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The subscription market saw continued growth in 2021. And while the pandemic accelerated the pivot to ecommerce from brick-and-mortar, customer behavior shows that this model is here to stay. As more brands explore the benefits of subscriptions (like recurring revenue, increased loyalty, etc.), they’re looking for the best platform and partners to deliver their customers a great experience.

Here at Recharge, we work with the top agencies in the business to support merchants in creating growth strategies and implementing top-tier solutions. They’ve shared how they’re helping merchants deploy subscriptions, details on unique features they built, and their best advice for merchants as we head into 2022.

Before we dive into their answers, let’s meet our partners:

Meet the experts

As a leading Shopify Plus Partners for design, development, and growth services, Swanky Agency has spent a decade delivering innovative digital solutions that elevate their clients to the forefront of their industries.

Jamersan has helped countless merchants drive revenue-focused campaigns while making sure the technology stays out of the way.

The Taproom creates high-powered Shopify ecommerce solutions for fast-growing businesses.

Hawke Media customizes data-driven, performance solutions to help launch, scale, and invigorate businesses of all sizes, industries, and revenue models.

iamota is a leading Shopify Plus design and development agency partner that helps enterprise merchants succeed on Shopify Plus.

Arctic Leaf takes the time to thoughtfully understand brand voice and vision to deliver unmatched UX-focused website design and development.

Absolute Web is a full-service agency with strong abilities in ecommerce development and management as well as marketing, design + creative, and content production.

The expert opinions

What is the one thing all merchants should think about when deploying a subscription offering?

“Flexibility. It’s important to give customers the option to alter when they get their product delivered based on their unique needs, or to add/remove items per delivery. Convenience is essential to a successful subscription offering. 

Although it might seem counterintuitive to let customers skip, pause or delay a delivery, remember that consumable products don’t get used at a blanket rate, so it makes sense to allow customers the flexibility. This can help secure subscriber loyalty and advocacy, which is important for customer retention.”

Matt Abbott, Head of Growth, Swanky Agency

“The biggest single thing to consider is your customer needs.   Make sure you are mapping those needs to a subscription offering.  Without market fit, subscription offerings are doomed from the beginning.”  

TJ Gamble, CEO, Jamersan 

“Scalability is vital when a merchant considers a subscription offering. When you only have a few subscribers to start with, it’s smooth sailing and the logistics are easy to manage. However, you need to also plan how you’re going to handle that subscription offering as it grows and gains more subscribers. There are so many aspects to that question. How will it be managed within your fulfillment team? How will inventory be handled? What will you do to ensure it continues to be valuable for subscribers? What impact will scaling this offering have on the rest of your business operations? It’s not enough to have just that base starting plan, you need to think a year, 2 years, 5 years ahead. It isn’t just operational scalability, but what is the merchant going to do to actually scale it in terms of getting more subscribers.”

Shannon Sherry, Director of Marketing, The Taproom

“Subscriptions come in all shapes and sizes – what works for one merchant may not work for another. We work closely with our clients to map out the end-to-end customer journey for subscriptions. This allows us to ensure our merchants’ desired subscription model makes sense from a customer perspective and allows us to create a strategy to tackle any potential barriers to subscription. 

Some key considerations:

  • Is the subscription offering enticing enough? What are the benefits of subscribing? eg. A discounted rate?
  • Is the subscription offering easy to understand?
  • Are the subscription options broad enough (pricing tiers, frequency, product options, etc.)?
  • How might you reduce subscription cancellation? Can we utilize the Recharge platform to help businesses implement a strong retention strategy, including incentives such as monetary discounts or free gifts or encouraging customers to change their order date or swap out products?

Oli Best, Growth Manager, iamota 

“Merchants need to determine their business model prior to deploying a subscription offering because the model will predicate the scope of the work. If you want to sell coffee on a weekly frequency then Recharge will support everything you need right out of the box. If the merchant needs customer billing frequencies, or has a nuanced and unique buyer journey, then they will likely want to find an experienced agency who knows how to leverage Recharge’s APIs.”

Josh Garellek, CEO & Co-Founder, Arctic Leaf

“Merchants need to fully understand what their customers are looking for from an experience standpoint. This will ensure that the subscription offering aligns with the expectations of their customers as well as increases brand loyalty and lifetime value. Beyond that, it is important for the merchant to have a strategy for their subscription offering. We often recommend implementing a “subscribe and save” discount to incentivize customers and then have the merchant advertise it in their marketing communications. One more thing merchants should think about is adding a simple way for their customers to opt-out or cancel their subscription. If a customer knows that they are not locked into anything, they are more likely to give it a try.”

