With a community of over 35,000 gardeners and recognition from The Sunday Times for being the best gardening subscription, the Pot Gang team is obviously doing something right. Between their strong brand community on Instagram, their 7-day customer support on the Potline, and finding the right Shopify subscription app, the brand’s subscriber base has been blossoming. We met with Sam Smith, Gang Leader at Pot Gang, to dig into how they scaled their subscription business with Smartrr — which resulted in an impressive 105% increase in active subscriptions and a 289% increase in subscription revenue in just the last 2 months.
Amidst the global pandemic, while everyone was stuck inside their homes, Sam decided to start growing fruit, vegetables, and herbs on his balcony.
Although gardening felt seemingly simple, Sam found that it was much harder than it should be for a beginner to grow their own food. Knowing which seeds to plant at which time of year, what equipment to use and where to get it, which compost is right, and where to find directions to follow made it overwhelming for newbies.
This common frustration and the old-fashioned nature of the gardening industry in the UK made it intimidating and inaccessible for beginners. That’s when the seed was planted in Sam’s head: people need a gardening community and a brand with a fresh approach to make building a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle fun and straightforward. He knew that the brand’s target audience was anyone who wanted to grow their own food but needed help on where to start and how to do it successfully, an issue covering all aspects of society and all age groups.
This idea then grew into the brand Pot Gang: a monthly gardening subscription box that contains everything you need to grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs that are in season for that particular month. Each box includes 3 types of seeds, the right type of compost, step-by-step instruction guides, and pots for growing the plants.
In addition to the items included in their monthly boxes, the Gang goes above and beyond the typical level of customer support with their cleverly-named communication feature called the Potline. Managed directly by the Pot Gang team, the Potline offers customers 7-day support via WhatsApp. Subscribers can reach out for everything from opinions on how their plants are doing to ranting about their plant-sitter's poor watering abilities. This strategy not only shows the brand’s high level of commitment to subscribers, but it also instills a human element to foster a supportive environment for new gardeners — something that further boosts customer retention and blooms brand loyalty.
As an ongoing hobby, gardening naturally lends itself to subscriptions, which is why the Pot Gang team decided to make it the core of their business model from the start.
“The value of subscriptions is in the long-term, so we’ve been more focused on building our business model around that. As soon as you start layering monthly cohorts on each other, the recurring revenue becomes much, much greater.”
– Sam Smith
Originally, as Pot Gang was first sprouting, they launched subscriptions on Bold V1 for its low price and ability to offer reliable recurring orders. But over time, the Gang started feeling the limitations of not being in Shopify’s checkout page, combined with feeling stagnant due to a lack of innovation. Not wanting to move to Bold V2, the team realized that there were other Shopify subscription apps that would provide them the opportunity to build out a healthier subscription program and increase customer loyalty, ultimately leading them to Smartrr.
To build brand awareness and acquire customers, the team initially heavily discounted their offerings and posted organically in Facebook community groups — which led to a lower quality of customers.
In the past year, Pot Gang has turned over a new leaf with a fresh approach to their acquisition strategy. They have experimented with a variety of channels, offers, creative assets, and website designs to acquire more customers at a target cost. Data has closely informed all decision-making, especially leaning into analyzing retention and profitability of different customer groups over time.
“We learn with the data as we go, which is one of the reasons why we wanted to move to Smartrr. And also to help us with the lifetime value side of things, give people more flexibility with their subscriptions, and easily be able to future-proof our business.”
– Sam Smith
Having a stellar brand concept is a necessary start for a successful subscription business — but leaning into strong post-purchase marketing strategies is what takes Pot Gang to the next level. With a goal of building an enhanced subscription experience to further engage subscribers, Pot Gang has leveraged every single Smartrr feature in their robust customer account portal. Pot Gang’s customer account portal is blooming with opportunities to engage and retain subscribers with loyalty rewards, referrals, Instagram feeds, one-time add-ons, and trending lists with an exclusive box just for subscribers.
Sam called out the in-portal referral option with a discount as one of his favorite features since they don’t have to direct customers there — and they’ve seen a huge increase in customer referrals because of it. Additionally, the seamless one-time add-ons to customers' upcoming subscription orders have been huge for increasing AOV.
“Smartrr has given us the flexibility to experiment with strategies from an acquisition perspective and do various things that can bring our CAC down. The portal is much stronger than we’re used to because it enables customers to manage their subscriptions better, and the loyalty program has been incredible. And having a dedicated Slack channel is really helpful for us when things do come up — we always get very quick responses. With Bold, you had to go into the app to use the chat function. We didn't have anywhere near as much dialogue. I feel like I really know you guys and your team well; we hadn’t had that with any other apps we’ve used on Shopify.”
– Sam Smith
To engage and retain customers, Pot Gang focuses on making it clear to subscribers in post-purchase flows how to manage their subscriptions, directing people to the customer account portal. For example, in their recent email flows, the team has been explaining how their subscriptions are fully flexible, along with tips to help customers align the program with their needs more effectively.
“Post-purchase, we direct people to the customer account portal because if we can get people in there and in control of their subscriptions, they’re less likely to unsubscribe and more likely to make it work around their life. This also creates higher AOV, greater LTV, and the loyalty aspect has even helped with our acquisition strategy.”
– Sam Smith
Pot Gang measures subscription success by focusing primarily on customer acquisition costs and lifetime value.
While the brand does offer one-time purchases from a gifting perspective, the vast majority of their DTC business is through subscriptions, making up over 95% of their purchases. In the last 2 months alone, Pot Gang’s active subscriptions have grown 105% and their subscription revenue has spiked by 289%!
“From an LTV perspective, set up your subscription model to work for the long term. Instead of trying to draw too much from your customers early on, building a higher repeat purchase rate is really where the value is for us.”
– Sam Smith
Sam’s advice to others in the DTC community looking to optimize their brand for subscriptions and increase recurring revenue is that consistently testing and making incremental changes will skyrocket growth over time.
“Testing and optimizing different channels, creative assets, offers, and landing pages is crucial — especially from an acquisition perspective. Getting small gains from each of these has led to big gains overall. There’s really no one thing that we have done that has led to our growth. It’s just an accumulation of lots of little improvements in each area that adds up and gets us results.”
– Sam Smith
Interested in learning more about how brands are seeing success using Smartrr? See more case studies here.