3 best ecommerce subscription models, with industry-leading examples

3 best ecommerce subscription models, with industry-leading examples

One thing there can be no doubt about over the past decade, is the stellar growth of subscription-based ecommerce. It’s not an entirely new means of attracting and retaining customers, but it can be an exceedingly powerful one for those interested in Shopify store setup. 

However, there are also a lot of options for businesses wishing to dip their feet into ecommerce subscriptions. Make the wrong choices, and your brand might not derive as much benefit from its subscription service as it could and should do. 

So, let’s help you start making sense of the sometimes dizzying world of ecommerce subscriptions, by digging into three popular models. You may then take the opportunity to download our ebook to find out more about what subscriptions could do for your brand.


#1 The Subscribe and Save model

This model shouldn’t be too difficult to get one’s head around, given that it pretty much describes itself – the customer shows loyalty to a brand by committing to a subscription, and the merchant rewards them with a discount. 


Native deodorant's product page featuring a savings offer.


With customer retention being one of the greatest worries for merchants today, the Subscribe and Save model presents obvious benefits to both parties. 

After all, if you’re a customer, you’re a lot less likely to bother straying towards other brands for certain products, if you’re already committed to a recurring subscription that saves you from having to even manually order those items every month. That’s before you consider that you’re getting money off at the same time. 


Smol's subscription site explaining their unique value proposition.


And of course, a Subscribe and Save model enables merchants to cultivate repeat sales from customers that will provide a strong base for their business’s growth online. 

While Amazon helped to make this subscription model as common a sight as it is today, many other ecommerce outlets have gone on to adopt it to power their growth, including the likes of Bulletproof Coffee, Native Deodorant and the Smol laundry detergent brand. 


Bulletproof's subscription offering explained, step by step.


It’s likely to be an especially relevant subscription model for your brand if you sell consumable or limited-use products that customers tend to buy periodically. This might make it a particularly pertinent model if your brand is in the Food & Drink or Health & Beauty industries, although it can also be applied to many other product types and demographics.


#2 Curated Subscription Boxes

Let’s take a closer look at brands like the online personal styling service Stitch Fix, and the beauty box provider, Birchbox. These merchants use a somewhat different subscription model, which – unlike Subscribe and Save – places the emphasis more on discovery than on convenience. 


Personalised styling and subscription box Stitch Fix turned 10 years in 2021.


This model entails putting together a subscription box, the contents of which the customer may not even be entirely aware of until they receive it. And that, of course, is central to the magic of a Curated Subscription Box. 

It lends itself to novelty or seasonal items, or to sectors where the customer may appreciate being introduced to products they might not have otherwise even considered. 


Birchbox offering something different to celebrate International Women's Day on the 8th of March. 


This greater unpredictability with regard to what the customer will receive does mean that these subscriptions are likelier to be paused from time to time, compared to Subscribe and Save subscriptions, which the customer will be more inclined to start and then largely forget about. 

But as long as you account for this, and emphasise the ‘discovery’ element to your customers, the Curated Subscription Box could be an attractive option almost regardless of your store’s sector. Health and beauty, consumer electronics, cocktails, stationery and recreational activities are just some of the verticals that have seen innovative use of this subscription model.


#3 Membership subscriptions

We all like to feel ‘special’ from time to time, or to have something desirable that others don’t have. It’s this feeling that merchants have long appealed to with the offer of ‘exclusive’ and ‘limited-edition’ products that generate FOMO (fear of missing out), and you can do a similar trick with your ecommerce store’s subscriptions. 

This can be especially well-executed with a Membership subscription model that offers perks for those ‘in the club’. Such benefits could include exclusive discounts, free delivery, loyalty points, or whatever else comes to mind that may be relevant to your brand. 

Beauty Pie members receive a regular box of beauty products and samples.


As for the aforementioned FOMO, you might especially drive this through member-only product drops and sample sales. Just imagine the anticipation among your members, for instance, if your brand only drops new products every quarter or twice a year. 

Another option with a Membership model is to offer monthly membership fees as a credit that people can use when shopping with you. This means that, once someone becomes a member of your scheme, the more they buy from you, the more they could save. 


On The Brew Tea Co.'s site (an Underwaterpistol client), members can use Brew Coins, and earn more when subscribing.


As you might have gathered from the above, it’s important to understand the psychology of your customers when considering this subscription model. But if you wish to enhance or add a sense of exclusivity to your brand, and/or your store’s average order value (AOV) is high, a scheme like this could be highly effective.  


Looking to grow your brand through subscriptions?

In that case, you’ll want to download our complete ebook.

As powerful as it can be for your store to embrace the subscription ecommerce model, there’s more to the process than simply knowing about the hype. 

Do you, as a merchant, know the various forms that ecommerce subscriptions can take? How well do you understand the differences between the core models for subscription services, and how you may tailor these to maximise their appeal to your own target audiences? 

What about the most popular and relevant ecommerce subscription tools and platforms, which would allow you to unlock the full growth potential subscriptions could represent for your business? Download this guide for the answers.



Don’t hesitate to swot up on all things subscriptions with Underwaterpistol 

The above are just some of the questions comprehensively answered by our new ebook, which details the essentials of this burgeoning form of ecommerce. 

Our ebook contains a plethora of useful information not just for merchants that may have never before ventured into subscription services, but also those that may have experience with this form of ecommerce, possibly with an interest in updating their existing approach. 

It’s all been put together by our team here at Underwaterpistol, which has provided leading solutions in relation to subscription-based online shopping for nearly two decades. 

Download our complete ebook today, and we’ll be your guide to everything subscription ecommerce in the 2020s. This online publication covers everything from the highest-rated tech solutions, to how you can acquire and retain subscribers, as part of the all-round effective management of your brand’s subscription service. 

And if you’re ready to launch and grow this aspect of Shopify store at speed, simply reach out to our capable and seasoned experts.