March 30, 2023

Designing and Launching a Local Subscription

This is the second in a series of two posts that deep-dive into local, in-person subscriptions. Previously we unpacked some of the opportunities and risks of launching a local subscription. Today we're sharing ways to get started, set goals, find inspiration and ultimately launch an amazing subscription experience for your business.

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Local subscriptions are an emerging opportunity for nearly every business with a strong retail presence. Done right, subscription are unmatched in their potential to build alignment between you and your customers.  Your business is promising to take care of something important in your customer’s lives, whether that’s coffee, lunch, beer, wine, fruits and vegetables, etc. In turn your customer pays you in advance with loyalty built into transaction.

This is what Robbie Kellman Baxter refers to as the “Forever Promise” in her book "The Forever Transaction" on the transformational potential of subscription business models. She frames the opportunity perfectly:

[Subscriptions] are about orchestrating the moment when customers remove their “consumer hats” and don “member hats,” commit to your organization for the long term, and stop considering alternatives. For many companies this is the holy grail: loyal recurring customers, often paying automatically, indefinitely.

Setting Goals

Local subscription are new, so it can be difficult to wrap your hands around the potential business impact. While every business is unique, it’s always helpful to start by working backwards from your business goals. Ask yourself, your employees and partners foundational questions like:

- What kind of subscription experience do we want to create?
- What does success look like and how do we measure it?
- How will we promote the subscription to customers?

Having a vision for the business impact you want to see allows you to continue to work backwards. You can begin to estimate how many subscribers you need to achieve your goals and even guesstimate the starting prices for your subscription packages. Nothing needs to be precise at this stage, you can always tweak and tune your pricing. The key is starting to put a framework in place that you and your stakeholders can rally around.

Inspiration

There’s immense power in simplicity, particularly as you get started with your first subscription package. The best subscriptions are incredibly easy to understand both in terms of pricing and benefits. Here are a few examples we’re all familiar with:

- Amazon Prime - $119/year for fast shipping and a number of digital benefits like a video streaming service and photo storage.
- Netflix - $9.99/month for a basic streaming package with all you can stream movies, TV and more.
- Panera Bread - $11.99/month for unlimited fountain drinks and coffee, grab a drink as often as every 2 hours.

Amazon, Netflix and Panera are promising to take care of something important in their customers' lives and do so with an outstanding level of service. There’s a bond that’s formed when a customer subscribes and the simpler the value is to understand the more likely that bond is to take hold.

Subscription Design

A common theme with many subscriptions is that they’re connected to something the customer buys or needs frequently. There’s often a recurring pattern of consumption that’s made easier, more pleasant and more efficient when packaged and delivered as a subscription.

We recently highlighted a few examples of local subscriptions from brands like Panera, Pret-a-Manger and Sweetgreen. Even though local subscriptions are new, there are plenty of brands already experimenting with the model and lots of inspiration to pull from their work. We recently published a blog post highlight a few of the more popular programs.

It’s usually a good idea to start your brainstorming process by identifying what the higher-frequency use-cases might be for your business.

- Are customers coming in daily for coffee?
- Are they grabbing lunch?
- Are they coming in to sample new releases in your taproom?
- What can your business promise to take care of from now on in exchange for a long-term commitment from the customer?

Identifying an item or category of items with high-frequency purchasing pattern is an amazing way to start designing your program. A simple example might be $30/month for a daily specialty coffee and 10% off all other items.

Discount-Based Programs

If your customers are coming to you for a broad variety of products and it’s difficult to pinpoint one or even a category of products or services, then you might be well served by a discount based program.

Discount programs are a wonderful alternative to product-specific A simple example is a visit based discount program where customers pay $20/month and get a $4 discount each time they visit. The specific numbers are less important, it’s all about coming up with a simple value proposition that customers will instantly see value in.

Execution & Launch

How you roll out and manage your program is obviously essential, but that’s where great software can make your life easy. A few pillars that we built Angle around include creating a simple management experience, making subscription programs easy to update, integrating with your existing POS so your order flow stays exactly the same. The operational side of launching and managing a subscription is largely software enabled and can just run with little to no staff training. Subscribers place orders and tickets come through your POS system, just like any other order. Where there’s complexity and custom processes, we’ll work with you to customize and test before going live.

When it comes to marketing your subscription program it really becomes a partnership. Angle provides dozens of assets like posters, table-toppers, NFC tags, banners, embeddable website widgets, landing pages, and much more. We’re there to work side-by-side and help you launch, measure and manage your subscription program.

Fostering Community

Subscriptions drive loyalty, recurring revenue and alignment between you and your customers, but they also create community.

Your subscribers are often your biggest fans, the people most committed to your brand. By creating a subscriber relationship you have the opportunity to open a conversation with customers to generate feedback loops that help you grow your business. Every business owner talks to their customers, but your subscribers have a unique interest in seeing your business improve and can help you make improvements and get insights that accelerate your progress.

The ways in which community emerges from a subscription relationship between a business and its customers is a theme we’re constantly thinking about. As you think about ideal outcomes and work backwards from business goals like recurring revenue, cashflow, increased foot-traffic, etc. also consider what a greater sense of community could do for your business. What would it mean to identify your biggest fans and give them an incentive to help you grow and improve your products, services and business?