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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insights - Keep It Recurring: The 4 Hallmarks of a Captivating Subscription

CEO Insights

Keep It Recurring: The 4 Hallmarks of a Captivating Subscription

Sarah Williams

“There’s a subscription for that.”

The rise of subscription services shows no signs of slowing down. Over 68% of adult consumers use a subscription service for at least one household item. In fact, the trend is so strong that it’s beginning to affect consumer opinions on more traditional markets of ownership. For example, nearly 50% of consumers now support a subscription-based model for vehicle purchases, an industry very much rooted to its past until recently.

Why? Because the subscription model works. Subscriptions significantly extend the customer relationship and generate more purchases overall. That said, this rocket-like rise in popularity doesn’t mean that every subscription is created equal. The success of any subscription service is decided by two things: its first impression and its continued engagement. These are both constant challenges for businesses when wooing customers, but a thoughtfully designed subscription service can make these much more manageable tasks for organizations of any size.

It takes just 1/10th of a second for most people to form a first impression about someone, but subscriptions let you try again every month. Almost all subscription apps see more than half of their subscribers cancel before the third renewal, but you’re never more than one great box away from winning back their engagement. 

So, what works and what doesn’t? Which subscription services both capture new customers from the start and sustain their engagement over the long term? I am an established leader in the subscription box industry, and these are the four distinct hallmarks of a subscription that will completely captivate your customer base.

  1. It’s more than a subscription — it’s an EXPERIENCE.
    The Japanese bento box has inspired a whole generation of mindblowing home chefs and hardworking moms to create some truly amazing lunches. These meals are painstakingly designed to be beautiful, wholesome, and absolutely delicious. When compared to your average school-provided lunch, the difference is striking. The school lunch is — at best — a decent meal, whereas each element of the bento box is chosen with care and purpose.

    More so than traditional products and services, the subscription model gives you the power to make your customers feel special. In the world of subscriptions, what you offer is so much more than the sum of its constituent parts. Rather, a subscription is designed to immerse the customer in a more comprehensive consumer experience. It promotes more thoughtfully curated products and services, generates greater anticipation, and provides a more personalized final product. What’s more, it creates more opportunities for customer engagement and more moments for a tailored approach to production.

  2. It’s exciting and engaging from the BEGINNING.
    The early eras of Disney animation were characterized by movies with extended intro sequences. You might remember the iconic storybook flipping from one page to the next in Sleeping Beauty or the long and melodic journey through scenes of nature at the start of Bambi and Fox and the Hound. Eventually, these sequences were shortened, then dropped entirely during the studio’s 1990s renaissance. Why? Because at the end of the day, these movies were and are made to delight children, which means it’s time to cut to the chase.

    A captivating initial experience for new customers is critical for any subscription service. In the subscription box industry, we stress the importance of carefully crafting your customer experience as early as initial sign-up, assuming you aren’t already doing some of this customization for the purposes of marketing and advertising. This initial contact matters immensely because 69% of people admit they form a first impression of someone before they’ve even had a chance to speak. What do you think that says about the expectations of a newly paid subscriber?

    You want your subscription to erupt at the start like the now-iconic opening credits of The Lion King — exciting, enthralling, and undeniably memorable.

  3. It’s designed around your IDEAL CUSTOMER.
    For those of us who experienced a bit of the 80s or 90s, your standard volume knob would go from 1 to 10. Thanks to a few classic comedies from those decades, such as This Is Spinal Tap, it became a running joke to “turn things up to 11,” going above and beyond what is typically thought possible.

    This is the sort of mentality a subscription service must take toward its customization. Research tells us that 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase when businesses provide a personalized experience, but the expectations for that personalized experience are absolutely sky high. They aren’t expecting a 10 — they’re expecting an 11.

    For most subscription services, it’s not enough to design your product or service for a broad buyer profile. You need to imagine your ideal customer, then work inside that persona with laser-like precision. This is a much easier process for individual entrepreneurs, as they are often curating products and services closely aligned with their own personality. For burgeoning businesses, however, it can require a more nuanced and methodical effort to turn your customization up to 11.

  4. It’s supported by an active COMMUNITY.
    I recently worked with an aspiring mompreneur who had launched an absolutely beautiful subscription box of flowers targeted specifically at mothers. By all appearances, the launch of the subscription was handled to perfection. The product was impeccable, the marketing was consistent, and the concept itself was sound. Unfortunately, the new box was hemorrhaging subscribers almost instantly. Why? Because the mompreneur in charge neglected to use one of her greatest gifts: her ability to build a community.

    For small- to medium-sized businesses, building up a sustainable list of subscribers requires much more than a steady stream of sign-ups. To expand at speed and keep renewal rates high, you need what Kevin Kelly calls “1,000 True Fans.” These fans are not only diehard consumers of your product or service, but they are also highly effective brand ambassadors, attracting even more devoted fans in the process. 

My aspiring mompreneur eventually course-corrected and created an active customer community to showcase her enchanting people skills and authentic passion for her products. Marketing and advertising can only do so much when you’re searching for subscribers that will actually stick around. Building a community keeps you in the conversation, and the conversation is where your future customers are talking.

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Written by Sarah Williams.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insights - Keep It Recurring: The 4 Hallmarks of a Captivating Subscription
Sarah Williams
Sarah Williams, The Subscription Box Queen, is a dynamic entrepreneur, coach, and bestselling author. With a passion for subscription boxes, she guides businesses to profitable heights. Her book, "One Box at a Time," published by Hay House, distills her proven strategies.


Sarah Williams is an Executive Council member at the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn, for more information, visit the author’s website CLICK HERE.