9 Shopify Subscription Secrets Hidden in the Serenity of Japanese Gardens

Discover how ancient garden design principles can can help you sell and retain more Shopify subscriptions. Whether you’re thinking about setting up a subscription or already have one, I’ll show you the tactics used by million dollar and one hundred million dollar brands.

I’ve read a few books and currently care for my own new Japanese garden built from scratch and am amazed at the principles that help Digital Darts’ clients grow their business. Japanese gardens are not merely picturesque landscapes; they are meticulously crafted with each element serving a purpose.

This blog post, inspired by our YouTube video below, reveals nine secrets to supercharge your Shopify store with predictable revenue every week, month, and year.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to get more videos to grow your Shopify store.

How To Sell More Subscriptions on Shopify: The Harmonious Blend of Old and New

Much like a Japanese garden is a sanctuary for introspection and peace, a well-designed Shopify subscription program can serve as a stable revenue stream for your business. The key lies in blending ancient principles with modern strategies to create something extraordinarily profitable. Whether you’re in the initial stages of setting up a subscription business or already running one, these nine secrets could be the missing link between you and the million-dollar brands.

First Secret: Deliberate Design—Your Shopify Subscription Strategy

I went to the Japanese garden at the University of Southern Queensland to dive in and see how each tree, stone, and line has a specific reason for being. Similarly, your Shopify subscription program should not come about by accident. It needs planning, research, and a well-defined strategy.

A Harvard Business School study found retaining 5% more customers can increase profits by 25-95%. Possibly the best way to retain customers is with a subscription. Turn that one hard-earned sale into five or more sales.

The Digital Darts’ trifecta tech stack for subscriptions is:

  1. Loop
  2. Klaviyo
  3. Shopify
Japanese Garden Bonsai Tree

Second Secret: First Impressions and Shopify Subscription Previews

Japanese gardens are designed to draw visitors in from the first step. Similarly, your online store should entice customers by giving them a preview of what they can expect from your subscription service.

Don’t push for subscriptions from the get-go as your lifetime purchase value will likely drop. Offer a one-time purchase to let customers test the waters, letting the product experience and follow up marketing convert the customer into a subscriber.

Practical Tips:

Highlight the one-time purchase option in your ads over subscriptions. On the product page, set the one-time purchase as the default option. Eventually you want to A/B test this to be confident in what’s for your store.

The below is an example of a “preview” of your product with a one-time purchase. It can entice customers, giving them confidence in the value they’ll receive from a subscription.

One-time purchase product preview for test subscription

Bonus Insight: When Violating the Rule Works

Sometimes, the principle of easing customers into a subscription can be circumvented if you offer an irresistible bundle. Where I have seen this principle be violated and do well, is when the subscription is in a bundle that is so attractive it pulls you in. Manscaped do this well. A central one-time product like an electric trimmer is offered with unique extras to make the bundle attractive. The subscription is then tied into it. If you were to buy each individual item alone, it’d cost you over hundred dollars more.

Manscaped Iphone Image for a Subscription Service offering Trimmers to entice sales

Third Secret: Pathways and Pricing Display—Guide the Customer Journey

Just like pathways in a Japanese garden serve to guide the visitor’s eye and pace their journey, your pricing strategy can guide your customers’ perception of cost. A straightforward path in a garden may appear daunting, but a winding one seems more manageable. Similarly, breaking down a monthly subscription cost into a daily expense makes it more palatable for your customer.

Practical Tips:

    • Avoid using percentage savings, which can be confusing. Use clear cost comparisons like “$0.93 per serving for a subscription” versus “$1.11 per serving for a one-time purchase.”
    • For consumables like coffee, don’t just mention the number of bags; specify the number of cups a customer can make.

Chamberlain Coffee, pictured, right next to the vague number of bags you can buy, spell out the amount of cups of coffee you can make.

Chamberlain Coffee Subscription Service Example of Different Subscription Methods

Fourth Secret: Simplicity and User Experience—The Kanso Principle

Japanese gardens often embody the principle of “Kanso”, which emphasizes simplicity. Similarly, your Shopify subscription program should offer an intuitive user experience.

One Shopfiy app that excels in subscriptions is Loop. With its straightforward interface, you can implement advanced subscription growth hacks without tech hurdles.

Loop Home Screen screenshot for email services

Fifth Secret: Seasonal Changes and Follow-Up—Adapt with Time

In a Japanese garden, there’s an understanding that certain tree species shed leaves during particular seasons or that a specific plant needs protection from a bug. Similarly, your follow-up communications should adapt based on individual customer behavior and product-specific timelines.

