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6 types of subscriptions: how to choose the best one for your business

sticky.io

Updated:  

June 10, 2024

Learn about the six types of subscription models and how each works to discover which model you should offer when creating your subscription program.

Dog subscription box

Consumers don’t just buy subscriptions because they’re recurring product deliveries. They’re investing in a way of life — so says Alex Brown, President of sustainable cleaning product seller Truly Free. A good subscription offer identifies what habit or practice consumers want to support and then tailors its product to meet that need.

The type of subscription you launch is a major factor in determining how consumers interact with your product and what they get from it. Therefore, we urge you to look beyond what’s easiest or most popular.

To find the type of subscription that will most likely succeed for your business, you need to think about what you’re helping subscribers achieve each month. Then, choose the model that best fulfills that goal. Let’s take a closer look at the six subscription types and how they differ.

1. Replenishment Subscriptions

replenishment

Replenishment subscriptions deliver refills or replacements of consumable products on a regular schedule. These subscriptions are an excellent way to encourage ongoing use of a consumable product that is used often enough to require regular refills, such as toiletries and cleaning products.

A more exciting example is non-alcoholic spirit brand Lyre’s, which offers replenishment subscriptions to help hosts keep a well-stocked bar for non-drinkers. Subscribers can choose to have their stock of a favorite spirit sent every one, two or three months, and they’ll get 10% off thanks to the subscribe-and-save setup.

Tips for Launching a Replenishment Subscription on BigCommerce

A replenishment subscription is only convenient if it matches a subscriber’s product use patterns. Choose a subscription app that makes it easy to offer flexible subscription plans. Some buyers may need a monthly refill of a product; others may only need to purchase more every three months. You should also look for subscription self-management tools that allow customers to modify their billing frequency and product volume so each refill arrives exactly when it’s needed.

2. Curation Subscription

curation

Curation subscriptions deliver handpicked items in a certain category or industry each subscription period. This type of subscription is ideal for consumers who want to be seen as tastemakers or receive handpicked items that rise above the competition.

Lifestyle products are a natural fit for curation subscriptions, as sellers can source unique items from an array of brands or offerings that look to serve a certain niche. Anything from clothing to makeup to food can add something special to a buyer’s day, which is why that “just right” or “too cool” selection may be worth paying for.

For instance, Hunter’s Box Club sends a monthly delivery with a fitted t-shirt and a bonus hunting-themed item. The company, which is run by hunters, tests hunting gear and selects the best products for inclusion in its monthly box. Buyers benefit from receiving pre-vetted gear to help on their next hunt.

Tips for Launching a Curation Subscription on BigCommerce

Curation subscriptions are all about taste, which means personalization is an essential part of the offering. Look for a subscription management app that allows you to qualify a customer’s taste with a feature like a quiz or the ability to track customer data like product reviews. Help customers make sure curated boxes are always to their taste by allowing them to swap products or product variants in a subscriber self-management portal.

3. Access Subscriptions and Membership Subscriptions

Memberships

Customers who pay for access or membership subscriptions are signing up for a VIP experience, whether that means special perks, early access to sales or member-exclusive products or media. Access subscriptions cater to buyers who can’t miss out on the next big thing.

Companies that can differentiate themselves with a uniquely valuable offering might want to consider access and membership subscriptions. You may also choose to add a membership element to an existing subscription for top customers who would pay more in exchange for perks like free shipping or exclusive coupon codes.

Smithsonian Folkways, a record label owned by the Smithsonian Institution, uses membership subscriptions to offer exclusive digital downloads from its extensive library of music, ebooks and live recordings of performances. These cultural artifacts are only available to those who pay to support the organization.

Tips for Launching a Membership Subscription on BigCommerce

Many BigCommerce subscription apps don’t support membership-type setups, so make sure you’ve found an option with support for these models. You’ll want a tool that works with BigCommerce’s User Groups feature, which provides an easy way to segment buyers into members and non-members or even set up different levels of membership.

4. Fixed-Rate Subscription Boxes

Fixed-rate

Buyers of a fixed-rate subscription box pay the same amount each billing cycle for a set product or amount of product. These subscriptions work well for buyers who already know what they want and are happy to pay for regular deliveries of a certain product or offering.

