Last updated - March 23, 2018
Subscriptions have become a big deal in eCommerce due to the clear advantage it provides to both store owners and customers. Customers need not worry about the recurring purchases they are going to make and can save some money. On the other hand, store owners are quite happy with the predictability of revenue and assured business. They can also plan and manage their inventory better because they have a better idea of the sales flow. Overall subscriptions are a great option for many businesses and it has become easier with the current availability of great eCommerce solutions. The WooCommerce landscape has a variety of awesome Subscriptions plugins. This article looks into the intricacies of running a successful WooCommerce Subscriptions business. In addition, you will get a glimpse on some of the best strategies applied by some of the best in the business.
Different models of WooCommerce Subscriptions business
Subscription business models, in fact, reduce your expenditure to retain customers. As a result, many WooCommerce store owners are looking to figure out the best way to establish one on their site. However, you may have to understand the difference between subscription models to utilize it in the best possible way. Here are a few of the most effective subscriptions business models for WooCommerce store owners.
Recurring orders of consumable products
There is a high possibility that customers would sign up for a subscription plan for things that they regularly purchase. It actually offers them a sort of freedom when the weekly or monthly routine of purchasing the same products is taken care of. Many customers prefer this as it also offers apparent monetary benefits along with the convenience. In fact, this is not something new as you might’ve seen the traditional subscriptions model with newspapers and magazines. The only difference in the current digital commerce world is that a lot of other products has fallen under the umbrella of subscriptions. Starting from daily essentials, customers are subscribing to all kind of products including groceries, grooming products, and other household staples.
When offered with a chance of personalization, this subscription model is great for store owners as they are assured of repeated purchases, increased revenue, and greater margins. Moreover, it also provides greater convenience for customers along with increased savings.
Curated products following a theme
This is another popular subscription model thanks to the overwhelming popularity and convenience of eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce. Here, you will curate a set of products based on the personal preference of your customers. The products that fall under this category include coffees, wines, beauty products, grooming products, toys and the like. This is because these products are sort of daily essentials, and at the same time, they define the lifestyle of users. You will find the immense scope of personalization in a curated set of products. Customers are not necessarily subscribing to the same products, but to a class or category of products. Based on customers’ unique interests and feedback, you can change the set of products subtly.
Savings are not the main motivation for subscribers of this model, but the scope of discovering something unique and interesting. You would be definitely delighting wine connoisseurs if you are adding a new product every now and then to their subscription set. From a shop owner’s perspective, this tremendously increases the scope for marketing. You can easily get a set of trusted customers to try out your latest products and gather feedback. This scenario leads us to the next subscription model – samples.
Product Samples Subscription
In this model, customers regularly receive a set of product samples. The essence here is to create as much variety as possible. You are more interested in the customer feedback for each of the samples to align your marketing targets. One of the best examples of successful product sample subscriptions is Birchbox, a beauty products store. Basically, they send a set of four to five samples of cosmetic products to subscribers. The advantage for Birchbox is that the customers would purchase the full-size version of products they like.
ShoeDazzle actually validated this subscription model when they started out in 2009. Here, subscribers purchase a set of products from your store at a bargain price on a monthly basis. And they can always choose to skip the purchase before a specified date every month. The biggest attraction here for the customers is that every month you offer them a showroom personally curated using their likes and dislikes. The trick is to make each customer feel unique and special.
You can think of any of these subscription models to come up with your unique strategy. WooCommerce has a great variety of options to help you set up a subscriptions business.
Best approaches to creating a successful WooCommerce Subscriptions model
There is no one way to successfully build a business model. However, when you follow some of the tried and tested strategies, you can walk into success more assuredly. Here is a compilation of best practices suggested by industry leaders.
Decide on a suitable pricing
When you are thinking about a subscriptions model for your WooCommerce store, one of your primary concerns would be how to price it. Basically, it depends on how you are envisioning it. You need to be clear about the specific object you are venturing into it for. It may be to acquire new customers or to enhance the order value of your existing customers. WooCommerce dynamic pricing strategies might give you some insights in this regard.
If you want to create a pricing strategy based on the varied functionalities or usage levels of your products, you can do that. Subscriptions of many software products and SaaS solutions follow this pattern.
In addition, you can set your pricing for a variety of objectives. These may include discounts for bulk purchases, rewards for a long-term commitment, or even incentives based on the time of usage. You can acquire customers to your subscription gradually by offering free trials, freemium options, early bird offers, etc.
