how to retain subscribers while battling rising costs


June 20, 2024

Our SVP of marketing Thomas Marks explains several ways to improve your brand's subscription retention rates despite inflation and supply chain issues. SVP of marketing shares retention strategies

Our partners at the Subscription Trade Association published these insights on their blog. Read the original article here.

Consumers are reevaluating their subscriptions due to recent economic challenges causing supply chain issues and rising costs. According to our May 2022 Subscription Commerce Conversion Index, the estimated total monthly expenditure on subscriptions decreased by 46% between October 2021 and March 2022. 

The index, published in collaboration with, seeks to explain why consumers are canceling subscriptions and what merchants can do to keep subscribers engaged. 

Although inflation is undoubtedly pushing merchants to raise prices, they can offer value in other areas of their businesses to offset rising costs and remain competitive.

4 ways to lower your churn rate despite rising costs

prioritize subscription personalization

Subscription consumer shopping on mobile phone.

Consumers’ subscription choices pivoted as  beat out convenience in the index as the most desirable subscription feature. While the two go together, personalization is a more individualized version of convenience that focuses on each subscriber’s personal needs. When consumers think of personalization, they expect features such as order customization, shipment frequency options, preferred payment methods and specialized offers. Consumers awash in subscription choices and signup offers are now specifically seeking features that make them happy and their lives easier. 

The index evaluates merchants in five different groups by size. Small firms performed better than large brands when it came to subscription flexibility. Only a third of large firms allow subscribers to change products after subscribing, but more than half of small firms include this possibility. 

Subscribers prefer the option to customize their orders each cycle by adding or removing products from their subscriptions rather than being stuck in a subscription they can’t update. Moreover, consumers want the option to pause, skip or cancel each cycle without worrying about added fees, according to the index. This is a great way to keep customers engaged, even if they take breaks from their subscription — which may be due to rising costs.

More than 80% of consumers want brands to let them subscribe using their favorite payment methods, according to the index. Top-performing merchants offer more than eight payment options, and those that fall behind in this category may risk losing high-value subscribers. 

Once the consumer becomes a paying subscriber, it’s essential to keep treating them like a new customer by offering irresistible, personalized deals based on their individual data, interests and buying history. That attention to detail will help you foster customer loyalty while potentially raising your subscribers’ average order value.

Subscription consumer looking at laptop.

promote reliability for subscription retention 

Although convenience and personalization are important, they’re nothing without reliability — and subscription merchants that don’t follow through with reliability features such as timely shipping and product quality are more likely to experience high churn rates. About 30% of consumers cite late deliveries and unavailable products as reasons to unsubscribe, according to the index. As shipping delays and supply chain shortages remain a concern, merchants need to keep operations running smoothly by adding time to shipping estimates and locating suppliers and manufacturers in more dependable locations to avoid supply chain delays.

Nearly 75% of consumers also want features that inspire trust, such as satisfaction guarantees. For this reason, more than half of subscribers are likely to purchase direct-to-consumer subscriptions to avoid erratic deliveries, poor product quality and limited product availability.

optimize the overall user experience

The index found that 40% of subscribers cite rising costs as a reason to unsubscribe. But despite consumers becoming more budget-conscious, convenience and user experience are still the principal drivers of subscription-service interest. 

The user experience includes everything from website functionality to customer service. Nearly 20% of consumers abandon checkout if the process is too long or complicated, according to a recent Statista study. Time is money for consumers, and every step subscription merchants add between the product selection and the checkout process increases the risk of losing a new — or existing — subscriber.

Subscription statistics from May 2022
Find these statistics interesting? See the full infographic here.

To shorten the buying journey and re-engage subscribers, merchants can offer discounts and deals, such as free shipping, which is viewed as an important feature by 82% of consumers. Saving time is not the sole motivator for consumers to use subscriptions — they’re also interested in saving money whenever possible to counter rising costs.

use subscription tools to stay competitive 

Approximately 46 million subscribers paused or canceled their services in the past year due to rising costs outweighing their subscription’s value in terms of product quality, user experience and other features.

Despite these challenges, merchants who offset rising costs with ultimate convenience, personalization and reliability will remain successful. In an increasingly competitive subscription climate, the key to success is to take advantage of data on ever-changing consumer trends and expectations.

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