If you’re in ecommerce, you know all about subscriptions. And that’s whether you offer them or not! Over 50% of consumers have more than one subscription at a time, and the subscription market is expected to be worth over $1.5 trillion by the end of 2025.
The growth is easily explained - subscriptions are great for customers. Replenishment models offer the ultimate convenience, and curated boxes make for a fun surprise whenever a new delivery arrives. As we’ve all grown so used to these different models, it makes sense that they come to mind for many customers when we need to think of a unique gift.
And yet, many ecommerce merchants still don’t have a separate gift subscription product. After all, customers can just buy a normal subscription and give it as a gift, right? Well, they can, but what if you could make that experience even better?
Today, let’s talk about gift subscriptions - what makes them different, the benefits of offering them, and how to do it.
What makes a gift subscription different?
Typically when a customer buys a subscription through your store, they enter their details, pay for it, and the subscription starts from that moment the order is processed. However if they want to buy a subscription as a gift, they can’t simply follow that same purchasing process. After all, the person they’re buying for may not live at the same address, and they may not want to activate the subscription right away.
Gift subscriptions act as a separate product to your regular subscription. They also have features built in that make it easier for the customer to buy the subscription and for their recipient to manage it. For example, the subscription isn’t activated on purchase but at a later time by the recipient. The gift subscription option can have its own product page, or be presented as an alternative option on the usual subscription page. All of this makes it easier, clearer, and more flexible for customers looking to purchase a gift.
What types of subscriptions work best as gifts?
Let’s start by talking through what types of subscription customers can buy for themselves. Generally speaking, there are four main categories of subscriptions:
Curated Box - Subscribers receive an item or several items chosen by the merchant. They can specify preferences, or select options to ensure compatibility e.g. the grind type for a coffee subscription where they’re sent a curated selection. This is what’s most commonly associated with the idea of ecommerce subscriptions.
Replenishment - Subscribers sign up to receive a fresh supply of one or more products, delivered based on their chosen frequency. To use the example of a coffee subscription again, this might be where they’re just ordering a specific variety of coffee to arrive every 3 weeks.
Service or Access - Subscribers pay for access to a service. It may be a paid loyalty program where they pay for “perks” like free shipping, a personal shopper service, members only events etc. It could also be something like a coworking space where they pay a monthly fee for use of the space.
Digital Products - Subscribers pay for a digital product such as software or an app. For example, they may pay for use of the Adobe suite, which is digital only. This is less common in ecommerce, but depending on the product you may offer digital subscriptions. If you sell camera equipment, perhaps you sell a subscription for presets and filters.
The good news is that pretty much every category of subscriptions works well as a gift. Generally speaking, most gift subscriptions will usually fall into the curated box or replenishment categories. These provide the subscriber with something physical which the original customer may consider more substantial or tangible compared to a service or digital product.
What matters more, however, is the experience you offer regardless of the type of subscription you plan to sell as a gift. Customers who sign up for a subscription for themselves will know what to expect - they’ve done the research to find your brand, and made the decision to sign up. A gift subscriber won’t have the same context, and therefore will require perhaps a separate onboarding experience. Carefully consider the experience gift subscribers will get, and how you can add to that to ensure they come away with a positive view of your brand and subscription.
Benefits of offering a gift subscription option
More people want to both buy and receive subscriptions as gifts
Subscription commerce has boomed in recent years, and customers are now familiar with the benefits of subscriptions. This has inevitably led to a higher number of customers looking to purchase subscriptions as gifts. In one survey, 70% of respondents said they’d like to receive a subscription as a gift and 63% said they’d consider buying one as a gift.
Subscriptions offer something that feels like a step up from a gift card, but with the same level of convenience. Especially if the customer is already a subscriber, then it gives them an easy way to share the experience with friends and family who may also enjoy your products. They also give the recipient more of a brand experience as they’ll be able to personalize their account, receive emails, and go through the unboxing experience.
Having a gift option provides customers with a better experience
Put simply, the benefits of having a separate gift option all boil down to providing a better customer experience. When you optimize your customer experience in general, you look to make it easier, more convenient, and more compelling for customers to want to place an order. When they run into any friction, you look to improve upon whatever it is that’s causing it.
Customers buying for themselves versus buying a gift for someone else have very different needs from their experience with your store. That means the approach to their path to purchase has to adapt to those needs, maintaining that smooth experience. When buying for themselves, customers want it to be fast and easy to purchase and start their subscription. When buying for someone else, they want it to be equally fast and easy but they have other requirements. They won’t want to create an account and then pass it over to their intended recipient, for example. And they may not want the subscription to start right away, especially if the date they intend to give the gift is further in the future. If they can’t achieve this with what you currently offer, they likely won’t order and will look elsewhere.
By providing these customers with a specific gifting option, you improve both the gift buying experience and conversion rates. You solve the issues commonly encountered when buying a gift subscription, giving customers exactly what they’re looking for.