Invest in a multi-channel solution for customer acquisition
You need to really focus on Customer acquisition when setting up a subscriptions business. This is especially relevant as more customers are relying on mobile devices to do their online shopping. If your site is not optimized to offer a seamless experience from all devices, you might lose out on potential business. Thankfully, WooCommerce has a range of responsive themes to make sure your site can handle subscriptions without hassles.
Professional billing and invoicing
You need to accurately bill your customers and provide professional invoices irrespective of your business model or eCommerce platform. You can read on a few benefits of online invoicing here, along with some of the best solutions. When compared to a traditional billing system, the whole process gets a bit complicated with subscriptions. This is because it involves several levels of new customer joining the plan, prorating accounts, difference in billing dates, etc. Your subscriptions solution should be able to handle all these different scenarios. Thankfully, WooCommerce has solutions like this one to handle all the intricacies of the subscriptions model.
Billing also has a great scope in the branding perspective. If you are not including creative and thoughtful branding elements on your invoices, you are losing out on great marketing opportunities. However, there are great solutions in WooCommerce to customize your invoices and other documents for regular products. You need to ensure the same guidelines are followed for subscriptions too.
Payment systems and automated recurring billing
Another important aspect of a subscription business model is how you are collecting the payment. Automatic recurring billing is one of the most hassle-free ways of handling this. However, not all payment gateways support this method. Read this documentation to understand how WooCommerce subscriptions extension integrates with different payment gateways. The basic idea is to collect cash fast and enhance your revenue and margins.
Furthermore, payment gateways are dependent on the geographical location they operate as well. You need to take this into account too when you decide on a payment gateway for your subscriptions business. If you are targeting international customers, you need to understand which all payment gateways work in these specific areas. Accordingly, you can develop a process that includes your entire subscriber range. Check WooCommerce Stripe, a great global payment option that supports over 25 countries.
Focus on nurturing customer relationships
Customer relationship management plays a vital role in the subscription business. This is because the major scope of business growth lies in the existing customer base. A study has pointed out that the revenue of most of the companies from new customers is only around 15%. That proves the importance of maintaining customer relationships in a professional manner. Maintaining a professional support system is vital to keep your customers satisfied perpetually. In subscription business, there might be a range of common customer queries regarding renewals, upgrades, suspensions etc. Advanced features like live chat are also a common expectation of customers these days.
Investing in a professional customer relationship management tool is another requirement while managing a subscription business. Fortunately, if you have a store running on WooCommerce, there is no dearth of good customer relationship management solutions.
As it does to most other store functionalities, the subscription model essentially complicates your accounting process too. With numerous transactions of varied kinds, bookkeeping and managing revenue become a tough deal for most store owners. Again, WooCommerce offers a great solution for this aspect too. For example, you can try out the WooCommerce Zapier integration to handle the whole thing without trouble.
In addition, if tax compliance also worries you, check out this article for a great solution.
Find suitable analytics solutions
In the current scenario, product updates are done on a regular basis. The whole process of evolution of a product gets quite meaningful if you have the right analytics tool. With the subscription model, the measurable metrics get really extensive. Parameters like Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), Growth Efficiency Index, Customer Retention Rate, etc becomes much more relevant. Moreover, with all the customer engagement strategies, you are generating abundant data on a daily basis. You need to get great visibility to continuously monitor all these parameters to facilitate product evolution.
One of the outcomes of eCommerce becoming more accessible to everyone is increased competition. More players are coming into every possible field in WooCommerce. As a result, your ability to change has become one the essential components of business success. Particularly for a subscription model, you need to be really flexible, to welcome change as the market evolves. Everything from pricing structure to customer acquisition strategies might need an overhaul based on emerging trends.
Be ready to scale
A natural outcome of good business efforts would be the opportunity to scale. When the time comes, you should be able to grab it wholeheartedly. You need to invest in the right infrastructure from the start to manage to scale. For a WooCommerce store owner, getting the best hosting plan is one of the most important factors in this regard. If you want to know more about how hosting influences your store, you can find some insights here.
A few WooCommerce Subscriptions plugins
Subscriptions are one of the best ways to ensure predictable revenue, improved margins, and market grasp. With subscriptions, you are actually gaining a bankable customer base that would help you in improving your product as well. With multiple models showing promise, it is quite important to choose a suitable one for your products. A keen awareness of your products and customer expectations should help you design a profitable plan. With a plethora of tools, WooCommerce subscriptions options are solid and vast. Hope this article offered you some insights to help you get that million dollar idea of yours. Let us know if you have a query or suggestion.