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4 Strategies to Convert Holiday Gift Recipients into Loyal Subscribers The holiday season is approaching quickly. For subscription businesses, the time is now to start planning your holiday strategy.

By Chris George Edited by Russell Sicklick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The holiday season quickly approaches. For subscription businesses, the time is now to start planning your holiday strategy. An important part of that strategy should address a common issue with holiday gift subscriptions — converting holiday gift recipients into loyal subscribers. In this article, we will discuss why that conversion is important and four strategies to retain gift recipients as loyal subscribers.

The problem with gifting subscriptions for the holidays

Holiday gift subscriptions shouldn't be viewed as normal subscriptions. They are one-off purchases. You get paid upfront for the service you provide. You have no reason to believe that the recipient, or giftee, will continue the subscription after the term of the initial offer.

The gift only really becomes a subscription if the recipient renews. For planning purposes, you should categorize gift subscriptions differently from standard subscriptions, as you may lose a significant percentage. This problem, fortunately, is also a retention and sales opportunity, especially when around 65% of consumers said they planned to gift a subscription this holiday season, according to a survey conducted by SUBTA.

Related: 9 Little-Known Tricks About Conversion Rate Optimization

Why you must prioritize converting giftees to subscribers

Gift subscriptions can create havoc for revenue planning and inventory management. Revenue does not need to be a headache if you track real subscriptions and gift subscriptions separately. Your real subscriptions minus standard attrition rates are your future revenue. Gift subscriptions are a pleasant revenue bump. They can help identify successful marketing messaging as part of a year-over-year (YOY) analysis. They also may be useful in planning stock for future holiday seasons.

From the perspective of inventory, you know you'll need enough for the duration of the gift subscription. But then … will they continue or not? If you plan for them to do so and they don't, you're left with extra stock. Alternatively, last-minute gift subscriptions converting to regular subscriptions can leave you scrambling to get stock delivered.

Creating a well-defined strategy to convert giftees to subscribers gives you a way to limit the impact, uncertainty, stress and cyclical spike that gift subscriptions bring.

Related: 5 Tips for Growing Your Subscription Business

4 strategies to retain gift recipients as loyal subscribers

Those who give your subscription as gifts believe the gift recipient will like what you offer. In a way, holiday gift subscriptions are you being paid to get a hot lead, with an additional bonus: The recipient will get samples of your products and really be able to experience your brand on a level that a retail experience can't provide.

Now, you probably invest a lot of time and effort into building a powerful and persuasive offer to close your everyday leads. Your holiday subscription recipients are some of the hottest leads you'll get. Here are a few tips we've shared with SUBTA members to boost conversions of these gifts to subscriptions:

1. The first box call to action

The first box you deliver should include a call to action (CTA) that motivates the recipient to give you their email address. It doesn't have to be a hard sell. In fact, a service-oriented message like, "Please make sure to update your email to get information on future deliveries," may produce the best results.

For the best results, you'll want to make sure you segment gift subscriptions in a fulfillment automation program like Ship Station to ensure everyone gets the message.

2. The last box call to action

The last box you deliver needs to be more direct. Your message may be more along the lines of, "Sign up now to continue your subscription and receive XX% off the regular price for XX months." In short, the message is direct and promotional, yet provides tremendous value to the new potential customer.

Depending on your strategy, you might have multiple last box CTAs that you'll need your fulfillment application to sort to ensure the right message gets delivered.

For example, if you are doing first box and last box CTAs, you need to make sure you segment customers who renew before the end of the subscription based on all those great emails you sent. After all, you don't want to send a promotion in that last box for a better offer than was already renewed for. Creating a seamless customer experience is essential.

3. Email the gift-giver

If you have been unsuccessful getting the email from the gift recipient, you can always email the one who gave the gift. The message might read, "We sincerely hope your gift was well-received — would you kindly share the special promotional renewal offer in this email with them, so they may continue to enjoy [the many benefits your product delivers]?" The email should also contain a link to a special renewal landing page.

4. Ask for the giftee's email upfront

This approach can work but needs to be positioned properly. First and foremost, you need to assert that you will not contact the recipient prior to the first delivery. A simple message, like "Don't worry, we won't spoil the surprise," can work. You then also have to explain that you want the email to supply future delivery and shipment information.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Free Trial Users to Become Paying Subscribers

2 bonus tips to drive subscription renewal numbers higher during the holidays

You are not going to convert every gift into a subscriber — but you can gain an edge right from the start. And as this piece is about holiday gift subscriptions, here are two bonus tips to boost conversions. Consider them my gift to you.

First, be clear and honest about shipping deadlines. For example, what is the last day you can ship to ensure delivery before Christmas? Knowing the last days to ship your holiday gift boxes is vital to ensure a happy giver and receiver.

Second, offer something simple — like a certificate — that the gift giver can print and give to the giftee. It's small, but a fun, official and good-looking document sets a good impression.

Chris George

Leading voice of the subscription industry

Chris George is the co-founder and chairman of SUBTA, the first and only trade association serving the subscription space, and SubSummit, world's largest conference dedicated to DTC subscriptions.

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