Recipients managing their own subscription can lead to higher retention potential
Churn and retention are challenges when it comes to subscriptions in general. With gift subscriptions, you have a really unique retention opportunity. The recipient of the gift subscription isn’t actually paying for however many cycles they were gifted, and essentially gets a “free trial” of your entire experience. This may make them more likely to keep that subscription going, as they’ve now had the chance to experience its value for themselves without cost.
However if you want to really improve those retention rates, you can take it further with a separate gift subscription option. With a gift subscription, they have to activate and manage their own account. They’ll not only try your products, but also go through your account creation and onboarding process. This makes it easy for them to customize their subscription, and to add payment information for when the gifted period is over. If the subscription was purchased as normal with the original customer managing it, they may simply cancel once the gifted period was over. This leaves little room for you to engage with the recipient who was actually using the subscription.
How to offer a gift subscription on Shopify
The fastest and easiest way to offer a gift subscription option on your Shopify store is to make use of Govalo’s integrations with Recharge or Bold Subscriptions. Both platforms power thousands of Shopify store subscription strategies, so it makes sense to make use of what you already have installed in your store to offer a gift subscription product.
Govalo offers a gift subscription feature that enables merchants to create, customize, and manage their gift subscription product. Here’s how it works:
- 1. The customer opts to purchase a subscription as a gift
- 2. They’re prompted to enter their recipient’s details such as email address, and name
- 3. The customer can also select a date the gift should be delivered, and add a gift note
- 4. The customer completes the purchase as normal
- 5. When the gift is due to be delivered, the recipient is sent an email letting them know they’ve received a gift. This includes the personalized information, as well as details of the number of subscription cycles they’ve received.
- 6. The recipient can activate the subscription at any time they choose.
- 7. When the subscription is activated, the recipient creates their own account including payment information for if they choose to carry the subscription forward
The process of buying and receiving a gift subscription is kept straightforward, while still offering those personalized touches customers look for when buying a gift. There’s no account handover required, or pausing and unpausing the subscription. The recipient chooses when they want to start their subscription, and fully manages their account. The added benefit here is that they can also go through any onboarding experiences that come with a subscription, such as quiz flows to determine preferences.
Adding the Govalo integration to your store is simple. You just need to select either Recharge or Bold from Govalo’s Integrations section, then follow the instructions to set up your gift subscription product. Click here to view the set-up instructions for Recharge, and click here for instructions for Bold.
Promoting your gift subscription
Once you have a gift subscription product set up, it’s time to make sure customers know it exists. As with other gift products, it’s important to consider who your audience is for gift subscriptions. The challenge comes in understanding that you’re not trying to appeal to your usual target customer, but someone else who is buying a gift for your target customer. That gift buyer may not know very much or anything about your brand or products, or they may be an existing customer or subscriber so are highly knowledgeable.
In any case, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure your gift subscriptions reach the right people.
Add gift subscriptions to your store’s navigation
If there isn’t an easy way to find your gift subscriptions, customers won’t know they can buy them! Adding a link to your store’s navigation makes it clear to customers, and gives them a convenient way to find it as they navigate through the rest of your store.
Adding the link to your primary navigation is the clearest way to make sure customers can find your gift subscription. If you prefer to keep a minimal primary navigation or it just wouldn’t make sense as its own primary link, then there are other ways. One option is to have a “Gifting” category, and include gift subscriptions in the drop down menu. Another option is to include in your store’s sitemap, as this will also follow customers through your site regardless of what page they land on.
Include gift subscriptions as part of gift guides and gift related marketing
Customers need some good gift ideas, whether they’re buying for a birthday or Christmas is on the way. It’s common to see brands promote actual products over gift cards and subscriptions, with the latter only being promoted as shipping deadlines draw near. Instead, put your gift subscriptions on the same level as your other products as a gift idea for your customers. Subscriptions make for convenient and excellent gifts, and given the retention opportunities you want to make sure they’re at the front of customers’ minds.
Include subscriptions in gift guides, as well as in related marketing. That might be emails to subscribers telling them about your gift options as holidays draw near. Or social media content about your store’s top gift ideas for different occasions.
Link to the gift subscription product if hosted on a separate page
If you’re using Govalo for your gift subscriptions, then more often than not the option to buy a subscription as a gift will appear on the same page of your usual subscription. However some brands choose to have a completely separate product page for their gift subscription. This can be beneficial as it allows you to tailor all of that page’s content to it being a gift subscription, giving additional information about how it all works and what’s included.
If this is something that you choose to do, then you may want to include a link to the gift subscription on the page for your standard subscription product. I.e. “Looking to buy this as a gift? Click here!”.
More and more customers are looking for unique gift ideas, and many of them will already understand the benefits of a subscription. Give them the option to buy something their recipient will love again and again as they get regular deliveries of your amazing products. You’ll not only promote your subscriptions, you may also get a new loyal subscriber for free.