Whether it’s the holidays, Black Friday/Cyber Monday, birthdays, celebrations, and more, the market for gifting is huge in ecommerce. During the holidays alone, US ecommerce sales grew by 45% YOY in 2020, and at 62% online retailers were by far the most popular choice for holiday shoppers. Another massively growing trend in ecommerce is subscriptions, with the subscription industry expected to be valued at over $475 billion by 2025.
The popularity and growth of the subscription market can be attributed to many factors, such as convenience and flexibility, but when it comes to curated boxes and monthly rotating products there’s another key factor - experience. People enjoy their subscription experiences, delivering unique products to their door on a regular basis allowing them to discover and learn from the comfort of their home. It makes sense then that they’d want to give that same enjoyment to their friends and family, and so many merchants also offer gift subscriptions.
Today we’re looking at gift subscriptions, and how merchants can deliver an excellent, branded experience to both the gift buyer and recipient.
Benefits of targeting gift subscriptions
Lower barrier to entry for customers looking for gift ideas
Gifting presents an entirely new audience and opportunity for your store. There’s a strong chance that the potential customers browsing your store for gift ideas aren’t your usual audience, and aren’t familiar with your brand or products. Their intent is very different; they’re not looking for themselves and what will best suit their needs, they’re looking for what will best suit the needs of someone else.
This intent means they may not be familiar with your product category, and therefore navigating your product catalog can seem daunting. What products should they buy? What is the best option? Is there a chance the recipient already has some of these items? Subscription gifting takes that barrier to entry out of the equation and provides them with that same convenience that subscriptions typically offer regular subscribers. There’s no guesswork or uncertainty, and it makes for a unique gift. Coffee subscriptions, for example, mean that the customer doesn’t need to guess what kind of equipment the recipient might light or know enough about coffee roasting profiles to choose the “right” type. Instead the recipient gets to try different coffees, some of which they may not have tried.
Introduce brand to new customers
Customer acquisition can be expensive. Targeting your typical customer audience is tricky enough, and competing on brand discovery can be difficult. During the holidays especially, you likely don’t want to target your usual customers - you want to target the people buying for your usual customers. If you focus on gifting you’ll reach a new audience who will pass your products on to your target customers. The recipient may not have heard of your brand before, but if their friend or family member has purchased your subscription as a gift then that gives them a more direct and compelling introduction. Rather than trying to introduce the right customer audience to your products with SEO or digital marketing tactics, they can try your product without any cost to themselves.
Essentially, you’re presented a unique opportunity to turn gift recipients into regular, long-term customers. First of all, you’ll have impressed the customer who is giving the gift with your store experience, and then you have the chance to impress the end recipient. If you make a good impression with your products, utilize the right materials and messaging in gift subscription shipments, and deliver your brand experience then you could very quickly gain a new customer. Either they may make a one-off purchase from your catalog products, or they may become a regular monthly subscriber. If they’re gifted a fixed term subscription then there’s the opportunity to wow them over a longer period of time and demonstrate the value of that subscription so that they consider renewing it once that gifted period has expired.
How to attract gift buyers with subscriptions
The biggest issue to consider when developing your gift options is that you need to think about the type of customer and audience that you’re appealing to. The majority of that audience may not be familiar with your brand, or even your product category if they’re purchasing a subscription as a gift for someone else. Therefore you need to tailor your content and approach to this lower level of brand and product awareness.
Suggest multiple gifting options
Price and perception of value will be different when it comes to someone purchasing a gift with potentially less knowledge or awareness of your products. Your typical target customer will be able to see the value in your subscriptions, for example if you sell beauty subscription boxes then your usual target audience will already understand the value behind those products. A customer purchasing for someone else may not see the same value, as they don’t have a full understanding of the product category, therefore you should present a few options for gift subscriptions.
With this model, you offer a basic, standard, and premium option for gifts and the number of products or value scales with the price. Demonstrate exactly what each pricing option will deliver, and highlight any savings the customer can make by opting for a higher value option. This gives them more choice in how much they’re willing to spend, and will appeal to those with both little or extensive product knowledge.
Fixed duration bundles
A month-to-month subscription may be the usual approach for your subscriptions, but if you don’t already then you should offer bundles of subscriptions for a set duration i.e. 3 months, 6 months, 12 months.
Customers looking to purchase gifts may not want to sign up for a monthly debit commitment, and just want to make a one-off payment. Offering these bundled subscriptions that expire after a set period of time is a great way to encourage higher value purchases from one-off customers.
One-off taster option
It’s likely that a subscription with multiple monthly deliveries will cost a fair amount of money, and while some customers will be happy to spend, others will be working to a budget. The best way to capture these customers is to offer a one-off taster option that can be delivered to them or claimed by the recipient.
If you offer a curated box subscription, this allows the customer to get a sample of lots of different products rather than trying to choose from your catalog when they have lower product awareness, and gives you the opportunity to showcase more of your products to the end recipient.
Create a separate landing page for gifting
The kind of information and content that someone will need when looking to purchase a gift will be different to that of an informed potential customer. Creating a landing page specifically for gifting separate to your regular subscription landing pages or product pages will allow you to tailor the kind of content that will help convince a customer looking for a gift.
Clear and detailed brand summary and product description
The most important part of your landing page will be describing exactly what your brand is, what you sell, and talking through the subscription options available for gifting. Ensure the page layout is uncluttered, focusing on the gift options available, what they come with, and the cost as well as any discounts or savings. Explain how the gift subscription works - when does it ship? How is it packaged?
