How To Convert Shoppers Into Subscribers

February 28, 2022

The Bolt Team

Anyone who owns a business or works in Ecommerce has probably asked the question: How can I turn one-time shoppers into recurring sales?

After all, subscribers can be the lifeblood of a successful company. They purchase your products or services regularly without ever needing an email reminder or sales promotion to complete an order. 

We recently sat down with Erin Hoffman, Director of Ecommerce at Door County Coffee & Tea Co., and Kyle Beldoch, Strategic Client Director at Ordergroove, to discuss the fundamentals of launching a subscription service and strategies for converting shoppers into subscribers. 

Subscriptions made for each customer

The earliest subscription models saw companies promote generic packages that left customers with little wiggle room to pick and choose what they wanted. Shoppers either subscribed to the variety pack or a selection curated by the company. So after some months, they would receive products that differed from their tastes or preferences. But that was the tradeoff shoppers made for the convenience of a subscription. 

Erin and Door County Coffee & Tea Co. wanted this to change. They found that their customers gravitated to the coffees with personality, those akin to the unusual M&M flavors found at Target or the latest flavors of hard-seltzer. Simply shipping a dark roast at the first of the month wouldn’t cut it. 

“We wanted to give [our] customers control because everybody likes something a little bit different. We wanted them to be able to get what that is on the cadence they wanted,” Erin said about their subscription program, “It was important for us that we could plug [our subscription services] right into our product pages and give [customers] the choice to add to cart one time or add subscription.”

Doing so has allowed Door County Coffee & Tea Co. to grow its subscription base by over 60% in six months.

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Value in subscriptions is more than just discounts

What initially draws people to subscription services are promotions. They receive an email hawking a steep discount or a free gift with the purchase of a multi-month subscription. And even if they don’t need the product, the deal is often too good to pass up. 

Just look at Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. Shoppers’ first order with the subscription service nets them a 40% discount and up to 15% on subsequent purchases. 

But what keeps customers coming back is convenience and flexibility. “Ease of management is really important across all subscription programs,” Kyle said, “It should be easy to find where my subscription is and to change the [shipping] date, change the [coffee] flavor, and whatever it might be.” 

Since recurring customers can make up a sizable portion of a business, it’s important to keep them happy with frequent discounts, flexible services, and even exclusive offers. One way Door County Coffee & Tea Co. has addressed this last part is by launching a reward program, which will give subscribers points and benefits on their scheduled purchases. 

Pick a subscription service that fits your needs

Before Erin discovered OrderGroove, she and the Door County Coffee & Tea Co. team had tried a couple of subscription solutions. The first was a homegrown solution built internally, and while they could customize each piece to their needs, it was a lot of upkeep and perhaps not as sophisticated as a modern solution. 

They soon pivoted to a plug-and-play solution that promised to reduce their time spent on maintenance. The problem was that this particular platform locked customers into specific plans, leaving them unable to change upcoming order dates or items in their subscription.

Eventually, Door County Coffee & Tea Co. found a solution that met their needs; OrderGroove. 

“Whenever you’re looking at a third-party solution, you need to think about it in a few buckets,” Erin remembers, “You want it to work well with your platform and on the backend, and equally important, you want it to deliver a smooth user experience.” 

OrderGroove allowed customers to mix and match various coffee flavors in a subscription box, and it also fit nicely into their current infrastructure. An added benefit was the checkout experience which tackled the many moving parts of a subscription that other services forgot. 

Make your subscription a selling point

A glance at the Door County Coffee & Tea Co. website tells you a few things; they sell coffee and tea and offer a subscription service. That’s by design, according to Erin. 

“You would be hard-pressed to not find a mention of our subscription on our website, in our emails, or in any channel we frequent,” she said, “It’s one of those things we try to keep in front of current and potential customers.”

The goal is not to overwhelm customers with subscription ads but to show up in ways that align with their thoughts or feelings. For Erin, that has meant strategically messaging people during specific moments like New Year’s Eve when they may need an extra boost to stay on top of their resolutions. 

ThinkShop by Bolt does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. Contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.