Implementing E-commerce Subscriptions for Healthy Products




A powerful and growing feature in the e-commerce world is the subscription. Rather than a one-time checkout, the subscription feature lets consumers sign up for on-going deliveries of a product. When implemented effectively, this feature is a robust tool that provides businesses with recurring revenues while offering convenience for consumers.

E-commerce websites that sell healthy foods and supplements can benefit greatly from embracing the subscription feature. This is because consumers that shop for healthy foods or supplements are often motivated beyond discounts and convenience.

They’re hopeful that a commitment to an on-going subscription will be an investment in their future selves. This mindset is a golden opportunity for healthy food and supplement businesses to capture a class of consumers that will gladly commit to a recurring purchase.

Below we’ve identified six tactics that are essential for implementing a great e-commerce subscription experience.

1. Make subscription options easy to see

It sounds obvious, but the first step to encouraging shoppers to entertain a subscription is to make the option visible. This means a consumer shouldn’t have to take an action (i.e. place a product in the cart or select a dropdown) in order to see that a subscription option exists.

Ideally, a shopper should be able to glance at a product page, scan the price and quantity dropdown, and quickly see that subscriptions are being offered.

Krave Jerky subscription feature
Krave Jerky features its subscription option in the purchasing module, directly next to the one-time order.
This Bar Saves Lives subscription feature
This Bar Saves Lives includes its Subscribe & Save option in the purchasing module, below the one-time purchase.

2. Incentivize with discounts and savings

Coupling subscription options with discounts may appeal to consumers who need a monetary benefit to push them towards a decision. To effectively promote the savings advantage of a subscription, it’s critical to clearly show the comparison of the amount saved at point of purchase.

Aloha, which sells a green juice powder and nutrition supplements, offers three tiers of savings on its subscriptions. The Monthly plan saves 10% while a Prepay plan lets customers pay upfront for 3 or 6 months of product for a larger discount. On the product page, Aloha compares the original and discounted prices and also includes the percentage saved.

Aloha’s green juice powder product page compares the original and discounted price, and also details the percentage saved.

3. Suggest a subscription plan

Help shoppers, especially new ones, take the first step by suggesting a plan. Recommending a plan significantly simplifies the decision making process while also providing consumers with a level of reassurance that they’re picking the “right” option.

This can be achieved by highlighting a “Most Popular” plan as Pressed Juicery does on its subscription page or by defaulting to a “Most Common” option on a dropdown menu, as Amazon does for the Tanka Bar.

Pressed Juicery's subscription landing page
Pressed Juicery’s subscription landing page defaults shoppers to the “Most Popular” subscription option.
Amazon's Subscribe and Save program
Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program pre-selects the subscription option and defaults to the most commonly selected delivery option.

4. Inspire and educate with copy

Aspirational headlines, benefit-oriented product descriptions, and educational blog posts encourage shoppers to associate the act of purchasing a subscription with investing in a healthy lifestyle.

22 Days Nutrition is a vegan meal and plant-based protein brand devoted to helping people build and maintain healthier eating habits. The site pairs motivational headlines with product photography to reinforce the idea that becoming healthier requires discipline and consistency in routine.

22 Days Nutrition’s homepage slider couples product photos with aspirational copy to help consumers associate the act of purchasing a subscription with investment in a healthy lifestyle.

The site also features a subscription plan called the 22 Days Challenge Kit, which includes protein products, recipe e-books and shopping lists. Naming the subscription plan as a “challenge” and describing it as a “revolution” adds a  motivational component to the shopping experience that speaks directly to a consumer looking to improve their health.

The 22 Days Challenge Kit landing page demonstrates how motivational product names and educational copy influence how consumers experience a product.

5. Reward shoppers for creating a new habit

Giving rewards to shoppers who’ve committed to a purchase can help lock in future purchases and encourage a habit loop. This provides companies opportunities to engage their customers and build brand loyalty over time.

Onnit sells supplements and fitness equipment, and is popular within the bio-hacking and strength-training community. Its e-commerce rewards program is a good example of how a subscription feature can also work as a brand loyalty tool. On the Onnit Rewards account page, shoppers can earn points and badges from purchases. The gamification aspect of this page rewards shoppers for their achievements and incentivizes future purchases.

The Onnit Rewards page gamifies purchase points, incentivizing future purchases and developing brand loyalty.

6. Keep subscription management flexible

The ability to easily manage and edit subscriptions online, rather than by phone or email, benefits both existing and potential subscribers.

For an existing subscriber, the ability to temporarily suspend a delivery or adjust the variety or quantity of the order provides a level of personalization to their shopping experience. This level of customization may promote long-term satisfaction and encourage retention. For potential subscribers, the versatility of the plan reduces the fear of being bound to a subscription.

The Onnit Rewards page allows subscribers to modify the frequency of an order and pause existing orders.

 Wrapping Up

Consumers are looking to make long-term changes to their lives when they purchase healthy food and supplement products. Implemented thoughtfully, the subscription feature can help businesses tap into this consumer motive.

For e-commerce businesses looking to develop long-term customer relationships and value beyond the initial purchase, the subscription feature offers many possibilities to turn a single transaction into one that can continue benefitting the business and the customer for months, and even years, to come.

Illustrations by Andrea Horne

  • Rob Massopust

    Can you recommend any good ecommerce platforms that do this?

Popular This Week
25 Must-Have Pages for Your E-commerce Website
January 30, 2015

25 Must-Have Pages for Your E-commerce Website

By Yvonne Weng
Building a Responsive jQuery Carousel Plugin from Scratch
November 26, 2014

Building a Responsive jQuery Carousel Plugin from Scratch

By Max Rolon
Taking Control of Image Loading
July 29, 2013

Taking Control of Image Loading

By Patrick Kunka
Text-align: Justify and RWD
March 12, 2013

Text-align: Justify and RWD

By Patrick Kunka

Like what you’re reading? Sign up for the Barrel newsletter and receive updates.