Shayna Silvers, Director of Marketing Strategy, Absolute Web

What creative subscription features have you worked on?

“We’ve been working with a pet supplements brand to help increase their subscription conversion rate and deploying a quiz to provide users with a tailored plan based on the age and weight of their dog. We’ve run many optimizations to this journey, currently focusing on the annual cost savings of being on a subscription over 12 months. 33% of users who start this quiz progress to purchase, which is significantly higher than the site average.

To increase the acquisition of new first-time users, we introduced a ‘sampling to subscription’ offer. A new user is taken through questions to identify the relevant product. They purchase a discounted Recharge product for their first month, before being switched to a full-price subscription. 

Utilizing Recharge in combination with Dynamic Yield, we’ve implemented campaigns showing returning users who purchase first-time products repeatedly the benefits of being on a subscription, and personalizing the on-site experience for active subscribers.”

Samantha Fraser, Lead Strategy Manager, Swanky Agency

“We’ve recently launched Copper Cow Coffee’s new site and subscription offering which is by far one of my personal favorite subscription projects we’ve worked on. Given there are so many coffee subscriptions on the market, it really isn’t enough to just have a straight subscription service, so they wanted to find a way to stand out by adding further value to the customer experience. 

Everyone drinks their coffee differently and prefers different flavors. But a lot of coffee subscriptions just send the coffee with little in the way of consideration for individual tastes. That meant the key to the customer experience for Copper Cow would be personalization. To achieve this, we worked with them to create an intuitive quiz flow that tailors the subscription to the individual customer. We also built a custom app that would essentially “speak” to Recharge, allowing the customer to further customize the box – removing items, adding new ones on, and the ability to change this month-to-month. This means the customer can try some seasonal brews, or add more of their favorite flavors whenever they want. 

What we’re left with is a super intuitive, easy-to-use, totally personalized subscription service. We’re still in the early days having launched only a few weeks ago, but we’re excited to see some results in the future.”

Shannon Sherry, Director of Marketing, The Taproom

“Working with Unilever’s teams in Seattle, New York, London, and India, in addition to Recharge, iamota significantly enhanced the user experience for Skinsei customers via our Road Map approach. We improved the UX and site performance for both potential new customers and existing subscribers.”

Oli Best, Growth Manager, iamota 

What do you believe is the most undervalued aspect of the Recharge platform?

“For me, it’s the built-in functionality that allows merchants to apply incentives based on customers’ cancellation reasons. For instance, if a customer wants to stop their subscription because it’s too expensive, you can present them with an opportunity for a discount right there and then. This can be a powerful retention strategy that reduces churn. Spending a few minutes on this can lead to a transformation in your customer lifetime value!”

Nichola Birch, Product Manager, Swanky Agency

“The most valuable features are often the most undervalued.  The simplicity of getting started combined with the knowledge and experience from the Recharge team make it our go-to platform for all of our merchants.”

TJ Gamble, CEO, Jamersan 

“On the platform side, the most undervalued aspects of Recharge are the integrations it has to ensure it fits into your ecommerce tech stack seamlessly. Beyond that, the incredible customer support that Recharge provides is another huge bonus. Through their work with some of the top ecommerce brands out there, Recharge brings next-level knowledge and expertise to the table for our account managers, prospects, and clients alike.”

Ashley Scorpio, Vice President of Partnerships, Hawke Media 

“One of the secret weapons working with Recharge is understanding how it has been built to integrate and work alongside other core apps and platforms within the Shopify ecosystem. From loyalty and rewards to upsells and email marketing, and customer service support. We are able to build a merchant solution that not only brings the value of subscriptions, but combines that with other revenue-driving implementations that bring surprise and delight to the end customer.”

Oli Best, Growth Manager, iamota 

“Recharge has a very powerful set of APIs that we don’t think enough merchants are leveraging to take their subscriptions to the next level.”

Josh Garellek, CEO & Co-Founder, Arctic Leaf

How can merchants be successful with Shopify or BigCommerce?

“There are so many strong integrations within the Shopify ecosystem that, when leveraged, allow merchants to succeed with subscriptions – these are what make the platform stand out for me. 

Some to point out include Recharge’s Shopify integration with Gorgias, which allows customer service teams to save time as they don’t have to constantly switch tools. There are also its integrations with ESPs which allow you to set campaigns based on subscription triggers (e.g. a customer canceling triggering a win-back campaign), as well as its links with loyalty tools which enable the creation of VIP tiers for subscribers. Plus, there are integrations with analytics tools like Little Data, which help merchants clean their Recharge and Shopify data within Google Analytics so they can truly understand lifetime value and churn.”

