Living with a pandemic has encouraged us to reflect and re-evaluate, and now more than ever before we’re prioritising our health – both physical and mental – and proactively taking better care of ourselves. As a result, the health and wellness industry is thriving, with people spending an estimated $1.5 trillion a year on products and services in this vertical.1
Whether we’re seeking a healthy gut, glowing skin, or a clearer mind, our health and wellness behaviours tend to be ritualistic and habitual. Hero products are often bought repeatedly, on a regular basis, lending themselves perfectly to a subscription model.
Ecommerce brands have certainly seized the subscription-shaped opportunity, making the most of consumers’ routine purchasing to offer replenishment models with discounted subscription pricing. Subscribers get their vital self-care products on time, direct to their door, at a reduced cost compared to multiple one-time purchases, whilst retailers enjoy increased return on acquisition costs, higher lifetime value and a reliable stream of monthly revenue. It’s a win-win (if executed successfully, of course).
But what does it take to get your health and wellness subscription website in good shape?
This article will share 12 must-have features for ecommerce stores in this vertical, drawing on our experience helping build best-in-class health and wellness subscription stores on Shopify Plus. Throughout, we’ll be focusing on how to establish and maintain trust in particular, as this is fundamental to conversion and retention in the health and wellness vertical.
First of all though, let’s examine some key stats to see just how healthy this particular vertical is.
Health and wellness subscription ecommerce
Recent analysis conducted by Recharge suggests that despite a post-pandemic return to in-person shopping experiences, consumers are increasingly embracing subscriptions for their self-care and wellness routines.
For example, not only did health and wellness subscription brands see significant growth in their subscriber base in 2021 (+39%), they also saw a jump in average order value (+11%) and lifetime value (+10%).
What’s more, the health and wellness vertical topped the charts in terms of monthly recurring revenue growth between 2020 and 2021, jumping a sizeable 138% from $29M to $68M.
With health and wellness subscriptions becoming such an important fixture in consumers’ daily lives in recent years, this is a particularly exciting (and potentially profitable) space to be in for ecommerce retailers.
12 features of a successful health and wellness subscription website
#1 Needs-based personalisation
When it comes to improving our health and wellness – the routines we follow, the goals we chase, the products we use – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s highly personal and unique – something that should be reflected on your ecommerce store.
Using a quiz or other diagnostic tool at the beginning of a user’s interaction with your subscription website will make them instantly aware that you have their unique needs and requirements in mind, right from the outset. In a world where ecommerce personalisation is more sought after than ever before, this will prove reassuring to consumers and help to build confidence in your brand.
By asking key questions about users’ lifestyles, their health and wellness concerns and their goals, you can build a detailed identity profile that determines which of your products would suit them best. Presenting users with needs-based product and regime recommendations allows them to make an informed purchasing decision.
Nutritional supplements brand Innermost (whose Shopify Plus journey we kickstarted back in 2019) do exactly this, offering website users a free consultation to match them up with the most suitable product.
What’s more, you can leverage the zero-party data that you gather about your customers to provide a hyper-personalised post-purchase experience, delivering meaningful interactions and recommending highly targeted content across touchpoints.
This personalised, empathetic experience directly influences buying behaviour across the customer life cycle, increasing the likelihood of consumers purchasing, repurchasing and recommending.2 It builds long-term relationships with users through emotional attachment, which drive increased satisfaction, belonging and loyalty.
Personalisation can propel significant commercial rewards too, such as reduced acquisition costs, increased customer lifetime value and accelerated revenue growth.
You might be wondering whether users will be willing to freely give you all this information (or zero-party data) about themselves. Well, if they believe it will genuinely add value to the experience you can provide them, then yes!
Bespoke product formulations
What about taking personalisation one step further, to your products themselves? An increasing number of health and wellness brands are using what they know about their customers to create custom products with truly bespoke formulations. Take Skin + Me, for example, who use zero-party quiz data to create custom-made skincare products tailored to individuals’ skin goals, which are then delivered directly to customers’ doors on a monthly basis.
#2 Detailed product content
A key way to build trust as a health and wellness subscription brand is to provide detailed product content across your website, as Nichola Birch, Swanky’s Product Manager, explains:
“A lack of information about your products (especially those that a potential customer is going to be putting on their face or ingesting!) will trigger caution and could reduce the likelihood of someone signing up for a subscription.
