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Is Your Subscription Prepared for the Holiday Shopping Season?

  • Sabrina Mullens - Marketing Intern
  • Jul 21, 2022
  • 8 minute read

It’s never too early to prepare for what’s expected to be the busiest quarter of the year — the holiday season. Every second counts, according to experts.

“The time to plan for the holiday is now… and you’re already behind,” said Kevin Chung, Lead E-Commerce Strategist at FedEx, at SubSummit 2022.

This year’s holiday e-commerce sales are expected to rise 15.5% year over year to $235.86 billion, which means your business could generate record-breaking sales — as long as you are equipped with the proper tools.

So where do you start? Promotions? Packaging? Hiring? 

First, take a deep breath. Second, read this blog carefully to learn how you can conquer the 2022 holiday shopping rush!

7 SubSummit Tips to Help You Prepare for the Holiday Shopping Season


Tip #1: Plan Ahead and Be Prepared to Pivot 

Never underestimate the impact proactivity can have on your business, especially during the holiday season. In 2021, online shoppers began purchasing gifts in early October, as noted by Chung at SubSummit 2022. Additionally, the month of November leading up to Cyber Week experienced a 19% increase compared to 2020.

This year, more than 40% of consumers have already begun planning for Christmas as of last January, according to a Numerator survey.

Be proactive in your marketing efforts. Determine when it makes the most sense to start promoting your product online and, most importantly, when to release your big discounted items. Your proactivity will help subscribers who are on a budget and looking to plan out their expenses ahead of the holiday season.

“If the economy is a bit unstable, consumers are going to continue to look for promotions,” mentioned Chung. 

Promoting your deals early on empowers your brand to be more flexible to your prospective customers’ demands (alongside your existing subscribers’) when the time comes, which is something consumers appreciate.

No need to come up with a brand-new marketing strategy. Learn from your peers and competitors who’ve experienced success in the past. Last year, 23% of merchants started their holiday shopping promotions on Halloween, and an additional 36% had theirs ready by Thanksgiving, according to a FedEx survey.

Tip #2: Focus on Growing Your Email List

It’s important to develop habits with your customer base, and it can easily be done through email marketing. The more you engage with subscribers (in a non-spammy way, of course), the stronger your relationships become, and the more likely you are to successfully upsell, cross-sell, or develop brand advocates.

For example, Black Friday had the highest number of open rates and link clicks last year, according to Campaign Monitor. But do you think those were the first holiday-specific emails sent all year? Probably not. 

“We can’t send our first email to our list in the middle of November,” Sarah Williams, Founder of Launch Your Box, said at SubSummit 2022. “We’ve got to start marketing now to build habits and relationships.”

Once you’ve established the right strategy for your business, set goals for your email campaigns.  

“If your email list right now is not producing 30-40% of your monthly sales, you’re doing it wrong,” Williams stated. “40% is a HUGE number in the fourth quarter.”

When interacting with your email list, use powerful subject lines that immediately grab your audience’s attention. Tailoring your emails to individual customers can improve your acquisition rate, as 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from businesses, according to McKinsey.

“Anything you do in marketing should always start with your audiences and objectives,” Stephanie Ristow, a SubSummit 2022 speaker and marketing expert, explained.

Engaging with your audience also means periodically cleaning up your email list. Remove the dead weight ahead of the holidays by asking your subscribers to verify their email addresses.

Tip #3: Prioritize Communication with Your Partners

Both your brand and your subscribers can benefit from clear communication by ensuring logistics are in order, especially given the current circumstances.

Chung and his team found that 51% of consumers experienced shipping delays during the holiday shopping season last year, and 62% experienced stockouts and low inventory.

Katie Lucas of Dylan’s Candy Bar stated at SubSummit 2022 that “communication and attention to detail” are critical factors to establish successful partnerships with third-party logistics (3PL) companies. It played a big part in Dylan’s Candy Bar’s success this past holiday season, as it launched 60 new products during that time.

Lucas also emphasized that customer relationships are directly impacted by your own relationship with a 3PL and other partners. Ensure you set clear expectations on shipping processes with your 3PL that will leave your business and subscribers with a positive impact.

Tip #4: Increase Your Average Order Value Through Limited-Edition Items

You can enhance your customers’ holiday shopping experience without going over budget. Create something new based on the items you have in your excess inventory.

“It’s a huge lift in sales in the fourth quarter,” Williams said on limited-edition items during one of her SubSummit 2022 sessions.

Williams has experienced 30% in additional sales from selling a one-time specialty box; she suggested you begin selling it in October in order to give yourself ample time to plan and prepare.

