Why Subscription Services Are Winning at Email Marketing

Posted by Philip Storey on 09/06/16 15:33
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Philip Storey

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Successful email marketing is all about giving your customer relevant content at the right times and engaging with them at the touchpoints along their customer journey. The interaction should feel like a relationship more than one-way marketing content. Asking the right questions and understanding customer behaviours and needs is an ongoing process to be enhanced and refined.

This is why subscription services are in an ideal position to manage customer engagement (via email marketing) successfully, as there is a natural opportunity for an ongoing two-way relationship. Enchant looks that the reasons why subscription services are winning at email marketing:

Giving customers value

Whether it's Netflix, Amazon Prime, Graze or Tastecard, the chances are that you are signed up to at least one or more subscription services. Especially since the boom of box-set gorging and streaming content, consumers have learnt the benefit of monthly payments for unlocking a treasure trove of music, TV shows and movies.

The key to good email marketing for subscription services is to remind the customer about the value of the service they are receiving and the benefits and new things being added at no extra cost (see Spotify example below). Also, marketers can upgrade customers to a higher level of service with smart incentives to increase their spend.

Spotify subject line

Spotify new music email

There are long-term benefits to remind the customer about too. A gym membership brand would be wise to remind their subscribers about the long-term health and fitness gains which the customer relationship achieves together.

Regular interaction

A trap subscription services can fall into in thinking that having hooked the customer in for a monthly or alternative regular subscription, the job is done. Retaining customers is arguably more important than securing new customers. New customers may start off with a trial and then unsubscribe, but those already subscribed over a long period of time need to be nurtured and engaged– think about the way phone companies bend over backwards to keep you on their network.

Successful subscription services reinforce customer habits and keep offers and benefits in the customers’ minds. Those on an annual subscription with Tastecard, for example, know they can get 2-4-1 offers and more on an array of restaurants throughout the year, but it doesn’t mean they use it or go out for meals that often. So, they regularly send email marketing content mentioning offers available and new restaurants which have joined Tastecard, to prompt the use of the card and reap its reward value.

Tastecard subject header

Tastecard offer email

Flexible options

Food and drink subscription services are good at giving flexibility of service. Snack delivery service Graze allows customers to pick and choose the frequency and volume of products they receive, according to their needs, with the option to ramp-up or down when they choose.

Similarly, craft beer merchants Honest Brew let customers choose and change their level of service and enter their taste preferences. This allows Honest Brew to tailor the tipples to the tastes of the customer. The flexibility encourages interactivity and delivers good customer experiences, making the service feel like a low-pressure relationship between consumer and brand.

Flexibility is something customers have come to expect now with their subscription services, especially since the success for Netflix and Spotify.

Great customer experience

Hand in hand with flexibility comes customer experience. Allowing customers to change their preferences and level of spend/frequency is just one element of good customer experience that keeps customer sticking with their subscriptions.

Like our digital banking, we want our service to be transparent and easy to manage online. Digital platforms for managing your subscription options should be easy and even fun to use and play around with, with the help of strong UX.

Salient messaging and efficient customer service are crucial to great customer experience. A good example of this is giving customer ample and clear warning when trials or offers are coming to end so that there are no nasty surprises.

Personalisation and customer relationships

It is important for marketers to use personalisation in their emails to improve customer experience and soften the tone of content, but for subscription services it is crucial. Brands such as Spotify, Netflix and Now TV recommend songs and films linked to those streamed by users, in the same way that Amazon has long been interacting with customers with preference recommendations.

It offers the perfect way to interact with customers and build a routine of using the service according to taste. This relationship, like any social relationship, needs to be maintained and worked at by both parties in order for it to last. If the relationship begins with a trial subscription – free or for a reduced price – it is important to impress straight away, not only with the service being offered but the messaging too. This opening email to subscribers from Honest Brew, is a great example our how to do it:

Screenshot 2016-05-12 09.50.43

If the customer doesn’t subscribe beyond the trial, there may be many reasons for this (circumstantial or negative). So give them the option to state the reason why they are not subscribing – this will help as feedback from improving the service and content. Be friendly with the tone of exit email, using phrases such as, "Come again soon," or "We'll miss you." Alternatively, bring them back with the offer or another trial, like Netflix have done here:

Netflix free trial


The communication within the customer relationship needs to feel personal, playful, flexible, valuable, exciting and deliver good customer experience, otherwise the customer will switch off and stop being engaged. Ultimately, the result will be an unsubscribe. Get it right though and subscription services are a customer relationship made in heaven, which can be nurtured through email marketing.

Related articles:

7 Ways Growth Hacking and CRO Will Improve Your Email Marketing Strategy

Why Email Marketers Should Use Emojis in Subject Lines

8 Key Takeaways from Automated Marketing on a Shoestring webinar hosted by Our Social Times

Topics: Email Marketing, Email marketing strategies, Honest Brew, Netflix, Spotify, subscription services, Tastecard

Philip Storey

Written by Philip Storey

Philip Storey is the Founder and CEO at Enchant Agency. Philip is an email marketing specialist in London, UK. He has enabled hundreds of brands to improve their email marketing. Beyond marketing, Philip is a business coach, personal and professional development coach and mentor to business leaders and senior marketers.

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