Encourage year-round subscription gifting with promotions customers love

In the world of subscriptions, the focus on “giftable” offerings tends to begin and end with the winter holiday shopping rush.

On the surface, it’s fair enough — last year, research leading up to the major winter holidays showed that 16% of gift-givers planned to give a subscription-based gift. And according to Google Trends, consumer interest in subscription boxes has spiked every December for the last ten years.


Other studies show that consumers gravitate towards nice-to-haves like subscription boxes over necessities for gifting occasions — which is especially true for Gen Z consumers, 21% of whom prefer subscription boxes to any other type of subscription.

But the truth is that many brands are missing the opportunity to encourage year-round subscription gifting at major holidays, including birthdays and Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and beyond.

Any type of subscription can make the perfect gift for any holiday at any time of year. Done right, they’re quite literally the gift that keeps giving for merchants and subscribers alike.

No matter which holiday is on the horizon, success comes down to how thoughtfully brands position and promote their subscription offering. So, here’s how to encourage subscription gifting for holidays big and small with promotions customers love.

Step 1. Plan your subscription gifting experience around both the recipient and the gifter

By their very nature, subscriptions appeal to shoppers looking to add some longevity to the gift-giving experience. You could say that subscription gifting can strengthen relationships as an ongoing reminder of two people’s bond. But they can also create a whole new lasting relationship between the subscription-recipient and your brand.

In other words, when someone gives the gift of a subscription from your brand, you have a chance to win over the recipient and keep them as a subscriber — even if they might not have otherwise engaged with your brand.

The first step to retaining them is crafting a thoughtful subscriber experience for the recipient, especially in scenarios where some onboarding experience is required.

Considerations for the subscription-recipient experience

Any brand already selling subscriptions can vouch for the importance of a quality subscriber experience.

For subscription-recipients, it’s arguably even more important. The recipient might not be familiar with your brand or your subscription offering, so there are a few additional details to think through to make sure they remain a loyal subscriber.

Brands developing their first subscription gift offering need to consider:

  • Which products are eligible for subscription gifting
  • Whether recipients can choose their own products before the first shipment
  • How many shipments are covered for the recipient as part of their gift
  • Whether the experience a prepaid gift or will the buyer continue paying for the subscription
  • How the recipient will transfer the subscription to their own account should they wish to continue when the initial gift term is over
  • And what kind of transactional emails and communications the recipient needs to have a great experience with their subscription and stay enrolled long-term

We can’t stress this enough — individuals who buy your subscription as a gift for a loved one are already bought into your brand and products. Sure, that kind of endorsement is a green flag to recipients, but the onus is on brands to prove themselves worthy of that level of buy-in from the recipient firsthand.

Never forget: the goal should be making sure the recipient has a world class experience before the gift subscription term is up if you want them to remain a loyal subscriber.

Considerations for the subscription-gifter experience

Now for the other side of the coin. Subscription-based or not, shopping for gifts can come with a number of obstacles to purchase: Not knowing the recipient’s personal details for clothing size, which items they already have, or even what they might be allergic to — to name just a few.

The bad news is that these topical hang ups can be an even bigger deterrent for subscription gifting, where the gifter is more likely to hesitate about signing the recipient on for months and months of a subpar gift.

The good news is that brands can remove any shadow of a doubt by adding more flexibility to the gift-giver’s subscriber experience. In practice, this might look like allowing gift-givers to buy subscription gifts without making any personalized choices on the recipient’s behalf like how Peet’s Coffee or The Honest Company have done.

That way, the recipient can choose the products and shipment dates that 100% work for them — and gifters can rest assured that their present will be a hit, meeting the recipient’s exact wants and needs.

Or the experience could offer prepaid subscription options for a range of term durations, so the gift-giver doesn’t have to worry about paying as they go — and the recipient knows exactly how many shipments to expect upfront.

Either way, the subscription gifting offer should be made abundantly clear so shoppers know which options are available to them. For brands who want to test and learn how best to win with gifting experiences, testing different, isolated gifting experiences and analyzing the cohorts lifetime value or retention may be the best method to learn which promotion provides the best gifter and recipient value that results in the most recurring revenue long term. Landing pages and product collections dedicated to subscription gifting options, like those tested by Dollar Shave Club, can quickly become top performing opportunities to grow lifetime value.

