The Super Bowl of subscription tradeshows took place last week and the sticky.io team had front-row seats to all the action at SubSummit. In addition to chatting with merchants at our booth and hosting a subscription family reunion, we also sat in on the track sessions and keynotes aimed at helping merchants start or scale their subscription programs. Our president and CEO Brian Bogosian even moderated a panel that taught attendees how to survive and thrive from high-traffic happenings.
If you couldn’t make SubSummit this year, or you attended but want to relive the excitement, here’s a recap of the big takeaways from the world’s largest conference dedicated to direct-to-consumer subscriptions.
Customers hitting that “unsubscribe” button to reduce household spending was a big topic at SubSummit and our recent Subscription Commerce Conversion Index also highlighted this ongoing concern.
While customers might be tightening their belts, SubSummit and SUBTA co-founder Chris George explained slashing your prices and offering deep discounts shouldn’t always be the go-to move. During the “Let's Talk Subscription!” panel, he shared that he and his team at Gentleman’s Box switched from a monthly to a quarterly subscription frequency after customers complained about pricing and receiving too much product. He said offering a quarterly option resolved the excess product issue without reducing profit margins. He also told attendees to focus on communicating the value of their products and services to extend customer lifetime value.
Another hot topic at SubSummit centered around stricter privacy laws impacting digital advertising. Multiple speakers shared how it’s becoming more expensive and difficult to track performance for campaigns on Google, Facebook and other digital channels. Instead, the pros urged merchants to lean into content marketing initiatives to organically grow customer audiences, inspire trust and keep brands top of mind.
Launch Your Box founder Sarah Williams encouraged the merchants attending her panel to use email and social media to organically drum up interest and expand customer communities. Educational posts explaining how to use a product or how to incorporate a product into everyday life usually perform well. For example, a meat subscription business could create blog posts and social media posts about wine and meat pairings for a dinner party.
When planning an organic content marketing strategy, the experts agree: don’t expect to see sweeping results right away. Michael King, founder and managing director of iPullRank told attendees it could take up to 18 months before organic blog posts start ranking high on search engine results pages and driving organic traffic.
“2023 is the year of retention,” Chris George confidently declared at the start of SubSummit and we couldn’t agree more. As acquiring new customers becomes more costly, merchants should focus on reducing churn.
Asking customers why they are unsubscribing is a great first step, but SubSummit speakers agreed merchants must dig deeper to understand the true reasons for churn. During “Curing the Cancellation Blues,” panelists advised merchants to allow their customers to write in why they’re unsubscribing rather than just having customers select from a predefined set of choices. Leaving the question open-ended gives a deeper understanding of why customers unsubscribe because the answer might not always be as simple as “the price is too high.”
One founder of a flower subscription box said by leaving the question open-ended, his team learned that many customers loved their floral products, but unsubscribed because the plants were toxic for pets. After segmenting all the similar reasons, the team launched a pet-friendly product line and re-engaged these pet owners through email and direct mail.
Our CEO wrapped up SubSummit by moderating a panel called “Survive and Thrive From High-Traffic Happenings.” Stephen Ezell, founder of Truly Free and Nicole Zarcadoolas, CEO of Moms + Babes Box and founder of Serenity Now, a self-care subscription box, shared their insights.
Nicole said they track inventory extremely closely to ensure they don’t run out of products during high-traffic times such as Black Friday. She also hires seasonal workers before and during the holiday rush. Stephen said his non-toxic laundry and cleaning product business thrives during traffic spikes by doing website stress tests before to ensure the website and servers can handle the influx.
The following strategies can also help merchants prepare for spikes in traffic and sales:
Merchants must continue to invest in education and community-building opportunities to grow their businesses and stay ahead of evolving subscription trends. Along with live and virtual events such as SubSummit, level up your subscription knowledge by reading our April 2023 Subscription Commerce Readiness Report. The research dives into the state of subscription commerce and highlights what merchants can do to keep subscribers happy for the long haul.