The Four Essentials of Subscription Box Member Retention

The Four Essentials of Subscription Box Member Retention

Unless your members are renewing, your subscription is like a leaky bucket, with water escaping faster than you can add more. The key to success for any subscription box business is the ability to retain subscribers. I caught up with seven of today’s fastest growing subscription box companies to discover what they are doing to stop members from quitting and improve lifetime subscriber value. Let’s take a look.

1.You are Nothing Without Excellent Customer Service

My first business mentor taught me that even though I may have answered the phone 100 times today, and answered the same question 100 times, for the next member who calls, that’s his first time asking that question. It’s my duty to perform and provide that member with a great experience.

For Brick Loot, they agree that the key to retaining subscribers is offering top-notch customer service. When asked, the president of Brick Loot, Erin Krex, told me: “We have excellent customer service and go above and beyond to make sure our customers are happy. We have implemented many ways our customers can reach us and always answer within a couple of hours. When members feel heard, they are more invested in staying.”

Some companies, like VINEBOX, believe a big part of delivering quality customer service means listening to the customer. “Listen to your customers. They will often tell you what they want; you just need to be nimble enough to react,” revealed Matt Dukes, co-founder and CEO of VINEBOX.

When I spoke with Dustin McAdams, the founder and CEO of PupJoy, he agreed with Krex and Dukes, saying: “From day one we felt it was necessary to build a brand with loyal raving fans for the long haul. Customer service is and has always been our top priority. That focus impacts a multitude of things that we do and is evident in the glowing customer reviews we receive. Here are some examples: We help our customers directly make an impact. Through our partnership with the BISSELL Pet Foundation, we donate $2 on every PupJoy box order. That money is used to support over 3,000 animal rescue organizations with a 100% pass through the model (meaning every dollar we donate ends up in the hands of shelters). We have the only loyalty rewards program of its kind in our industry. We reward customers for every purchase, renewal, and referral that they make. We also have a no fine print, 100% satisfaction guarantee. If something doesn’t work for a customer, we fix it. No strings.

“Additionally, we don’t have any level of contracts or restrictive terms. Even if a customer pre-purchases a multi-box plan, we provide prorated refunds if, for whatever reason, they need to cancel. It is our responsibility to keep earning their business with every box we send them, and sometimes life just happens. Refunds are pretty rare for us, but it typically occurs when someone has either lost their pet or hit some unexpected financial situation. We want to see those customers come back to us when the time is right for them.”

2. Never Become Boring, Always Keep Your Product Exciting

Your customer gets a subscription box to be delighted and surprised each month, and she wants that delighted gift experience every time she opens your box. While the customer service can certainly go a long way in retaining customers, it is also important to maintain the curiosity and excitement, just like in any relationship.  The cardinal sin in membership is to become boring and predictable.

Agreeing with this, Lisa Sugar, the co-founder and president of PopSugar, told us:

“The key to member retention is making sure the box is always delivering something that’s exciting, the content has to always nail it. And then we come up with ways to let them participate. We’ll give them early access to special-edition boxes or we’ll give them opportunities to be able to build up stuff that maybe the newer subscribers don’t know about yet, just because we want to keep our loyal ones even happier.

“And then personalization is another thing we’re kind of playing around with. We’re not going to get into the territory right now of skin tone or hair textures, but even just knowing if your ears are pierced is important. If your ears aren’t pierced, I wouldn’t want to upset you with earrings, and I can at least give you a bracelet or a necklace that looks similar. This makes members’ feel like the box is more personalized for them, as well.”

3. Choreograph Your Customer Experience

Think of your box opening as a performance. The experience your member has when she receives your box goes a long way in retaining her as a subscriber. Deena Bronz, co-founder of KitNipBox, told us she is a firm believer in investing in a captivating customer experience.

“For retention, it’s really about the product and the customer experience. We have a very strong focus on making sure that every box and every unboxing experience is delightful to customers. That’s something we really pride ourselves on. Our customer service team really makes sure that whenever anyone reaches out to us, they leave us happier than when we found them. And, that definitely has an impact on retention and reception in churn.”

Eli Rosenberg, the director of PR and media partnerships for Mystery Tackle Box, agrees with Bronz, saying: “At Mystery Tackle Box, we put a huge emphasis on the customer experience, everything from the website, to the emails subscribers receive, how long the box takes to arrive, to what they get in their box. We have improved retention recently by launching the ability to pause the subscription for a period of time,” Rosenberg said. “One of the biggest reasons people previously canceled was that they had received enough fishing tackle for their next few months of fishing and wanted a way to take a short break before resuming their subscription. We recently redesigned our box to add engagement opportunities for subscribers to participate in a community of subscribers, plus win great prizes; check out #MTBKeeper on Instagram.”

4. Enhance Your Subscription Box Into an Every Day Experience

While your box only arrives on one day each month, your member has a lot of opportunities to think about quitting. I’ve worked with many clients to create a new member onboarding experience, member community and communication to increase the value of your subscription in between each box.

While FabFitFun always delivers a great box experience, they’ve also invested in making their subscription an everyday experience in retention, Leslie Emmons Burthey, the VP of marketing told us:

“First off, we are big believers that the product speaks for itself. Every season our merchandise team works extremely hard to curate a one-of-a-kind box that women love. Secondly, we are always looking for great, value-added content and items for our members. One great example of that is FabFitfunTV, our new streaming service that features on-demand workouts from top studios and trainers. Lastly, when someone does need to reach out to us, we have an exceptionally dedicated customer care team that makes sure our customers are happy.”

Rick Patri, the founder and COO of Lucky Tackle Box, agrees that a great marketing plan is essential. He said: Communicate the right content and the right value proposition message to the right member because we do have eight different offerings. The fly-fishing guy doesn’t want to hear about bass, and the wildlife guy doesn’t want to hear about trout. But when you have that diverse of a subscription model, it comes down to we want to show value in terms of how we communicate.”

The Takeaway

Although there will always be subscriber churn there are four essential steps every subscription company must take to stop members from quitting, increase member lifetime value and grow recurring revenue. First and foremost, your customer service team must be focused on making each customer happier after they interact with you than they were before they called. Second, always keep your member guessing so she gets that delighted gift experience each time your box arrives. Next, choreograph your unboxing experience like a play. And finally, make your subscription box into a delightful everyday experience with a subscriber community. These strategies will enable you to create a thriving brand and a vibrant tribe of subscribers who refer and grow.


About Robert Skrob

The problem with subscription membership programs is that members quit, I fix that problem. For more than 20-years I have specialized in direct response marketing for member recruitment, retention and ascension in diverse subscription members environments including non-profit associations, for-profit publishers/coaching, subscriptions and SAAS companies. For an evaluation of your current churn rate and how I can improve it, contact me here. I discover there are often two or three quick wins you can implement within a week to lower churn immediately, let’s talk about your quick wins.
10X Subscription Growth

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