Liquid Barcodes


Subscribe and Save

Paula Thomas, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


As the world’s most valuable brand, any business strategy adopted by Amazon deserves our full attention, and while we’ve already reviewed Amazon Prime as its main loyalty solution, this is our first look at their “Subscribe & Save” strategy, which was launched in 2007, just two years after Prime.

Regular readers will know, we are huge fans of any subscription-based programme, particularly for grocery or convenience products, so with Amazon’s announcement that their online grocery sales tripled largely due to the global pandemic, we wanted to also understand the role of the “Subscribe and Save” concept in order to uncover some new learnings.

And what we discovered is that while Amazon’s sheer size creates extra-ordinary power to negotiate prices, in the context of replenishing everyday products, its algorithm causes prices to fluctuate in ways that negatively impact the proposition. The New York Times described the model as a “complex pricing system [that comes] into conflict with consumer expectations of a traditional subscription.”


FruitsAmazon’s Subscribe and Save Promises Speed and Savings on Monthly Grocery Deliveries

How it Works:

  • Customers select their favourite household products, then choose the quantity and schedule that works for them.
  • Savings of “up to 15% off ” are offered when 5 or more products are ordered in one recurring delivery to the same address, and Prime members are offered up to 20%. Key products highlighted for the programme include diapers and baby food – an interesting segment of the market that Amazon is clearly focusing on. 
  • Purchases are confirmed as a recurring subscription.
  • In advance of each delivery, Amazon sends a reminder email showing the items, price and any applicable discount for the upcoming delivery.
  • Customers can skip deliveries or cancel their subscriptions at any time.
  • Shipping is always free.

Baby soapAmazon prioritises baby products as a key category for subscriptions

Lessons in Subscription Loyalty

So what lessons about the subscription model can we learn from this impressive online giant:

The Bits We Like:

  1. The service offers hundreds of thousands of products to choose from, so customers can always find their favourites.
  2. The recurring order is confirmed by email ten days in advance of delivery, so subscribers have time to change their minds about what they need, and manage increases or decreases in quantities to match their changing needs.
  3. The service can be easily cancelled at any time.
  4. Grocery deliveries from both Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market are now included free of charge for Amazon Prime members in many US and also now UK cities. Previously $14.99 in the US and £3.99 per month in London, the demand for free delivery of fresh foods from trusted retailers is clear.  

The Bits We Like Less:

  1. With simple replenishment services representing just 32 percent of customer subscriptions according to McKinsey research in 2018, this model seems difficult for grocery retailers to serve profitably. By contrast, “curation” services command fifty five percent of subscription options, so certainly the pre-pandemic market placed more value on personalised propositions than commoditised options. This may have changed dramatically, however brands will always need to differentiate in some way to avoid price wars and win and retain customers profitably.
  2. Pricing is clearly highlighted as unpredictable – “The price of the item may decrease or increase from delivery to delivery, depending on the price of the item at the time we process your order”, hence the burden of responsibility is on customers to check and cancel if a product has become prohibitively expensive. The New York Times article found price increases of “up to 170%”.


In closing, while Amazon has a globally trusted brand based on its core business model, analysts agree that they have ” violated the psychological concept of a subscription with their customers in changing prices like this” so it seems unlikely that any other retailer should (or could) try to follow their lead.

Instead, McKinsey detailed their advice for retailers considering a subscription approach and it seems particularly important to drive subscriptions for everyday household items: 

“Companies in the space must develop great experiences (as opposed to great subscriptions) to avoid high churn rates and to accelerate both growth and profitability.”

And don’t forget to check out our own “principles of subscription” article and subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay up to date on best practice principles to help develop your own subscription model to drive increased customer loyalty. 


Subscribe & Save


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 Independent Loyalty Consultant

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.


Blog post

Paying for Fuel With an App Is Convenient… Until It Isn’t

Paying for fuel using a stored payment method through your smartphone and the store’s app is an amazingly convenient concept. Drive up, link your phone and the pump, pick your payment method, and fuel up. In under 5 minutes, your fuel tank is full and you’re on your way and you never touched a payment […]

Blog post

For the Love of Convenience

This summer, my family took the proverbial summer road trip vacation. First, we drove from our home in Virginia up north to the great land of lobstah in wicked cool New England. After that, we drove from there down to the endless sandy beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.     1,500 miles! […]

Blog post

Save Thousands in Credit Card Fees With ACH

Visa and Mastercard announced an increase in interchange fees earlier in the year and retailers are taking action and sending a message by migrating their customers to new solutions, including mobile app-based ACH payments, and in the process increasing profits by not only reducing credit card fees but also boosting loyalty via innovative app-based incentive […]

