Don’t Sell Coffee Subscriptions, Sell Memberships

by | Oct 28, 2021 | 🚀 Coffee Ecommerce

Recurring revenue from subscriptions can make or break a coffee business. But subscriptions aren't very sticky. Membership are.
Coffee business customer research

Every week there’s another post in the coffee communities I’m in that says something like this:

“We just launched a coffee subscription last month but only got eight subscribers. Any tips on how to double it?”

There’s good news and bad news.

Let’s start with the good: you can get way more than sixteen subscribers! Dream a little bigger, aim for triple digits.

And the bad news: coffee subscriptions aren’t very attractive to customers unless there are big benefits they can’t get any other way.

Thriving coffee subscription programs are built on creating member-only experiences, not just fresh coffee delivered to your doorstep.

The Problem with Coffee Subscriptions

A decade ago, anyone could pop up a subscription business and get customers off Facebook for pennies. Looking back, those early adopters had it easy compared to new players in today’s subscription game.

There’s a subset of people who love the simplicity of products just arriving automatically at their door. A decade ago, these people were able to access subscriptions largely for the first time.

In 2021, people who sign up for subscriptions just because they love recurring shipments are already tied up in established coffee subscription program (and probably have been for years).

The rest of us aren’t thrilled by the prospect of regular shipments alone, otherwise we’d be subscribed to tons of things we use on a regular basis (toilet paper, pet food, etc).

This is why I generally discourage anchoring subscription marketing to language like “fresh coffee at your doorstep”. Most people who want that convenience already have it. Unless you can make a compelling case why your doorstep delivery is better somehow, that line isn’t going to attract many new customers.

Build an Experience About More Than Coffee Beans Delivered Regularly

Converting a casual or one-time customer into a bread-and-butter subscriber has to be about more than convenience. Here are a few ways you might create more value in your subscription.

    • Make it exclusive. Limit to 100 customers. Mint unique NTFs. Treat everyone like a VIP with exclusive discounts, first-looks at new products and business updates, and pre-sale opportunities. Channel Jimmy Butler and charge enough to make it all worth it 🙂
    • Add a social element. Most of the best subscriptions I’m a part of end up being less about the product and more about the community of like-minded people. If you can rally your subscribers around a common passion or interest inside a Facebook or Discord group, you’ll keep them for a long time.
    • Offer the best and only the best. There are more than a handful of “roaster’s pick” coffee subscriptions that work well because they only send out one exceptional (not great, exceptional) coffee per month. See my personal favorite: Quintal Coffee.
    • Create exclusive content. Unique content developed around customer passions or interests exclusively for subscribers is an enticing offer for loyal fans who respect and enjoy your perspective and/or knowledge. Standart Magazine is a great example of a company that blends media and coffee subscription.
    • Gamify the subscription. Leaderboard Coffee does a killer job at making their coffee subscription a social game where you compete with other coffee lovers on who can taste the coffees most clearly.

There’s one theme that ties all of these opportunities together.


Building a sustainable, profitable subscription—both for brick-and-mortar and ecommerce brands—is increasingly tied to creating membership experiences that help customers feel like they belong to a tribe. 

It’s about the coffee. And it’s about belonging to a group of like-minded people.

Hey 👋 I'm Garrett Oden

Hey 👋 I'm Garrett Oden

Freelance Coffee Marketer

I'm a coffee industry native who works with coffee brands around the world to create and execute captivating marketing strategies.

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