Should you offer a subscription service?

I can’t lie – I am quite partial to a subscription service because I love anything that makes my life easier. No more panicking when I realise I’m nearly out of dog food; it lands on my doorstep every six weeks – result!

But it’s not just physical products that we get through subscription services; we now consume everything from television to eating plans… Even access to online communities is now available via subscription.

According to Zuora, the new consumer trend is leaning towards having access to something and it is a thriving and lucrative market. “There has been a substantial increase in overall number of global subscribers from just five years ago, and we expect the Subscription Economy will continue to grow,” said Tien Tzuo, CEO and Founder of Zuora.

So, is it worth you setting up a subscription service?

From a monetary point of view, the simple answer is yes! The UK spends £552m a year on subscription services. Increased 50.2 per cent year on year during April – the height of lockdown, according to Small Business UK, so there is no doubt that subscription services can be a fantastic way to earn a regular income.

A few years ago, Claire Gillies started running a subscription service as part of her business Delicious and Real, providing weekly meal plans. Claire said, ‘once the website is up and running, it is relatively easy to run; all payments are automatically dealt with and I don’t need to worry about those.  Plus, it has the ability to grow without a massive increase in workload, which is fantastic.’

The payment system is so integral to the business model it is essential to look into a programme that’s easy to implement. Websites such as Profit Well have details of different options.

But of course, it’s not all plain sailing. ‘It can feel very personal when people unsubscribe,’ Claire tells me. ‘And because my business has a relatively low price point, it makes advertising tricky as you need to spend the equivalent of a fair few subscribers.’ 

Additionally, you need to keep updating your services or products so that your subscribers continue to receive value for money.

Ultimately you need to ask yourself – is there a need that your product or service provides a solution for? Does it lend itself to a subscription model?

Claire’s best advice is, ‘think carefully about your market – do your research: what do they really want. Make sure you pick your target market wisely. Although my service works for many people, I feel my main audience are people like me (busy mums!), so I need to target my posts towards them. Research similar services and set your price appropriately.’

Like with any business venture, you need to research, see where your business idea will sit in the market and make sure you can add value regularly for your subscribers. Value can be in the form of fresh, membership specific content, resources or incentives, but if you aren’t adding new and engaging material, subscribers will go elsewhere.

‘Get social media savvy,’ Claire advises. ‘It really is your best friend! Try and vary your posts: lives, videos, reels, photos (including ones of you – people like to see the face behind the brand!) Build a community and try and get people talking.’ Claire admits that it can be ‘easier said than done,’ but as with any business type, it has become an essential and relatively inexpensive way to reach your audience.

Although adopting a subscription service can help reduce customer turnover and offer some security with regular payments, it can encourage churn if not handled well. Look after your customers and get suitable systems in place before you dive into a subscription-based business model.

Thank you Claire Gillies from Delicious & Real for giving us her thoughts on running a subscription service. Visit her website, Instagram or Facebook page to find about more about the amazing services Claire offers.