Blog post

Subscription Programs Are Economically Smart Investments

Monthly subscriptions to products and services are economically smart investments for retailers and customers With a recession looming and gas prices still at record-high levels, customers are tightening their grip on their wallets. But this doesn’t mean they’ll be turning their backs on convenience store purchases and there are ways you can weather the impending […]

Blog post

Converting Impulse Shoppers to Automatic Customers

Subscription programs for drinks and snacks encourage customers to change from impulse buyers to automatic customers   Customers stop at gas stations and convenience stores to buy fuel, for beverages and snacks and to use the bathroom, essentially in that order of priority. A NACS survey of gas-buying customers found that half went into the […]

Blog post

Maxol Launches First-of-Its-Kind Loyalty App

Maxol, Ireland’s largest family-owned forecourt and convenience retailer, announced it has launched a new customer loyalty app with never-before-seen features in the Irish market. After more than a century serving Irish customers, Maxol’s 240+ stores and service stations are located throughout Ireland and have enjoyed global recognition for their best-in-class operations, store design and offers. […]

Blog post

Delivering Personalized Content With Machine Learning and Image Recognition

Build personalized customer connections, improve efficiency, and make intelligent, data-driven decisions using machine learning and image recognition.   It’s 7:15 in the morning and a customer – Amy – is on her way to work. She is on the hunt for coffee and breakfast and stops at a convenience store. She opens her store app […]

Blog post

Sweet Tea and Coffee Subscription Beverage Programs Brew Recurring Revenue

As summer nears, consumers are turning their attention towards refreshing iced beverages and iced tea is a hot seller this time of year, especially when sold with a subscription beverage program. Sweet tea might be the quintessential drink of southerners in the U.S, but the rest of the country has developed a taste for the […]

Blog post

Circle K’s Use of Beacon Technology to Activate Car Wash Subscription Program

Beacon Technology and Car Wash Subscription Programs Beacon technology used in tandem with a customer-facing car wash subscription program revolutionizes the customer experience by providing a quick, convenient experience. Innovation is the key to continued growth and ensuring a frictionless customer experience should be top of mind for any retailer. Circle K’s vast global network […]

Blog post

Unlimited Car Washes!

Subscription programs for car washes are a hot trend in convenience retail.

Blog post

Car Wash Program Drives Sales for United Pacific

Car wash programs are revenue drivers for convenience stores and fueling stations around the globe. Making sure the process is convenient and cost-effective for customers increases traffic and drives in-store sales. Oftentimes, car wash units occupy a small corner of the lot and do not receive much attention. This is not the case for those […]

Blog post

Danish Railway Rewards Riders with DSB Plus

The Danish railway system, known as DSB, is going the distance to reward customers by partnering with convenience retailer 7-Eleven to deliver points towards food and coffee simply for riding the rails. Whether commuting or travelling longer distances, riders who join DSB Plus earn points whenever they travel within Denmark. DSB is an abbreviation for […]

Blog post

Subscriptions for the win!

Amazon Prime is, by nature, a subscription under the auspice of membership. Pay an annual fee, get 2-day shipping and exclusive deals. Amazon took it one level further with “Subscribe & Save” where you can get everyday – and not so everyday – items shipped to you on a regular schedule.  In the early days […]

Blog post

Customer Retention Program of Circle K Vietnam

As the first international convenience store brand to launch in Vietnam, Circle K has over a decade of expertise catering to the needs of the 96 million residents of this huge country, operating a network of over four hundred convenience stores each open 24 hours a day! So launching an outstanding customer retention program was […]

Blog post

Stinker Stores Named Best New Loyalty Program in the U.S.

        2021 Best New Loyalty Program  Stinker Stores’ new loyalty program offers multiple redemptions with a single scan and stands out with a gamification feature to keep customers engaged. This article is originally published on CStoreDecisions and written by Erin Del Conte | October 28, 2021 Stinker Stores, with 103 convenience stores across Idaho, […]

Liquid Barcodes

Put a rocket under your loyalty program

With our loyalty platform, we help design and operate world-class, tailor-made subscription and reward programs that make sure your customers always come back.

Book a Demo →

We are trusted by global brands.

Convenience retailers all over the world have engaged and rewarded consumers with our tailor-made loyalty programs.

To our case studies →

Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes

Convenience retailers all over the world have engaged and rewarded consumers with our tailor-made loyalty programs.

To our case studies →

Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes