Subscription Commerce & the Madness of Two Checkouts

Recently, I read an article about a successful, well-known, DTC brand describing their tech stack. The “tech stack” being the breakdown of all the platforms, apps, services, and vendors they’re using to power their eCommerce storefront. 

Of course, they happen to be using a competing platform (no names will be shared to protect the guilty) and they’ve heavily invested in a collection of marketing tools, apps, and other services that connect to it. Nothing amiss there, right? Everything sounds pretty typical. 

So, here’s where we break from their setup - they’re running two completely different checkout processes for merchandise and subscription purchases. They look different, have different payment options, and aren’t even on the same domain.

So why is this a bad thing? For a few reasons.

  1. The business has to compromise on a core business need and change to fit within the limitations of the platform. 
    This is never a great scenario. You’ve spent a significant amount of time planning your business and over time you’ll also grow, does it really make sense to use a platform that can’t adapt to your critical business needs? 

    Starting a subscription business or adding it to your existing business model requires a lot more planning and consideration. If subscriptions are going to be a revenue driver and you need to add platform plugins or extensions to handle any portion of the process, it's inevitable that you'll be missing out on at least one of the critical pieces (and probably more) necessary to run it effectively and efficiently. In fact, this is so important that we've created an entire guide for getting started with subscription commerce.
     
  2. It creates a poor customer experience. 
    This is a huge issue during a time when customer expectations of a commerce experience are at an all-time high. What happens when the customer wants to purchase both types of products at the same time? For example, suppose a customer visiting your storefront wants to make a one-time purchase of an item today and have another item delivered to their house monthly in the same transaction? Tough luck. Really? Yea, really. 

    Considering that subscription customers are loyal; they make the best customers and spend the most - getting any subscription is a huge win. Converting average customers into subscribers should be a focus of any DTC business. And as they say, if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Subscribers are also the most likely to make additional purchases and support the brand from all angles. And that single-use checkout is a major hassle that puts up a roadblock for potential subscription customers. 
     
  3. Optimizing a checkout experience is difficult, do you really want to do it twice?
    Even for the most basic of storefronts, designing and creating an optimal checkout is costly and time-intensive - so, imagine having to do it twice? No, thanks. It’s even worse if the experience is running on two separate platforms, each with design restrictions, template challenges, and unique requirements. 

    What a business really needs is an integrated checkout experience - one checkout and buying process that adjusts itself intelligently based on the items in the cart. Buying a subscription and other products in the same transaction should be a necessity. 

    Want to optimize for a subscription-only purchase? Absolutely, building a subscription-focused “quick” checkout experience is a great opportunity to optimize (especially for existing customers who already have a customer profile), but it shouldn’t be required. The “one-click” experience works because the customer is leveraging their existing profile as part of a consistent storefront experience with their existing account
     
  4. Subscription payment management is a challenge and it’s always overlooked. 
    Selling the recurring subscription product is the easy part. After that, where does the business user manage the subscription? Where does the customer log in to update their preferences? Relying on a single platform service to drive that account management function is critical. 

    At the end of the day, an order generated by a recurring subscription needs to be handled like any other order; it’s the customer service part that’s unique. A single unified account will prevent customer confusion, allow the customer to control their preferences, and connect those preferences to the rest of their account and profile creating a better experience in the long run and increasing customer lifetime value.

Wrapping Up 

Anyone who’s been tasked with designing or running an eCommerce storefront can fill you in on how optimizing their checkout experience keeps them up at night. “Do we have the right color on the ‘Place Order’ button?”, “Is the promotion code field visible enough?”, “Are we making it easy enough for our customer”... You get the idea - there’s a lot to consider and it can be maddening. Do you think that you should have to manage two different checkout and buying experiences making it harder for your customer to buy? We don’t.

If you’re in need of a commerce platform with complete built-in subscription commerce capabilities for selling, billing, and management - let’s talk. With Slatwall Commerce, there are no compromises, no hacks, and no workarounds, just the capability to sell exactly the way you want.

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