An intuitive subscriber dashboard for both parties

Of course, there’s another way brands can increase flexibility and minimize hangups for both parties — and it’s with a user-friendly subscriber dashboard that makes it easy track important updates such as how many orders remain in the subscription gift term, skip shipment options, pause options, item swap options, or canceling and reactivating the subscription altogether.

When it’s easy to skip a shipment, subscribers last 135% longer — and some brands have seen a 50% decrease in subscriber churn after giving subscribers the ability to swap products to avoid overstock.

Step 2: Plant the seed for gifting with upsell offers for existing subscribers and customers

According to Salesforce, the odds of turning a first-time browser into a buyer are just 5-20%, while the likelihood of turning an existing customer into a repeat buyer is 60-70%.

So, it stands to reason that your existing subscribers — and even customers who have made a one-time purchase — are more likely to give the gift of your subscriptions than someone who’s never shopped with you before.

Upsell promotions are not only a great way to plant that seed, but they’re even more effective at times when shoppers have gift-giving on their mind (especially if the offer provides a convenient and efficient solution to delight a loved one).

At the end of the day, subscribers respond well to the sense of getting more value for their money, even if they technically spend more to get there. Hitting the right offers and messaging notes at the right time, upsells are a great way to encourage subscription gifting and grow customer lifetime value.

Brands should consider:

    • Centering upsell offers around best-selling products like See’s Candieshas done, which subscribers may already be familiar with and more likely to buy extras to have on-hand for gifts.
    • Providing an incentive or discount code to gift an “upgraded” subscription experience to a loved one — because shoppers want to feel like they’re going the extra mile for a special occasion.
    • Curating a subscription bundle offering — fixed kits, build your own bundles, and rotating clubs are all appealing gift options because they come with more novelty for the recipient and higher perceived value for the gifter
    • Framing the upsell offer as a premium, exclusive, or limited edition subscription gifting opportunity to create urgency. Yankee Candle does with special scents for the Easter holidays.
    • Highlighting the value of upsell offers in the visuals and copy on corresponding product pages, promotional emails, and social media like Tula Skincare helps seed the idea of add-ons in shoppers’ minds as they browse.
    • Making it easy for subscribers to take up the offer in just one click with a feature like instant upsell

helps expand AOV specifically by promoting gift-giving opportunities.

Brands should also consider crafting upsell offers for the subscription-recipient as the end of the gift term approaches. With the right offer at the right time, they’ll be more likely to not just renew — but upgrade their subscription.

Step 3: Help subscribers discover the perfect gift with cross-sell promotions

Aligning the gifting journey with cross-sell promotions that highlight seasonal products and new releases is a great way to remind subscribers of all the ways they can give the gift of your subscriptions.

While upsell offers turn the heads of shoppers who are happy to splurge for more value or a premium experience, cross-sell offers will turn the heads of shoppers who may need a bit more help finding the perfect gift.

Subscriptions that offer a free gift with purchase (e.g. a bonus trial-size product) can be framed as easy holiday gifts for those looking for convenience. And for those willing to go the extra mile, suggesting relevant or complementary products is a meaningful way to encourage subscribers to go even bigger with their subscription gifting.

Take Laura Mercier for an example of how brands can cross-sell subscribers all year round by offering free samples with every purchase, and personalized birthday offers based on shoppers’ order history and wishlists.

They never miss an opportunity to introduce subscribers to a new item. Complementary items are featured on every subscription-eligible product, as well.

Cross-sell promotions are also a great way to encourage the subscription-recipient to renew after the initial gift term is up — and they work even better when they’re tailored to complement the products in the initial subscription.

As long as they’re having a good experience with their gift, subscription-recipients are likely to take you up on the same kinds of offers as those who buy subscriptions for themselves. Think: loyalty programs, VIP perks, referral discounts, and special gifts.

And the right offers have the potential to make their decision to renew a no-brainer.

