The subscription box business model clearly resonates with the modern consumer. The Top 100 User Engagement Report by Iterable revealed a booming industry that has attracted a host of innovative new businesses across a range of verticals.

However, an industry that grows so quickly – and traffic to subscription box sites grew by 3,000% in just three years – will inevitably take some time to reach full maturity.

It is therefore no surprise that the report found the top 100 subscription box sites to be lacking in at least some aspects of their customer engagement strategies.

The key is to iterate constantly, improving on all aspects of the marketing strategy based on feedback data and market opportunities. In what is still a nascent industry, any additional insights that can inform that process are to be welcomed.

Within this report, Iterable’s researchers signed up with the most popular subscription box sites and noted the quantity and quality of communications they received from each company.

The potential communicative touchpoints between a company and their subscribers are numerous, from the welcome email through to retention strategies and attempts to re-engage lapsed customers.

Content produced in association with Iterable.

Starting as you mean to continue

Across each of the verticals considered within the study, at least one welcome email is sent to new customers. However, 72% of the top 100 companies sent only one welcome email and, as the chart below shows, the rates of adoption for welcome campaigns varies greatly depending on the industry in question:

Key takeaways for welcome campaigns:

  • A welcome campaign doesn’t have to start and end with onboarding new, paying customers. Consider broadening this strategy to incorporate new sign-ups to a newsletter, for example.
  • Plan out a series of welcome emails to nurture new leads and communicate with customers as they become accustomed to your products.
  • Email is far from the only way to introduce your company. Mobile apps and text messages are fantastic ways to start the conversation, especially as 53% of subscription box site traffic comes from mobile devices.

Winning customers back

We’ve all heard the statistics, and with good reason. It costs anywhere between 5 and 25 times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing customer.

However, it is arguably more difficult to retain customers in the subscription box industry than it is in many others. Many sites offer free trials and monthly sign-up terms, making it relatively simple for subscribers to opt in and out as they please.

Within Iterable study, researchers canceled their subscriptions with each company and reviewed the re-engagement strategy of each.

Surprisingly, only 13% of these companies sent a specific message to follow up and try to re-engage with the customer. Even if the former subscriber does not sign up, they provide an invaluable source of feedback on what the company could have done to prevent their departure.

Of all the communication touchpoints in the analysis, re-engagement was particularly under-utilized. Those that stood out chose to take an informal approach and suggest alternative ways to purchase the product. For example, Barkbox sent a friendly note to keep the dialogue open and entice former customers to make a one-off purchase:

Bark Box


Key takeaways for re-engagement strategies:

  • Try to prevent cancellations by checking in early and often. Always ask what you could do to make the product more appealing.
  • If customers do cancel, some humor can help to retain a postitive impression of your company.
  • Offer an alternative, if subscription isn’t the right option for some customers.

Making the most of mobile

Consumers expect a dedicated mobile experience that caters to their needs, which often differ from those of a desktop user. Nonetheless, just 26 of the top 100 subscription retailers offered a mobile app alongside their main web experience.

Moreover, only one retailer (lingerie subscription company Adore Me) made use of both push notifications and SMS to reach their audience. This company linked mobile channels together quite neatly, by using SMS to encourage customers to download their app.


Overall, the general trend revealed room for improvement in the areas of personalization, omni-channel messaging, and incentives for engaging with the brand.

Key takeaways for mobile communications:

  • Ensure that your communications provide some value for the customer, beyond simply gaining their attention. Share offers, incentives, and personalized messages to ensure that your messages are welcomed.
  • Keep all channels coordinated. Modern consumers expect a consistent tone of voice when they hear from a brand, whether via email, push notification, or text message. The right technology partner can help you to keep these messages aligned properly.

For more insights, read User Engagement Top 100 Report: Subscription Retailers by Iterable

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