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10 Ways To Maximize Subscription Retention From Winning Beauty Brands


Blog banner with beauty supplies on marble countertop

What's the secret to success for for beauty brands selling subscriptions today?

This was the key question participants in the Launching subscriptions to improve retention panel sought to get to the bottom of as part of Octane AI’s webinar series, DTC Grow: Beauty 2021. The panel was hosted by Bold Co-Founder, Jay Myers, and featured Kimberly Lewis, Co-Founder of CurlMix; Britanny Carter, Head of Digital Product at VEGAMOUR; and Derrick Dingleson, Founder, Chief of Product Growth at OPTE.

Carter, Dingleson, Lewis, Myers speaking on a screen Left to right: Carter, Dingleson, Lewis, Myers

Though these brands have distinct offerings within the beauty sector, they are united in how successfully they sell subscriptions. Here are some key takeaways and tips from this dynamic discussion on how to not only win those subscribers, but nurture and retain them. 

1. Treat subscribers differently 

It’s important to calculate the LTV (customer lifetime value) of subscribers because you can afford to do things for them you might not be able to do with first-time purchasers. Spoil subscribers with free gifts, VIP discounts, refer-a-friend programs, community groups, personalized customer service — anything you can to treat them like the valued members they are.

Need a hand calculating your subscriber LTV? Use our handy LTV calculator. 

I tell brands not to say ‘customers,' but instead, call them members.” – Jay Myers, Bold

2. Education leads to subscriber retention 

The most successful subscription brands knock the educational component of their subscriptions out of the park. Videos, webinars, blog posts, white papers, even going live on social media to answer questions in real time all contribute to building trust and product understanding with your audience. 

Educate customers with content in your pre- and post-purchase flow to ensure they know how to get the most out of their beauty subscription, understand the value to cost ratio, and feel satisfied with their purchase.

If customers do feel less than satisfied, find out why. By simply asking them why they’re churning, you’ll collect important information to improve your subscription offering for future customers, and can even provide that current customer with the missing piece that will enable them to stay. For example, if they find the price is too expensive at the moment, offer them a one-time discount.

“If you’re going with a subscription offering, capture why they are leaving. Sometimes it’s an educational piece. We are working on enhancing our content so that customers can learn if they just need to know how to use it right, or use it longer, or understanding the cost.” – Britanny Carter, VEGAMOUR

3. Focus on finding the right subscribers

One of the downsides of the “subscribe and save” subscription model are customers who sign up to get the deal then immediately cancel.  While this can be discouraging, keep in mind that in the long term, if your subscription program offers enough value, customers will have a tough time opting out. 

Think of the free or discounted month as an opportunity to prove to subscribers it’s worth the price to be part of your membership. If you’re targeting an audience in your beauty industry niche and providing relevant content to those subscribers, the value you’re providing should go a long way for customer retention (and satisfaction). 

And for those who choose not to stay the course with you long-term, find new ways to win them back and build credibility by providing an incredible experience to your customers through every step in their journey with you — be it on the way in, or the way out. 

For more tips from brands making waves in the beauty subscription industry, check out these 5 eye catching beauty box subscriptions.

4. Segment your customers and emails

If you’re sending one-time customers and subscribers the same emails, you have a huge opportunity for optimization. Try tailoring an email flow to subscribers with special offers and exclusive perks. You can also use a personalized email flow to reduce churn, targeting customers who cancel their plan with incentives to reconsider. 

If a customer cancels because of price, send them an email offering a more affordable plan. If they cancel because of product fatigue, remind them they can adjust their subscription to be less frequent. Tracking the most common reasons for subscriber churn and having email flows in place to target these audiences is a key tactic for subscriber retention

Did you know brands that specifically target subscribers with email campaigns increase subscriber lifetime? Learn more in our data-driven Drivers of Success: 2021 Subscription Trends white paper. 

“When looking at buyers who are subscribers and those who aren’t, segment your customer data.” – Derrick Dingleson, OPTE

5. Use referral programs to your advantage 

Word of mouth is still the most effective communications tactic for driving growth. In fact many subscription brands site referred by a friend as their number one traffic source. 

These referral stats from Social Media Today tell the story: 

  • 78% of B2B marketers say that referral programs generate good or excellent leads.
  • 60% of marketers say that referral programs generate a high volume of leads
  • 54% say that referral programs have a lower cost-per-lead than other channels.

Also check out: 9 Stellar referral program examples

During the discussion, Dingleson (OPTE) mentioned that referral programs are a key part of their marketing strategy — particularly as a premium brand that doesn’t like to discount. Customers receive credits for referrals they can then use to replenish their product. They’re even experimenting with a program where customers are given a 24 hour window to make a referral — race against the clock to receive a bonus! 

