the goods

I mean this literally and figuratively. Do you have a way to deliver your product or service to your customers reliably? People don’t ever like to receive a sub-par product, but it stings even more when they’ve extended their trust by giving you carte blanche access to their Visa.

Ask me how I felt when a certain internet provider in NYC kept dropping service while I worked from home. (Spoiler alert: I called a new provider and had them violently rip the old cable out of the wall so I would never have to revert to the old guys again.) That’s the kind of rage a poorly delivered subscription can engender.

Delivering the goods isn’t just about ensuring you have the infrastructure to get the product or service to your client. Yes, you need to make sure the internet can reliably travel through your cables or that your team will deliver those perishable groceries on time, but it’s bigger than that.

You must ensure your digital experience is top-notch, too. Is your online checkout process seamless? Do you have an email workflow in place to remind customers about upcoming orders and provide them enough lead time to adjust or pause the shipment? Your digital experience must be in complete alignment with the delivery of your actual offering.


Listen and adjust

Think of your subscription as a living, breathing thing. Unlike a one-time purchase, subscriptions are ongoing. That means they must adjust as your customers’ needs change.

Check in regularly with customers to confirm they’re happy with their experience. Consider sending surveys via email or asking for a quick net promoter score (NPS) rating from folks every few months.

When people indicate that their needs have shifted or your subscription is falling short somehow, it’s time to revisit and revamp.

The great thing about taking an active and engaged approach to developing and maintaining your subscription program is that you remain in regular dialogue with your customers. As you deliver your offering on an ongoing basis, you keep the door open to gather feedback and build a stronger product or service, plus a deeper relationship with those you serve.

Looking for someone to bounce your subscription ideas off of? We’re here for you.