Especially if the gift ships directly to the gift recipient, the customer will want to know what the gift they’re buying actually looks like when it’s delivered.
Links to FAQ pages and other relevant information
If they’re searching for a gift, they’ll likely have more questions about, for example, how delivery works, or how the subscription works when given as a gift. Ensure you include clear links to these relevant pages that will answer all the questions they may have, so they can go into the checkout process with full confidence and understanding.
Use additional visual content to demonstrate the product
Reading a product description is one thing, but if you’re at all unfamiliar with a product category or brand then copy alone won’t be convincing. Give your customers that added visual content that will allow them to see what the subscription actually looks like using photos and videos so they can clearly see what they’re paying for. Even better if you can also incorporate user generated content showing what it looks like in the hands of real customers.
Showcase reviews and testimonials
Reviews are a key factor in building trust with potential customers, especially when it comes to gifts. Data suggests that as many as 97% of consumers check product reviews, and 89% consider them an essential resource when making a purchase. When purchasing gifts especially, customers want to be assured that what they’re going to give to a friend or family member is going to be of high quality and good value.
Including reviews and testimonials gives customers added confidence in your products and brand. Ensure they’re clearly displayed on key gift related pages, showing star ratings and excerpts from reviews specifically related to gift giving.
How to engage gift recipients
Once you’ve convinced the initial customer into purchasing a gift subscription, the work begins on convincing the recipient that they should pick up the subscription long-term. The gift works as an introduction to your brand for someone who may not be familiar with it, but is interested in your product category. Making the right first impression could then pave the way for turning a gift recipient into a customer.
Create a memorable unboxing experience
Given a gift recipient won’t have seen your brand or had your store experience, your first impression with them will be when they unbox their subscription for the first time. You want that first experience to be memorable and delight the recipient, and this can be done in a few ways:
- Branded boxes and packaging
- Customized material - i.e. flyer or booklet personalized with the recipient’s name
- Complimentary gifts or discount vouchers
- Introduction booklet
These are small ways you can create added value to your subscription box and make that crucial first impression a great one. Consider creating separate materials and packing instructions for gift subscriptions, so that there is a difference in the information and materials that these subscribers receive. They may not be familiar with your brand and they haven’t signed up for subscriptions themselves, so adding introductory booklets and complimentary vouchers or gifts will help to give them a positive perception of your brand and experience.
Make it easy to set up and manage their account
Flexible, simple account management is an important part of any successful subscription service. Customer needs change over time, so they may need to pause or cancel a subscription or swap different items. Especially if the subscriber has been given the subscription as a gift, they’ll want to be able to log in and manage their account with ease.
If they’ve got a subscription for a set period of time i.e. 3 or 6 months, give clear instructions on how to activate their account and set up their future deliveries. Give them the same onboarding experience as if they were a new customer, walking them through your products and brand, as well as where to find key subscription management options in their account.
Account management isn’t just limited to ongoing subscriptions; if it’s a one-off box, you should still give them instructions on how they can set up an account and register their box. This ensures that they can easily set up future subscriptions if they choose to, with all their details including previous subscriptions ready to go.
Tailor your email and SMS messaging to their experience
Once they’re set up, it’s time to start talking to your new subscriber. They may not be familiar with your brand, so have a separate email flow set up for gift subscriptions vs regular subscriptions. This means you can tailor the messaging for your emails and SMS to that specific audience and the information they’re going to need.
You’ll want to send the following information:
- Brand introduction - story, purpose, key products
- Subscription introduction - what it includes, what it involves, any community activity they can get involved with
- Account onboarding - where can they find key information or account management options in their account? Who do they reach out to for assistance?
- Subscription product information - detail what they’ve received as part of their subscription, e.g. if it’s coffee, then give them information about the variety they’ve received
- Offer assistance - Ask them how they’re finding their subscription, and let them know where to find help on your site and from your team.
From there, you can start to promote other aspects of your brand experience such as social media, any subscriber communities, new products, and loyalty programs.
Offer post-holiday deals to encourage future purchases
Once your new subscriber has had time to get to know your brand and products, it’s time to start encouraging them to become a regular subscriber. The impression you’ve made up until this stage with their unboxing and brand experiences will help, but you now need to convince them to continue.
If it’s a subscription with a set time period, then towards the end of that period send them an email letting them know that their final subscription will be shipping soon. Give them a run down of the benefits of remaining a subscriber, as well as any exciting upcoming products or promotions. In their final subscription package, include printed material detailing these same benefits, and include an exclusive offer if they choose to continue their subscription. This might be a free item in their next order, a discount code, or bonus loyalty program points.
On the other hand if it’s a one-off taster of your subscription service, include material in the box detailing the benefits of a subscription, different options available, pricing, and any savings they could make. With it being a one-off purchase, there’s a strong chance they won’t have signed up for an account so give them details of how to do this and register their box, along with a special offer if they do so such as 10% off their first 3 months.
----Subscriptions are already a big boost for Shopify merchants, offering a reliable revenue stream and more engaged customers. As we approach the holiday season, it makes sense for these same merchants to look at how they can leverage their subscription offering to the gifting market. By combining a platform like Shopify with a powerful subscription integration such as ReCharge and a smart gifting subscription strategy, merchants can develop an offering that excites customers and delights recipients.