Famous basketball player and coach John Wooden once said, “Flexibility is the key to stability.”
For the ever-changing world of subscription commerce, it’s no different. Consumers are increasingly more interested in customizable options that work best for them. Brands are now expected to shift and change to meet the varying needs of their customers, rather than the other way around. Being flexible and giving customers options centered around product, delivery schedule, payment, and communication allow the best brands to shift to a relational commerce model.
Flexibility creates a world in which customers are empowered to choose their own adventure. This active engagement, with your brand playing the part of trusty sidekick, boosts brand loyalty and reduces the likelihood of customers churning out of your subscription program.
So let’s talk about the actions you can take to give your subscribers these opportunities for increased customer engagement.
The 3 Areas That Matter
Take a look at every touchpoint you have with your customers. And when we say touchpoint, we mean any moment you can interact with your customer. From sending out welcome emails, credit card expiry messages or a personalized note when they open a package from your business — any chance for your brand to speak with your subscribers is a touchpoint.
So look at the interactions (or opportunities) your brand has and pair that with the amount of options (or educational content about these options) you provide your customers. You likely are already offering flexibility without fully focusing on it.
Flexibility in Communications
One area to be flexible is in your communication. Step back in time to the early days of advertising and product communication. Don Draper walked the halls of the ad-agency pitching ideas for billboards, magazine ads, and direct mail. But as technology entered the market, ads and product communication had to change.
Enter commercials and radio slots highlighting new products or opportunities to upgrade. Eventually, communicating brand value and exciting new product releases came into the inbox of anyone with an email address. What once captured the attention of many, now competes with a slew of other messages flooding into inboxes everywhere. So how, in a sea of other messages and ads, do you provide communication that’s valuable to your customers?
Leading ecommerce agency, Irish Titan adds, “Noise is left, right, and center. The key is meeting your customers where THEY want you, and delivering an awesome message THEY want. Speak TO them, NOT AT them. Use YOUR voice but THEIR language. And reward them generously for being your customer.” – Darin Lynch, Founder and CEO of Irish Titan
Flexible communication can look like this: You can send an email informing your customers about their subscription with an opportunity to upsell or manage their subscription right there in the message.
- You can have an easily-accessible portal, giving customers the ability to engage with you on their terms at any time.
- You can utilize SMS functionality, allowing customers to manage their subscription without ever having to go to a website.
- You give them options, so that no matter where they are or what they need to do, it’s frictionless.
Flexibility in Checkout
Like any business model, there are risks in offering subscriptions- customers get bored easily with the products they’re receiving (more on that in the next section), they accumulate too much, or they are in a financial situation that hinders them from continuing to purchase. What if you could mitigate those risks, just by being more flexible? When it comes to the shopping experience, providing customizable options dramatically lowers the risk of points 2 and 3.
With any subscription, the accumulation of products is a real concern for many shoppers. Offering the option to skip a month, gives your customers the chance to use more of the product until they need a refresh. Additionally, allowing shoppers to swap products that come to their door gives them a new level of customization and an opportunity for you to show off different offerings.
Flexibility in Product
That brings us to being flexible with your product. As shoppers continue their relationship with you, it’s imperative that you meet their needs with the products you offer. Providing an option as simple as swapping out what they’re subscribed to for something new or different can keep them engaged and reduce churn.
Do you have opportunities for customers to add on one-time purchases? For example, if you sell razors, perhaps offering the option for shaving cream to compliment the standard razor pack that gets sent monthly. In analyzing merchants for our upcoming State of Subscription Commerce report, we found that one-time purchases for certain verticals increased the average order value (AOV) by over 70%. Not only do allowing for flexible product offerings benefit the customer and their quest for customization, but it benefits you in terms of both AOV and lifetime value (LTV) by providing multiple cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
“Flexibility is the Key to Stability”
A great example of these 3 areas of flexibility all wrapped into one is the diaper brand, Hello Bello. Hello Bello is a diaper subscription company that has branched beyond just standard diapers to offer their customers many things they need to replenish when caring for a young child.
A Real-World Example: My Experience with a Flexible Subscription Brand
My husband and I had our first child in January of 2019, and like most new parents, were pretty clueless of what we needed and the best options out there for us. When we were on the hunt for affordable, premium diapers for our son, a friend suggested trying the Hello Bello subscription. So we signed up, and immediately were offered a customizable experience- from selecting the patterns on the diapers (which honestly is more exciting than you might think), to optional add-ons like shampoo, bubble bath, multivitamins, hand sanitizer, wipes, etc.- our monthly boxes felt entirely custom to us. When my son started potty training, we were able to swap our diapers for pull-ups, and when we accidentally accumulated too many, were able to pause our subscription until we were ready to start it up again. Their whole checkout process gave us a sense that we were in control, and able to make the boxes work for us in that moment.
There are so many ways you can offer flexibility to amplify your business success, and these 3 areas just scratch the surface. Utilize metrics and gain customer insights to better understand what they’re looking for from you. Enabling the experience to feel customizable only furthers a customer’s lifetime value, and reduces overall churn.