The Key to a Successful Subscription Program

Mike Hartwell, eHouse Studio

Mike Hartwell, eHouse Studio

Author Bio

Mike Hartwell is an ecommerce marketing strategist at eHouse Studio with a background in UX, strategy and email marketing. eHouse Studio is comprised of experienced strategists who are fueled by a deep understanding of your business and customers. Their team is dedicated to building and optimizing ecommerce experiences that shoppers love, and retention tactics that keep them coming back. As an ecommerce and Shopify agency, they combine the best UX design, technology and analytics to produce superior results.

How many times have you found yourself piling your online shopping cart full of goodies, only to be followed by a clunky checkout process? It’s experiences like these that pile up throughout the customer journey and eat away at a customer’s commitment to your brand.

As subscription services continue to grow in popularity, retailers are focusing a lot more on customer lifetime value, and one of the main contributors to success in such a competitive marketplace has to do with the customer experience. Leaders in the subscription industry are able to give customers an experience they want to stick around for and also want to share with their friends. Winning over these customers significantly increases your chance at success.

So what does it take to turn a shopper from customer to loyalist to advocate? A shopping experience that exceeds customer expectations at every turn.

“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” – Richard Branson

Being unexpected and helpful are two business practices that lead to happy customers. Successful subscription-based companies understand the importance of customer satisfaction and have built systems around it. A satisfied customer will be a loyal customer. And according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

While driving revenue is, of course, a component of the endgame, customers know when they’re being seen as just another zero in the bankroll. Growing the customer relationship is about having meaningful experiences across the entire customer journey.

Not All Experiences Are Designed Equally

While the subscription-based model is not a new idea, it has become more relevant as consumers’ habits shift toward the more convenient and hassle-free purchasing methods of ecommerce. And with a steady stream of recurring revenue, it’s no surprise that these companies are experiencing rapid growth.

Florida-based Chewy delivers pet happiness by conveniently shipping 500+ brands of pet food and stuff (for free!) while ensuring at-risk animals’ lives are improved across the planet. And they’ve done so well at it, stacking up $900 million in revenue in 2016 after just five years in business, they even piqued the interest of pet giant PetSmart – resulting in a record-breaking $3.35 billion buyout, the largest ecommerce acquisition ever.

Let’s take a look at how Chewy commits to an extraordinary customer experience through the touchpoints of their site’s user experience.


The pre-touchpoint evolves out of the research phase of the customer’s journey. Your best chance at an excellent customer experience at this point is to provide free, valuable content. The information discovered by the customer here will be helpful during the initial decision-making process as to whether or not they do business with your company.

It’s hard to predict how your next customer will learn about your business. If you’re a new puppy owner, you may have stumbled across a YouTube video from Chewy while searching for information on potty training your pet. By creating helpful and relevant video content, Chewy makes itself readily available to be discovered by customers likely to be the right fit. Video is also an excellent way to communicate value quickly and efficiently. With over 600+ Youtube videos ranging from educational to product recommendations, it’s customer content like this that turns prospects into first-time customers.

YouTube view
Reviews are often another pre-touchpoint in the customer experience that supports growing the customer relationship. Consumers today put a lot of stock in what others have to say about the products they’re looking into buying. Making that information readily available saves them time and gives even more credibility to your site and your products.


First Touchpoint

You know what they say about first impressions! Just before the shopper clicks and decides to become a customer is the best opportunity to communicate your business’s most essential distinctions of quality, value and excellence. Communicate what you do and how you do it better than the competition. Are your shoppers aware of the benefits of your product or service offers? Does their experience on your site leave them with the best understanding of your product or service value?


Core Touchpoint

Just as the name implies, the core touchpoint is centered around the core values of a customer-first approach to delivering exceptional experiences. The core experience could be seen as all the smaller moments that make up the online shopping experience and must aim to reduce frustration points in the user experience.

As you can see, Chewy’s account section offers the added convenience of saving multiple addresses and payment methods that can be used to expedite the checkout process in the future. They also make it simple to reorder previous products rather than requiring the customer to hunt them down again.

Account Overview

Last Touchpoint

Consider the last touchpoint as an opportunity to leave a striking impression. Find a creative way to surprise your customer with something authentic rather than pressuring them into opting for an extended warranty or signing up for a promotional credit card as a disingenuous upsell tactic.

Account Confirmation

With this message, Chewy does an excellent job of sharing their dedication to customer service, leaving the door open to communication. They’ve provided contact information across all digital channels – website, email and mobile app – instilling the customer with confidence that if something goes awry, the Chewy team is ready to address your concerns. Think about how frustrating it is to scour a company’s website for support information only to find it buried four levels deep – or better yet, in a thread of comments from other customers pleading for any response at all.


Staying in touch is key to building a lasting customer relationship – but only if done correctly. To be successful, the in-touchpoint needs to be personal, relevant and valuable. The goal is to deliver content that is both engaging and valuable to your customer. In-touch experiences that have to do with cross-selling and upselling are not customer-centric and have the potential to discount the relationship you’re trying so hard to build.

This follow-up email is a perfect example of staying in touch with the customer the right way. The content is personalized and includes previously purchased products. And they’ve likely calculated the timing just right based on purchase history.

Transactional Email


Customer retention is so much more than just preventing customers from canceling their subscription. It’s about building meaningful relationships based on your core values and through outstanding customer-centric experiences. And chances are if you’re customer experience continues to exceed customer expectations, retention won’t be an issue.

To learn more about eHouse Studio, email me at or visit our website.