Holiday Q&A Series:
Subscription Retail


How Subscription Retail Brands Can Position Themselves for Continued Success in 2021


As a whole, subscription retail brands have seen a surge in popularity throughout a tumultuous 2020. But that success hasn’t come without its own unique challenges, as many brands are looking ahead to how they can translate these peaks into long-term success.

In the midst of the holiday shopping season and heading into 2021, subscription retail brands are implementing several strategies to successfully navigate the coming months and beyond. We spoke with Wiland’s resident subscription retail expert and SVP of Client Success, Dave Sharpe, to ask him how subscription retail brands can prepare for ongoing success.


How do you expect the 2020 holiday season will be different for most subscription retail brands?

“There has been so much change throughout 2020. Subscription-based products and services were on the upswing heading into this year, and there was a flood of new demand at the onset of the pandemic and related restrictions in March. More people are open to trying subscription products and services because of their convenience and because they facilitate positive new habits, like cooking at home more. Subscription-based businesses have seen increased popularity in the news media as well, thereby increasing demand.

For the holidays in particular, we’ve seen people shopping much earlier. The trend in recent years has been to buy for the holidays later and later—it’s been a real shift to a “just in time” mentality. But not this year. Holiday promotions began as early as October, and strategic subscription retail brands have followed suit by thinking and acting earlier as well. There is still certainly time for subscription retail brands to capitalize on the “second wave” of last-minute holiday buying, but they should also be looking ahead to how to translate the positive results that many of them have seen this year into long-term success in 2021.”

How are you seeing subscription retail brands adapting their advertising strategies?

“We are seeing subscription marketers casting a wider net this year, both in terms of marketing volume and reach as well as the diversification of channels. Direct mail and coordinated campaigns in particular are seeing increased response, and subscription retailers are responding by incorporating more of them into their plans. With people spending more time at home, they are also paying more attention to marketing across all channels, so we are seeing subscription retail brands respond by working hard to reach their prospects and subscribers where they are. One example is addressable TV advertising—a place where subscription retail brands haven’t historically participated too much, but are now exploring.”

What else can subscription retail brands be doing now to position themselves for success in 2021?

“Acquisition has remained key this year. With so many new customers primed to try new subscriptions as well as increased competition as more businesses crop up to fill those needs, now really is the time for subscription retail brands to be in front of their current and future customers across channels. Subscription retail brands should be running targeted campaigns with an eye towards both volume and frequency, staying aggressive to capitalize on the current surge in subscription testing and gifting.

That said, having an eye three to six months down the road is also crucial for subscription retail brands right now. It’s time to think ahead to how they’re going to ensure that they can retain the new subscribers they’ve gained this year, and how they’re going to reactivate them if they do lapse. As with acquisition, this comes down to the composition of their marketing audiences.”

What are some ways that subscription retail brands are working with Wiland to prepare for 2021?

“For subscription retail brands, acquisition drives business. But retention is equally important, and at Wiland we are providing brands with data-driven audiences and insights to support both. Our multichannel acquisition audiences are created using the largest set of individual-level consumer spending and social media engagement data ever assembled—as well as our advanced predictive modeling—and we are driving great success for subscription retail brands. We’re also helping them manage their retention efforts with these same data-driven audiences and insights. There is a path to model a marketing audience for essentially any behavior you want to replicate, and that’s where we come in. Our data-driven business intelligence and market insights are also indispensable tools to help inform 2021 marketing planning.”

Any closing advice you’d give to subscription retail brands on how they can continue to adapt to achieve success in the coming months?

“Continue to keep your eyes down the road as you plan, execute, and measure the success of your campaigns. Work with a data partner like Wiland that can help you utilize the past spending behaviors of your prospects and customers to predict their future spending behaviors. It’s through this powerful data that we can tailor audiences to meet your acquisition and profitability goals, and we’re ready to meet any challenge thrown our way!”

Headshot of Dave Sharpe

About Dave

Dave Sharpe specializes in working with continuity and subscription marketers to provide highly targeted, high-performance customer acquisition, retention, and business intelligence solutions. As SVP of Client Success at Wiland, Dave has over 20 years of experience in data-driven marketing solutions, and he advocates for leveraging data and modeling to drive the best marketing results for his clients.

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