Nichola Birch, Product Manager, Swanky Agency

“The primary benefit of SaaS platforms like BigCommerce is that they are simple for merchants to manage. That has two profound impacts that compound to fuel growth. It frees up mindshare so merchants have time to properly strategize, and it alleviates technical boundaries. This builds an atmosphere of exploration and rapid trial-and-error testing that makes it much easier to find your way to success.”

TJ Gamble, CEO, Jamersan  

“I think that in order to understand why Shopify is great for merchants looking to get into subscriptions, we actually need to zoom out and take a look at the entire Shopify merchant experience. As a platform, it is so merchant-led and is constantly looking for new ways to allow merchants to grow their businesses. 

A huge part of that is the Shopify ecosystem – once you start with Recharge, there are 1000’s of other apps and integrations you can add in to add value to that subscription offering, improve your customer experience, and drive efficiency within your team. You can add loyalty programs to improve retention, inventory management systems to partially automate the fulfillment process, email marketing to boost subscriber communication, and so much more. And if you’re looking for niche functionality, there are so many great Shopify agencies and independent Shopify Experts who can help make that a reality. However you imagine your subscription offering, Shopify allows you to build that and sets you up for success.”

Shannon Sherry, Director of Marketing, The Taproom

“It was great to see Shopify prioritize subscriptions this year, by building the subscriptions model into the foundation of their platform. Customers and merchants alike can now gain the benefits of Shopify’s slick and seamless checkout experience when purchasing both one-time and subscription products. This was a revolutionary change for the platform, and has made it easier for Recharge and iamota to provide more flexibility and consistency as part of the merchant offering.

In addition, Shopify’s product roadmap includes additional features to make subscription models easier to take advantage of by merchants. We’re excited to see what comes next.”

Oli Best, Growth Manager, iamota 

“Arctic Leaf loves building subscription businesses on BigCommerce because their strong APIs allow for our team to build unique and completely custom business models. We support merchants who have very unique and complex buyer journeys that Recharge doesn’t cover right out of the box. Our team has the freedom to build middleware and headless integrations with Recharge to support this unique business model.”

Josh Garellek, CEO & Co-Founder, Arctic Leaf

Where do you see ecommerce going in 2022? 

“Given that brands need to make consumers’ lives easier than before to avoid them shopping elsewhere, I think we’ll start to see bigger brands and multi-product retailers introducing subscriptions as part of their offering in 2022. After all, it’s easier to make a customer choose what to put in their basket if they’ve already paid for it.  

The advice I’d give to merchants as we enter a new year is to always think about things from the customer’s perspective. Base your offering around what customers want, not what you think they should have. Much of this can be informed by data you already have and supported through qualitative research.”

Matt Abbott, Head of Growth, Swanky Agency

“We are still in the infancy of ecommerce. Each year, it gets more mature and difficult to gain marketshare by “following” the herd. The most important thing for the foreseeable future is to build an infrastructure that allows you to remain agile. Keep a close eye on the market and where people are seeing success. Then, as you identify emerging trends and traffic sources, leverage that agility to stay ahead of the curve.”

TJ Gamble, CEO, Jamersan 

“Throughout 2020 and 2021, consumer expectations have changed. Many of these changes are trends the industry predicted, but the pandemic really accelerated these. The biggest trend I think we’re all seeing is just how important omnichannel is to the customer experience. In 2020, it was essential for businesses to develop these fluid offline-to-online experiences, and then in 2021 it was online-to-offline. In 2022, this fluidity is going to be the expected norm, rather than a temporary accommodation. I’ve even experienced it myself, being frustrated at not being able to check stock availability in-store when I know I live nearby a physical retail store.

Merchants in early Q1 should look at their current structure for how their customers can go between channels, and identify any points where it may be difficult to get a customer to checkout. I think that it’ll be really interesting to see how subscriptions adapt for omnichannel, perhaps we’ll start seeing subscriptions have fluid fulfillment options e.g. the option to go collect your subscription from a physical store if you happen to be nearby. Or how we can better convert subscriptions through social commerce.”

Shannon Sherry, Director of Marketing, The Taproom

“Despite the move back toward in-person shopping and experiences, there is still a continued boom in online shopping across all demographics. Thus, ecommerce is only going to continue to get even bigger in 2022. We foresee in-person initiatives like branded pop ups or partnerships with big box stores being a bigger focus for brands that have likely been functioning solely on ecommerce the last two years. Additionally, with changing the regulations in the digital marketing space – iOS updates, privacy practices, data regulation, and more – we’re seeing more and more brands looking for support to navigate the landscape which means a greater appetite for partnerships with agencies and technology providers.”