Practical Tips:

  • Use Shopify and Klaviyo data to predict when a customer is likely to make their next purchase.
  • Employ complex segmentation in Klaviyo to send the right messages at the right time, such as suggesting VIP actions after X number of purchases.

Below, see how in Klaviyo, you can get as complex as you want with segmentation of emails based on what someone has done, what they haven’t done, and who they are. After a certain number of repeat purchases, you can suggest different VIP actions to them like a phone call with a founder for feedback or a special product offer. We can create all of this for you as part of our email marketing service.

Klaviyo next order process chart for subscriptions

Consider an email crafted for a brand that is sent out when Klaviyo predicts the expected date of the customer’s next order. If the product has a limited lifespan, is a consumable, or needs some replinishable cross-sell to support it, the email can promote the benefits of a subscription, breaking down costs and comparing it to one-off purchases.

By understanding the seasonality of your customer’s needs and preferences, you can send timely messages that are more likely to convert them into subscribers.

Sixth Secret: Japanese Black Pine and Growth Steroids—Optimize for Sustainable Growth

The Japanese Black Pine is an excellent example of how meticulous care can lead to growth optimization. When tips, known as candles, develop on the trees, gardeners fertilize the tree, eventually pinching off the candles to redistribute energy. This “hack” gets new growth within the branch for a lovely shape.

Similarly, you can manage customer subscriptions to stimulate steady growth in your business. If your product helps customers walk the right path, they’re more likely to make repeat purchases and tell others. Illuminating the path will rapidly grow your subscriptions.

Practical Tips:

  • Communicate upcoming subscription orders with customers via email, and educate them on how to make the most of their purchases.
  • Use Loop’s features to let customers know what’s in their upcoming order and how they can tweak it for maximum value.
  • Email customers about an upcoming subscription. In the email, include links to FAQs for any maintenance questions they might have about their subscription. Below is an example of an upcoming renewal email reminder automatically sent to customers.
Manscaped subscriptions email example

Seventh Secret: Discovery and Personalization in Shopify Subscriptions

Japanese gardens invite visitors to discover landscapes bit by bit. Similarly, personalized subscription offerings can make your service more enticing to different customer groups.

Practical Tips:

  • Empower customers with full control over their subscriptions to reduce cancellations.
  • Utilize Loop to add upsells and offer customization options to members. Your ecommerce strategy can literally be around crafting new products for subscribers to increase lifetime value. The best brands are doing this. Each cross-sell or upsell directly contributes to profit. The more complementary your products are, the better uptake you’ll have.
An email from a dog product company from a subscription list for a cross-sell or up sell

Eighth Secret: Koi Carp Lessons—Setting the Right Subscription Frequency

Just as Koi Carp have specific feeding needs, the frequency of your subscription offerings needs to be just right. Feeding too much leads to health issues, while feeding too little leaves the fish hungry.

If the frequency of your subscription is too high, people will cancel as they get a backlog of products. If the frequency is too low, you miss profit by not getting your subscribers their purchase soon enough. The secret is to let customers set their frequency before and during the subscription.

Practical Tips:

  • Use Loop to let customers set and adjust the frequency of their subscription.
  • Provide options to change quantity, immediately place orders, or pause subscriptions to minimize churn.

Ninth Secret: Pruning—Focus on What Matters

In Japanese gardens, pruning is essential to promote new growth and longevity of plants. Similarly, you need to focus your business resources on what really matters.

Practical Tips:

  • Run in-depth analytics on your product portfolio to identify what first purchase, or what marketing channel, leads to the highest lifetime value. Consider a 120-day or less window to help cashflow. This directs resources to drive growth. Use Triple Whale to find the products and channels that are most profitable.  You can track and analyze the lifetime value within customer cohorts of first purchases and marketing channels to acquire great customers for your brand.
  • Prune away non-essential efforts to concentrate on high-impact activities. For you, what low-yielding tasks detract from tasks that drive profit?
Triple Whale Customer Lifetime Value Analysis Chart

Bonus Growth Hacks for Subscription Growth

Here are some additional tips to enhance your subscription program, all of which can be implemented within Loop:

  • Offer passwordless logins.
  • Enable login from different sections of your store.
  • Allow coupon usage for added incentivization.
  • Let customers merge subscriptions to save on shipping.
  • Facilitate address changes.
  • Translate content to customers’ primary languages.
  • Provide incentives to retain customers upon cancellation.

The 9 subscription principles in this video were taken from my book Shopify Conversion Rate Optimization. You can read it for free right now to help you do what’s taught in the video so you get more revenue per visitor.

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