The Convenience Retail Loyalty Playbook – Chapter 10: Success with Subscriptions

Paula Thomas, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


Our Loyalty Playbook helps you plan the most captivating loyalty programme for your customers. As subscribers are so exciting for retailers, this video discusses our top ten tips for subscription success.

Interested in reading more? Check out the loyalty playbook’s chapters below: 

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Customer Connection Cycle 
Chapter 3: How to Wow (Part 1 & Part 2
Chapter 8: Rewarding With Stamps 
Chapter 4: Recruiting Members 
Chapter 9: Rewarding With Points
Chapter 5: Engaging Your Members 
Chapter 10: Success with Subscriptions 
Chapter 6: Powerful Promotions 
Chapter 11: How to Effectively Analyse Your Loyalty Program
Chapter 7: In-Store Excellence 
Chapter 12: Operating Your Loyalty Program Successfully 

We love to share our knowledge! Explore the full Convenience Retail Loyalty Playbook by downloading it here 

Success with Subscriptions

Having discussed the benefits of both stamp-card and points-based loyalty programmes in the two previous chapters, here we present the power of the subscription model as the foundation for your loyalty programme.

By combining powerful features like “unlimited” products each month and the potential to “skip the queue” in store, convenience retailers can, for the first time, offer their customers the same compelling benefits and “extreme loyalty” that programmes like Amazon Prime have offered them for many years.

Your subscribers will love the simplicity of the programme, and provided your benefits are clear, consistent and compelling, together you and your subscribers can enjoy the mutual benefits of a loyal relationship for many years.

This chapter features our top ten tips for subscription success, learned from powering loyalty programmes for some of the world’s best known convenience and car wash brands.

Top Ten Tips for Success with Subscriptions

  1. Effortless and Unlimited: A prepaid subscription programme gives you the extra-ordinary potential for recurring revenue while also offering your customers “ultimate convenience” and the opportunity to “skip the line, convenience style”. This incredibly powerful option is proving increasingly popular for both car wash retailers and coffee retailers, and customers love the speed and simplicity it offers. By prepaying, you eliminate the need to take payment in store, so your subscribers simply need to “validate” their eligibility while collecting the product before leaving the store. This can be done with a QR code or barcode at a suitable location where it can be scanned without the need for direct contact. The second key benefit of a subscription programme is the potential to offer “unlimited” coffee or car washes, or “almost unlimited” to ensure members can’t share one subscription with multiple users without your permission.
  2. Reward and Recognise New Subscribers: Convincing customers to sign up and subscribe for a recurring payment requires a clear incentive, so we recommend you use a “plan rebate” for your subscription programme. For example, you can offer the first month’s subscription at a 50% discount or give them the second month totally free! This ensures that your new subscribers have plenty of time to fully enjoy the satisfaction of your unlimited benefits before the full monthly payment is applied. Of course, we have built in a “quarantine period” to prevent members leaving and returning in the hope of using your joining offer more than once! We also recommend including a generous but unexpected bonus offer for your subscribers after the first few months, and before they are at risk of cancelling.  This strategy is entirely focused on exciting prospects to take action and sign up to try your subscription programme.
  3. Create Promo Codes for Social Media or Local Distribution. Promo codes are a powerful tool within any digital loyalty programme and these can be shared in a few different ways. Once you create them, your local store manager or marketing activation team can hand them out in stores to potential subscribers, ensuring they clearly explain the deal on offer if they activate the code. Of course your deal will be inspiring (eg first month free) and will only be available for a limited period of time, designed to excite people to sign up immediately. Many of our customers also distribute promo codes to larger companies in the neighbourhood, ensuring their staff get a better deal than any individual customers could. Finally, as well as physical distribution, your promo codes can be shared and distributed on social media platforms in ad format, targeted at non-members within any demographic or segment of customers that is likely to be a good prospect for your business.

Trial is key to build trust, so incentivise trials to maximise the life time value of your subscribers.

