We met with Bradley Steenkamp, Co-Founder of Horsham Coffee Roaster, to discuss the brand's origins and how they have been able to achieve competitive subscriber retention rates with Smartrr. Since launching with Smartrr a year ago, the brand has seen a 33% increase in active subscriptions and a 31% increase in subscription revenue. Part of Horsham’s success is due to the fact that their consumers love a great (sustainable) coffee subscription — and on average, an impressive 80% of Horsham’s customers stay subscribed after three months.
Inspired by mission-driven coffee roasters in Canada, coupled with a passion for coffee, Bradley and Amelia Steenkamp were eager to get involved in the industry. While many brands get their start from a business idea backed by experts and investors, the Steenkamps took an alternative approach. Starting off with little knowledge of and experience in leading a coffee roasting business, the two remained energized by their true appreciation for coffee. So, they bought a small coffee roasting machine and began roasting in their garage.
Motivated by partnering with coffee producers with full transparency and traceability, similar to the wine and craft beer industries, Bradley and Amelia began their journey of building relationships with producers around the world. Wanting to ensure that producers are always paid fair prices and receive full credit for production, the team forged strong partnerships with small-batch producers based in Rwanda, Costa Rica, Kenya, and Brazil. The Horsham team prides themselves on commonly paying producers more than 4 or 5 times the fair trade price, and that income allows them to be sufficiently rewarded for every aspect of their business.
Beyond their dedication to fairly compensating coffee producers, the team is also keen on educating consumers on the entire process of producing coffee. Although 30 to 40 percent of the population drinks coffee every day, many people do not realize the level of work that goes into getting the fruit from the tree into a brewable coffee. On top of their educational efforts, the brand also focuses on sustainability, specifically supporting Fareshare and Greenspark, achieving Carbon Neutral Certification, and working to reduce the environmental impact of coffee.
The morning ritual of having a cup of coffee (or five) means that consumers are frequently repurchasing, so Horsham has been offering subscriptions for over five years.
Prior to the pandemic, 80% of Horsham’s business was B2B. But the combination of changing consumer behavior in 2020, as well as leaning into SEO to optimize their subscription program for conversions, accelerated their DTC and subscription growth. Now, 60% of Horsham’s business is DTC, with customers primarily located in the UK but others hailing from all around the world.
When they first launched subscriptions, Recharge was one of the only subscription options available, and it worked well to start. But the combination of slow customer support response times, a lack of customization abilities, and a separate checkout flow brought the Horsham team to Smartrr.
“Smartrr offers a much better customer account portal than Recharge. At the time, Recharge required quite a lot of customization, and for a small business like ours, it was too difficult to do. I got quotes from third-party developers to customize our subscriptions through Recharge and it was a lot of money. Smartrr’s customer account portal offered a lot of options and customization abilities that Recharge didn’t have, without having to put a lot of money into it ourselves.”
– Bradley Steenkamp, Co-Founder and Head of Coffee, Horsham Coffee Roaster
Since migrating from Recharge to Smartrr in April of 2022, the team experienced a major subscription spike in line with what they saw during the pandemic eCommerce boom. Bradley focused his efforts on making subscriptions a core part of their business, ensuring that the first thing customers think about when they come to Horsham’s website is signing up for a subscription.
Similar to their commitment to transparency and traceability, the Horsham team is intentional about each of their subscription offerings, even outlining two main types of coffee buyers: those who subscribe for convenience and those who want to try new things. So, Horsham offers a variety of subscription programs on their website, like prepaid subscriptions, giftable subscriptions, and a coffee of the month club.
Customers that subscribe for the convenience already know what they like, so they tend to opt for an easy repeat purchase. Alternatively, customers who enjoy trying different things go for the coffee of the month club – which is their most popular subscription option because subscribers appreciate being introduced to a variety of coffee curated by someone they trust. Many customers even frequently make one-time purchases in addition to their ongoing subscription so that they can discover new roasts. Because of these factors, Bradley specifically highlights introducing new products and changing them frequently as one of the strongest strategies aimed at keeping customers engaged and excited.
Bradley called out the customer account portal as being one of the most beneficial features for the brand. Additionally, the level of customer service that Smartrr offers has been especially helpful. Bradley is especially grateful for the prompt response times and willingness to assist whenever needed – even fixing an issue caused by a different app.
“The user experience of the customer portal is important, but also combined with having a strong product and ease of use to sign up for a subscription. Recharge wouldn't allow us to use Shopify’s checkout process, whereas Smartrr allowed us to — this made a big impact on the subscription sign-up rate and customer retention. Not having it split out into two different checkouts is so important because people are most familiar with Shopify’s checkout flows.”
– Bradley Steenkamp, Co-Founder and Head of Coffee, Horsham Coffee Roaster
Just as a good cup of coffee is best enjoyed black, Horsham Coffee Roaster’s marketing strategy is equally straightforward and streamlined. To promote their subscriptions, Horsham does not spend any money on advertising and instead, relies on getting organic traffic to their website through SEO. Focusing on ensuring that consumers are aware of subscriptions as quickly and clearly as possible when they get on Horsham’s website has allowed the brand to acquire a steady stream of subscribers.
In addition to spotlighting subscriptions on their website, Bradley also recommended offering a discount on the initial subscription because people love the opportunity to try something new at a reduced cost – and he shouted out Smartrr for making this seamless to do with subscriptions.
The Horsham team primarily measures subscription success by looking at retention rates versus growth rates, always ensuring that their new subscribers surpass any churn. Since launching with Smartrr a year ago, the brand has seen a 33% increase in active subscriptions and a 31% increase in subscription revenue. The brand has also made huge strides in increasing their retention, seeing around 80% of customers still subscribed after three months.
Basing their achievements on how much coffee they roast per week, the Horsham team is proudest of their milestone of roasting 600 kilos a month for subscriptions — a huge step forward in making it easier for them to collaborate with producers.
Right now, their coffee producers are preparing the products that will arrive in 3 to 4 months. Looking at the year ahead, the team plans to focus on growing their direct-to-home sales and promoting the coffee of the month subscription program further. Additionally, later in the year, the brand is looking forward to building out a series of questions that will allow customers to tailor a subscription program to their specific tastes and preferences.
Also, in case anyone else is curious (we sure were) — Bradley takes his coffee black and encourages others to experience the flavors of lighter roasts. ☕️
To hear more about how brands are boosting retention using Smartrr, view more case studies here.