“Instead, you should leverage written and visual content to clearly communicate what your product is, how it works, what its benefits are, and why it’s better than anything your competitors can offer. Don’t forget about that all-important “what’s in the box” photo either. Ultimately, you want consumers to feel comfortable and confident making a purchase.”
Keep these tips in mind when curating the content for your health and wellness subscription site:
- Craft detailed product descriptions that enable consumers to make informed decisions based on their personal health needs – remember to clearly list essential product details like ingredients, allergens and nutritional information.
- Use icons or diagrams to visually show how your product works – just like this example from Symprove’s Shopify Plus store, which Swanky developed in 2020 (you can read about the replatforming project here).
- Use high-quality, professional product and lifestyle photographs – this immediately signals credibility, helping to build trust from the get-go.
- Leverage video to enhance the product page experience and increase engagement.
- Anticipate and provide answers to common questions within your content.
- Reference science, awards and certifications that make your products stand out in the market. Here’s another example from Symprove to inspire you:
#3 Needs-based navigation for high-intent shoppers
Often, visitors to your website will be browsing with a particular health and wellness goal in mind. It’s important to provide these intent-driven shoppers with a streamlined navigation experience, connecting them with the products they’re seeking as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is key for keeping users on your site for longer and increasing conversion rates.
When designing health and wellbeing retailer Revital’s Shopify Plus store, we appealed directly to high-intent shoppers with these clickable health goal icons positioned on the homepage. These take users through to collection pages with the relevant products for their needs.
#4 User-friendly customer portal that gives subscribers full control
Enabling your customers to easily swap their products, skip a shipment, change the cadence of their deliveries, or even cancel their subscription altogether is a must-have for your health and wellness brand. Give subscribers access to a branded customer portal where they can enjoy total flexibility and customise their subscription to suit their personal needs.
Streamlining these processes and giving your customers full freedom to customise their subscription demonstrates that you’re committed to empowering your subscribers, allowing them to take complete control of their subscription and their wellbeing alike.
The Recharge platform, our go-to solution for building subscription websites, comes fully-equipped with a feature-rich customer portal out-of-the-box which allows customers to easily manage their subscription. And, for retailers on the Recharge Pro plan, Theme Engine allows you to customise the portal interface to fit your brand’s unique style.
You can read some top tips from our Head of Growth, Matt Abbott, on this topic in this helpful article by Recharge.
#5 A community for subscribers
Working towards your health and wellness goals usually takes a lot of persistence, and is seldom an easy journey. With this in mind, why not consider creating a brand community to unite your customers around their shared health and wellness values, and enable them to support one another.
For inspiration, look to global nutritional powdered food brand Huel (whose very first subscription programme Swanky helped to deliver). They’ve created a dedicated forum for customers, or “Hueligans” as they’re known, to have “great conversations and polite debate about Huel topics”. These topics range from recipes and weight loss, to product feedback and pregnancy.
By giving your subscribers a space to to interact with like-minded individuals, discuss your products and share lifestyle tips, you can make your overall brand experience more appealing, whilst nurturing long-term emotional relationships. This is key for improving customer-company identification and adding value for subscribers – thereby encouraging brand loyalty and creating advocates.
This type of tactic is particularly important for subscription brands in the health and wellness sector, which Recharge found to be the second most volatile vertical in terms of 12-month customer retention.
When it comes to tech solutions that can help you build a loyal and valuable brand community, look to Duel, a centralised hub for managing all aspects of customer advocacy. The platform helps you engage with your community directly (with things like tasks, challenges and rewards), creating a unique experience that drives long-term organic growth and retention.
#6 Targeted, trustworthy content
An effective way to enhance your customers’ subscription experience whilst emphasising your position as a trusted retailer is with a targeted, cross-funnel content marketing strategy.
By providing valuable, reliable content across a range of health and wellness topics, you can demonstrate to customers that you’re a go-to authority in the industry, thus building confidence in your products. Try adding some extra clout to your content by collaborating with practitioners and other experts in your field.
Gut health supplements brand Symprove have done just this, curating a compelling collection of articles across a range of health and wellbeing topics that empower their target customer. This hub of valuable blog posts, covering themes such as food, fitness and gut health, serves as a key tool in attracting new prospects and strengthening connections with existing customers.
Be sure to leverage what you know about your customers to create content tailored to their demographics and needs, and then disseminate it via channels you know they use. This relevance is important for building an emotional connection across touch points, and will help reinforce your key message that regular product use will ultimately improve health and wellness.
