Secret to subscription success lies in respecting the data at every single stage

Last month The Kite Factory released the findings of a 2,000-strong consumer survey that explored the role played by subscription brands in the UK. There is no getting away from the fact that so many businesses today revolve around the subscription model, which is now available in almost every sector you care to imagine.

You may have read my thoughts in The Drum about the risk large FMCG brands take if they don’t offer their customers the option of subscribing instead of relying on their loyalty at the checkout every week.

But this is not just about your Persils and Andrex.

Regardless of the size and scale of their brands, it is essential in 2019 that every marketer is working on a subscription customer acquisition strategy. By tapping into the data they already hold on existing customers, any business has the ability to glean realms of information about where to find, how to attract and how to retain their target customer. They just need the right advice and expertise on hand to help them seek it out.

There is so much technology and experience out there that failing to take the time to understand your customer is unforgiveable. Not tracking user behaviour or gathering user attributes is perhaps the most common acquisition mistake a brand can make. Data modelling and machine learning techniques may sound Double Dutch to a marketer who is new to such initiatives, but they are surprisingly straight forward to implement and understand.

Machine learning helps fill gaps in your data, building a strong picture of the consumer: their lifestyle, their family set up, the habits of other people in their postcode even. While it can certainly be daunting at first, it will pay dividends for anyone whose focus is on attracting – and retaining – new customers.

Because once you have acquired a new customer, the hard work is only just beginning. Marketers must take a step back and think about the data they are collecting – the more you know about your existing subscribers the easier it will be to predict what they might do next and personalise content for them, something we know form our study is a huge bonus for customers. Around 70% of 16-24-year-olds we spoke to want communication that is personalized to their needs or interests, but 60% of respondents to our survey said brands are failing to do this.

It seems too many brands are falling into the trap of focusing only on the product they deliver, not the way in which they present it.

However, this seems a timely juncture in which to mention that there is, of course, a fine line between value-add communications and irritating – and dare I say illegal – pestering. Before you engage in a second of data analysis you need to make sure you have the person’s consent, you are following GDPR, you are only using the information you garner in a way that brings something positive to the lives of the people you are targeting, and that you never engage in malicious or unnecessary communications. The only thing worse than ignoring your customers is being a pain – targeting endlessly, ignoring requests to opt-out and dumping pointless and irrelevant emails and text messages in their inboxes on a daily basis.

To that end, it is not just about what and how you say it, but when you say it. Brands need to be aware of when they’re at risk of destroying all the power of their database through misuse, which usually involves bombarding customers and prospects, saturating them with content that is either blanket, unpersonalised emails, or daily mail shots that become so off-putting the recipient will hit ‘unsubscribe’ before they hit Wednesday. And this is not a problem unique to the subscriptions industry: 32% of our survey respondents said they’d be put off subscribing to a product or service due to constant emails.

So once you have a customer signed up to your product, how can data help you ensure they are not tempted to stray?

Enter, once again, our friend machine learning. This can add a richness to your database that will answer questions about your customer such as “which subscribers are most likely to lapse over the next month”, “who is showing potential to become a long term, high value subscriber” or “which previously lapsed subscribers can I encourage to re-subscribe” – along with many others of course.

By breaking down your sales to find out what is driving each customer, you can more effectively target them in future, so saving money to use in other ways.

And while that is not an insurmountable challenge per se, the biggest hurdle is in finding a partner that can help. Someone who has demonstrable expertise and experience in managing the data analysis process, someone who can reduce both associated time and financial costs, while boosting success. You need someone who can help you build your data processes, enable understanding of data and then action it across multiple platforms, and work with the data generated by an active campaign to garner valuable learnings that will help enhance the current activity or inform the next wave of work.

And you won’t be surprised to hear I know a particularly excellent team of data and analytics experts who will definitely be able to help in all these areas and more…

Data is the secret weapon when it comes to subscription businesses. If you aren’t collecting, or don’t know what to do with it, you are setting yourself up to fail.

by Robin Trust, CEO