Promoting ecommerce subscriptions is often about timing. It’s important to find the right time to express the benefits of subscribing and why it’s the right choice for your visitors and customers.
When is the right time? It varies depending on the nature of your customers and products, but several powerful opportunities are worth exploring. We’ve rounded up some great spots—some are pretty genius—for ecommerce brands to promote subscription offerings. Start with the most common and work your way through to see if there are some you might not have considered… yet.
Whether you default to subscription or not, it’s smart to surface subscription as an option. Make sure that, even if the customer’s intent is to buy once, that are aware that they can subscribe. You should communicate the perks of subscription in simple terms, but also link to a subscription education page where they can learn more details.
While it is critical to help people navigate to the products they’re interested in as soon as possible, it’s not always ideal that they first learn you sell subscriptions on a product page. Create a spot in the header to call out your subscription offering and provide a link to learn about subscription perks. Send interested customers to a subscription benefits page, like this one on the Love Wellness shop (the Subscriptions menu item in the top navigation leads here).
Most post-purchase pages are generic. They say "thank you," list the order details and tell customers to look out for a confirmation email. Since this is a page every customer reaches, it's a prime opportunity to upsell customers to subscriptions.
In fact, at this point in the checkout flow, the customer has already made a purchase, so offering additional products won't affect your conversion rate. You can't lose!
Place a few offers on your post-purchase page for subscription products, including the one the customer just purchased. If possible, allow them to convert their recent purchase to a subscription for a slight discount or a subscription-only perk.
“It's very simple, just ‘one-click add to your previous order.’ That is free revenue, basically, because I typically see 10% to 12% of customers will actually say yes to that upsell offer. Now you just bumped your AOV pretty substantially on an order that was already going out the door, an order that’s already been placed, so there’s no risk of them potentially not placing the order like there is if you’re upselling them throughout the checkout process.”
It's very simple, just 'one-click add to your previous order.’ That is free revenue, basically, because I typically see 10% to 12% of customers will actually say yes to that upsell offer. Now you just bumped your AOV pretty substantially on an order that was already going out the door.
This confirmation page from a plant nursery is an excellent example. Once they complete payment, you’ll present the customer with a clear offer and compelling copy.
Similar to the Thank You Page, this email hits customers when they’ve decided to buy your product. They’ve either decided to give it a try or they’re making a repeat purchase. Combine that with the fact that order confirmations have an open rate around 60% (when was the last time you didn’t open one?), each scenario provides you a solid opportunity to educate them about subscription options and offer the opportunity to change their order to a subscription.
Keep in mind, transactional emails should not contain more than 20% promotional content, so you’ll want to make sure to prioritize the most critical order information: a thank-you message, confirmation that you’ve received and are processing their order, the price, and when it is expected to ship. Here’s an example of how Harry’s gently communicates their subscription Shave Plans in the Did you know? Section of this email.
As you strategize adding a subscription promotion into this email, consider how you might change the copy for a first-time buyer and a repeat customer. Maybe you simply mention subscription as an option for the first time buyer but create a CTA link to change the order to subscription on subsequent purchases of the same product or product type. Test different approaches to see what works best for you buyers.
Customers are usually hesitant to subscribe to a product before they’ve had the chance to use it. That’s a fair condition, so it often makes sense to wait until they receive the product before you prompt them to subscribe.
Create an email flow that kicks off once the customer receives their product. But not right away! It’s important to give them some time to use the product.
You’ll need to be smart with the timing here, and you may have to build in some variation based on the product. For example, a customer will probably use hand lotion immediately and decide if they like it. But if they buy dog food, it will take time to decide if it’s the right long-term option for their pet. Here's and example from Athletic Greens that encourages a customer to continue their healthy ritual by starting a subscription.
If you have a page on your website where customers can track the status of their orders, this page is valuable for two reasons:
Your order tracking page is a great opportunity to encourage customers to subscribe. You can beef up the page with the benefits of subscribing and also personalize it with offers for products you know the customer has already purchased.
In an episode of Subscription Ecommerce Live, Brandon Amoroso, founder, and president of Electriq, recommended focusing on one-off sales and then using moments like your order tracking page to turn customers into subscribers.
