Your Foot and Its Health as a Service: The Subscription Model in Retail

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A friend of mine recently started taking golf lessons, and he was sent by his golf coach to a local store to get orthotics for his over-pronating left foot. The salesperson at the store took him through an elaborate, well thought out process to evaluate his feet, he tried on some injection molded orthotics, and he was ready to buy — until he was quoted a price: $1,000.

And here’s the thing: the experience in the store was fantastic. The salesperson took his time, gave my friend his full attention, took detailed prints of his feet on parchment paper, explained the anatomy of the foot and what the orthotics could do, and gave my friend as much time as he wanted to try the orthotics on and see what a difference they made.

But at that price point, all that care and attention to the customer, all that effort to detail the benefits of the product, just didn’t matter — there was nothing the salesperson could have said or done to close that sale. And so my friend simply went online and bought a similar product from a knock-off supplier for $99.

And I’m left wondering, what is that retailer thinking? They’re delivering a highly effective sales model that inevitably drives their customers to seek out cheaper competitors online. In fact, they’re providing a very valuable service to those online sellers, giving customers a chance to try out a similar product in person before buying from their competition.

Any sale requires both a compelling experience and an attractive value proposition. Just one of those will get you nowhere.

Still, there is one thing that could have closed the sale. If my friend had been offered a subscription model that promised him, for example, a new pair of orthotics on a regular basis and a discount if he sends his old set back, that could have closed the sale at the same price: just make him pay $40 a month for two years instead of $1,000 right now.

And ideally, that subscription is part of a larger experience — the price makes the sale, and the content keeps him coming back: here’s a kit to measure your foot at home to make sure nothing’s changed, here’s a series of videos you can access online to help you improve your posture, here’s regular guidance from a podiatrist to make sure everything’s going well.

Crucially, it’s not just one thing you buy for $1,000 — it’s a relationship, an ongoing experience to which you subscribe, expertly designed to get you closer and closer to your goal of perfect posture. If you become part of the family, we’re going to hold your hand the whole way, and we’re going to make sure to get it right, for just $39.95 a month.

The subscription model, when combined with a glorious experience at retail, can be very, very successful.

In addition to the product, the customer gets to feel that the company cares about him, that he’s part of continuous R&D, that there are experts he now can uniquely access. Combining a subscription with compelling content creates brand intimacy, helping the customer’s personal brand align with your brand.

There are so many things we’ve been conditioned to buy (and sell) on a capital-intensive basis, but there’s just no reason to do that any more. Even foot health as a service, with a great experience in the store and well-curated content to help him feel like he’s on a journey with the retailer, would have persuaded my friend to invest in a $1,000 orthotic.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly here with any questions or thoughts, or click here to download our white paper on responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Written by

A geek with a retail operations and customer experience background

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