The lesson here? Don’t be afraid to get innovative and invent new ways to keep subscribers engaged.  

6. Offer more value than the product itself

One area all the participants agreed upon was a successful subscription program should add value in addition to the product. Where the right product for the right price may entice customers to initially subscribe, the most successful subscription brands offer additional value making their entire program irresistible to customers. 

Free gifts, exclusive products, VIP offers and customer service, referral programs — there are endless ways to add value and make subscribers feel like they are getting too much for the price to think about cancelling. 

if you take product out of the equation does your membership still add value?” – Jay Myers, Bold Commerce

7. Identify key dropoff points

Carter, VEGAMOUR, spoke about the importance of analyzing customer drop off data and devising strategies accordingly.

We’ve already looked at the importance of understanding why customers churn, but understanding when can be very important as well. Deeply analyzing customer drop off data will provide a clear understanding of the “why” and allow you to develop and integrate strategies to address pain points at times when subscribers tend to churn. 

“We started to assess what were key dropoff points, and if we get them past the first month they would typically stay on.” – Britanny Carter, VEGAMOUR

“When it comes to a person leaving our service, it's really about understanding why — we go through a lot of different exercises to understand and collect as much data so we can be informed.” – Derrick Dingleson, OPTE

8. Identify key dropoff points

There are many reasons subscribers cancel. Some of the common ones include affordability, finding a less costly alternative, getting product fatigue — the list goes on. 

One tactic Lewis, CurlMix, implements to reduce churn, is offering exclusive, limited edition gifts that only subscribers have access to. This creates a sense of fear of missing out (FOMO) for customers who either aren’t subscribers or even those who may have already cancelled. Turn your subscription brand into an exclusive party everyone wants to be invited to and you will rise above the competition. 

“FOMO keeps people subscribing” – Kimberly Lewis, CurlMix

9. Integrate subscriptions into every step of your business

Offering a subscription is so much more than just a product customers pay for in regular increments. Successful subscription brands completely shape their business around this offering. From customer onboarding, to the kind of products and the price they are offered for, and the types of deals and promotions designed to get people to sign up — subscriptions are a go-all-in or go home type business model.

Lewis cited Function of Beauty as a perfect example of how to approach subscriptions onboarding. Upon visiting their site, customers are immediately directed to a quiz that helps build their personalized subscription product.  

Looking to improve your subscription onboarding experience? Check out this helpful blog post

“Adding a subscription offering is going to change how you launch, edit products, it adds a whole layer of complexity. Show added value, create retention flows, treat customers differently than one time purchasers.” – Britanny Carter VEGAMOUR

10. Treat people like…people

Customers are people too! Even though we all know this to be the case, some brands approach subscriptions, and marketing at large, as an impersonal, segmented exercise. But when you’re asking someone to partner with you in the long-term, it becomes a personal interaction. 

The secret to subscriptions success comes down to trust. Customers who feel good about their relationship with your brand will be much more likely to stay on as long-term subscribers, as well as increasing their LTV (subscriber lifetime value)

One approach Lewis, CurlMix, uses is interacting with customers live on social media, answering questions and affirming to subscribers they aren’t just some faceless brand or overnight drop-shipping operation. She also emphasizes the importance of customers getting to know customer service members on a name-to-name basis. This way when customers order from them they feel like they are talking to a real person.

“They really trust us. If a person doesn’t trust, they aren’t going to subscribe.” – Kimberly Lewis, CurlMix

Hope you're feeling inspired 

We found this conversation to be very inspiring and full of awesome, actionable takeaways — hopefully you did too. Watch the entire conversation here. 

Thank's for reading and taking the time to level up your subscription business. If we’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to access even more actionable insights on subscriptions, we highly recommend checking out our comprehensive Drivers of Success: 2021 Subscriptions Insights white paper. 

If you’re an analytics person, this is going to bring you a lot of value. We interviewed over 800 businesses to deliver concrete metrics on what is working (and what isn’t) within the subscriptions world. Follow that link for an entire playbook of invaluable subscriptions content you can use to increase your LTV and average order value.

Looking for a robust subscription plugin for your store? Bold Subscriptions is one of the top subscription apps for Shopify merchants and is now available on WooCommerce, BigCommerce, commercetools, and a number of other platforms via our headless API-powered technology. Follow the link below to learn more.

Try Bold Subscriptions

Ask a question or leave a comment below. We'd love to keep this dynamic conversation going! 

Special thanks to our friends at Bold Commerce for their insights on this topic.

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