Fostering customer loyalty is a concept that’s obviously important to every business, but it’s especially necessary for subscription eCommerce brands. That’s because repeat buyers are what fuel subscriptions — and the thing about repeat buyers is they hold a substantial amount of potential.
You’re probably familiar with the 80/20 rule, or the idea that 80% of your brand’s revenue is created by only 20% of your audience or selling efforts. While this is a general principle that dates back a hundred years ago, it’s still an incredibly relevant rule of thumb when thinking about your marketing strategy — because your most loyal subscribers will have the biggest impact on your revenue.
Developing a thoughtful loyalty-building strategy can be key to driving subscription success and ensuring you’re leaning into your most valuable customers. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best strategies to boost your customer loyalty in order to scale your subscription brand.
Let’s call a spade a spade: now more than ever, acquiring new customers is expensive. We’re not saying it isn’t important to invest in customer acquisition, but subscription businesses are increasingly seeing the benefits of easing off acquisition in favor of focusing on the post-purchase experience.
There are a few factors that impact this shift toward the post-purchase journey. For one, improving customer retention has been directly correlated with an increase in profits. Just a 5% boost in customer retention has been associated with a 25% to 95% increase in company earnings.
Part of the reason returning customers tend to spend more (typically about 61% more than new customers) is they’re significantly easier to market to. The probability of selling to an existing customer is roughly 40% - 65% higher than trying to sell to a new customer.
Because the subscription business model is directly built on the foundation of repeat customers, there are many opportunities to leverage the benefits of this recurring business. And while it seems like the most effective route is to simply cross-sell and upsell to your existing subscribers, the real secret is in building a strong relationship.
The way to build a strong relationship? You guessed it — by fostering customer loyalty.
Of course, loyalty needs to be earned. It’s just like any other relationship. You can’t snap your fingers and get someone to feel a connection with you from the get-go, but there are ways to nurture this process.
Now let’s explore what your Shopify subscription brand can do to help grow a loyal customer base.
Surprise, surprise — a loyalty program can help boost customer loyalty. This is one of the most obvious and yet underutilized loyalty-building tactics. Giving away discounts and free items may seem like a way to minimize recurring revenue, but think back to our relationship analogy. Any good relationship is a give-and-take. It requires giving value to and expressing appreciation for the other person before you can expect anything back from them.
Luckily, you don’t have to take our word for it. Implementing a loyalty program has been shown to increase customer spend by about 67%.
An impactful system that we love is the utilization of a point system. Subscribers can accrue a certain number of points with every purchase, which they can then trade in for a variety of products or discounts. Different subscribers will have different values and different saving strategies, and the great part about a point system is you empower your consumers to create the experience they want with their loyalty program.
Take a look at Pot Gang, a gardening subscription box. Gardeners subscribe for access to seeds (and potting plants, if desired) as well as gardening instructions. Their loyalty rewards, however, offer supplemental gardening items — like gardening gloves, slug defense, a watering can, and even a bug hotel.
Even though these products are available as one-time add-ons and one-off purchases, they’re not the usual items that subscribers engage with in their subscription — further incentivizing the program in order to unlock items that will take gardening to the next level.
Other brands, like L’AMARUE, do offer products that consumers subscribe to — in which case, you’re offering great savings. And in L’AMARUE’s case, the team also offers discounts and savings point blank as part of the loyalty program. The benefit of this strategy is that a loyal subscriber can continue to trade in points for the same product again and again (if they choose to).
You could even take things a step further and offer one exclusive product that is only available in your loyalty program. That way, it’s a reward specifically for your most loyal and engaged customers.
We highly recommend automatically enrolling subscribers in your loyalty program to remove any friction from the process and allow subscribers to start accruing points immediately. And P.S. — with Smartrr’s loyalty rewards, that’s exactly how we designed it. Plus, did you know we’re the only Shopify subscription app in the ecosystem to have loyalty rewards built directly into the customer account portal?
This section will be short — mostly because this is such a quick (and effective!) implementation.
An easy way to encourage retention and grow customer loyalty is by offering a more substantial discount that subscribers can unlock after a certain amount of time. Perhaps this is an initial 12% subscription discount that grows into a 15% discount after one year. And be sure to make this perk known to keep subscribers engaged with your brand leading up to this discount.
