Churn is a natural part of any business. Customers come and customers go, and it’s inevitable that you will lose shoppers at some point — including subscription box businesses.
But while it’s natural, it doesn’t mean it’s not avoidable. There are ways you can keep churn low by avoiding a few simple mistakes.
Here, we look at just four mistakes that can increase churn for subscription box businesses, plus a few tips for avoiding those mistakes and keeping customers hooked to your brand.
Poor customer service will put anyone off
Good customer service is essential for any flourishing subscription box business.
No brand is without its complaints, queries, and questions from customers — it’s a natural part of business, and it’s also a pivotal element of customer retention too.
Friendly, efficient, and trustworthy customer service reminds shoppers that they are valued by a brand. Even if they come to a business with a complaint, if it is handled in a sensitive and nuanced way, a customer is more likely to return to shop with that same brand.
On the other hand, if a customer complaint or query is not given the care and attention it deserves, that bad experience could well put them off for life.
This is only fuelled by social media. If not handled carefully, one customer’s complaint on social could get seen by countless other potential customers, putting them off too.
This is as true for subscription businesses as it is for any kind of business — poor customer service is all but guaranteed to lose you customers.
In short: treat your customers well.
Of course, this is easier said than done for some. While established subscription box businesses can afford to pay for a dedicated customer service team, such a function would be out of reach for most smaller brands.
However, it is possible to build an effective customer service strategy in other ways.
Take automation, for instance.
There are plenty of AI-driven help desk plugins available to help you create an automatic query resolution process on your website, with only minimal human intervention required.
These tools let you build scripts yourself, guiding customers through a series of questions so you can either resolve their query in-chat, or direct them to open a customer service ticket.
Freshdesk is a good example — it lets you build automated workflows and scripted bots to resolve customer queries quickly and without the need for human interaction (for those queries that can, at least).
But the first port of call for your automated help desk should be to refer customers to your Frequently Asked Questions page.
A comprehensive FAQ page lists out all the typical questions and queries your customers might ask you, with concise answers that allay their concerns. This strategy can dramatically reduce the number of questions that go through your help desk, easing the burden on your customer service team as a result.
Letting existing customer relationships go stale
Every relationship needs a little surprise every so often to keep it fresh, and this is as true for the one between subscription box businesses and their customers as it is for any kind of relationship.
So many companies, even beyond subscription boxes, focus too much on drawing new customers in with shiny discounts and special offers, rather than focusing on those loyal customers who have been with them for years.
But those brands that adopt such a policy do so at their own risk. Leave your customer relationships to go stagnant, and they’ll begin to get itchy feet, drawn in by your competitors.
With that in mind, consider rolling out a concerted incentive program to your customers.
So, what form should these incentives take?
You don’t need to break the bank for this. They can be as small as a packet of sweets, or something more substantial like a month’s free box. Alternatively, you could offer them a discount code on a future box (boosting sales into the bargain).
You could even take the idea further by sending a small selection of your customers a handwritten note too, thanking them for their custom and reminding them you value their support.
If you can, opt for those customers most vocal on social media — these are the ones most likely to share their freebies on social, thus helping market your subscription box business to other prospective customers too.
Like your customer service, even this can be automated — to a degree.
Scribeless writes handwritten notes for you at scale, customizable with different handwriting and stationery, to be included with your subscription boxes or sent in-between dispatches for an extra surprise.
Little gifts and incentives like these disrupt the usual relationship you have with your customer. It reminds them you value their custom, injecting a little feel-good into a relationship that might otherwise have gone stale, keeping customer churn at bay as a result.
A lack of variety will lose customer interest
Variety is the spice of life, and it’s certainly the secret ingredient that keeps churn low for subscription boxes too.
While not all subscription box businesses build variety into their model, most do, and those that do should strive to keep each box as fresh and exciting as the last.
One of the biggest draws of subscription boxes is the surprise of not knowing exactly what you’ll receive each month.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of providing little variety in your subscription boxes.
