Flexible Subscription Management: Why It Matters

We're diving into the reasons why flexible subscription management is essential for growing DTC brands — as well as the best ways to implement flexibility.

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    There was once a time when the concept of a subscription inherently meant two things: consistency and rigidity. After all, that’s the foundation of recurring billing — the same service and the same charge at the same agreed-upon intervals. But as the subscription economy boomed and the eCommerce landscape became more crowded than ever, we’ve started to witness survival of the fittest in action. In other words, not all subscriptions are made equal, and there’s a clear winner when it comes to the so-called best subscription models: those that feature flexibility. 

    Flexible subscription management is quickly becoming crucial for the success of DTC Shopify brands looking to make a big splash in the eCommerce space and build a loyal customer base. Here’s what you need to know about flexible subscriptions, as well as why flexibility matters for retention, customer engagement, and scaling your brand. 

    The Limitations of Inflexible Subscription Offerings

    Understanding why one subscription offering succeeds requires understanding why another one might struggle. So what do we mean by inflexible or rigid subscription offerings? Let’s look at an example. 

    Imagine a razor company. 

    Say the razor company has a subscription that includes four razor heads per month for $10/month, and the brand sends the razor heads on the first of every month. Originally, the brand created this format as a way to bring convenience to as many people as possible.

    You initially subscribe in June, so this cadence works great for the summer months. Then, as the weather gets cooler and you find yourself shaving less, your razor heads begin to dull way slower. Before you know it, you have a closet full of razor heads that will probably take you months to go through.  

    The razor company’s response to this? Oh well. This offering makes sense for most subscribers. You can cancel if you want to. 

    Here’s the effect of this rigid offering:

    • You’re forced into a corner and have no choice but to cancel. Of course you aren’t going to want to keep spending $10 a month on a product you already have way too much of ➡️ So the razor brand’s churn rate rises.
    • You’re annoyed. And you talk about it. We’ve all heard about the perks of good word-of-mouth marketing, but it’s a double-edged sword. Some reports estimate that unhappy customers tell around nine to 15 people about their experience, whereas happy customers tell only a few people. Anytime someone mentions shaving, razors, or even showering, you let them know about your closet full of razor heads ➡️ So the razor brand’s reputation is damaged and customer acquisition becomes more challenging.
    • You find a better brand that lets you alter your frequency and skip orders. Eventually, miraculously, you use all of the razor heads in your closet and turn to a competitor to keep getting your razor heads. And this time, you’re looking for the fine print before you subscribe to ensure you won’t be locked into this offering when the next winter rolls around and you want to scale back ➡️ So the razor brand’s market share starts to shrink as their biggest competitor grows.

    Even if a brand started with the aim of leaning into convenience, the main limitation of an inflexible subscription offering is its failure to meet the changing needs of each loyal subscribers. Not only does the lack of adaptive subscription management lead to a higher churn rate, but in an industry where repeat customers are worth 22x more than average customers, it’s also a significant misstep when it comes to getting the most out of the customers who do stick around. Plus, with more and more brands offering flexible subscription management, businesses that resist this change will quickly be left behind and beaten out by competitors.

    The Counter-Intuitive Power of Flexible Subscriptions 

    Smartrr Flexible Subscription Management Options

    It’s easy to see how a rigid subscription offering can be alienating. But the option to skip an order, delay a delivery, or even pause a subscription all just sound like a bunch of different ways to minimize recurring revenue. Right? 

    Not so fast. 

    A recent McKinsey consumer study found that nearly 75% of respondents have been consciously trying to decrease their spending either by reducing order quantities, skipping their next delivery order, or even changing brands. And roughly the same percentage of consumers also reported that they’re loyal to brands that understand their individual needs

    So what do these two statistics mean in conversation with one another? They mean that allowing your subscribers to spend less money with you in the short term is actually a smart way to build rapport, drive up customer retention, and develop a stronger relationship with your subscribers. And don’t forget, in the absence of order quantity reduction or skipping options, consumers aren’t afraid to switch brands — which is most definitely a way to minimize revenue.

    As it turns out, leaning into these seemingly immeasurable concepts of building customer trust and loyalty actually isn’t that immeasurable. These flexible options have been shown to help brands make more money in the long run. Companies increased their revenue by about 3% after allowing subscribers to pause their subscriptions rather than just having a cancellation option. 

    That’s because paused subscribers regularly come back, unpause their subscription, and proceed to spend money that would’ve been lost had there not been a pause option in the first place. And since you can still legally send these paused subscribers email and SMS marketing, a great way to encourage subscribers to unpause their subscription is through strategic win-back campaigns.

    Smartrr Pause and Cancel Reasons

    We’ve also seen this in action with our brands. Take Unbloat, for example. When Unbloat implemented Smartrr’s cancellation flow, which enables them to directly ask why subscribers are trying to cancel and counter with a retention action, they saw 40% to 50% of subscribers choose an alternative option rather than canceling. Instead, subscribers opted to skip, pause, or even gift their subscriptions in place of cancellation. 

    The freedom to fully control their subscription experience directly prevents subscribers from canceling — and from there, opens the door for deeper customer engagement and a higher lifetime value. It really is that simple.

    Benefits of Flexible Subscription Management

    To recap, here are the benefits of subscription flexibility: 

    • Higher post-purchase customer satisfaction 
    • Improved customer retention 
    • Stronger customer loyalty
    • Higher customer lifetime value
    • Better ability to stand out among competitors 
    • Improved brand reputation 

    Flexible Subscriptions in Action

    So what does flexible subscription management actually look like? 

    Here’s our take:  

    The Ability to Change Subscription Settings. Anytime.

    That’s essentially what it boils down to. 

    In addition to having the option to cancel, here are some subscription management options that empower consumers to control their experience:

    • Pause subscription
    • Skip next order
    • Delay next order 
    • Send next order now
    • Change subscription frequency
    • Gift next order 
    • Swap out an item 

    🧠 P.S. Smartrr offers each of these features and more to prioritize and delight your end consumer. We make it super easy to set up any of these features on the back end — all you have to do is easily toggle on and off whatever you want.

    Smartrr Flexible Subscription Management

    Every Part of the Subscription Experience is Flexible 

    Herbaland Bundle Builder

    Truly promoting flexibility means it shouldn’t just exist in your subscription management. Every part of your brand experience should put personalization and customization at the forefront to tailor the overall experience to each individual subscriber. 

    This could mean implementing customizable product bundles. It could mean instituting a loyalty program that, rather than providing the same reward to everyone after a certain period of time, operates on a point system and allows subscribers to select their own rewards. It could mean providing subscribers with a variety of communication options for subscription management, whether it’s via email, text, a Shopify customer portal, a chat bot, or something else. 

    Listening to Subscribers

    Aiming to have a thriving flexible subscription becomes much harder if you don’t consult or listen to your target audience: your current subscribers. 

    Often, your best ideas will come from your audience. 

    Ask for feedback wherever you can and find patterns among complaints and suggestions. More often than not, the needs of a seemingly loud minority end up applying to a larger group of subscribers than you’d think.

    Remember, the subscription model thrives off happy, loyal customers — so doing everything in your power to delight your end consumer will result in success. 

    The Best Shopify Subscription App For Flexibility

    As the leading Shopify subscription app that prioritizes the end consumer, Smartrr’s features put flexibility at the forefront. Smartrr empowers consumers to make the most of their subscriptions and to create the exact experience that they want. Plus, our robust customer account portal allows subscribers to make changes easily and independently. 

    Get started with engaging, flexible subscriptions today and send us a note.