Subscriptions represent both greater efficiency and effectiveness for ecommerce businesses. A one-off purchase typically requires merchants to spend time and money encouraging customers to visit their site multiple times before finally completing a purchase. With a subscription, that work and its associated costs have a significantly higher payoff.

In fact, subscription ecommerce models can help an online store achieve lower retention spend, greater revenue and order predictability, faster customer feedback loop and higher margins. There are two main types of subscription models for ecommerce: recurring orders and curated collections.

With recurring orders, customers sign up to receive the same shipment of a particular at regular intervals. The customer is typically incentivized to commit to the subscription because of a lower price. Amazon's Subscribe and Save program, for instance, offers a discount of 10 percent or higher plus free shipping when customers sign up to receive monthly shipments of household staples, like coffee and paper towels. As customers subscribe to more items, their overall discount rises.

The appeal to customers is clear: savings and convenience. They can save a hefty amount of money on purchases they'd likely make anyway, and it's more convenient to sign up for recurring delivery than to remember to restock those items as they run out. Yet recurring subscriptions are also a big win for ecommerce sites. Knowing that you can count on that future order makes inventory management easier and more efficient. Guaranteed future revenue that doesn't require an outlay for remarketing is the ultimate win.

With a curated subscription customers sign up to receive a collection of products around a common theme, such as beauty products, pet toys, coffee or wine. Ecommerce sites typically offer subscriptions of varying lengths (three months, six months, one year, etc.), with a lower cost-per-month over longer terms.

Savings aren't typically the main driver of these subscriptions, though. Instead, product discovery is the most appealing factor of curated subscription models. Busy customers seem to delight in discovering new products they might not have time to shop for otherwise.

Unlike traditional "of the month" clubs that send out the same products to all subscribers, though, this model marries automation with old-fashioned feedback to make the subscriptionpersonalized for each customer. Many ecommerce businesses that offer curated offerings rely on automated recordkeeping , customer feedback and preferences garnered through surveys to customize future orders. If one customer of a men's socks subscription says he hates argyle but seems to favor wool and navy, for instance, he's more likely to receive navy wool socks in future mailings.

Some subscription-based ecommerce businesses utilize a "try-and-buy" approach, in which customers receive trial-size versions of products. This has been found to build up confidence among consumers, leading to increased trust and willingness to buy. If they enjoy those products, they can visit the online store to make additional purchases of full-size versions as well. In short, customers are able to try something new risk-free - an excellent way to expose customers to new products they might not have otherwise pursued while also allowing businesses to create confidence in the products and services it offers.

Subscription-based ecommerce models are a win-win for customers and business owners alike. As consumers become more and more comfortable with subscriptions, you may want to consider how you can incorporate this proven business model into your online store.

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