6 creative growth tactics for the holidays

When it comes to the holiday shopping season, competition is fierce. eMarketer’s forecast indicates total ecommerce holiday spending in 2019 will increase to 13.2% (up from 10.8% last year) to a whopping $135.35 billion.

holiday growth

Of course subscription merchants want a piece of this – and they want those customer relationships to continue well beyond the holiday season. The question is: How?

We turned to a few different experts and asked their opinion on this burning question: What are some creative tactics subscription merchants should experiment with during the holidays? 

Here’s what they suggested.

1. Enable one-time purchases

“Creating one-time offers (despite being a subscription merchant) is a great way to reach new customers and potentially gain more loyal, long-term buyers who stick with you even after the holidays.” -Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of RetailMinded

Not all shoppers want to commit to an ongoing subscription before trying it out first, so it makes sense to enable one-time purchases during the holiday season to open the doors to new customers with a fear of commitment. Make sure for those who do opt for the one-time option, you’re going above and beyond with customer experience and packaging so your first impression is a strong one. Consider including a personalized note, “freebies”/bonus items, or a coupon code that incentivizes the subscription route once they’ve had a chance to experience your product firsthand.

native checkout
In their Customer Portal, Native offers some of their most popular items as one-time additions to a subscriber’s upcoming shipment.

2. Experiment with mystery boxes

“Offering mystery items or mystery boxes is perfect for subscription merchants that are looking to add some excitement to a standard subscription.” -Brendan Hufford, SEO Consultant

One of the most beloved parts of unwrapping holiday gifts is the excitement that builds around the unexpected. The human brain has a serious need to fill information gaps, and the element of mystery or surprise fuels the experience of tearing through wrapping paper to find out what’s inside. Vox reported on this phenomenon, saying: “[The unknown] has always been the core appeal of mystery boxes; sometimes it’s more fun to leave things up to fate.”

This is exactly the same idea that fuels interest in mystery boxes–which is a creative holiday idea for subscription merchants for two reasons:

  1. It’s a good way to offload products that aren’t moving as quickly as others. By integrating these items into a mystery box, you can disperse more of this product while introducing customers to your best-sellers at the same time.
  2. For shoppers who already know what they’re getting as gifts, the element of surprise that comes with a mystery subscription includes a promise for something unexpected, which some buyers crave.

If nothing else, mystery boxes can be a fun experiment to test out alongside your more traditional subscription offerings during the holidays.

3. Focus on community-building & education

“Community-building and education should be a top priority for subscription retailers. They can do this by creating things like a forum wherein customers can share advice, ask for help, and celebrate each other.” -Kristen LaFrance, Growth at ChurnBuster

It’s one thing to sell a subscription, but it’s another to go deeper with customers and to create a community hub where they can learn more about your products, get advice on how to best use them, and talk to other customers. Building a space that fosters this type of connection-building, education, and resource-sharing is a major value-add for customers who then feel like an insider or part of an exclusive club. With this sort of offering, subscribers will likely feel more invested in the products and excited to share these positive community-focused learning experiences.

friction free shaving
Friction Free Shaving offers free recycling bags for used razor blades to reduce plastic content in the sea.

4. Incentivize gifting in an inventive way

“Allow current subscribers to gift a subscription to a friend or family member at a discounted rate to get new subscribers hooked.”Rachel Ashley, freelance writer and editor

The idea of incentivizing/discounting gift subscriptions is one that’s top-of-mind for most merchants with this type of offering, but you can take the idea a step further by putting an interesting spin on your approach. Think about incentivizing gift subscriptions by:

  • Letting existing subscribers earn loyalty/referral points for each gift subscription they purchase for someone else (Recharge has plenty of integration partners who can help you do this well).
  • Letting subscribers earn free add-ons, subscription credits, or upgrades based on the number of gift subscriptions they purchase.
  • Doing a giveaway wherein anyone who purchases a gift subscription is entered to win something like a free three-month subscription, a mystery box, or a gift card to your store.

5. Use donations as a data strategy

“Create a donation/impact strategy. By enabling your subscribers to donate to a cause they align with, you’re able to create a different type of message and engagement with customers around something emotional. We’ve seen customers who donate increase LTV by 18%, and post-holiday, having the data on who your customer supports enables you to re-engage them before they unsubscribe with an impact/emotional message.” -Ronny Sage, ShoppingGives

Customer data and analytics are the secret ingredients when it comes to relevant personalization, engagement, and understanding the true wants and needs of your subscribers. An inventive way to gather this type of data is by leveraging a donation add-on during the holidays that let subscribers give back and feel good about their investment in your products.

Pledgeling, a social evangelist company, makes it easy to add a social good component to your store. Their philosophy is that, “‘social responsibility is no longer a feel-good phrase for conference room chatter, it’s a modern matter of survival.” By linking ecommerce companies and charitable organizations, they create a seamless customer experience where everyone wins.

With the insight you gain from these donations, you can better speak to the individual’s core values when they’re at risk of unsubscribing down the road and deploy an emotion-based winback campaign that speaks right to the heart of what they care about most.

6. Offer an exclusive item to loyal customers

“Promote an exclusive holiday gift and make it seem like as a customer, they’ve been invited to your holiday party as part of your club.” –Terry Schilling, freelance copywriter

People like to feel special – plain and simple. By offering your loyal subscribers an exclusive gift item only they have access to, you’re reinforcing important messages like:

  • We really value you and want to offer you something to which only our insiders/VIPs have access.
  • You’re special and we love you, so we created an exclusive item only our most loyal subscribers can buy.
  • Because you’ve been such a loyal customer and we value your insight, we’ve made a top secret product that only a small group of people will get to test out before it’s launched to the masses.
huel checkout
Huel offers first time subscribers a free t-shirt as a welcome to their membership.

Maximize subscriptions during the 2019 holiday shopping season

These tips and ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when you think about all the different ways you can incentivize shoppers to buy (and gift!) subscriptions to your products during the 2019 holiday shopping season. Try a few out and see what produces the most impressive results for your business.