Subscription Business Models: 3 Strategies for Simple and Efficient Recurring Sales

Subscription products and services have been a hot topic in eCommerce over the past decade. We all know how popular these services are in the B2C market, and now we’re even seeing B2B companies jump on board as well. But with any transition comes growing pains, and companies hoping to break into subscription sales need to know what they’re in for.

Your Subscription Selling Options

Whether you’re in B2C or B2B, your subscription selling options can be described by three broad categories:

  1. Digital Media and Secure/Premium Content
  2. Recurring Deliveries and Orders
  3. Membership and Club Subscriptions

These approaches share some similarities, but they have several key distinctions. And while there are many ways to approach this particular goal, the easiest is to find a platform that integrates the subscription features directly with your existing commerce experience.

Slatwall Commerce and our headless commerce platform is one such approach; it’s a way to bring subscription selling directly to your online store without expensive redesigns, external integrations or purchasing additional services. As we’ll review, this flexibility and native commerce functionality is key to making subscription sales work in your eCommerce infrastructure.

Digital Media and Content

Under the media and content-based subscription business model, some companies sell access to online resources, media, materials, and digital services.

The biggest challenge is to find a commerce service to connect to your content system. Many traditionally-built content management systems (CMS) don’t have much flexibility here, and most companies manage it with add-ons and commerce customizations that build on top of the CMS architecture. However, they aren’t integrated with other business processes like inventory, account management, commerce or payments. And when these two processes are developed separately, they must be controlled separately.

Conversely, platforms with integrated subscription functions (such as headless commerce platforms) keep all data and insights together to give you a combined content/commerce platform that lets you sell exactly how you want. This type of platform can be built into your online experience with minimal disruption because it syncs directly to the CMS you already have. This means that those who leverage this type of eCommerce experience can set up integrated, flexible subscription content assets based on whatever content categories they choose.

In addition, there are benefits to be gained by connecting your commerce and content to send automated targeted messages. Imagine being able to deliver specific content products (training, specifications, and support) that are linked to a previous physical purchase. It’s brilliant and isn’t hard to do when there is only one commerce system.

These content materials and assets can be (1) sold directly, (2) offered as benefits for memberships (more on that in a minute) or (3) included in promotions—all while staying connected to the backend commerce and payments system. As such, all digital media and content assets can be merchandised and shipped without any extensions. Plus, recurring billing for subscription products is included in the platform itself— no need for any plugins or additional services.

Key Takeaways

  • Digital media and content sales are a popular choice for subscription selling, but traditionally-built eCommerce platforms present challenges to the process with their inflexible nature or limited content-for-sale capabilities.
  • Headless commerce platforms offer a more flexible approach that integrates subscription selling features directly with your CMS and backend office functions.
  • This flexibility gives you freedom to sell content on a recurring basis or in conjunction with other products or services as needed.

Recurring Deliveries, Scheduled Orders, and Replenishment

The defining feature of subscription orders is that they recur. Products, services, and merchandise of all kinds can be set up and sold on a recurring basis, even for companies with unique or high-value products. And if the products themselves aren’t suitable for subscriptions, look for opportunities elsewhere— such as replacement parts, components, or materials that may need replenishment. The sky's the limit.

In your headless commerce platform, the process to build the complete subscription commerce system from subscription reordering to recurring deliveries of products or replenishment of parts to the payment processing is entirely possible. You can customize the storefront to make this process easier by adding new form fields to let customers define exactly what they want in their subscription package.

You can create custom subscription packages that align with customer needs because you already have account management and history data that are connected to your storefront. And of course, the platform’s connection to your back office functions means that all of your new subscription strategies stay synced with your inventory, shipping, and billing functions. No need for add-ons or customizations. No muss, no fuss.

Key Takeaways

  • Recurring sales are integral to subscription selling, and the process works best through a commerce platform that integrates the process from order to fulfillment.

  • Headless commerce users can set up their storefront to enable recurring orders while it keeps all business processes connected and consistent.

Membership and Club Subscriptions

With membership-based subscriptions, you can combine the above subscription and merchandise processes to create flexible membership options. Just sell the membership itself as a subscription product in your store.

It’s easy to set up different membership tiers in your headless commerce platform. Each can be set with its own level of access to content, products, services, or other deliverables. And as the headless architecture keeps all backend data together, it’s easy to combine this membership strategy with delivery and fulfillment. Whether their membership comes with physical products or merely access to online resources, the headless approach is the easiest way to make it happen.

You can even combine these membership deals with other marketing strategies in your eCommerce playbook. For example, you can coordinate recurring product deliveries for high-level members or set up specific member-only pricing on digital media and content assets. In fact, allowing customers to purchase a subscription and receive special pricing or discounts is often overlooked as a subscription benefit.

Key Takeaways

  • Membership subscriptions offer a unique way for companies to design personalized, recurring experiences for customers.

  • Look for opportunities to leverage memberships in conjunction with your other subscription strategies and get creative with how you monetize your digital assets.

Make Sure Your Platform Is Up to the Task

Although subscription selling doesn’t need to be complicated, it’s easy to go awry when you’re stuck with an outdated commerce engine. Such platforms usually require third-party add-ons or customizations to enable connections between subscription features and other commerce functions, and those integrations can result in slow, sluggish operations.

But through newer commerce platforms such as headless, companies can sidestep this issue and build a subscription experience that’s integrated from the ground up. Backed by a solution like this, the marketing and product teams can create subscription offers that increase sales, improve margins and attract more repeat business. 

Contact Slatwall Commerce for an assessment of your existing (or planned) eCommerce features. Subscription sales are only a few clicks away.

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