How to Convert One-Time Customers to Subscribers: Strategies & Examples
Subscription Business Model

How to Convert One-Time Customers to Subscribers: Strategies & Examples

Discover proven strategies and see real examples of how brands convert one-time and occasional customers into subscribers, improving retention and cash flow!

Subscription services have been rapidly gaining popularity, aligning with the pay-as-you-go trend that is both budget-friendly and flexible when it comes to cancellations, upgrades, and downgrades. Online subscriptions are an ideal solution for those seeking regular access to certain products or services. They offer convenience and offer attractive savings. 

The optimal scenario for businesses offering subscription services is to enrol customers in monthly subscriptions immediately. However, many clients opt for one-time purchases, especially when dealing with product-centric companies offering more affordable prices. However, a base of one-time or sporadic customers is a great start for subscription-oriented businesses. Today, we delve into a crucial question: How to convert one-time customers into subscribers

Benefits of converting one-time customers to subscribers

Converting one-time customers into subscribers offers numerous long-term advantages for your business, significantly impacting customer retention, brand loyalty, and most importantly, cash flow. 

Let’s take a look at the top benefits for organisations of having subscribers:


  1. Predictable revenue stream: subscribers who commit to regular, ongoing purchases or payments, provide a more predictable revenue stream than one-time customers. 
  2. Higher customer lifetime value: subscribers generally have a higher customer lifetime value than sporadic customers because of their continued engagement and repeated purchases over a longer period. 
  3. Reduced customer acquisition costs: acquiring new customers is always more expensive than retaining clients. Subscribers who stay with the brand or organisation over time help reduce the need for constant acquisition efforts, lowering overall acquisition costs and improving customer retention rates. 
  4. Brand advocacy: customers subscribed to your product or service are more likely to become brand advocates, since they have a vested interest in your brand. They’re more likely to recommend your products or services to others, especially if you throw in some benefits for recommendations. 
  5. Increased engagement: users who are linked to your brand for longer periods tend to be more engaged with your content. Whether through emails or social media, a stronger connection is easier to be formed and sustained. 
  6. Feedback and insights: subscribers are more likely to provide feedback since they consume your products and services regularly. Their insights are valuable for refining your offering, as well as understanding their preferences, needs, and pain points. 
  7. Brand loyalty: subscribers demonstrate a higher level of loyalty to the brand, as they have committed to an ongoing relationship. This loyalty can withstand competitive pressures and changes in the market. 
  8. Competitive advantage: a strong subscriber base can be a competitive advantage, setting your brand apart from competitors and establishing a foundation for sustained success in the market. 

Understanding one-time customers

One-time customers, while not offering the same long-term benefits as repeat customers or subscribers, are still crucially important for organisations and businesses for several reasons. For instance, they contribute to immediate revenue, adding to the company’s bottom line and helping meet short-term financial goals. Besides, one-time customers make it easier to expand market share, since you get to deliver your products or services to a wider audience, who, with a positive experience, may be the perfect distributor of word-of-mouth recommendations, contributing to organic growth. 

But the key to attracting those one-time customers is in understanding what they are looking for. It’s important to comprehend that this specific group of customers may have varying motivations and expectations when engaging with a business. 

One-time customers are likely looking for high-quality products or services that meet their needs and expectations but many of them are price-conscious. This means that they are likely to be looking for a good price or value for money. This makes clear communication about pricing and additional costs crucial in converting one-time customers, as well as convenience and a user-friendly interface (for online platforms). Be aware, that if you offer the best price on the market but your delivery costs are high, many prospects will abandon the checkout. 

By offering compelling content combined with hassle-free transactions and checkout, you provide clients with a positive experience, which taps into their satisfaction. This is a perfect starting point for converting them into subscribers since one-time customers automatically become new prospects for your subscription service. 


How to convert one-time customers into subscribers?

Converting one-time customers into subscribers involves strategically encouraging them to opt for a more ongoing and committed relationship with your business while highlighting the benefits that clients will obtain. Here are some proven tactics and examples: 


1. Offer exclusive content or early access

An ongoing subscription is a financial commitment that some customers may be hesitant to take on. However, you can elevate its value by offering subscribers exclusive perks such as early access to products, members-only benefits, and special discounts that are unavailable to non-subscribers. This sense of exclusivity not only makes the subscription more enticing but also taps into the psychological allure of fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) marketing.

For example, in the United States, Disney+ subscribers had early access to acquire a limited edition collectable Disney keyring, available in the Disney store. This is a great example not only of the tangible benefits of subscription but also of creating a unique and privileged experience for subscribers, reinforcing the idea that the subscription goes beyond mere access to content - it provides an exclusive gateway to special opportunities not available to non-subscribers.