Roughly 15% to 20% of your website traffic is probably going to that order tracking page because, on average, a customer will check 4.6 times per order. From there, you can get the one-shot customers into your subscription program
“Roughly 15% to 20% of your website traffic is probably going to that order tracking page because, on average, a customer will check 4.6 times per order. From there, you can get the one-shot customers into your subscription program. A lot of brands want a subscription first, which to me is just crazy because I don't want to subscribe to a product I have never purchased before. You could have a much healthier long-term business if you're acquiring one-shot customers, but you have this robust retention flow in place that gets them into the subscription program.”
This example from Soylent shows the subscription promotion they run to customers on a non-subscriber's order tracking page.
The unboxing experience is a critical moment for ecommerce customers. It’s when they finally receive the reward for their patience. Most importantly, this is a moment to earn their trust in your brand, making it a perfect opportunity to plug your subscriptions.
Stick a printed QR code into the box that leads to a unique subscription landing page. Ideally, you would personalize the page to the customer’s recent purchase or purchase history.
Depending on the nature of your products, you may opt to send a QR code after each customer’s first purchase, or only once a customer purchases the same item more than once.
If customers buy a product, they might be willing to subscribe to similar or complementary products to enhance their experience. You can drive more revenue if you make smart recommendations.
For instance, a snack food subscription suggests they might be interested in subscribing to a beverage to wash it down. This works best if you can draw a clear line between the products. Don’t offer a high-sugar, high-caffeine drink to someone who bought a healthy vegan snack.
You can drive more revenue if you make smart recommendations.
Furthermore, this approach can work for complementary products that improve the original purchase, especially if the subscription is disposable or consumable. For example, if the customer purchases a soap dispenser, they might be willing to subscribe to the soap that fills it.
Out-of-stock products create friction for customers. They’re ready to buy, but your inventory challenges are in their way. If you want to try to recover these sales, your best bet is to offer any solution you can that your customers find acceptable.
If a product is out of stock, a customer may be willing to subscribe to receive a shipment as soon as it's available. Will they churn after receiving the first shipment? Maybe, but you’ll get at least one sale, and then you can implement retention strategies to convince them to continue to subscribe.
If you typically prioritize subscription customers (and we recommend that you do), make that clear when you promote the subscription. Doing so will reassure your customers that they’ll receive their product as soon as it’s available. Say something like, “Subscribe to receive [product] first.”
In cases like this, it may make sense to set the product details page to default to subscription and make one-off ordering unavailable.
A positive review from a customer indicates that they like your product (obviously) and, by extension, your brand. This fact makes it a smart moment to promote your subscriptions while their enjoyment is fresh and they’ve invested in your brand.
Add positive reviewers to an email flow where you thank them for the review and explain the benefits of subscribing. Show them a few subscription options: the product they ordered plus some similar ones.
That said, you should only use incentives to surprise and delight your customers for their kind words. Don’t offer an incentive in exchange for a positive review. This would violate the terms of many of the platforms you use to run your ecommerce business.
You should only use incentives to surprise and delight your customers for their kind words. Don’t offer an incentive in exchange for a positive review.
In addition to discounts, there are several effective alternatives to subscribe-and-save offers.
Like positive reviews, referrals are another strong indication that the original customer is happy with your brand and possibly willing to take the next step toward subscribing. If they didn’t like your products, they wouldn’t be recommending you to their friends and family.
You may have to integrate a few pieces of tech, but it would be wise to create an automation that recognizes a successful referral and kicks off an email flow to promote your subscriptions to the referrer.
In the email, thank them for the referral and offer a deal to upgrade them to a subscription. And, again, make sure you aren’t running afoul of your platforms’ incentive rules.
Your current subscribers already like your brand and products, so they may be willing to subscribe to additional products. Getting them back to your website may be tough, but you already have a strong communication channel.
The upcoming charge notification you send is the perfect opportunity to promote additional subscriptions. These messages have really high open rates—often 60% or more—making this an excellent communication channel to engage with your customers and build trust.
Pro Tip: In addition to 1-time purchases, ARPU supports adding items as subscriptions (if the item is also available as a subscription product). Subscribers can add new subscriptions in 3 clicks (Add to subscription; Select frequency; Checkout), without logging into their Recharge account.
Now that you understand where to promote subscriptions, you’re probably wondering what to say. Fortunately, this is simple: Express the benefits of subscribing and why it’s the right choice for your customers.
Make sure to customize the email to match the moment you’re targeting. For instance, if you’re targeting customers who leave positive reviews, thank them for the review.
With ARPU, you can send highly personalized upcoming charge notifications that allow subscribers to add subscriptions without logging in to the Recharge portal. Try ARPU for free.