Ashley Scorpio, Vice President of Partnerships, Hawke Media  

“There is a clear trend towards convenience within ecommerce and subscriptions play a key role in adding convenience to your everyday life. The more convenient you make subscriptions for your customers, the more loyal they’ll be. This could be achieved by allowing them greater flexibility over their subscription. However, we also want to make sure each decision they have to make is adding value for both the merchant and the customer.

We also foresee businesses becoming more creative in how they retain customers, with the use of exclusive products, surprise products, or additional discounts to thank them for their continued support. We are also seeing businesses create innovative business models based on subscriptions that drive dependable monthly recurring revenue.

Our advice to merchants is ensuring they find the balance between giving their customers the ability to tailor a subscription as much as possible, without complicating the experience. Striking this balance, can be tricky and this is where iamota supports merchants by mapping out the customer journey and user flows, and running user testing to ensure we are building in the right experience with the right level of complexity.”

Oli Best, Growth Manager, iamota 

“Merchants need to double down on the retargeting of existing customers. Not every customer is going to be a subscriber from the first time they purchase. A robust email marketing plan with automations that drive one-time purchasers back toward being subscribers is a must! Remember, a subscription model is an ongoing relationship with your customers and it takes time to sell both your product and story to that customer. A customer who purchased a one-off product is the perfect candidate for your subscription model, so just keep that in mind and retarget those customers.”

Josh Garellek, CEO & Co-Founder, Arctic Leaf

How is your agency helping merchants accelerate their business with subscriptions?

“We’re helping merchants to build a more reliable revenue stream. When customers subscribe, it enables the business to separate their marketing activity. Re-marketing becomes less of an expense because they’ve already secured the recurring revenue from those customers, meaning they have more budget and time to focus on new customer acquisition.”

Matt Abbott, Head of Growth, Swanky Agency

“We typically work with growing merchants that are dealing with the pains of outgrowing their infrastructure. We are constantly looking for opportunities to help them continue that growth and subscriptions are often a big part of that strategy.”  

TJ Gamble, CEO, Jamersan 

“Hawke Media is helping merchants accelerate their business by adding a subscription offering if they don’t already have one and encouraging them to diversify their subscription offering – either by offering a variety of products on a subscription basis, varying the cadence of recurring shipments, and allowing subscription box customization, or the ability to pause or skip shipments. By partnering with Recharge, we ensure any merchants we work with have access to the best in class solution to power their subscriptions!”

Ashley Scorpio, Vice President of Partnerships, Hawke Media 

“With iamota’s wealth of experience in the subscriptions space, we quickly and efficiently help businesses unpack their requirements and create a smart subscription strategy that utilizes the power of the Recharge platform. By adding subscriptions, we are able to help our clients gain the benefits of a more predictable and steady income, as well as increase the lifetime value of their customers.

At iamota we are not afraid to take on more complex projects. We partner with businesses to unpack challenges and find solutions to complicated and unique subscription models, be it highly custom kits, tiered memberships, or on-demand subscription refills.

The Recharge Theme Engine allows us the flexibility to build out fully custom customer portals to implement a subscription strategy and customer experience that is tailored to the exact business and customer needs. We focus on breaking down barriers to subscriptions to make subscribing appealing, exciting, and simple to manage.”

Oli Best, Growth Manager, iamota

“Arctic Leaf is a full-stack systems integrator who has a team of Client Success Managers, Engineers, Developers, and Baymard Certified UX Designers who support every aspect of a subscription model. Whether it’s building a headless subscription portal powered by Recharge, or redesigning a subscription page, Arctic Leaf can support in all facets. Arctic Leaf has traditionally helped accelerate our merchants’ businesses with subscriptions in three forms: the creation of custom subscription tools powered by Recharge, the creation of on-site experience to further drive subscription revenue, and accelerating business by incentivizing pre-existing customers to sign up via email marketing. We build the strategy, evaluate platforms, architect the business model, and execute.”

Josh Garellek, CEO & Co-Founder, Arctic Leaf

“Our agency is using subscriptions to help merchants accelerate their businesses by boosting brand loyalty and increasing customer lifetime value.”

Shayna Silvers, Director of Marketing Strategy, Absolute Web

If you’re looking for more advice on how to improve your subscription strategy, visit our blog for expert guidance.