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How to build trust to acquire (and retain) subscription customers

Friday, November 2, 2018

Subscriptions took the eCommerce world by storm a few years ago and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Boasting some great benefits for customers like convenience, flexibility and efficiency, it’s no surprise that there are subscription boxes for almost every product or niche out there. Plus, they’re fun! Who doesn’t love getting a gift in the mail?

Along with great perks for customers, subscriptions also have a ton of benefits for your business. Recurring revenue, higher conversions, and creating loyal brand advocates are just the beginning.

Managing current affairs and planning for your company’s future is easier with foreseeable revenue, which allows you to allocate your expenses and revenue accordingly. Want to increase your marketing spend but don’t know if you can afford it? Estimating profits is easier than ever!

Not to mention, order predictability allows you to properly control your inventory. You’ll know exactly how many orders are coming in this month, and where they’re being sent.

Ready to get subscriptions up and running for your business?! Great!

But, keep in mind that acquiring and keeping valued subscription customers is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal. You have to create and maintain trust throughout the buyer journey and long after they’ve subscribed.

The good news? Building and maintaining trust is easier than you think if you follow these valuable tips:

1. Have a great return policy (and make sure it’s clearly communicated)

While shopping online has become a preferred method for many customers, there’s often some hesitation when clicking the checkout button. The ability to hold or try on items like in a brick-and-mortar store is lost with online purchases, as is the ability to sense whether a store is well-run and trustworthy.

Ease your shoppers’ hesitations by clearly communicating your great returns policy.

Over half of online shoppers check a company’s return policy before committing to buying. But, that’s not all; a whopping 92% of consumers will buy again from a company if the return process was easy. The result? Your customers will keep their subscription active if they feel comfortable with returning products if they need to.

A great rule of thumb is to have a page in your support or FAQ centre dedicated to explaining your returns policy.

easy returns

We recommend including the link to the returns page right on your navigation bar, or where it’s easiest to find based on your site layout.

Just make sure the message is clear and the small print doesn’t change the overall policy, but rather adds to it. It should be clear and concise so your customers feel much more secure about their purchase.

Not sure where to start? Shopify has a great returns policy template that you can use as your starting point, allowing you to add in details unique to your store to make sure you’re covering all the bases.

2. Leverage reviews

There’s no better social proof than hearing other customers say they enjoyed their purchase.

When your customers are spreading the word about their purchases, it not only makes your company look good, but it will attract new customers as well who rely on reviews to feel comfortable purchasing from an online store.

Did it come on time? Was it great quality? Exactly as pictured?

leveraging reviews

97% of people say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions, and potential customers find shoppers’ reviews more trustworthy than the company’s message.

So, before you place reviews in your ‘nice-to-have’ column, notice how much purchasing power they have over your potential customers. If almost every single visitor to your store wanted to look at reviews before purchasing, wouldn’t they be better placed in the ‘must-have’ column?

When shoppers are signing up for a subscription of products, not just a one-off purchase, the importance of reviews is even more vital to your business.

Reviews live on your site, but will show up on other channels such as social media and search engines as well. The more reviews you have on Google, the greater visibility your business will have.

rich snippets with trustpilot

If you have those coveted 5 star reviews, don’t be afraid to show them off! Highlight a few on your homepage, Instagram feeds, and advertisements. As long as you’re mixing good reviews with valued content (such as UGC we mention below), you’re creating a diverse picture of your company.

Leverage reviews from a company like Trustpilot who has over 220,000 businesses using their software. Both number of reviews and star ratings can have an effect of the overall perception of a company’s reputation, but studies have found that the number of reviews was slightly more effective to speak to trustworthiness of a company. Luckily, with Trustpilot you can have the best of both worlds.

3. Get social

A great way to capture, and keep, the attention of your subscription customers is to maintain a great social media presence.

One of the best things about social media is that it’s an easy way to foster relationships with your customers through consistent communication and great content.

71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family.

Shoppers may share how much they loved a product, or if there were any issues. It’s impossible for every single customer to love a product so if there are negative comments, it’s your responses that will make or break customers’ opinions of your business.

Interacting with your audience can be time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth it. We live in the age of quick communication and consumers are increasingly using social media as an avenue of communication with businesses. Timely and genuine responses bridge the gap between customer and business, and showcases the human element of your company which people can relate to.

