Why retailers should align their retail subscriptions with customer service plans


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: Why retailers should align their retail subscriptions with customer service plans.

Retailers who are actively engaged in subscription commerce should align their strategies with their customer service plans, rather than their sales teams. At least that’s what digital retail specialist Sherwen Studios is saying in its new white paper, titled ‘The future of subscription commerce is up for renewal’.
The firm has delved into the topic of retail subscriptions and conducted independent research via survey and analytics firm, YouGov to discover what UK adults expect from regular retail subscriptions. Within its research, Sherwen Studios has discovered that customer service is one of the most important aspects of any successful subscription strategy, moving retail subscriptions away from transactional sales.

Sherwen Studios asked over 2000 UK adults (with or without a current subscription) what features are most important to them, when deciding whether to sign up for a regular subscription box. 
They discovered that 

  • A quarter of UK adults (25%) want some form of direct customer service link to help resolve issues.
  • 27% want to benefit from easy checkout options that are compatible with services such as PayPal, Klarna and one-click checkouts
  • Almost half of all people (48%) say that being able to adjust the frequency of deliveries is the feature most important to them. 
  • 40% believe that subscription models should factor in easy refund solutions.
  • 25% want to be able to earn loyalty points.

The firm also discovered that despite the cost-of-living crisis continuing to hit consumers hard, 40% of people who are currently not signed up to a subscription box, but plan on getting one (all ages) is “likely” to sign up for a subscription box in the next 12 months. 
Matt Sherwen, owner of Sherwen Studios believes that retailers should pay close attention to the fact that the features deemed most important to customers all align with customer service initiatives. 
He says: “Subscription commerce is a different concept to normal retail because it focuses heavily on building long-lasting relationships with your customers. Unlike transactional sales where you only get one opportunity to deliver a good service, subscriptions require ongoing proactive maintenance to ensure that your customers’ expectations are continually being met. That’s where the customer service element comes into action.”
“Our white paper explores our ethos which is that subscriptions need to be built with the customer in mind. It’s not a coincidence that customers are proactively looking for subscriptions that promise them an easy and flexible service. They want to be able to manage their subscriptions by themselves with minimal input from your sales teams. No one wants to spend hours on hold trying to get through to a customer service representative to flag a problem. Instead, customers want to be able to report, and resolve, issues almost instantaneously.”
He adds: “Flexibility and agility are key to this because if you have a system where a person can pause, edit or amend their subscription easily, they’ll be much more likely to remain a long-term subscriber. This will naturally reduce your customer acquisition costs and convert more customers into brand advocates”
Sherwen Studios believe that there are many ways for retailers to further align their customer service channels into their subscription platforms. The easiest way to do so is to anticipate what questions customers may have about the subscriptions and products themselves and respond proactively. For instance, brands could build in user-generated content into their sites, use content marketing techniques to assist with product demonstrations and answer common questions, or integrate their subscription platform with their customer service dashboards.
Matt Sherwen concludes: “Our white paper not only delves into customer expectations, but we’ve taken the time to explain how retailers can use simple and accessible technology to meet those needs. We’re advocating for a change in mindset. We want retailers to think about the overall customer experience, and so much of the subscription service is intertwined with customer service, that’s essential to bring your customer satisfaction teams into your ongoing subscription commerce strategies.”
*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2021 adults, of which 251 were current customers of subscription boxes. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th November - 1st December 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
** Base: All adults currently signed up to a subscription box (116 Male, 135 Female, ABC1: 157, C2DE, 95)
Sherwen Studios are a team of digital retail specialists located in Chester. As a family-owned agency since the 1980s, the company specialises in providing clients with digital innovation.
Sherwen Studios have worked with many national retailers including ScS, Premier, Budgens, Perrys, Londis and Booker.

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