This action serves as a little subscriber reward for their having stuck around — and it also signals to your audience that you value them and their business, leveling up your customer relationship.
Modern consumers place substantial importance on quality customer service. It matters not only for the mere act of retention but also for strengthening relationships and word-of-mouth marketing.
There’s been research done on how quickly consumers will switch to a competitor after a bad experience with customer service (hint — it’s fast), but on the flip side of things, 62% of consumers will actually specifically recommend a brand to a friend if they receive great service.
This is a direct look into the mindset of a subscriber. They want to feel heard and helped, and based on the help they receive, they’ll form an opinion about your brand that will then impact how they behave.
(Almost) just as easily as you can lose a subscriber because of bad service, you can grow a loyal brand advocate with exceptional service. Because the more you provide excellent service — and the more your subscribers start to talk about your brand — the more you’ll naturally foster customer loyalty.
And an additional Smartrr tip: word-of-mouth marketing happens organically! When people love your brand, they want to talk about it. So be sure to make any referral rewards as easy and clear as you possibly can by directly displaying them in your customer account portal and sending messaging that directly addresses these referral perks.
Your subscribers are human. They like to be treated as such. 80% of consumers reported that they are more likely to buy something if they’re offered a personalized experience — and in addition to increasing your revenue, 75% of US consumers also said they’re loyal to companies that understand their individual needs.
Personalization goes beyond addressing your subscribers by their first names (which is still a good idea). You can lean into personalization by offering your consumers tailored recommendations, the opportunity to build their own customized bundle, birthday perks, and specific email flows based on their needs or where they are in your customer journey.
Don’t be afraid to collect and utilize zero-party data. Send out surveys that ask questions about your subscribers’ interests and needs. 83% of consumers are willing to share this information in exchange for a more personalized experience, so there’s no need to worry about alienating your audience with this data collection.
Another phenomenal way to have personalized relationships with your consumers is through creative SMS strategies. We’ve seen multiple brands have “hotline”-type offerings where people can text the brand directly with questions about all things related to their area of expertise.
To reference a brand we’ve already discussed — L’AMARUE has a ‘Skin Chat’ feature where consumers can get support around best skincare practices and how each specific subscriber can best use L’AMARUE’s products to address their individual needs. This tactic elevates personalization, builds real relationships, and even helps establish L’AMARUE as an expert in their field.
Social media is an excellent vehicle for building community and boosting brand loyalty. Whether you’re on TikTok or Instagram (or both!), social allows you to directly connect with your followers, hold giveaways, develop and display your brand presentation, collaborate with creators, and more.
Joggy, an exercise-enhancing CBD brand, has done an exceptional job developing community via their social media. They regularly collaborate with other brands and post about in-person events, offering their followers a chance to gather and go running together (while sampling some Joggy products, of course). They then lean on their social to share stories from and reflect on these events.
Joggy also regularly features real people trying out and engaging with the product, helping create a strong human element for the brand.
The options for how you can leverage your social strategy are pretty limitless. There are so many ways to get creative (we also have a whole blog post on the intersection between social commerce and subscriptions).
You can offer incentives (like discounts or raffles) for subscribers to share user-generated content (UGC) — or leverage Shopify Collabs to identify the best creators to strengthen your community. You can do subscriber spotlights to celebrate subscription milestones. You can highlight your loyalty program and emphasize all of the perks of gathering points.
As you’re developing your social strategy, be sure to set and stick to a consistent brand presentation. Post regularly, repurpose your content across platforms, and engage with users as much as you can. All of these elements will help foster community and naturally strengthen your consumers’ loyalty.
Developing customer loyalty has always been incredibly important for the growth of DTC subscription brands, particularly so in a world of rising customer acquisition costs. From developing a strategic loyalty program to the ability to unlock discounts, there are myriad ways for brands to leverage their repeat customers and naturally grow their loyalty.
Curious to see how a Shopify subscription app can help unlock the power of your repeat buyers with LTV-driving features that naturally boost loyalty? Send us a note.