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📦What a fresh subscription business report tells us? 

subscription business

This is Inbox Hacking, a free newsletter with unique marketing insights, tools, & tactics sent every Wednesday. Join marketers from Ad Age, Duke University, & Zoho, and sign up for your Free subscription here. 

Heads up, Inbox Hackers, because Valentine’s Day is 17 days out. Plan a date and be sweet, basically.

In today’s feature story, I’m dropping 3 insights (aka things☺) that will help you keep more of your shoppers happy and loyal, and avoid running them off. These are based on a recent survey of consumers paying for recurring subscriptions. Let’s crack open this nut right now (then see our Knowledge Base, Stats & Facts, and Today’s Hack that doubles down on dabbling).

3 Main Things from New Report on Subscription Businesses

(Survey of about 2,000 consumers with retail product subscriptions)

  • 67% of top-performing merchants offer live help, compared to 27% of bottom performers
  • 83% of top performers offer product ratings and reviews, compared to 30% of bottom performers 
  • 97% of top performers offer refund guarantees, compared to 17% of bottom performers

*The full report identified key subscriber groups: scheduled subscription shoppers / in-store shoppers / online at-will shoppers

Adjustments to Make to Become a Top-Performing Subscription Business?

Think in terms of the simplest business types – an example in one sec. 

First, using the survey… What do you have to lose by offering refunds or guarantees? It’s easy to ban customers who abuse guarantees (risk-reducers) meant for the 99% of honest shoppers.

Next, reviews of your products should be everywhere (neatly organized / not too wordy). Put them on your homepage, near product descriptions, in sales emails, and strategically placed even in a physical store.

Yeah, one of the three main things is hard to adjust for – live help. It can be costly, if you can even find people to hire. Luckily, this point had the smallest gap between top and bottom performers. And even though AI chatbots from The Home Depot and WestJet seem helpful in lieu of a human, most bots are not great for live help…

👎Forbes reported that 72% of consumers said a chatbot for customer service is a “complete waste of time”

👎Some chatbots don’t even identify themselves as a bot 

Subscription Business – Simple Example of How to Keep Customers

Trash: Some cities give people a choice of garbage collection companies, so residents aren’t locked into one company like in larger cities. 

Curbside garbage pick-up is a subscription business that’s hard to screw up. 

Just show up on the day promised and haul off the resident’s trash. That’s all it takes to keep customers happy. Don’t annoy them, and they’ll keep the same company as their provider for decades.

But residents will switch to a new garbage collector. Why? It’s the little things:

  • No notice of postponed holiday pick-ups
  • Leaving trash bin overturned
  • Not replying to requests for a new bin after one gets mangled
  • Running over homeowners’ lush lawn (usually an Amazon Driver move😁)
  • Driver being rude to resident in rare event they even see each other

Things like that are easy to avoid. Switching companies would never even cross a resident’s mind – if the little problems are avoided. No different than a football referee going unnoticed – by doing a great job of not screwing up or being in the spotlight. 

Same goes for any type of subscription business, from trash collection to swanky threads in a monthly subscription box. 

More Subscription Business Insights to Keep Your Customers Corralled

User control: Provide options like pause, skip, and frequency adjustment for the customer’s subscription.

Businesses afraid that a pause will cause a customer to stop buying forever need more confidence in what they’re selling.

Suck-free payment experiences: Offer Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) or installment options, notify subscribers of failed payments, and make it easy to update payment information.

Don’t worry— you can simply educate shoppers about and promote various BNPL programs if you don’t offer those directly. Paypal and many credit card companies offer forms of BNPL. As for friction during checkouts or updating payment info, test the processes to be 100% sure there is none!

Subscription Business Report Wrap-Up

Subscription businesses can’t escape the realities of all other business models. Customers must be kept happy. A business model that’s too dependent on the customer forgetting to unsubscribe is on shaky ground.

Better to depend on business basics. 

Reduce buyers’ worries that they won’t get a good value for their hard-earned money (refunds / guarantees).

Collect and use ratings / reviews to prove to interested shoppers that your product / service is right for them too.

Remember to see the full subscription business report here.

🔗11 recurring subscription business ideas from ConvertKit

🔗The weirdest subscription boxes around


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Knowledge Base

Knowledge is power, but have a laugh first

🤑Buying booze with Buy Now Pay Later (charting BNPL items)

🤖How Walmart plans to use AI to enhance customer shopping experience (podcast)

🤔Brand crisis management via social media 

🏆Can’t-lose marketing— food, football, and Megatron

🕙10 proven copywriting tips (for social media)


Self Help

About 20 years ago, my wife’s Honda had to be towed for repairs.

Dude that showed up worked full-time at a dealership and ran his little tow truck business part-time.

He had just one good arm but worked two jobs – fully capable, without complaints. 

So, be careful feeling sorry for able-bodied folks of today because you think they can’t work or are being kept down by The Man. Most are capable, and it’s unwise and unhelpful to decrease what grit they still possess that’s not already been sanded off by society’s good-intentioned pity. 

*Inbox Hackers Shout-out:

DB at CarStar (auto body repair)

JG at StoneEagle (software)


Facts and Stats

  • Australian study found 60% of businesses made unsubstantiated environmental / sustainability claims– notably cosmetics, clothing, food and drink (ACCC) 

  • Viewers are 4x more likely to use YouTube versus other platforms to find information about a brand, product, or service (Google/TalkShoppe)

  • Roughly a third of all B2B sellers have yet to adopt e-commerce (BigCommerce)

Bonus: Survey says 31.6% of grocery retailers are leaning into _________ versus just 15.7% of general retailers.  Answer → Loyalty programs


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Get Hacking

How bad do you want more awareness for your business?

Bad enough to respond to people who comment on articles, YouTube vids, or social posts related to your industry?

Sure, everybody dabbles with this marketing tactic. But dabbling ain’t the same as investing 4 to 6 hours a week to test what it will produce. Now, your replies can’t be flippant or copy / paste. Be thoughtful and helpful, else it’s gonna be a waste of time. 

Make a simple plan, carve out time, and test this for 90 days. Let me know what happens.


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