Variety requires constant creativity and thought.
If you’re a small or fledgling subscription box brand, time can be a scarce and precious resource.
As a result, it’s easy to neglect this innovation and let standards slip a little, resulting in a subscription box that is hardly discernible from the last.
Subscription boxes for kids are a fine case in point to illustrate why variety is so essential for keeping churn low.
Anyone with children can tell you that young minds require constant stimulation. They can easily grow bored, and as such, they won’t be happy with the same humdrum toys or activities for long.
As an example, let’s look at the Sagomini box. Each box contains a curated selection of toys and activities, centred around a particular theme.
This theme changes each month, spanning everything from planes and cafes to fairy tales, and the toys and activities change with it. Consequently, its young audience base remains hooked, eagerly looking forward to next month’s box with excitement.
This is just an example, but it demonstrates the value of variety for keeping customers (even little ones) hooked — throwing decreasing churn into the bargain.
A lack of education around what your subscription box offers
What really keeps customers locked into a brand is value — provide them with value, and your customers will keep returning to your business time and again.
But what this value entails can be tricky to pin down.
Get your customers to get more from product
Even if your customers like and enjoy your product, if they’re not getting the most value out of it as they can, who’s to say they won’t eventually lose interest in your subscription box?
Consequently, a great way to keep churn low and customers hooked into your subscription box business is to provide education and information around your subscription box products. By literally showing your customers how to use your products to best effect, you will increase the perceived value around your subscription box too.
Lookfantastic is a good example to illustrate this point. While not exclusively a subscription box business, Lookfantastic does offer a variety of subscription boxes alongside its selection of cosmetic and beauty products.
Consequently, Lookfantastic’s blog is replete with useful instructional beauty guides, as well as blogs focused on each month’s unique box:
Each box-related blog highlights the cosmetic benefits of each product, plus their eco- and chemical-free credentials. Alongside this, the blog also offers tips on how best to use each product as part of your wider beauty regimen.
In this way, Lookfantastic educates its customers (and, indeed, prospective customers) on how to use its subscription box products best, helping them get more value and, ultimately, enjoyment out of it too.
Of course, this strategy won’t apply to all subscription box businesses — some products hardly need any extra information in order for your customers to enjoy them.
But many subscription box niches do warrant such a tactic, so it’s well worth doing to keep your customers locked into your product and churn low.
This doesn’t necessarily need to be comprehensive either. Some useful tasting notes add a little extra value to a box of DIY cocktail ingredients, for instance.
But the way you deliver this education should vary, depending on your audience’s preferences, the kind of information you’re communicating, and what your time and budget capabilities are.
Videos, for instance, are a popular and effective means of delivering education. The combination of verbal and visual communication makes it easy to break down otherwise complex subjects in a simple, easy-to-understand format.
There are also lots of useful video editors/creators available to help you create such a video (Headliner is particularly good). An unboxing video for each month’s subscription box is a great way to help your customers get the most from their box, and it acts as a lead generation tool for prospective buyers who are interested in your offering.
But this requires time, effort, and financial cost too (depending on the camera you use, editing software you opt for, and so on). While it is still possible to shoot and edit a decent video on your camera phone, you might instead opt for a blog instead.
A concise article written in easy-to-understand language will keep your customers engaged with your message, and can still accurately convey the great things about your products and how best to use them.
These are just four mistakes that can increase churn for your subscription box business. They’re simple mistakes, ones that anyone can make in business — but they’re also simple to avoid and relatively easy to fix as well.
Build a solid customer service strategy, don’t neglect your existing customer relationships, add real variety to your subscription box offering, and educate your customers (and potential ones too) about the great products your box includes. Follow these tips, and you can keep churn low and customer interest high in your subscription box business journey.
Elliot Mark is an e-commerce writer with several years’ experience working with the biggest online store builders around. Skilled in content and marketing, he loves to share his knowledge with like-minded e-commerce entrepreneurs. Check out his insights on Ecommerce Platforms to learn how to take your online store to the next level.