Create a unique hashtag for your customers to share on social and watch all the great user-generated content (UGC) roll in. Featuring customers on your feed not only allows them to engage with your brand, but it builds trust seeing other customers loving your subscriptions. Plus, it will help fill your feed with content that you don’t have to create. Bonus!

user generated content

There’s something about seeing real-life people (not models hired by the company) with products that raises that trust level.

If a company has an active social presence filled with relatable customers showing off products, chances are I’m more likely to subscribe too- wouldn’t you?

4. Keep shoppers engaged

I’m sure you’ve heard this before- it costs five to twenty five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.

But, subscription customers are in a league of their own. Because we realize that they’re so important to our businesses, we will offer free trials, discounts, and other incentives to get customers to sign up.

However, keeping these customers interested in your subscriptions is just as important as acquiring them! You’re not going to reap all the great benefits of subscription customers if they unsubscribe after their free trial.

The best way to keep your customers engaged is to maintain consistent communication!

If customers are subscribing to your products - they want to hear from you! Email customers at key moments in their buying journey to make the subscription process easy and fun.

When customers first sign up, be upfront and let them know exactly what to expect with your company. And make sure you’re clearly outlining the benefits to the customer - don’t be shy! Fabfitfun gives subscription customers a $200 worth of goodies for $49.99 a month. That’s a great deal!

fabfitfun example

If their credit cards are about to expire, set up an automatic email to notify them. This will prevent any headaches with future orders for both the merchant and your staff.

If you offer subscription boxes, tease customers with what’s coming up in the next box after they’ve received the current one. This not only reminds customers that they have goodies coming, it creates anticipation and excitement for what’s to come.

Never be afraid to re-engage! If subscription customers have cancelled, ask them why and use their answer to try to solve the problems they’re facing. E.g. If it’s too expensive; offer them a coupon code, if they have too many products currently; offer to pause their subscription, or if they don’t like the product, send them a survey to find out what they would like.

Employees in brick and mortar stores ask this all the time when a customer returns a product to help find the best solution for their customers.

Even if customers don’t end up subscribing with you again, you’ll still gain valuable feedback as to why they left, which you can use to your advantage to prevent more subscribers from leaving for the same reason(s).

5. Allow shoppers to customize their subscription

A little flexibility goes a long way, and as personalized shopping experiences become the standard way to shop online, consumers are expecting more customized solutions every time they open their browser.

By allowing subscription customers to pause, skip, and change up their subscriptions, you’re putting the power in their hands. They’ll feel much more comfortable signing up for the long term if they know they have control.

A great way to gain the trust of new shoppers is to offer a discount or trial sized version of a product for their first subscription. This is an easy sell for customers since they get to try a product before committing.

bold coffee

With Bold’s convertible subscriptions feature, this trial sized product can automatically convert to a full-sized, regular-priced product subscription on the second order. That means if your customers love the product, they’ll be automatically subscribed without having to lift a finger and you won’t have to manually adjust their order.

If your subscription business offers different products to your customers every month, like a sock of the month club, make sure they’re actually receiving different products!

With Bold Product Shuffle, you can offer your customers different goodies each month, two months, or whenever you choose to ship your subscriptions.

Normally, it’s very difficult to ensure that customers won’t receive repeat products without a lot of manual work. Product Shuffle allows you to set your products on autopilot and keep customers happy with new products

6. Keep it consistent

If you’re consistently delivering quality products and experiences to your clients, they’re going to continue to be a loyal customer and receive your subscriptions time and time again.

If you included a handwritten note in your boxes when you first started, continue offering that same personal touch even when you’re a multi-million dollar company.

fabfitfun personalised marketing

This is especially true for your products. If you deliver quality products, customers are going to notice if the integrity changes should you choose to try a cheaper route. Cutting corners can be tempting, but it’s often the little above and beyond things you do as a company that thrills your customers.

The same goes for your message, marketing materials, and brand guidelines. Yes, these things can change with time if you undergo a brand update, but if you’re a quirky company with a certain language and style, keep that the same across all facets of your business.

There you have it!

Your customers are the key driving force behind your subscription business. They come with a lot of great benefits (hello recurring revenue!) and can influence the purchasing decisions of others. The key to earning their trust and keep them coming back for more is not a single action you take; it’s all the individual steps mentioned above that really drive home what kind of company you are, and will continue to be in the future.

This is a guest post from Amy Polowy, Partner Marketing Manager at Bold Commerce. Bold empowers over 80,000 merchants in more than 170 countries around the world with their eCommerce apps and solutions that are designed to unleash the potential of eCommerce platforms. Find out more on their website.

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