Make it visible. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfactory.     

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Subscription POV

Af Morten Suhr Hansen

For many in the slightly older generation, the trip to the mailbox every morning is a regular part of their morning routine. In fact, it’s a routine that has become a habit. According to the author James Clear, a habit is a routine or practice that is performed regularly; an automatic response to a specific situation.

The trip to the mailbox is all about the world’s oldest subscription: the newspaper. Ever since newspapers like Berlingske started being delivered by subscription back in the 18th century, the newspaper has been closely tied to a morning ritual that has become a habit for thousands of its subscribers.

Why begin this article in such an old-fashioned way? Because the concepts of ‘habit’ and ‘habit formation’ are still central to the work of creating a successful subscription business. That’s precisely what you want to happen for your subscribers: for using your subscription to become a habit, an automated action that occurs over and over again.

Why? Because the ability of subscription businesses to tap into this psychological mechanism is crucial. When a consumer develops a habit around a product or service, the use of it becomes an integrated and often unconscious part of their daily life. This leads to increased loyalty and reduces the likelihood of the customer canceling their subscription. The subscription, product, or service becomes an ‘invisible’ necessity rather than a conscious choice

Make it visible!

How can you work on increasing habit formation for your subscription? The American author and behavior researcher, James Clear, has described the mechanics and systematics behind habits and habit formation in his book ‘Atomic Habits.’ In the book, he outlines four laws of behavior that can be used to cultivate good habits in one’s life.

These four laws of behavior can also be employed by subscription businesses looking to create habits among their subscribers. The first habit is ‘make it obvious.’ This is precisely what happens when we deliver a product physically to our subscribers on a regular basis. The newspaper in the mailbox, the meal kit on the doorstep. But even as a digital subscription product, you should consider how you can be visibly present in your subscribers’ daily lives.

Make it attractive!

In addition to making it visible, it is important that it is also appealing for your subscribers to use your product and establish a habit around it. There is strong evidence that we find it easier to develop habits when those habits align with our identity. Strengthen the sense of belonging among your subscribers around your subscription product and encourage them to see themselves as eco-conscious eaters, runners, Italian-speaking cosmopolitans, or whatever your subscription is about.

Make it easy!

As humans, we have a clear tendency to choose what is easy over what is difficult. We do what is right in front of us. As a subscription business, you have significant opportunities to make it easy for your subscribers by building solutions with a focus on ‘convenience.’ This creates strong habits. Make it easy to exercise at home. Make it easy to get it done in two minutes. Make it easy to receive various delicious wines for tasting every month. Many digital subscription services are built around making daily life easier for their customers, and the subscription model itself inherently reduces complexity in the purchase situation.

Make it satisfactory!

It should be satisfying for your subscribers to use your product and turn it into a habit. ‘Gamification’ is a tool that many subscriptions employ. Make the subscriber journey visible to your subscribers. There is satisfaction in seeing how many workouts one has completed or how many books one has read. Reward systems can be effectively integrated, as Matas does with their subscription Club Matas Plus, where subscribers earn triple points every time they make a purchase through their subscription.

Meal boxes from Aarstiderne makes it visible, attractive, easy and satisfactory

I have actually tested the entire habit-thinking on myself, and it’s also an exercise we use with our clients. Try to list which of your subscriptions you are happiest with. Then think about how many of them have become a (good) habit for you. Then consider which of the above four behavior laws are at play in relation to your favorite subscriptions. Let me just conclude with one more example. I have many favorite subscriptions, but one of the ones I am happiest with is Aarstiderne and their meal kits. What have they done for me? They have made it visible, attractive, easy, and satisfying.

Are you convinced? If not, try the exercise above yourself and begin to develop an even stronger habit system around your subscription.

If you would like to delve even deeper into the thoughts on habits, my colleague, senior partner Jonas Juul Jeppesen, has written an exciting report with 10 concrete suggestions on how to work with habit formation in your subscription business. Find it here.