How Empowering Subscribers With Information Increases Loyalty and Cuts Costs

Customers expect clear, proactive communication about the status of any ecommerce order, but that sentiment is particularly true for prescriptions, supplements, and foods they’ll actually put in their bodies. Creating a strong pre- and post-purchase experience for these subscription customers reduces delivery anxiety, yielding dual benefits for retailers. First—and most importantly—it minimizes customer churn. Second, it preempts WISMO and WISMR queries, which helps the retailer reduce customer service costs.

In this article, we’ll detail why these categories of subscription products can create more anxious customers and steps retailers can take to minimize delivery anxiety and increase loyalty.

The impact of the informed consumer

Consumers are more informed, more connected, and more demanding than ever, thanks to the availability of information through multiple channels, (e.g., product reviews, search engines, social networks, blogs), and on multiple devices. They’re taking time to research what they’re putting in and on their bodies, and spending with brands they trust.

For retailers fulfilling recurring subscriptions—whether prescription medication, specialty foods, or supplements—that’s reassuring. Once the customer makes an informed decision to subscribe, they’re likely to stick around, barring major pricing fluctuations or delivery problems.

The flip side of this arrangement, however, is that reliability becomes more important than ever. When a customer’s health is impacted by an order arriving as planned, the customer is more likely to feel anxious about the order.

Ecommerce communications roadmap

Retailers should approach every communication touchpoint as an opportunity to serve and educate the customer. That starts with setting expectations and addressing common questions on the product detail page (PDP), reinforcing those expectations through post-purchase communication, and alerting customers to delivery variances as soon as possible. 

Remember, the more questions a retailer can address proactively, the fewer inbound questions they’ll receive through customer support. 

PDP best practices

A strong PDP answers every question a customer could have about a product; it may even address how soon the customer can receive an order. For ingestible products, PDPs should include product photos, information about ingredients, recommended storage conditions, instructions for use, customer reviews, and any applicable satisfaction guarantees. 

The PDP is also the place where retailers can promote preferred pricing for subscribers. That’s often illustrated by contrasting the one-time purchase price and shipping cost with subscription-based savings. 

For example, Nuun, a hydration supplement company, shows both pricing models on its product pages, touting a 15% discount and free shipping for subscribers. When a shopper selects the subscription button, they receive a pop-up that addresses additional questions that the customer may have about the subscription, including auto-renewal and how to change or cancel the subscription. The customer can also select the subscription frequency directly on the PDP.

Retailers that are confident in their fulfillment timelines can add more urgency to the PDP by including the delivery date for an order on the PDP. 

For example, Target uses “Get it by” language on the shipping selection buttons on its PDPs, while Amazon posts a projected delivery date for each product above the “Add to Cart” button.

Order confirmation 

The order confirmation message should detail what the customer purchased, and set expectations for the rest of the fulfillment process. That includes an estimated delivery date (if available), relevant cancellation procedures, final sale status, and return or exchange instructions. 

Ideally, the confirmation will link out to a branded tracking page, which provides the current order disposition. When a retailer uses a branded portal to update the order status, the customer can quickly navigate to the portal from any post-purchase communication, rather than searching their messages for the most recent update.

Shipment notification

An order tracking email makes planning easier for customers. It lets them know where their package is, when it will arrive, and it simplifies the process of engaging with the retailer’s support channels. With that in mind, tracking emails should present the most relevant information—including a clear “Track My Order” CTA button—at the top of the email. 

Almost 80% of order tracking happens via mobile, so retailers should plan to capture the customer’s attention quickly. Pay extra attention to the subject line: Personalized shipping notification emails—those with the customer’s name or order number in the subject line—have 8% higher open rates. 

Consider something like, “Great news, [NAME]! Order #X will be at your door tomorrow,” or, in case of delays,”“Sorry! We’re running late—your order will now arrive on [DATE].”

Arriving soon notification

Customers may forget that they have a package on the way, so it can be helpful to send a reminder such as, “Your order is arriving today/tomorrow,” or something more personalized, like, “The wait is almost over! Your order arrives tomorrow.” 

These alerts give the customer time to make plans to receive or redirect the package. If the purchase needs to be stored in special conditions, (e.g. refrigerated, kept out of direct sunlight), consider including that information in the subject line or at the top of the email. 

Delivery variance notification

Retailers should send an update if a package is delayed or will arrive early—especially when the item is part of a health regimen that may be difficult to substitute. Weather and supply chain delays happen, but notifying a customer as soon as possible can ease the frustration. 

When selling specialized wellness products, the retailer should be prepared with solutions to minimize the impact of delays on the customer. For example: 

  • If a package is lost, the retailer could overnight a replacement at no charge
  • If a necessary prescription is delayed, a telehealth provider could facilitate helping the customer get a replacement filled locally
  • If a food item is back-ordered or unavailable, the retailer could offer the customer a substitute at no charge to maintain the relationship.

If the customer simply missed the courier, a missed delivery notification gives them an opportunity to set a new delivery date or location.

Delivery notification

Once the carrier has delivered the order, the retailer should alert the customer, and, again, remind them of any particular storage or use instructions. This is an opportunity to highlight the support channels available to the customer, including blog posts, videos, live support, or message boards to help them get more from their purchase. 

Delivery notifications can also be an intuitive spot for a self-service return portal link. If there’s something wrong with the order, self-service returns save the customer time and preempt costly support calls.

Replenishment alerts

Retailers should be mindful about balancing the convenience and recurring revenue from subscriptions with customers needs. Instead of automatically sending the next shipment and collecting payment, retailers can increase subscription loyalty by sending a check-in message first. 

A check-in should remind the customer that a shipment is coming soon, give them the opportunity to adjust their order, and offer an easy option for canceling or delaying the order—along with a clear deadline for changes. 

Even if the customer skips a shipment or cancels the order entirely, they’re more likely to conclude the transaction with favorable feelings about the retailer when the process is convenient.

In the case of prescription refills that require a doctor’s approval, send the replenishment notification with sufficient time for the customer to confer with their doctor or telehealth provider.

Investing in communication cuts overall costs

Subscriptions are big business. Every retailer wants repeat customers, but subscribers, in particular, bring higher average order values and constructive feedback. 

Proactive communication reduces purchase anxiety for subscribers, mitigates the need for returns, and demonstrates that the retailer values that business. 

Building content and a customer service experience to support recurring subscriptions can help retailers maintain that critical revenue stream. By investing in communication up front, retailers can save in the long run with leaner, more efficient support teams.

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