Subscription services have been on the rise long before the pandemic hit. However, the lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders broadened the appeal of these types of companies. But why? What does it take to become the best subscription service?

The answer is driving true loyalty by building customer relationships that are a two-way street.

The best subscription box services are seriously effective loyalty drivers. They give their customers what they want, when they want it, using vehicles like free deliveries, sampling, auto-replenishment, and more. This allows them to easily build (and retain) market share, as well as a solid customer base. Moreover, they yield massive amounts of valuable insights and data for brands, while providing consumers with fun and unique experiences. They also listen to their customers, and strive to treat them well.

But why don’t we try to learn from the best? Here are some of the best subscription service brands, and how they inspire loyalty from their customers.

Flaviar

For all you spirit enthusiasts out there, Flaviar is the club for you. This club dedicates itself to helping liquor enthusiasts discover, learn, explore, and enjoy new spirits. The service encourages tasting new offerings with a Flaviar subscription box of curated sampler sets before you commit to buying a whole bottle.

And they have quite the creativity when it comes to promotions. One email of Flaviar’s invites patrons to an evening of Scotch and poetry. It reads, in part,

“We’ll read a couple of stanzas, taste Whisky, and give away two bottles of Flaviar-exclusive Son of a Peat III: The Redeemer. Raise your glass to Robert Burns and poesie!”

Truly, a marketing win, checking all the boxes: (1) It’s a member exclusive activity, (2) it creates emotional engagement, (3) places the product in a warm, cultural context, (4) promotes an exclusive private-label product, (5) encourages sampling, and (6) includes a chance to win a free premium spirit. And they do all of that without a word of explicit selling, and without being overly familiar. They merely utilized the natural affinity of good liquor, a (virtual) community, and the cultural heritage of Scotch whiskey.

As of writing this piece, they have more than 600,000 spirit lovers and enthusiasts registered on their site, with over 20,000 bottle profiles and tasting notes, and about 2,000,000 spirit samples delivered. If you’re interested, you can get your very own Flaviar subscription box by visiting their website here.

Atlas Coffee Club

What if every coffee cup you drink not only jumpstarted your day, but also brought you to different parts of the world? That’s what the Atlas Coffee Club promises (and delivers).

This “coffee of the month” club delivers exotic coffee sourced from all over the world. The Atlas Coffee Club subscription service curates “a global selection of single-origin coffee that gets freshly roasted and shipped to your house starting at $9 per 12-ounce bag,” described a Business Insider review.

The effort that Atlas puts in with the packaging, product quality, and overall service is nothing short of immersive. The company sends an Atlas Coffee Club subscription box with packaging inspired by the textiles, local landscapes, and coffee culture of the country of origin. The box also comes with a postcard from the country, brewing information, and tasting notes about the coffee beans and the region where it was grown.

High-quality coffee beans, beautiful packaging, brewing recommendations, and educational background on where your coffee came from. A complete coffee enthusiast package.

And the coffee is delicious, to say the least. Sally Kaplan from Business Insider says, “I’ve never had coffee I didn’t enjoy from Atlas, and so far, I’ve tried quite a few bags. In fact, I’ve shared some with [my team] and they’ve also been impressed with the freshness and quality of the coffee.”

CNN was similarly impressed. “After trying out a few roasts, we’ve come to one conclusion: This coffee is great,” says Kai Burkhardt in his review. “The flavors were strong and it definitely tasted better than your average cup of joe. With each new bag we knew we would get a delicious, complex, and interesting coffee.”

Find out more about getting your own Atlas Coffee Club subscription box here.

The Next Big Idea Club

“The world’s most brilliant authors, hand-picking the ideas that will change your life.” That is the Next Big Idea Club’s value proposition.

4 of the bestselling non-fiction authors in the country – Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink – have come together to curate the best non-fiction books about business, psychology, thought leadership, and more. Each quarter, they choose and recommend two books for every member of the club, and these can either be delivered as hardcovers, or accessed as eBooks or online video courses.

Yes, you heard that right. What sets the Next Big Idea Club apart from your average book club is the eLearning courses.

For most book clubs, you get sort of a “Here’s a book, enjoy!” type of transaction. But with the Next Big Idea, they offer online courses that revolve around the book selections. Benjamin McEvoy, London-based writer and consultant, says in his review: “You get these wonderful video courses and you also get ways to apply what you’ve learned, broken down into these ‘executive summaries’ that you can apply to your own life. The online learning course really takes the books to the next level and cements the lessons you can take from the books.”

Moreover, the Club doesn’t just have brains; it has heart, too. Memberships in the Next Big Idea Club support children in need, partnering with The Future Project. This non-profit organization provides resources and coaching to US students, particularly high schoolers. Furthermore, the Club effectively donates 100% of its profits by also giving two books to an under-resourced student for every subscription.

A book club that gives you two thought-provoking books every three months, provides online courses about said books, and helps children in need at the same time? Yes, please! Visit their website to find out more.

Lessons from the Best Subscription Service Brands

Any brand can find ways to resonate with customers, driving engagement and advocacy and building emotional loyalty. They all have assets and associations that can be leveraged with virtually no incremental cost, yet high return in emotional loyalty.

These brands and companies that we’ve shared above are just three of the best subscription service providers available right now. What makes them stand out is not just their high-quality products; it’s their way of driving engagement in a uniquely brand-appropriate way. Engaging activities and nuances like the ones above drive emotional loyalty – the kind of customer relationship that is far stronger than simply rewarding transactions.

The experience feels curated and personalized. These brands don’t just want loyal customers; they want to earn loyal customers. Moving forward, that is what will differentiate the very best companies and brands.

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