It seems that everywhere we turn today, marketers are jumping into the “subscription box” marketing strategy as a new way to engage customers and prospects. The data indicates today’s shopper craves a direct relationship with brands they know and trust. The appeal of connecting on this deeper level with brands and taking advantage of services that deliver products and services direct to our homes saves time and effort in the very busy lives of today’s consumer. More and more brands are understanding that a digital connection provides the customer with a level of flexibility, ease of shopping and procuring products versus traditional transactional channels of brick-and-mortar storefronts.
As an example, we have seen the rise of innovative brands like Stitch Fix and others who are transforming the way consumers shop for clothing by leveraging subscription relationships with their customers that are cutting edge. The brand provides the equivalent of a “personal shopper “ that comprehends the consumer’s likes, dislikes and preferences to build an ongoing relationship between the brand and customer by delivering garments that match the real-time profile of their customer.
Wall Street has been quick to make note that success in the “subscription box” channel is much more than earning the initial order and/or engagement with a prospective customer. Many brands have mistakenly believed that once the consumer accepts the introductory offer, the subscription offer goes on autopilot as the consumer will remain engaged with little or no “care and feeding” of the relationship. The quality and the success of any customer to business relationship takes a great deal of nurturing and relevant contact. Without it, today’s consumer will ultimately start to look for a brand that is vital and engaging.
Here’s several tips how a brand can maintain a solid relationship with your customers and benefit from the commensurate value that can be achieved within the subscription box marketing channel.
- Be a Student of Your Competitors: Don’t ever fall into the trap of believing your own marketing spin. Like it or not, your brand is operating in a highly competitive arena. It’s likely that those brands you compete with each day are doing all that they can to find ways to either steal away your customers and/or out maneuver your efforts to acquire new customers. Make sure that you have someone on your team monitoring the strategies and offers that your competitors are using to wage battle with you. You cannot have a less than competitive offer out in the market. Today’s shopper is smart and likely to be looking for the best deal/relationship. Create your unique selling proposition grid and use it.
- Build a Personal Relationship: The subscription box customer desires a relationship with your brand that is highly customized and relevant to them. Make sure that all your communications with the customer is on a first name basis and leverages all profile data you have to build highly engaging conversations. Today’s consumer enjoys a brand relationship if you don’t continually upsell. Develop a messaging cadence that is hyper-relevant and at times purely conversational to deepen the engagement of the subscriber. The customer wants to understand how much you care about their needs and are willing to provide them a service level that addresses those needs.
- Leverage Multichannel Data: Consumers today can lose patience and loyalty to brands quickly and expect you know a great deal about them based on the products purchased over time as a customer. Within the subscriber box model, the shopper expects that your brand will tailor offerings based on their profile. Don’t make “vanilla” recommendations that don’t match the real-time profile of the customer. Best subscription box players are leveraging consumer data from all retail intersections so as to be more exact and refined in their suggestions and recommendations.
- Take Time to Listen: Your customer wants a regular relationship with you. This is a great indication of just how much they appreciate what you are offering in terms of a brand promise. It is mission critical in today’s competitive arena that you find time and means to connect with your loyal customers and understand the dynamics of their ongoing needs. Don’t be afraid to poll them often to learn more about what they like, dislike and would like to see more. It is this level of connection and confidence that will demonstrate that you are really interested in “filling their box” with only items that truly help them and/or excite them. Not enough marketers do this and it is a huge opportunity to build greater affinity and loyalty.
- Recruit Brand Ambassadors: Many of your customers are spending more time today within social media venues exchanging ideas and preferences with their friends in real time. It’s important that you monitor these congregation areas to learn more about the tone and substance of their conversations as it relates to your brand experience. You need to make sure that any issues you have regarding customer service and/or gaps in the overall customer experience are dealt with immediately as these kinds of situations can spread ill will like wildfire within social media community. Conversely…you will always want to do all you can to recruit social media ambassadors; a select group that enjoys your brand so much that they routinely spread great news about their subscription and level of service you provide. These evangelists can work wonders in building your subscriber base and business.
There is a tremendous opportunity for many brands to take huge advantage of the exploding subscription box consumer channel. In order to achieve this goal, there is a significant amount of work involved in building a relevant and valuable relationship with customers. For many that have operated in the retail channel for years, this is a new awakening in terms of skill set. It’s time to think like your customer and optimize your brand promise so that it resonates well with customers and prospects.
Jim Fosina is founder and chief executive officer of Fosina Marketing Group.