Subscriptions, subscriptions, subscriptions. Especially since the start of the pandemic, it feels like subscriptions are absolutely everywhere.
The global subscription eCommerce market size is expected to boom to $904.2 billion by 2026, and as it continues to rise, a concept known as subscription fatigue threatens to rise with it.
Yes, we’re a Shopify subscription app, so we obviously advocate for effective subscriptions that cut through the noise and foster lifelong relationships. But we’d be remiss not to acknowledge that brands can make poor subscription decisions and risk exhausting or even alienating subscribers.
We’re reviewing what you need to know about subscription fatigue as well as what your subscription business can do to combat it.
Subscription fatigue is the frustration that can come from consumers feeling as though they’re being inundated with subscription services and products. It’s a term commonly associated with the rise of streaming services in media and entertainment (like Netflix, Hulu, or Apple TV), but it can also refer to eCommerce subscriptions.
This experience tends to happen when brands offer a rigid subscription just for the sake of offering one. This can leave subscribers feeling taken advantage of rather than feeling like their lives are being made easier, which greatly harms customer retention.
There’s often a fine line between benefitting from the recurring revenue that comes with the thriving subscription industry and struggling to make headway with your customer base due to subscription fatigue.
So, what’s an eCommerce subscription brand to do?
Step one of making sure your brand doesn’t contribute to subscription fatigue is assessing that the subscription business model actually makes sense for your business.
As tempting as it is to just tack on a subscription no matter what your products are, pausing to consider whether your offerings are truly conducive to subscriptions is paramount to success.
The key is whether your brand has products that organically have a routine nature baked into them.
If your eCommerce brand falls under one of the following categories, it might make sense to try out a subscription:
However, if your brand sells, say, bridesmaid dresses, the inconsistent and irregular nature of demand means a subscription probably doesn’t make sense.
Additionally, part of deciding if a subscription is right for your brand is choosing which type of subscription makes the most sense. For example, if you are a razor company, a sequential subscription would work great — since subscribers need to buy your main product only once and then repeatedly need replacement razor heads after the fact.
You may also decide to institute a prepaid giftable subscription option, advanced bundles, or minimum/maximum subscriptions.
Subscriptions aren’t one size fits all, so it’s important to create a tailored subscription offering that brings your customers the greatest possible value. Ask yourself what perks you’re providing through your subscription (convenience? Necessity? Security? Community? Great savings? Fun?) to drive the subscription program you deliver.
At the end of the day, it’s always better to make strategic choices to benefit your bottom line — not just follow along with the latest popular trend.
After you’ve chosen the subscription model that makes the most sense for your brand, another way to differentiate yourself from other subscription-based businesses and boost customer satisfaction is to offer perks that other subscription brands don’t have, like a loyalty program and referral rewards. This way, participating in your subscription is blatantly beneficial to returning and new customers alike.
A strong loyalty program naturally encourages subscribers to remain active and committed to your brand. It also makes subscribers feel recognized and valued, which are highly positive feelings to have associated with your business.
Enable your subscribers to accrue points with every purchase that they can later exchange for free products, discounts, exclusive products, and more.
Similarly, referral rewards allow you to reward your consumers for the act of spreading the word about your brand, one of the most valuable actions that a subscriber can do. This is another opportunity to further delight your subscribers and show them that your business truly values them and their word-of-mouth marketing efforts.
Nobody wants to feel like they’re trapped in their subscription offerings.
In general, when a consumer is overwhelmed by the number of subscriptions they have, they’re most likely to cancel the offerings that don’t feature flexibility. The best way to prevent that is to make sure you have a highly flexible subscription and ensure that your subscribers are aware of this.
You’ve probably seen subscription brands advertise with the famous tagline, “cancel anytime.” There’s a reason for that. The ability to opt out whenever takes the pressure off committing to monthly subscriptions. But you can take it a step further than that.
Offer subscribers the opportunity to send their package now, swap out an item, skip or gift their next order, pause their subscription, or edit their subscription frequency. This empowers subscribers to be fully in charge of their experience. Not only will this delight your current subscribers, but it can also help acquire new subscribers.
To spread the word, you can use email and SMS marketing as well as social media posts to advertise the many ways that subscribers can control their subscriptions. For any emails or texts that you send, be sure to supplement these educational reminders with a link to take subscribers directly to their customer account portal.
Building authentic long-term relationships is a core part of creating a strong subscription — and that starts with brand presentation.
Knowing exactly who your brand is and maintaining consistency at every touchpoint are necessary tactics to stand out to your subscribers. Research shows that a consistent brand presentation can boost revenue by as much as 23% — and 60% of millennial consumers now expect brand consistency across platforms.
How do you go about this? Well, start by thinking of your brand as a person. What do they look like? How would you describe their personality and overall vibe? What do you want people to feel when they interact with your business?
Once you’ve established these parameters, start to craft brand guidelines that outline what kind of brand voice you want to capture. Make sure your brand visuals and style jibe with your voice.
From there, stick with it. This is the most important part. The more you can lean into your brand’s personality, the more your subscribers will feel like they know you and will know what to expect from every interaction — which will help solidify your consumer relationships.
🧠 How Smartrr Helps: Just so you know, we would never advise you to utilize a consistent brand style without also providing you with the necessary tools to do so. Smartrr’s white-label customer account portal is designed to look like you designed it yourself — so you can fully integrate your brand’s style and create a seamless experience.
Another key component of making your subscribers feel connected to your brand? Personalization.
This goes hand-in-hand with establishing a clear brand voice and style. Here’s another way to think about it: If brand consistency helps humanize your brand, then personalization helps humanize your subscribers.
The data doesn’t lie — personalization is extremely important to consumers nowadays, and it has a tremendous impact on their shopping habits. DTC brands typically see about a 25% revenue boost as a result of increasing personalization, and 80% of consumers reported that they’re more likely to buy something if they’re given a personalized experienced.
Now, what does this really look like in action?
Playing up personalization goes beyond just inserting a subscriber’s first name into all messaging (though that’s definitely the right place to start). It means including fun quizzes to collect & use zero-party data, making personalized product recommendations, creating effective segments to send individualized email flows, implementing customizable bundles, and much more.
Every subscriber should feel as though they’re going through their own personal journey, and these personalized touchpoints will help improve the whole experience.
Let’s say you are noticing a good number of subscribers are deciding to pause or cancel their subscriptions. This could be a sign that you’re losing to subscription fatigue. So what’s the smartest next move?
Ask them why.
Implementing pause & cancel reasons can help you gather invaluable data and metrics about why your subscription isn’t resonating with people. Maybe your pricing is off, or perhaps you aren’t clearly promoting your subscription flexibility.
Not only will these surveys give you guidance regarding which optimizations you can make, but they also enable you to provide key retention actions in response to each of the different reasons someone may be leaving.
For example: a respondent says your product is too expensive — offer a 15% discount. If a lot of people are saying your product is too expensive, consider offering more discounts or even adjusting your subscription pricing.
This way, you’re simultaneously working to retain subscribers who are at risk of churning while also ensuring that you’re strengthening your subscription offering overall.
Understanding subscription fatigue and the best practices to prevent it are an important part of creating a highly-appealing subscription offering for your eCommerce brand.