2. Offer limited-time discounts for new subscribers

Create urgency by offering a special discount or promotional pricing for customers who subscribe for the very first time. This is an especially effective tactic to drive immediate sign-ups, as potential customers are motivated by the opportunity to save money. The next image shows how HBOMax has mastered this technique in their Spanish market where they regularly roll out special deals. In this case, new subscribers were offered a 50% discount for a lifetime, reducing the monthly subscription fee from 8,99 to 4,49

hbo max discount for lifetime for new subscribers

3. Take advantage of trial periods or free samples 

Understanding that not everyone is ready to commit to a monthly subscription without firsthand knowledge of its offerings, providing a sneak peek becomes a crucial and highly effective strategy for converting prospects into subscribers. If you have a list of one-time customers you’re eager to transform into recurring subscribers, consider reaching out to them with an invitation to a free trial period. This enables potential subscribers to experience the value of your offerings firsthand, fostering trust and allowing them to make an informed decision about the long-term commitment of a subscription. By offering this trial, you not only remove barriers to entry but also create an opportunity for customers to engage with your product or service, increasing the likelihood of conversion. 


4. Convert one-time customers into subscribers with personalised recommendations 

Is your CRM full of information on one-time or occasional customers? Now is the moment to leverage that wealth of information to your advantage. Have you noticed that a specific segment of customers order the same product every 3 months? Or maybe there’s a group of shoppers always gravitating towards products within a specific category?

Converting one-time customers into subscribers hinges on the strategic implementation of personalised recommendations. By harnessing customer data and conducting behavioural analysis, you can gain valuable insights into individual preferences and tailor subscription offerings accordingly. This data-driven approach allows for the creation of more customised subscription plans, dynamic product bundles and even preference surveys to directly capture customer likes and dislikes. 

Birchbox is one of the best examples of personalised subscriptions. Every month, their subscribers receive a box full of new cosmetics and care products selected for their skin, hair type, and style. This comprehensive approach not only increases the likelihood of conversion but also fosters trust and long-term loyalty, making the subscription experience truly tailored to each customer. 

birchbox subscription example

5. Offer flexible subscription options to convert more customers into subscription

In optimising the conversion of one-time customers into subscribers, offering flexible subscription options emerges as a pivotal strategy. Providing a variety of different plans, or frequencies of delivery in the case of physical products, increases the probability of users converting. Consider the model employed by Netflix, where subscribers can choose from a range of different plans, making their choice based on their needs. For example, larger families may prioritise plans that allow simultaneous content viewing on multiple devices, while a solo subscriber might find the most economical option featuring ads the perfect fit. 

different subscription plans example

The above example shows recipe box subscriptions and provides details on different box sizes and prices per portion, keeping the customer more informed about different options, and allowing them to choose the option most suitable for them.


6. Highlight cost savings 

Highlighting cost savings is a crucial element in the strategy to convert one-time customers into subscribers. By emphasising the financial benefits and convenience of subscribing over making individual purchases, businesses can effectively communicate the compelling value proposition of their subscription services. Additionally, subscribers often enjoy exclusive discounts or special pricing, further underlining the economic advantages of choosing a subscription model. 

amazon subscribe and save (1)

A great example would be Amazon’s Subscribe & Save, where customers can choose the frequency of their subscription and receive the product directly to their doorstep when they need it, at a reduced price offered only to subscribers. Such subscriptions are usually popular with products like nappies, toothbrush heads, and razors. 

7. Optimise the subscription and onboarding experience

Convincing your prospects to sign up for your subscription is one thing. But getting them through the checkout process is another! The subscription sign-up process is a critical touchpoint that can significantly impact conversion rates. To maximise the chances of success, businesses must prioritise creating a user-friendly experience. This is why a streamlined and transparent process will make it easy for customers to navigate through the steps required to subscribe, from selecting their preferred plan to entering payment details and confirming their subscription. This will also help you reduce checkout abandonment rates.

Luckily for you, many payment providers allow for a positive user experience and immediate onboarding. Take, for instance, Waytobill’s online checkout. With just a few clicks, businesses can effortlessly sign up clients for subscriptions. As users progress from choosing their plan to completing the payment process, Waytobill ensures a frictionless experience. Thanks to its API integration with various CRM systems, users are seamlessly onboarded in real-time, with payment updates reflecting instantaneously in the organisation’s database. This integration streamlines the customer experience and improves the efficiency of the entire subscription payment process. 

autogiro payment flow


8. Engage prospects through email marketing

Make sure you put your database to use and craft personalised email marketing campaigns that help nurture relationships with one-time and occasional customers. Send targeted emails that highlight the value of subscribing to your product or service and showcase the benefits they would receive. 

Just like previously mentioned, make sure you create a sense of urgency and highlight the value proposition to get more users interested in your long-term subscription. Regularly share updates, new offerings, or exclusive content to maintain one-time customers’ interest and highlight the ongoing value of subscribing. 

9. Leverage customer testimonials to convert occasional shoppers into subscribers

Online users are more likely to trust user-generated content and testimonials rather than high-quality content curated by your company. This is why it’s so important to feature testimonials and experiences from existing subscribers. Positive testimonials shared by others can build trust and demonstrate the value of the subscription. This kind of content is especially powerful on social media channels. 


How do you like are tips and examples? Is there something you’d like to add? If so, make sure to contact us! We’d also like to take this opportunity to invite you to find out more about recurring payment methods. At Waytobill, we’re transforming recurring payments in the Nordics, and we’re here to help!

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