#7 Customer reviews and user-generated content
Consumers want to see authentic, reliable reviews from real people they can relate to. These validate the integrity of your brand for new shoppers, helping to quell any concerns they may have about your products or subscription offering. This is particularly important for customers purchasing a health and wellness product for the first time, especially one they’re thinking about subscribing to.
Subscription-based sustainable deodorant brand Wild Cosmetics shares their Trustpilot rating above the fold on the homepage of their ecommerce store, with most recent reviews also in a prominent position – an effective tactic to instantly build confidence amongst first-time visitors.
Visual reviews are especially powerful in capturing attention and encouraging customers with purchase anxiety to convert. In particular, user-generated ‘before and after’ images can be extremely compelling in the health and wellness category, as they clearly showcase the benefits of a product, with much more impact than a product description. These can be utilised across your website, including your homepage and product page, as well as your other marketing channels.
For example, popular health and wellness brand Revive Collagen frequently leverages before and after transformation photos on its social media channels, like so:
It’s also good practice to respond to every review. This demonstrates to customers that you appreciate the time they’ve taken to provide feedback, in turn making shoppers feel valued and fostering loyalty.
#8 Promote adherence and monitor lifestyle changes with regular communication
Adherence is often key for positive results when it comes to health and wellness products. Their success relies heavily on regular use over a sustained period of time. But your customers’ health isn’t the only thing that will benefit from consistent consumption – the health of your business and key metrics will see a boost too.
With that in mind, it’s crucial to maintain regular communication with your subscribers, promoting adherence within your messaging.
Why not implement an automated email flow to send them notifications and reminders? You can even go one step further and leverage what you know about your customers to deliver highly targeted emails, specific to their personal subscription. Receiving relevant communication adds value to their experience with your brand, drives engagement and reduces the chance of churn.
And don’t forget about the power of SMS. Less than 5% of subscription merchants used this as a communication tool in 2021 according to research by Recharge, yet it can play a useful role in developing long-term subscriber relationships and improving retention. Tools like Klaviyo and Yotpo both offer SMS marketing solutions to maintain meaningful communication with your subscribers via mobile.
As well as promoting adherence, regular communication is also important to check whether a customer’s circumstances have changed. A change in lifestyle, such as a new fitness regime, diet or pregnancy, could represent an opportunity for a new, more relevant subscription that better suits their needs. Proactively checking-in with subscribers allows your relationship to evolve authentically over time, whilst demonstrating that you value them and their health. This is key for encouraging loyalty and creating brand ambassadors that spread the word about your product and brand.
#9 Trust badges
As we’ve discussed, buying health and wellness products is a very personal, important choice for customers. For them to feel comfortable committing to an ongoing subscription, they need to trust that you’re a reputable brand.
One way to showcase your credibility and drive conversions is by displaying trust badges on your subscription website. The five main types that you might want to consider are:
- Secure checkout badge. This denotes an SSL certificate, reassuring users that their information is encrypted and payment details are safe.
- Accepted payment badges. Familiar logos like those of Visa, Mastercard and PayPal can instantly create confidence in your brand. Increasingly, logos of ‘buy now, pay later’ solutions like Klarna are being added to payment badge line-ups, like this example from Revital’s website footer:
- Third-party endorsements. These are a great way to show customers that you are a credible, established brand.
- Money-back guarantee badge. This helps to eliminate risk and indicates to cautious customers that you have their backs.
- Free shipping and free returns icons. These are perfect for reducing perceived risk amongst online shoppers and showcasing the perks of shopping with your brand.
Traditionally placed during the checkout process, trust badges are now increasingly being strategically positioned on homepages and landing pages to instil trust earlier in the buying journey.
#10 Cross-selling in your subscription flow
Presenting opportunities for customers to choose additional, complementary products within the subscription sign-up process means shoppers can enjoy an elevated shopping experience, with the flexibility to add and remove extra items depending on their needs.
We did exactly this in the custom front-end subscription flow that we built for popular women’s razor subscription brand FFS. After choosing a razor handle and selecting a delivery frequency, users have the option to add a shave cream, scrub and balm to their order, either as a one-time purchase or a recurring add-on.
“Cross-selling is a key feature of the subscription flow we designed,” explained Matt Giles, Creative Director at Swanky.
“We were sure to prioritise these opportunities by creating more prominent calls-to-action to promote recurring orders. As an example, we used larger, more colourful buttons for the option to ‘Include with every shipment’ so that users are drawn down this route as opposed to the one-time order option.”
