How to Start a Subscription-Based Business

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With a subscription business model, companies can scale with predictable, recurring revenue. Meanwhile, shoppers receive a convenient, personalized, and lower-cost way to buy what they want and need on a recurring basis.

According to McKinsey, the subscription e-commerce market is projected to reach over $450 billion by 2025, making it a compelling opportunity for existing and aspiring business owners.

If you’re interested in adding subscription services to your store or starting a subscription e-commerce business from scratch, this guide is for you. Up next, we’ll go over the benefits of recurring revenue, the various subscription business models, and how to get started.

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Understanding the Subscription-Based Business Model

What is a Subscription Business Model?

A subscription business model offers online shoppers a convenient, personalized, and lower-cost way to buy what they want and need on a recurring basis. 

This transforms one-time shoppers into repeat (and often lifelong) customers. With predictable monthly recurring revenue (MRR), businesses can accurately forecast future growth and scale.

Benefits of a Subscription Business Model

Benefits of Subscription based business

The primary allure of a subscription business model lies in its predictable revenue. 

Knowing how much money is coming in every month helps streamline everything from sales forecasting to inventory planning. This financial predictability also means you can confidently reinvest in your business’s growth.

Moreover, many subscription businesses ask for full payment upfront, often at a discounted price. This influx of cash flow can be particularly beneficial for startups, providing a much-needed financial buffer. 

Additionally, subscription businesses often spend less on customer acquisition. With regular payments from existing customers, there’s less need for constant investment in marketing and sales, which is a significant advantage given that acquiring a new customer can cost five to ten times more than retaining an existing one.

A subscription business model also fosters increased customer loyalty. The recurring nature of subscriptions means that customers regularly engage with your brand, offering deeper insights into their behavior. This allows for continuous improvements in the personalized experience you offer, encouraging customers to stay. If done well, subscription businesses can create extremely loyal customers who spend up to 67% more than new customers.

Another advantage is the ease of upselling and cross-selling. Continuous contact with customers builds trust, making it easier to market additional products or services to them. This can significantly boost your revenue from existing customers, leveraging the established relationship to introduce new offers.

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Identifying a Viable Niche

Conducting Market Research

Starting a subscription business begins with identifying a viable niche. Conducting thorough market research is crucial. 

Look for gaps and opportunities in the market where customer needs are not being fully met. 

Analyze consumer preferences to understand what potential customers are looking for, and evaluate your competition to identify what they’re offering and how you can differentiate your subscription business.

Evaluating Product Viability

The first step in any business is evaluating your product/market fit and product viability. In the subscription space, some product categories are oversaturated, making it considerably more challenging to enter the market. 

For example, the meal-kit category has high cancellation rates within the first six months, reflecting competitive pricing and broad similarities among leading players. Do your research to ensure there’s a need for your product in the market and keep tabs on your competitors.

Developing Your Value Proposition

Crafting a Unique Value Proposition

Once you’ve identified your niche, the next step is developing a unique value proposition. Define the core benefits and features of your subscription business. 

What makes your subscription unique? How does it add value to your customers’ lives? 

Your value proposition should be clear and compelling, offering sustainable value that keeps customers coming back.

Determining the Right Pricing Model

Choosing the right pricing model is essential for your subscription business. 

Consider different models such as tiered pricing, freemium, or a flat rate. Assess your costs and profitability to ensure your pricing covers all expenses and generates a profit. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different pricing strategies and adjust them based on customer feedback and market trends.

It’s important to be conservative about pricing at the beginning. Many subscription consumers churn quickly, so avoid over-investing in free trials or heavy discounts unless they have a clear payback. Pricing should always be tested, adapted, and evaluated as your company evolves.

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Marketing and Customer Acquisition

Developing a comprehensive marketing strategy is vital for the success of your subscription business. 

Using a mix of content marketing, social media, and influencer partnerships to reach your target audience is probably your best bet.

SEO and paid advertising can also play a significant role in attracting customers. Building an email list and creating targeted email campaigns can help keep your audience engaged and informed about your offerings.

For example, influencer marketing can help you gain social clout, especially when you’re just starting out.

Additionally, email marketing is critical for maintaining meaningful engagement with customers. Each subscription business model has its ideal marketing match—affiliate marketing is particularly effective for curation models, while email campaigns are invaluable across all types.

Retention and Customer Engagement

Churn is one of the biggest challenges for subscription businesses. To reduce churn, focus on personalized communication and loyalty programs. Engage customers with personalized messages and offers that show you understand their needs. Loyalty programs can reward repeat customers and encourage them to stay subscribed.

Voluntary vs Involuntary Churn

It’s essential to monitor and analyze both voluntary and involuntary churn. Voluntary churn occurs when customers actively cancel their subscriptions, while involuntary churn can happen due to issues like expired credit cards or address changes. Staying on top of these common causes can significantly impact your bottom line. For instance, involuntary churn makes up 20–40% of overall churn, so actively managing these factors is crucial.

Prioritizing Retention Strategies

In the early stages, acquiring new customers is crucial. However, once you have a steady stream of subscribers, it’s time to switch focus to retention strategies. 

Remember, it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Implement strategies that prioritize customer retention, such as offering personalized experiences and creating a sense of community among subscribers.

Scaling Your Subscription Business

As your subscription business grows, consider expanding your offerings. Introduce new products or services to keep your subscription fresh and exciting. Explore new markets and demographics to widen your customer base. Leveraging technology and automation can help streamline operations, making it easier to scale your business.

Leveraging Customer Insights

Use the insights gained from customer data to continually improve your offerings. Personalized experiences are key to retaining subscribers and reducing churn.

As your business grows, invest in the necessary technology and expertise to scale your personalization efforts. According to a survey, 28% of curation subscribers said a personalized experience was the most important reason to continue their subscription.

Measuring Success Through KPIs

Measuring the success of your subscription business involves tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as customer lifetime value (CLV), monthly recurring revenue (MRR), and churn rate. 

Tools and techniques like customer surveys and analytics software can help you gather and analyze data. Use these insights to make data-driven decisions that drive your business forward.

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The Takeaway

The subscription business model offers predictability, customer loyalty, and opportunities for upselling that can lead to significant growth. By focusing on these core aspects, you can build a successful subscription-based business that meets and exceeds customer expectations.

Starting a subscription business can be incredibly rewarding if done right, and HighLevel is here to help you make it happen. HighLevel makes starting a subscription business easier than ever. With seamless payment processing, automated customer engagement, and analytics to track key metrics, HighLevel lets you focus on what actually matters – growing your business.

Not sure if HighLevel is 100% right for you? Understandable! But don’t worry – you can try it out with a free 14-day trial. Explore its features and see how it can support your subscription business model.

So, why wait? Take HighLevel for a spin and see how it can transform your subscription business idea into a thriving reality. Start your free trial today and unlock the potential of your subscription-based business.

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