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How to Get More Customers for Your Subscription Business

15 min read

Subscription-based businesses are thriving! In fact, they have grown 5-8x faster than traditional businesses over the last 9 years.

Recurring revenue is one of the main reasons why many businesses are shifting to a subscription model. Whether you’ve already done so, or you’re thinking about adding subscription items to your store, you need to know the best ways to market your products to create a consistent revenue stream.

One thing to remember is that marketing subscription products is different from marketing one-time purchases. As such, you have to make a few adjustments to keep customers interested in your subscription products month after month.

Read on to learn some key tips for marketing subscription-based products effectively.

What Is a Subscription Business Model?

First, let’s talk about what a subscription-based business means. It is a business model where consumers pay a regular fee for access to products or services. The billing cycle is usually set to weekly, monthly, or annually, though it depends on the product or service being sold.

The recurring nature of a subscription-based business model allows companies to build a steady revenue stream. Subscriptions also help increase customer loyalty by providing easy access to products or services they need on a regular basis.

Common subscription businesses are ones that sell products that need replenishment. Examples include food, cosmetics, pet products, stationery, and so on. Basically, anything that people need to buy on a regular basis!

McNabb Microfarm sells subscriptions for fresh grown greens

You can also sell subscriptions for memberships and access to services. For example, educational courses or cleaning services can be sold through a subscription.

Here are 10 Subscription Business Ideas to inspire you!

Another prominent example of a product sold on a recurring basis is subscription boxes. These are curated, niche products packaged and delivered on a consistent basis. What differentiates boxes from typical subscription products is the discovery of new products. Customers get new and fun products related to their favorite hobby or topic, and you get a consistent income.

Learn more: 10 Product Ideas for a Subscription Box Business

OwlCrate sells subscription boxes filled with books and various accessories

How to Set Up Subscriptions in Your Store

To sell subscription products or services in your online store, you need an ecommerce platform that supports recurring billing. One such platform is Ecwid by Lightspeed.

With Ecwid by Lightspeed, you can sell subscription-based products or services according to your, and your customers’, needs. You can set your billing cycle to be daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually.

You can also use the subscription tool to collect recurring donations for your store or non-profit.

When offering to subscribe to regular donations on your website, you can let visitors choose the amount they want to donate

Ecwid by Lightspeed also allows you to sell one-time purchases along with subscriptions, providing more options for your customers.

You can let customers choose between one-time purchases and subscriptions

To start selling subscriptions with Ecwid by Lightspeed, you just need to follow a couple of steps:

  1. Sign up with Ecwid by Lightspeed. You can set up a new ecommerce site or add an online store to your existing website.
  2. Follow these instructions for setting up subscriptions in your online store.

Learn more about growing your recurring revenue and selling subscriptions with Ecwid by Lightspeed in our How to Sell Subscriptions guide.

How to Promote Subscriptions

Now that you understand what a subscription-based business model is and have learned how to set up subscriptions in your Ecwid store, you’re ready to start marketing. Here are some key tips for success.

Build Excitement with a Pre-Launch

If you’re planning to launch a subscription product or service, you should try to build excitement before the release date.

One way you can do that is by creating a waitlist that customers can sign up for. You can incentivize customers to sign up by offering discounts or free bonus products. By setting up a waitlist, you can generate excitement and buzz around your subscription product before it even launches.

Tip: Set up an email capture popup, which will make a waitlist form appear to visitors checking out your store. They can easily sign up for your waitlist using the popup and feel ahead of the curve.

List the benefits of joining the waitlist just like BoxyCharm does

Before you launch a subscription, you can also post about it on social media. This gets followers and customers excited about your new subscription product and makes them feel involved. You can encourage sharing and offer exclusive deals on the new subscription. Social media is a great tool, so make sure to use it to build excitement! Learn more about how to develop a social media strategy for your subscription business.

Your goal is to make customers excited about your subscription launch, so make sure to pay attention to every detail. For example, one of your focuses could (and should) be packaging. You want to create a memorable unboxing experience. Share sneak peeks of your product on social media and show how you package it.

You can also send your product to a couple of loyal customers or brand ambassadors before the launch for free. Then they can upload unboxing and review videos about the subscription. You can then use that content in your own marketing efforts to build anticipation for your subscription product.

Offer a “Subscribe and Save” Model

The most obvious way to increase subscription sign-ups is by offering a discount for subscribing. Let’s say you sell dog food in your store. Typically, a customer would purchase a bag of dog food for $50. But if you set up a subscription that costs only $45 a month, your customers save money while you get constant revenue.

This type of subscription offer is effective because it’s hard to resist a good deal. Show customers how much they’re saving by subscribing to your products instead of buying them as a one-time purchase.

In Ecwid by Lightspeed, subscribe-and-save items are highlighted on the storefront with a bright ribbon

Give a Discount on the First Subscription Order

Another way to increase subscription sign-ups is by offering a discount on the first subscription order. For example, you can offer 10% off the first month’s subscription fee.

This type of subscription offer works well because again, it’s such a great deal! It helps convince unsure customers to buy your subscription product or service. That way, new customers feel like they can try out a great product for a lower price, and oftentimes will stick around even after the price increases.