As well as enhancing the subscription sign-up process for your customers, this kind of strategy is great for your key ecommerce metrics too, increasing things like your conversion rate and average order value.
#11 Partnerships with influencers
Influencer marketing can be a powerful tactic in your bid to turn social media scrolls into sales. As well as sparking organic conversations around your products and increasing awareness of your brand, it can help you to rapidly build trust in the exact niche you’re targeting (which we know is crucial for success in the health and wellness industry).
It’s therefore no surprise that more and more brands are heavily investing in influencers as part of their marketing strategy, with marketers increasing their spending on endorsements year after year. In fact, influencer marketing expenditure is predicted to reach $4.6 billion in the US alone by 2023.3
Who should you partner with?
Consumers are seeking transparency and reliability from influencers, especially when it comes to products that impact their health and wellbeing. They want to know that influencers genuinely believe in the products they talk about.
With this in mind, consider partnering with relevant micro-influencers (who typically have between 10k and 100k followers) in your niche, as these individuals can often come across as more relatable than macro-influencers, and are more likely to establish personal, genuine connections with their followers. Their product recommendations feel more akin to getting advice from a trusted friend, rather than a celebrity endorsement.
Australian natural skincare company Frank Body leveraged the power of micro-influencers to transform their humble start-up into a multi-million dollar business. With no initial marketing budget, they started out in 2013 by shipping samples of their signature coffee scrub to micro-influencers across the globe and asking them to upload user-generated content to Instagram (a strategy they still use today, as you can see from these posts).
In less than 12 months, Frank Body had amassed 350,000 followers thanks to their influencer marketing strategy. By 2017, they were worth $20M and shipping to around 150 countries.4
For more real-life influencer inspiration, check out our guest blog post for Refersion, where we rounded up successful influencer marketing campaigns by Shopify Plus merchants.
What type of content is most effective?
When it comes to influencer content, video is the gold standard. A medium for compelling and authentic storytelling, it’s one of the best ways to showcase the benefits of your products, demonstrate an influencer’s affinity with your brand, and nurture profitable relationships with your audience.
#12 Stellar customer support
Key to a stellar customer experience on any subscription website is an easily-accessible, responsive customer service function. This is especially pertinent for health and wellness brands though, as subscribers might be looking for urgent support around dosage or allergies, for example.
If subscribers can’t get the support they need, they’re likely to take their business elsewhere. This is bad news for your retention rate and your reputation, as we discuss in this article about the importance of customer service in ecommerce.
Consider these pointers for your customer service strategy:
- Be responsive – wherever and whenever your customers may need assistance. This means replying to questions on your social platforms, as well your official support channels.
- Automate your customer support where possible, providing accurate answers instantly. Symprove uses a live chat tool powered by Gorgias (our go-to customer service solution for our clients) to provide fast answers to customers’ questions.
- Get personal with customers – use what you know about them to provide a more human experience.
- Enable subscribers to update their personal information quickly and easily via your customer support channel.
- Listen to your customers and act on any feedback given. This is important for showing customers that you appreciate their engagement with you and take their opinions seriously – thus driving retention and reducing churn.
- Allow customers to help themselves, via comprehensive FAQ pages and customer support articles.
We’ve covered a lot in this article, so here’s a quick recap to round things off. To succeed in the health and wellness subscription space as an online retailer, you need to:
- Effortlessly connect consumers with products and content that match their personal needs;
- Build and maintain trust (via detailed product information, authoritative content, social proof, trust badges, influencer partnerships etc.);
- Nurture long-term emotional connections with subscribers (through things like content, community and communication); and
- Give subscribers full control to adapt their subscription as their needs change.
Not only will this empower your customers to reach their health and wellbeing goals, it will enable your business to flourish!
A leading Shopify Plus agency in subscription ecommerce
Swanky is trusted to deliver best-in-class D2C subscription solutions for clients across the globe. Our portfolio boasts industry-leading names from across the health and wellness market, including Huel, Symprove and Revital.
Our certified Shopify Plus Experts know subscription inside out, from custom-built subscription solutions that handle our clients’ unique business complexities, to optimising and growing subscription websites. Our award-winning Growth Accelerator team combines rigorous data analysis with an innovative and commercially-led approach to conversion rate optimisation to drive digital growth and generate significant additional revenue for the brands they work with.
To find out how our in-house team of subscription specialists can improve the health of your ecommerce store, contact us today.