This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.
"A network needs retention to thrive; it can’t just continually add new users."
From "The Cold Start Problem" by Andrew Chen [Book]
I had the pleasure of joining Recharge last week in NYC to lead a roundtable discussion at ChargeUp, a series of invite-only summits with merchants and partners.
My table was a mix of Recharge leadership, merchants, and fellow agency partners. Our discussion covered several e-commerce insights and ideas I'll share today. Let's dig in.
A merchant in the home pantry space shared current challenges around their business model. They offer over 2,000 SKUS with one-time purchase and subscription options. 90% of customers only purchase one-time, but the merchant wants to grow subscriptions.
As everyone asked questions and offered ideas, like transitioning to a membership model, it became clear that the merchant didn't fully know why customers shop one-time vs. subscription.
Our discussion emphasized the importance of using customer insights to help guide strategic business decisions. Spending a couple of hours with customers every week can be eye-opening, helping answer questions like:
We could all make assumptions about what might be successful for this merchant and spend hours doing so, but without knowing what customers think, we're all just shooting in the dark.
Everyone has their version of what Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) means for them and their brand, but one common thread is discounts and gifting. However, is this right for every brand?
A fem care merchant shared how they've learned from customers to get a better handle on how to approach BFCM.
Gifting: They used a giveaway with a survey to learn if gifting was a use case for customers. As expected, it isn't. They now know where to focus on campaign messaging and strategy.
Promotions: Like most brands, discounting products has been successful for them, but not in the long run. Big promotions to drive subscriptions have led to an uptick in subscribers followed by a big drop after one or two months when the discounts end. The spike in revenue is nice, but ultimately, these aren't the type of customers the merchant is after. Additionally, loyal subscribers often feel left out and ask customer service for the same promotion. If CS doesn't honor it, the customers cancel and re-subscribe. So instead, the merchant offers them the same discount.
Taking time to test and learn has helped this merchant understand who their customer is and what they prioritize. It's easy to get lost in the rush of the holiday, so having these insights has helped them know where to invest time and energy as they grow their business.
Most everyone at the table shared customer acquisition challenges in today's landscape, where consideration is high and competition is fierce. However, there were a couple of tactics that merchants have found successful:
Go from Subscribe to Autoship: A simple change from 'Subscribe & Save' or 'Subscribe Now' to 'Autoship' has worked wonders for brands. Rather than making customers feel like they'll be stuck in a subscription, 'Autoship' leans in on a feeling of convenience.
Build Out Keyword LPs: Do you know what search terms your customers use to find your brand or similar brands? An easy win can be to double down on these keywords with landing pages. Build a template highlighting your brand's value prop, duplicate it for as many top relevant keywords (10+ is not too much!), and then swap out the text for each. This approach is a simple example of meeting the customer where they are and showing how your brand can solve their problem.
Most brands view conversion as the point at which a website visitor becomes a customer through a purchase. While this is true, subscription brands should know how many months it takes to turn a customer into an advocate, typically six months. In this way, there are two types of conversion for subscription brands:
Brands need to focus on both and take the same care and attention to each funnel. One tactic Recharge has seen work well is offering customers a series of milestones to get to their sixth month, enticing them to keep going. These can be gifts, discounts, and so on. Some may choose to surprise customers, while others build it into the program, highlighting the milestones on the product detail page.
For brands looking to grow subscriber count, a worthwhile analysis is identifying which customers have made several purchases of the same product over several months. Why? These customers could have saved by subscribing! Go beyond letting them know how much they could have saved, but offer them credit for that same amount to subscribe now.
A couple of the merchants at the table have been successful with different versions of this approach. For instance, you can offer a fixed credit amount or a steeper discount to subscribe.
Have I given enough focus to both converting customers into subscribers and nurturing them into advocates? How can I enhance this dual conversion approach in my business?