Subscription Strategy

Convert, Delight, & Engage: the 3 Keys to Long-Term Subscribers

Leveraging the power of subscriptions to convert, delight, and engage customers.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

As we settle into the cavalcade of spectacles 2021 is shaping up to be, one thing is clear: direct-to-consumer (D2C) subscription services are poised to continue growing.


For e-commerce companies leveraging the power of subscriptions, COVID-19 has served as both a headache and a validation of this business model. According to The 2021 Guide to Direct-to-Consumer Trends, a nationally-representative survey conducted in November 2020, 83.2% of Americans report planning on shopping D2C more frequently (41.9%) or as frequently as before (41.3%) in 2021. In the last year, with more than 80% reporting having shopped D2C, the most popular choices were health-beauty-personal care, food and drink, and electronics and appliances, followed by hobbies, pets, and other sectors. 


Coupled with a comparable surge in the popularity of subscription boxes, the D2C subscription outlook for 2021 is therefore optimistic. In short, the time to grow your recurring customer base is now.


However, acquiring new subscribers is an increasingly competitive and expensive undertaking, with significant resources required to identify your audience, market to them, and make your online store as streamlined as possible. But as with any competitive environment, those who play it smart are the ones who prosper.


Below, we cover smart strategies for converting site visitors into subscribers, delighting them with an easy-to-use account management portal, and continually engaging to maximize the most powerful marketing tool of all: the customer base itself. 

Step 1: Convert

The goal is to take a visitor or one-time buyer and entice them to subscribe. Subscribers provide your business with more stable income, higher return on investment, and better opportunities to strengthen the brand-customer bond. Here are some effective tactics to increase your conversions:

Subscribe & save

Offering customers a chance to save money on their purchase by subscribing for future orders is an excellent way to encourage customers through your sales funnel. This soft commitment leads to more consistent revenue, allowing you to better project your business earnings in the future.


“Subscribe & save” also adds value to the customer by freeing up their time — instead of needing to remember to purchase again, the customer receives the product automatically.

Subscribe & get free goodies

Another way to incentivize conversion is by offering freebies in exchange for subscribing. Let new subscribers receive a free sample of a similar product, try a new flavor or a variety pack, or any other creative option to showcase your brand. This opens the door not just to subscriptions, but also to the chance for future upsells.

Subscribe & start earning points

Offering an engagement-based loyalty program allows you to create personalized experiences, incentivize greater spending, and accrue more robust customer data. Furthermore, you can get creative with your rewards program — such as rewarding customers who post video content of your product on instagram, etc. This will drive further organic marketing and foster brand engagement.

Step 2: Delight

Make your subscribers’ accounts as easy to use, change, and manage as possible and you’ll be rewarded with far less churn. This is also the secret to better upsells — you want to place as few barriers as possible between the customer and the product they’re curious about.


Customers talk. The more intuitive, honest, and charming your account management portal is, the more appreciation and free marketing you’ll earn. Choose a subscription software that streamlines checkout and oozes transparency. Here are some ideas:

Offer appealing alternatives to cancelation

If a customer is going to be away for a month or more and doesn’t need delivery, they may be tempted to cancel. Winning back an unsubscriber isn’t easy, but give them better alternatives and you’re more likely to keep them as a customer. Here are some possible alternatives to cancelation:

  • Adjust order frequency/delivery
  • Skip next subscription(s)
  • Gift upcoming subscription to someone else

Make it easy to switch products or flavors

Make sure it’s simple to mix things up and try another product or flavor in your lineup. Customers must be able to alter their next subscription simply and quickly. This may also be an opportunity to offer an upsell in a streamlined and easily understood way. 

Make membership fun

Use rewards to gamify your subscription service. If the customer knows their nth order gets them a discount, is free, or allows them to try a new product in your lineup, they’re incentivized to work toward it.


In gamifying your subscription, you accomplish several feats: 

  • Increase product stickiness
  • Reward loyal customers with merchandise that further advertises your brand
  • Save on customer acquisition cost (CAC) by creating a positive buzz among customers
  • Make subscribing fun and goal-oriented


Smartrr provides you the tools to provide membership rewards at scale, giving you unprecedented power to keep delight your customers. 

Step 3: Engage

That last point is a suitable segue to the final step: you must develop strategies for long-term subscriber engagement. 


With the loudspeaker of social media, the ease of texting and messaging services, and the instant mass-publication of online reviews, engaged customers are the best marketing tool you have. 


This makes even more sense when you consider how much cheaper it is to keep a customer than to gain a new one. Instead of market research and paid advertising, you are nurturing an existing connection. Here are some ways to do it:

Automated check-in messages

Automated “check in” messages should be as engaging as possible. Give your subscribers a chance to suggest improvements, propose ideas, and otherwise just interact with you. This lets them know you value them.


For your most loyal or top customers, create special check-ins that give them human acknowledgement, a personal touch, and/or VIP treatment.

Nuture a community

Encourage a community around your brand through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. People want to be part of a community. Some of the most successful products are those that create a “club” where people can interact with others sharing similar ideals, goals, interests, or a sense of humor. Such spaces give them a place to talk about the product and create positive, long-lasting associations with it.

Bring the community together around a journey

Just look at the buzz around successful products like the Peloton and you’ll soon see a common thread — their customers are united around a common journey. Whether it’s health, sustainability, lifestyle, or people supporting one another, make your product the centerpiece of a community for like-minded people.

Convert, Delight, and Engage with Smartrr

Smartrr’s subscription billing platform integrates cleanly into your online store without a single line of code. 


After moving customers through the sign-up process in one simple page, it makes account maintenance radically easy and transparent. Offer more value and incentives for customer retention. Act on actionable data from our autonomous analytics, which analyze every customer interaction to guide your decision making.


This means more customers, more recurring revenue, and more insights on how they found you. Contact us to learn how our robust, AI-driven analytics can help you take control of your outreach and acquire new subscribers. 

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