4. Create a simple, automated payment solution that operates seamlessly. Whether your customers prefer to pay by credit card or with a globally respected online payment solution like Paypal, your subscription programme should silently auto-renew every 30 days. Choose an approach that customers trust in order to maximise your conversion and completion rates. By designing a beautiful experience that does not require the user to take action after the initial set-up, you will enjoy the highest possible retention rates.

5. Upsell & Delight Your Customers Even More. Your existing subscribers are your best prospects for higher tiers too, and your subscription programme can drive behaviours that delight both the business and your members. By allowing your users to upgrade their plan, they enjoy even more of the benefits they clearly already love! For example, offer your Silver car wash subscribers a compelling offer, like just $5 to upgrade to Gold. If the benefits are clear, they will be happy to upgrade and invest in your best product.

6. Refer a Friend to Win a Free Month. This strategy uses three of our favourite tools – games, referrals and reinforcing the core awareness of your product. With any consumer programme, referrals are a powerful tool, however it can be expensive to reward both parties with free products especially your programme is an “unlimited” concept. By using games with free subscription months as prizes instead, you build engagement, while reminding the subscriber how much their loyalty is worth.

Friends are Valuable and Referrals Should Be Rewarded

7. Proactively Prevent Churn: As your programme matures, you will learn some key consumer patterns so you can take preventive action in advance. For example, certain months of the year may experience higher cancellation rates, so we recommend you set up seasonal rebates, offer lower prices for limited periods and keep more of your subscribers subscribing.

8. Listen and Learn: Even if you lose a customer, make sure you don’t lose any lessons they can share. By asking any customer who’s leaving to complete an exit survey, you gain insight on their reason for leaving, and also your “re-start” option remains clear and compelling. Your win-back activity is most powerful while they still have their plan active (so if they’ve opted to cancel but are still enjoying the product’s remaining days). Make sure the restart button is easily available at all times and pay close attention to the lessons they share. Then by addressing the key concerns arising, your churn rate should continually decrease.

9. Sell Multi-User Subscription Plans: Once again, by taking care of your members in their natural groups and communities, they become more loyal. Our favourite subscription programmes offer friends and family packages for personal use, and business plans for professional use. Our natural tendency to be sociable will ensure ongoing stickiness for your subscription programme, so make sure your subscribers can become part of something greater than just themselves.

10. Protect Yourself from Subscription Fraud: While people will sometimes change their phone and can have multiple devices, you should limit the total number of devices that can access any one subscription programme using the same mobile number. There should never be possibility of ten people logging in to the app with the same phone number and secretly sharing one subscription plan, but the risk is that some people will try this, so make sure you control the most likely fraud scenarios. Limiting to two devices per phone number in any 6 month period for example is one way to protect yourself from risk.

Checklist for Success With Subscriptions

About Us:

Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty and digital marketing technology company specialising in the convenience store and foodservice industries. Our proprietary cloud-based technology platform allow retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a proprietary process we call the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers activities in real-time across digital and media channels.

How we do it:

We have developed the most advanced loyalty and digital marketing technology platform specifically for convenience store and foodservice retailers globally.

Retailers use our self-service dashboard to create and manage loyalty driven marketing campaigns that increase purchases with their existing customers, as well as effectively target and acquire new customers through partners or paid media channels.

One core component of live loyalty is gamification. We have gamified branding, loyalty and promotions. We believe this approach is essential in order to get customers’ attention and ultimately truly engage them with repeatable actions thereby winning their loyalty.

Check out some of our exciting/proven results here:

About Me:

Paula Thomas

Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes and Loyalty Industry Podcaster

With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing consulting, managing consumer loyalty propositions, strategy and operations. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my clients have included Telefonica O2 Priority, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer Group (UAE), as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a former judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards and host of the “Let’s Talk Loyalty” podcast.


Future of loyalty newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter, and don’t miss a thing. You will receive email newsletters with our latest blog articles, case stories, and ideas-to-go.

E-mail address