How to quickly grow an ecommerce subscription service

How to quickly grow an ecommerce subscription service

So, you know that you want to expand your ecommerce business into the burgeoning subscriptions market, or optimise your approach if you already have some involvement in the sector. 

You might have even ascertained which subscription model would be most suitable for your brand. But how knowledgeable are you about the best strategies for launching and scaling a subscription service? 

Whether you’re an established subscription brand or have just started a new offering, it’s important to keep up with industry trends and growth tactics. 

So, as Shopify Plus partners here at Underwaterpistol, we thought we’d take you through some of the key steps for sustainably growing your brand on a subscription model – and unlocking its ultimate potential. 


1. Audit your brand guidelines and define a subscription niche

Before you start advertising your subscription offering, it will pay off to review how your brand is recognised by your audience. Do an audit of your ecommerce brand as well as your customer's journey. 

Assess your brand guidelines and create a signature style across all your communications. The likes of your brand’s fonts, colours and “brand story” will all need to be considered at this stage. Think, too, about what your ecommerce brand’s USP (unique selling point) is, and what niche the subscription service will cater for.

Today, there are subscription brands representing almost any and every conceivable niche – ranging from Box of Goth to Coffee and a Classic. You’ll therefore need to carefully consider how your brand can carve out its own distinctive place in an increasingly competitive ecommerce subscriptions market. 


Watch our video ‘History of Subscription Ecommerce’ on YouTube.


Digital advertising is a powerful way to place your brand in front of as many (relevant!) eyeballs as possible – in other words, people who are likely to be interested in your subscription service.

When you are putting together your ad creative for your ecommerce subscription service, it is imperative to place your USP and niche front and centre. 


2. Run an email marketing program for your subscribers

Email has long been a highly potent means of acquiring and managing relations with customers; indeed, past studies indicate that it generates about $38 for every $1 spent

And email marketing is certainly no less important for subscription brands than for ecommerce stores that deal solely in one-off sales, given the need for businesses in both categories to keep their existing customers regularly engaged. Well-targeted, personalised email marketing can help with every aspect of marketing your brand's subscription offering. 

Important journeys to consider include acquiring new customers, engaging existing ones, turning regular one-off buyers into subscribers, gathering additional insightful information about customers, and reactivating inactive customers.

Image source: Shopify. MeUndies use their welcome email to promote their subscription offering.


3. Create an exclusive community for your subscribers

One of the great benefits of moving your ecommerce brand into the subscriptions space is the opportunity it presents to build a community and provide an interactive, participatory experience for your customer. 

This, in turn, helps cultivate a ‘we’ relationship with your customers, instead of an ‘us-them’ relationship, whereby you simply “project a need” for your product or service on your target audience. 

Branded online communities can also offer many practical benefits for subscription businesses, such as enhanced brand exposure and credibility, reduced customer support costs, and improved customer retention. 

There are various examples of how brands have created engaging communities for their customers down the years – ranging from Lego Ideas, which enables enthusiasts to propose designs that they feel should be on sale, to the Plant Power Journal of Traditional Medicinals. 

Remember that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ here – different approaches to community building work better than others for certain brands and verticals. 


The Plant Power journal offers their community regular, informative content.


4. Set up an ecommerce referral or rewards program

Keeping your customers loyal will obviously be one of your key priorities as a subscription ecommerce brand. Past research has indicated that 74% of customers are motivated to be loyal to a brand if given the opportunity to work towards a goal or reward, while 79% of customers have signalled they are likelier to be loyal if they are able to unlock exclusive benefits. 

Whilst the subscription model offers ecommerce store owners a better customer retention thanks to the setup of reoccurring purchases, there are further steps a subscription brand could take to cultivating loyalty. Namely, through a referral or rewards scheme.

You might choose to give those referred a 10% discount, for instance, along with a little something for those referring, such as a free month’s subscription or a cash credit to be used elsewhere in your store. 


How the Craft Gin Club explains their offering.


Craft Gin Club – the UK’s biggest subscription club for gin lovers – boosted their repeat purchase rate by 53%, and member spend by 51%, after creating a tiered loyalty program that presented their committed subscribers with exclusive rewards and perks. Those included the chance to earn 200 loyalty points for each box, as well as vouchers and discounts.


5. Make use of user-generated content (UGC)

The term ‘user-generated content’, or UGC, refers to the content – such as text, images and reviews – that customers create, rather than brands.

YogaClub features their user generated content on their homepage in a social feed.


Encouraging your subscribers to share their own UGC related to your brand and its products – whether through your own website, Instagram or other marketing channels – can help present your brand as authentic and credible. 

It can also be instrumental in cultivating trust in your brand among your target customers, and driving their decisions to buy from you or subscribe to your products.

But to make the most of UGC’s benefits for your own ecommerce subscription service, you don’t have to just sit there and wait in hope for the hashtagged pictures and videos of your products to roll in.

That’s because you can encourage your followers to share photos and videos of their products when leaving reviews, which can then be repurposed for your social media marketing. 

And with your newly launched loyalty program, why not reward extra loyalty points to members who create and post images of themselves using your products?


Read our blog ‘The importance of reviews for subscription brands’.



6. Consider influencer marketing for your ecommerce store

There are various ways in which influencer marketing has long worked well for ecommerce brands seeking to spread the word about their subscription services.

Many of us, for instance, are familiar with that YouTube staple, the unboxing video, in which an influencer removes the packaging from the product they’ve just received, and shows off and talks about it to the viewer.


One of Ipsy’s influencer collaborations.


Again, your ecommerce brand doesn’t have to be passive with its use of influencers to promote its subscription offerings. You could sign up relevant influencers for longer-term relationships with your brand – especially useful for promoting subscriptions given the very nature of subscriptions running for a longer period of time. 

You might also offer incentives for ambassadors to engage with your brand on social media – for instance, giving money-off voucher codes that they could then share with their followers. 

Popular subscription brands such as YogaClub, Bitsbox and IPSY have long drawn upon influencers’ expertise in various ways to generate brand awareness, expand reach, and bolster sales and revenue.


Ipsy creates content together with their influencers.


What’s next?

Here at Underwaterpistol, we are Shopify Plus partners specialising in growing best-in-class ecommerce brands. If any of the tactics above interest you, our team has got the expertise to help you implement them. 

If you’d like to speak directly with one of our knowledgeable consultants, please don’t hesitate to reach out to discuss your unique needs and challenges.

One of our core specialities is subscription, so we created this subscription ebook to help get brands started on their journey to capitalise on the opportunity of subscription ecommerce. Download it today, and let us know what you think!