10 Tips and Tricks for Scaling Your Subscription Business and Growing Subscription Revenue

Growth hacks from Sticky.io’s Ro Bhatia, originally shared during Subscription Show 2020

During Subscription Show 2020, available on demand now, we heard from some amazing subscription experts on a range of topics, including everything from user experience and customer journey to subscriber retention and mergers and acquisitions. Ro Bhatia, chief operations and strategy officer for Sticky.io, did a great session on scaling a subscription business and growing subscription revenue. In this featured session, Bhatia shared actionable tips and tricks to grow subscription revenue, as well as examples from successful subscription brands like Dollar Shave Club and BarkBox.


Savvy subscription brands are well known because they offer great products and amazing experiences that solve a subscriber problem like offering convenience. Usually, prospects are already aware of a brand before they are ready to make a purchase decision, because the brand has reached them through multiple touchpoints. Brands that are not as well known, however, can still do well if they use sophisticated conversion tactics. They follow the ABT rule (always be testing), and they are data driven, using prospect and subscriber data to inform their decision making.

3 traits of the ideal subscriber

Working with Forrester, Sticky.io identified potential customers that will convert into subscribers compared to prospects who won’t. The companies narrowed the ideal customers’ characteristics down to three key traits. The ideal subscriber is:

  • Loyal
  • Savvy
  • Better informed

It is expensive to acquire new customers, so customer-focused subscription companies need to ensure that their customer lifetime value (CLV) exceeds their customer acquisition costs (CAC). Subscription companies can do this by targeting customers that exhibit the traits mentioned. Doing so will help subscription companies attract and retain new subscribers, while increasing recurring subscription revenue over time.

“It is possible to succeed in your business while being revenue aware and still being a customer-first brand,” Bhatia said. “That means trying to optimize every customer touchpoint during the entire (customer) journey.”

The customer journey

Bhatia described the customer journey as the path to your subscription company’s website, social media and paid channels that results, first, in a conversion, and then a loyal customer. This journey is also referred to as the sales funnel. The journey starts at the top of the funnel, traveling through your landing pages, ordering process, upsells, thank you pages and additional offers.

“Every step a customer can take towards a purchase needs to be streamlined and personalized to create a unique experience,” Bhatia said. “This approach of mapping out the customer journey will change the whole game for you. You will start to see funnels everywhere.”

10 growth hacks, tips and tricks

Bhatia shared the following growth hacks, tips and tricks to help companies increase CLV and grow subscription revenue.

Tip #1: Create a dedicated landing or offer page that shows the offer and NOTHING ELSE.

This is the most important page of the entire funnel. These pages are conversion focused, so the pages must not include any distractions (e.g., founder’s story, blog, etc.). Those extra elements can be included elsewhere, such as on a pre-lander page. By the time the customer gets to this page, they have already decided to make a purchase.

Tip #2: Clearly indicate you utilize an omnipresent subscription model.

Make it easy for customers to opt in to subscriptions, such as the “subscribe and save” model. Also, be clear when there is an option to make a one-time purchase versus subscribing to a product or service on a recurring basis. Some subscription companies (e.g., Adore Me and Fabletics) have gotten in trouble for not making this clear, offering shoppers discounts for their purchases and automatically enrolling them in their subscription program.

Vector flat concept of personal electronic subscription with different capabilities – vector illustration

Tip #3: Empower subscribers to manage their own subscriptions.

This includes offering subscription features like selecting the frequency of the subscription and having the ability to pause or cancel their subscription through the brand’s subscription portal. This empowerment is a great retention tool. It helps build trust when customers feel like they are in control of their subscription and subscription-related decisions. It also helps subscription companies save on support costs.

“The question I ask before making a purchase is will this subscription really save me time? Can I easily cancel or modify the subscription if I am receiving this product too frequently? A brand that puts my mind to ease by answering all these questions front and center definitely gets my business,” Bhatia said.

Tip #4: Offer financial incentives to customers through “subscribe and save” offers.

This motivates customers to become subscribers versus one-time purchasers, bringing more subscription revenue to your company long-term. For example, Death Wish Co. offers 10% savings when a customer buys five or more products in one auto-delivery shipment to the same address. Subscribers can choose the frequency of deliveries, and they have the option to skip or cancel any time. They receive reminders prior to each delivery, so they can modify upcoming orders as desired. Chewy and Paula’s Choice are two other subscription brands that operate in a similar way.