Step 4: Boost subscription gifting AOV with incentives for higher purchase quantities

It’s common sense that gifting a single-product subscription is good for brands, but gifting multiple products is even better.

Average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (LTV) can only grow so much when shoppers purchase one item per order. And that’s exactly why so many brands look to subscribe and save, free shipping thresholds, and subscription bundle offers to encourage higher purchase quantities.

The best part? Quantity-based incentives are easier for a busy eCommerce brand to execute than, say, introducing a brand new run of seasonal or holiday edition products — but they can have just as much of an impact on AOV and LTV.

Subscribe More, Save More offers can encourage subscribers to stock up on more products, especially when there’s a gifting occasion on their horizon. Peet’s Coffee makes sure this option is available to subscribers — on top of their dedicated coffee gift subscription.

Similarly, using a free shipping threshold like The Honest Kitchen is another simple way to remind subscribers of the incentive to add more items to their next order. If they happen to be in the market for a gift, they’ll likely take you up on it.

And last but not least, product bundles are great for boosting AOV among subscription-gifters. Because the curation comes across as higher value, more convenient, or both, a product bundle offering can appeal to the full spectrum of gift shoppers.

Bundles make it easy for high-flying gifters to share a more luxurious experience with a loved one — think: a bath and hair care set to upgrade the recipient’s self care routine, or a yoga mat and accessories starter pack to give the recipient everything they need to start a new hobby.

But bundles can also make it easy for the more economical gifters to share part of their own subscription bundle with a loved one.

Macy’s monthly beauty box is an example of a perfect gift in its own right. But it’s also a convenient way for more budget-conscious gifters to treat themselves — while ensuring they’ll always have some extra goodies on hand to gift when an occasion arises.

At the end of the day, subscription gifting bundles means more AOV and product discovery in the short term — but those effects often carry over into the long term.

If the subscription-recipient falls in love with their higher-tier gift, they’ll be unlikely to downgrade, and a subscription halo effect becomes more likely either way.

Our earlier research shows that when customers participate in a subscription, they tend to increase their spend with that brand by at least 60% in the next six months. Bundles are a great way to get more products on their radar, whether as a one-time purchase or a brand new subscription.

Step 5: Track subscription analytics and adjust subscription gifting promotions accordingly

The brands getting the most out of their year-round subscription gifting initiatives aren’t the ones relying on luck or intuition to strike the right chord with subscribers. They’re the ones who keep their finger on the pulse with subscription cohort analytics so they can make smarter and more data-driven decisions.

The secret is cohort analysis, benchmarking, and monitoring performance on the KPIs that are the most important for each business, those that hold the answers that unlock the most profitable recurring revenue growth.

Metrics like enrollment rate, subscriber base growth, subscription order rate retention, churn rate, and LTV each play a key role in understanding the performance of subscription gifting promotions — but the most valuable layer of insights comes from tracking subscriber cohorts.

Analyzing subscription-gifter and subscription-recipient cohorts can put a spotlight on how effective the gifting promotions were in general — but also at what time of year they were most impactful, how many subscription-recipients churned versus renewed, and exactly when they did so within their customer lifecycle.

With this important context in-hand to go even deeper, brands can zero in on exactly how best to finetune their subscription gifting promotions

Make subscriptions the gift that keeps on giving with promotions customers love

Subscriptions are a popular gift idea for notable holidays, but the right promotion strategy can turn subscription gifting into even more recurring revenue year round. That never goes out of season!

More subscription orders all year round means more subscription-recipients turned subscribers. More data to make gifting options a best-in-class subscriber experience means brands can get ahead of the curve for the next peak shopping season gold rush.

With the many upsides for brands, gifters, and recipients alike, it’s safe to say there’s little downside for brands to try a range of subscription gifting promotions — but there’s plenty of recurring revenue to gain! And if your brand already offers subscriptions, you’re halfway there.

Crafting the perfect subscription gifting promotions is easy when you have flexible incentives, instant upsell capabilities, and robust subscriber analytics in your toolkit. Join the leading brands using Ordergroove to make subscriptions the gift that keeps on giving throughout every season of the year.

Read more

More revenue. Better customer relationships.

Get started with Ordergroove today.