Note: When applying a discount coupon to subscriptions in your store, add usage restrictions to a coupon to avoid applying the discount to repeat orders.

Give a Discount on Subsequent Purchases

Instead of giving a discount on the first subscription order, you can also offer a loyalty-based discount on subsequent purchases. For example, you set the price as $20 for the first subscription order. You can then make each following order cost only $15.

This type of offer works well because it helps retain customers. It encourages customers to stay subscribed, since it helps to save more in the long run. Plus, the more your customers use your products, the more loyal they’ll be to your brand.

Such offers can be positioned as a sign-up fee. By framing it as such, your customers only get charged the more expensive price during the first payment.

Signup fees are especially useful if your subscription product has a fixed, one-time setup cost. Like if you need to ship equipment for customers to use your product. The sign-up fee can cover any additional costs.

An example of a subscription product with a signup fee

Give a Free Trial

Another way to promote subscription sign ups is by offering a free trial. This way, the first subscription order costs nothing to customers.

This type of subscription marketing works well because it allows customers to take your subscription product or service out for a test drive before committing to pay for it each month.

Include a Free Surprise Product

If you sell a subscription for physical products, consider including a surprise product or a small bonus in a subscription package. For example, if your subscription is pet food, you can include a bag of dog treats or a toy in the package.

You can include a surprise or bonus product with each subscription delivery, or only with the first one. Alternatively, you can give a free product once in a quarter or a year. It’s up to you!

Customers enjoy gifts as a symbol of appreciation, so this type of incentive is definitely worth implementing.

Highlight the value of your subscription offer with the help of product subtitles

Collaborate with Influencers

Collaborating with influencers helps spread the word about your subscription product or service. That way, you can plaster your product all over social media practically for free!

Send out your subscription products to a list of influencers in your niche. This especially works if you sell subscription boxes, as they are great for unboxing videos. Influencers can then review your products on all different platforms, spreading the news about your subscription services everywhere.

Keep in mind that the traditional “pay for post” model of influencer partnership is often ineffective, as such reviews may look artificial to potential customers.

Instead, try influencer seeding. Send out products to multiple influencers at the same time and encourage them to write about their experiences with your product. This way, you’ll collect genuine reviews which will work better for attracting potential customers.

The key to successful influencer seeding is identifying the right influencers to partner with. That way, you don’t waste your product. We’ve covered that, as well as a step-by-step strategy for working with influencers, in our podcast on influencer marketing.

Influencers like @thepinkenvelope review various subscription boxes

Offer to “Subscribe and Donate”

If you want to attract attention to your subscription business and demonstrate your brand’s values at the same time, consider donating a portion of subscription profits to charity.

For example, you can set up your subscriptions so that every month a customer stays subscribed, you donate $1 to a chosen charity. You can make it so that you choose the charity, or your customer does. This gives your customer the feeling that they are doing a good deed by buying your product.

Another way you can use the “subscribe and donate” method is by donating a percentage of proceeds from the first 100 purchases.

This option works only if you donate to a cause that your customers find important. For example, if you target eco-conscious shoppers, donate to environmental nonprofits.

Follow Up on Canceled Subscribers

No matter how great your products are, you’ll inevitably end up with canceled subscriptions. It’s important to know why your customers cancel and take appropriate measures to prevent it from happening again.

When a customer cancels a subscription, send them an email asking why they decided to unsubscribe. You want to see if there’s anything you can do to improve the situation, and hopefully bring them back into the fold.

Here are some classic examples for why a customer cancels a subscription:

  • The subscription is too expensive. To mediate the cost, you can offer a discount for their next order. You can even launch a cheaper version of your current product for customers on a budget.
  • Shipping issues. Maybe subscription items were delivered late, or no tracking information was provided. You can offer to send the next order for free. Then, you should consider testing out a different shipping provider.

Of course, there can be other reasons why your customer cancels their subscription. That’s why following up is so important. Take canceled subscriptions as an opportunity to learn and improve your subscription business, rather than just losing a customer.

More Resources on Subscription Marketing

In this article, we’ve covered common ways to generate more subscribers for your subscription-based business. However, there are many more ways you can promote your subscription products.

On The Ecwid Ecommerce Show, hosts Rich and Jesse explain how to make your subscription products more enticing to potential customers. For example, offering season-specific subscription items, first access to new products, or subscriber-exclusive products can all help you and your subscription-based business thrive.

Listen to the podcast episode to learn more about marketing subscriptions effectively: Tips for Selling and Promoting Subscriptions.

If you’re ready to put your knowledge into practice, it’s time to start offering subscriptions. First, you’ll want to enable them in your online store. Then, you can create your first subscription product. It’s time to start generating a consistent revenue stream. Set up subscriptions today!

Do you want to know more about launching a subscription business?

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About the author

Anastasia Prokofieva is a content writer at Ecwid. She writes about online marketing and promotion to make entrepreneurs’ daily routine easier and more rewarding. She also has a soft spot for cats, chocolate, and making kombucha at home.

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