One-time boxes are not a new concept in the subscription industry, and they can drastically impact your revenue. “[It’s] something that absolutely every subscription box should have at checkout,” said SUBTA Chairman and Co-Founder Christopher George.

Don’t be afraid of investing in the subscribers who have gifted one of your boxes in the past. In fact, nearly 60% of those who gifted a subscription box last year are very likely to do it again in 2022, according to an Attest survey conducted by SUBTA

Here’s where it gets interesting: More than 82% of the people who were gifted a subscription box in the past ended up subscribing to it themselves.

Besides limited-edition boxes, Williams also suggested offering discounted subscriptions for Black Friday. She offers her community one opportunity to buy a discounted six-month or one-year subscription starting in the new year. As a result, she’s left with more time to organize and prepare to ship out her product.

When establishing your promotion plan, keep in mind that your target audience may have already begun holiday shopping. A recent Salesforce survey revealed that nearly 40% of U.S. consumers are expecting to shop for gifts earlier this year.

Tip #5: Consider Implementing a “Buy Now Pay Later” Option

Allowing your customers to leverage Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) — a payment option consisting of smaller, interest-free installments following a purchase — could alleviate financial stress during the holiday season, especially with increased costs. More than 85% of consumers are actively subscribing to a product or service, so separating your brand from others by enabling new users to customize their payment plans could help you generate record-breaking sales during Q4.

In his session, Chung noted that BNPL helped make up for weaker discounts in 2021. More than 55% of U.S. consumers used this payment method — a 500% usage increase compared to 2020, according to FedEx. 

Convenient options like BNPL provide consumers with the flexibility they may or may not need as they budget for the 2022 holiday season. Empowering them to make a decision that benefits them either way can help you foster trust and customer loyalty. Flexibility is one of “the best things that ‘subscription’ products can do,” according to Jeremy King of Attest

Tip #6: Leverage Your Social Platforms

“Social media is playing a major role in discovery and purchase during the holidays,” said Chung during his SubSummit session.

The FedEx E-Commerce Lead Strategist touched on social media’s impact on holiday shopping for U.S. consumers:

  • 28% have used social media for holiday shopping.
  • 49% made an online purchase from an advertisement on social media.

Through social media, you can reach new users and members of your target audience who frequent this space. Focus your efforts on the platforms that generate the most traffic.

Additionally, mobile commerce 2022 holiday sales are expected to drive almost half of overall e-commerce sales. If you haven’t already, invest in the social platforms that overlap with the mobile sector, which is continuously growing with new opportunities.

Click here to access more social media tips and actionable insights from SubSummit 2022!

Tip #7: Evaluate Your Return Policy

Does your return policy make sense? Does it give customers a comforting feeling? It should, according to Chung.

“74% of consumers are more loyal to brands that offer sustainable returns,” he said at SubSummit.

Review your return policy and see how you can make it more sustainable, whether that be in packaging or how you handle return shipments and disposal.

“Consumers want to know and feel better when they know what their box can become,” said Sarah Meiburg of Paper and Packaging Board during her SubSummit 2022 session.

Ease of returns is also an important factor 84% of shoppers consider when making a purchase decision.

Evaluate your return process to ensure that it is seamless for your subscribers. However, ensure it makes sense for your brand as well. A process that benefits neither your customer nor your business will drastically hinder your growth and disable you from achieving your 2022 goals.

For example, when dealing with perishable items, asking a customer to return a product may be more wasteful than anything else; consider shipping them a replacement order at no cost instead.

If you don’t currently have a return policy, determine what “must-haves” you should include. When looking to build this process, research your competitors’ and see how you can implement their best practices into yours. 

Looking Ahead at the Upcoming Holiday Shopping Season

Preparation is key for subscription businesses, especially during the holiday rush.

Whether you’re planning your promotions ahead of time or ensuring your subscription boxes are filled with their necessities, you must be organized and ready to pivot when — not if — presented with situations out of your control.

Guests enjoying SubSummit

Over 43% of consumers plan to reduce their overall spending budget as of May 2022, according to an Attest survey conducted by SUBTA. Some may even do so drastically. According to Salesforce, 17% of global consumers and 15% of U.S. consumers are unsure if they will purchase gifts this upcoming year. 

The best way to combat that uncertainty is to engage (intelligently, that is) with your customer base.

Through strategic outreach, timely promotions, and clear fulfillment processes, you will have the power to expand your subscriber base while strengthening your relationships with existing customers. Staying persistent and dependable for your audience during the holidays can lead to success beyond Q4.

“Consistency trumps expertise. Consistency trumps fear,” said Williams at SubSummit 2022.

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