Tip #5: Tell your story throughout the sales funnel.

Bhatia said that more than 30% of ecommerce revenue comes from upsells and cross-sells. Subscription companies can maximize their subscription revenue by bundling relevant products together and telling their brand story. This can be done several ways, including making personalized recommendations to your customers based on a particular type of customer or customer persona. Use data you’ve collected about the customer to make smart upsells.

“Make the customer feel like they are getting personalized recommendations,” said Bhatia.

He encourages subscription companies to test their logic periodically to ensure that their recommendations are relevant and based on reliable data.

Tip #6: Use a two-step checkout process.

Split the address and payment details into two separate steps. This gives you the customer’s contact information in case they abandon their cart. You can reach out to the customer to try to complete the sale by offering a coupon, discount or special offer. Bhatia said don’t be too quick to make a special offer to make the sale though. Do it only if absolutely necessary, because some people will take advantage of this standard practice.

Considering using SMS when customers abandon their cards. You can drive customer engagement through automated and customized campaigns. According to Bhatia, open rates are 99% and above for SMS campaigns, and click-through rates are 35% and up.

Tip #7: Try these tips to appease your chief revenue officer:

Reviews and testimonials from customers (i.e., social proof) is a great indirect sales tool.
  1. Create urgency or scarcity (#FOMO) for your subscription product. For example, HBO Max recently came out with a 22% discount on the streaming service when people prepay for six months. The offer is only available until January 15, 2021 – creating urgency and a fear of missing out.
  2. Drive conversions through money-back guarantees to eliminate risk.
  3. Use social proof to help you sell (e.g., testimonials and reviews). Your customers will do a better job of selling your subscription products than you ever will be. Bhatia said not to get too stressed about bad reviews, but to use them as learning opportunities instead. If you are doing it right, the majority of your reviews will be positive and will overshadow negative reviews.
  4. Minimize page load time (4 seconds max!), and optimize for the mobile experience which brings in 75% of traffic.

Tip #8: Make the most of saved credit cards – use an account updater service.

Now you’ve attracted and retained a loyal customer who will drive subscription revenue, they will be with you forever, right? Not necessarily. It is important to manage the customer relationship to avoid, or at least reduce, churn.

Use an account updater service to keep subscriber credit card data current. Credit cards expire every three to five years. If your subscriber records aren’t updated, you will see involuntary churn – as high as 35% to 40%. Out of every 100 credit cards Sticky.io sees, four to six require updating. About 80% of those are updated successfully. While saving 2% to 4% of subscriptions by updating cards may not sound like a big deal, it could result in hundreds of thousands in subscription revenue annually.

Don’t miss out on subscription revenue. Use an account updater service to keep credit cards current.

Tip #9: Use smart dunning to retry payments to drive subscription revenue.

Occasionally, debit and credit card payments are declined by the card issuer, even on auto-renewal payments that have processed successfully in the past. In fact, 6% of transactions will fail on the first attempt. Bhatia recommends retrying the payment, a process called dunning. The initial decline may be due to lack of sufficient funds, network outages, temporary card limits or other reasons. Rather than abandoning the sale or the payment, try reprocessing the payment to see if it will go through on a subsequent try. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • The first reattempt should be done three days after the initial failure.
  • The second reattempt should be done five days after the initial reattempt.

Tip #10: Reduce “friendly fraud” that results in chargebacks and churn.

Only 4% of dissatisfied customers will reach out to you directly. The remaining 96% of customers will go directly to their bank to file a chargeback request to dispute a charge on their card. Bhatia said this issue is a bigger problem for subscription companies than other merchants, because customers can dispute multiple charges. Friendly chargebacks are the second largest reason for churn after expired cards. Be proactive in handling chargebacks and, when appropriate, offer subscribers a refund to avoid chargebacks.  


To view Bhatia’s session in its entirety, or to access the other 76 sessions on subscription growth, recurring payment optimization, subscriber retention, subscriber acquisition, market trends and dynamics, mergers and valuation, and to see solution provider demos, visit SubscriptionShow.com. If you had previously purchased a ticket for the show, you’ll be able to log in to see all the sessions. If you don’t have a ticket, you can buy an all-access pass or just purchase a pass for the track that interests you. If you have questions about Subscription Show On Demand, or are having trouble logging in, contact us at [email protected].

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