As subscription box entrepreneurs gathered in The Big Easy last month to exchange ideas on how to grow their business, a strong sense of community overpowered the grand ballroom as I overheard a fellow founder say to another, “building a subscription business isn’t easy, we need to stick together!”
On the last day of the conference, our Founding CEO, Mahesh Ram, delivered his parting thoughts as conference attendees gathered for one last time in the ballroom on the common theme that is keeping them up at night — how to retain customers and reduce churn. Mahesh opened up with the staggering fact that subscription businesses are growing 8x faster than the S&P 500. That’s good news. However, the reality is that for subscription services to become a sizable business, the average monthly churn rate must be below 5%, although the industry average is sitting at 20-30%. Based on his 20+ years of experience building subscription-based businesses as well as learning from our customers such as HelloFresh, Ipsy, BlueApron, and Scentbird to name a few, he shared three industry trade secrets as actionable tips on how to bust churn.
1. Build an Effortless Experience that Scales
While churn is inevitable, you can do something about it. First off, what we know about subscribers of box businesses is that they value convenience and speed over anything else. So valuing their time is the most important thing that you can do for them as a business. Therefore, the secret sauce to success is offering self-service so subscribers can help themselves, receive instant responses, and get on with their busy lives. What they hate to do — and what could lead them to cancel their subscription — is if they’re put on hold and left waiting for a response. Self-service is an essential part of scaling. Invest in technology that enables your business to scale, so operating costs don’t grow at the same rate as your subscriber growth. UnderArmour Connected Fitness did this beautifully as members found answers quickly and effortlessly and reported a higher CSAT. UnderArmour even stopped hiring seasonal employees in Customer Care as members were able to help themselves for those common, repetitive issues.
2. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
Have you ever heard the acronym KISS? It stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid” and originates from an engineer in the U.S. Navy in the 1960s who designed spy planes. It’s the principle that most systems work best if they are kept simple and that unnecessary complexity should be avoided. Sometimes in life, we tend to overthink and overcomplicate situations, so here are some common-sense, yet under-appreciated and under-utilized, strategies for combating churn. First off, keep your subscription offers simple and easy to understand. Second, provide your subscribers with an option to downshift their subscription or an easy way to cancel or pause their subscription. Last but not least, align your billing and shipping dates, so you reduce customer confusion between their credit card payment and package arrival. KISS can be applied to many aspects of life — including your subscription models and billing cycles.
3. Create a Cultural Movement
This third and last tip is probably the hardest to implement, but arguably the most impactful with the highest payoff. Think you have a great product? Think again. That can’t be your defensible moat or you competitive differentiator because no matter how great your product is, customers never stay loyal to a product. They are fickle and constantly on the lookout for new products. So if you want your customers to remain loyal, it’s not really about the product — neither the quality nor the price of the product. It’s about connecting with them in a way that goes beyond the product and striking a chord that resonates with their values or lifestyle.
To illustrate, Casper is not a mattress company although that’s the product they offer. In their first three years, they amassed more than $300 million in revenue, and they’re currently valued at $1.1 billion. So how did they penetrate such a crowded market and make a mark? Well, a lot goes into building a successful business, but one of the key moves Casper made in its early days was to position their brand as a “sleep company” with the mission to create a well-rested world. They went as far as to create Woolly Magazine with blog posts with titles such as “Relaxing Sounds That Aren’t Rain or Whale Songs.”
For a chance to speak directly with our founding CEO, Mahesh, about your subscription businesses, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.