Companies with a small range of products or one signature product are likely to do well with a fixed-rate subscription. You may sell a consumable good (like food or beverages) or items that buyers like to collect variations of as a sign of status (like luxury or lifestyle goods).

West China Tea’s Tea of the Month club exemplifies a successful fixed-rate subscription. Members get new teas delivered each month, allowing them to try different varieties from a trusted brand.

Tips for Launching a Fixed-Rate Subscription on BigCommerce

Fixed-rate (also known as flat-rate) subscriptions were one of the first types of subscriptions launched, which means they’re supported by most subscription apps on the market. The biggest way to differentiate the subscription experience is through flexibility. Let your customers choose from a variety of custom billing periods and available payment methods to meet their needs.

5. Tiered-Price Subscription Box

Tiered-price

A tiered-price subscription offers different levels of product for different market segments, allowing customers to self-select into the category that most fits their needs. A tiered pricing strategy helps you increase your customer base with offerings catering to a variety of potential buyers.

Subscription merchants can use tiered pricing in multiple ways. For a consumable product subscription, you may offer different volumes of product to different tiers. Luxury or lifestyle goods sellers may differentiate by product pricing or size so buyers can choose a tier that fits their budget.

Flower subscription service UrbanStems offers three tiers, ranging from $55 to $105 monthly, so buyers can choose the elaborateness of their monthly delivery. CEO Seth Goldman is looking to increase personalization beyond just what tiered pricing can offer. “The next [upcoming] feature is that you can pick within a small subset of bouquets,” he told PYMNTS.com. “That makes people feel like they’re owning the subscription at a more concrete level.”

Tips for Launching a Tiered-Price Subscription on BigCommerce

Tiered pricing is another type of subscription that’s so popular you can expect most subscription management apps to support it. As a seller, you’ll want the option to track customer data and segment by subscriber tier. Since tiers are often used to court different audiences, it’s important to see how each group interacts with your subscription and what your top buyers find most valuable.

6. Hybrid Subscription Sales

Hybrid

A hybrid sales model allows you to offer one-time and subscription sales from the same storefront. This subscription type gives consumers more choice over their purchasing habits and gives them the chance to support companies whose products or services go above and beyond. It’s an excellent setup for new brands or companies selling products or product types that aren’t widely known.

Truly Free offers a replenishment-type subscription for its green home cleaning products because President Alex Brown recognizes that customers may not want to commit to cleaners before trying them as a one-time purchase. “Brands can make a customer's life easier by automating an offer, like a subscribe-and-save model,” he notes. “At the same time… a new customer may not be ready to make a recurring commitment after the first brand interaction. Offer a way to buy single transactions at checkout and a compelling offer or bundle that will further entice them to try out the subscribe-and-save with no strings attached.”

Tips for Launching Hybrid Subscription Sales on BigCommerce

The trick to doing well with a hybrid sales model is a subscription sales tool that allows mixed-cart checkout. This feature allows shoppers to make one-time and subscription purchases at the same time. You’ll also want to look for advanced billing logic so subscribers have a wider choice of payment structures that can meet their needs. The more you can do to put buyers in control of their subscription experience, the more likely they’ll be to take a chance on a subscription product they don’t have much experience with.

Understanding Subscribers’ Needs Is Key

Beating your competitors starts with choosing the right subscription model. Consumers won’t commit to even the best product if you don’t deliver it in a way that helps them meet their goals and needs. That means you need to determine what drives subscribers, so your offer is the perfect answer to their desires.

Then, it’s time to find a subscription management app that has the features to support the type of subscription you plan to host. It’s not just about whether you can use your chosen billing model, either. It’s about whether the app supports enough features to make the customer experience match your buyers’ expectations. Refer to this post as needed to determine which extras best support your chosen subscription model so you can launch a strong offering that consumers are lining up to buy.

The Impact of Subscription Models on Consumer Choice 2023 report

The biggest subscription spenders enjoy purchasing a variety of subscription models. Learn more about their behaviors (and how to appeal to this group) in our September 2023 report, “The Impact of Subscription Models on Consumer Choice".

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