Migrating a huge subscriber base from a custom platform to Shopify and Recharge

Migrating a huge subscriber base from a custom platform to Shopify and Recharge

After we migrated to the new subscription platform, our conversion rate increased by 58%. The ability to jump in and launch or edit products as needed makes us more agile and scalable, preparing us for long-term growth.

Our development costs went from roughly $5,000 to $10,000 per product launch to being done internally without external support. Over 50% of our monthly revenue is now coming from one-time purchases compared to our subscription-only program.

Gray Bike took the time to understand our consumers, our business, and our operational teams. They served as our technical advisor and web developer and made sure our direct-to-consumer experience was as strong as it could be. As a result, our customers are happier and our overall development maintenance costs dropped by 75%.

Neha Mittal, Director of eCommerce

How We Helped

Services
  • CTO & Technical Consulting
  • Front End
  • Back End
Technologies
  • Shopify
  • React
  • Recharge

Challenges

  • Difficult to manage custom subscription engine
  • High development costs
  • Overly complex SKUs created barrier to entry, unwieldy to manage from an operational standpoint
  • Confusing subscription management for end customers

Value Created

  • Easy-to-use subscription management platform
  • Off-the-shelf platform reduced web development costs by 75%
  • Greater agility, responsiveness to customer needs increased conversion rates by 58%
  • Inherent flexibility, scalability for long-term growth

Solutions

  • CTO and technical consulting services
  • eCommerce
  • Custom software development

Cora is a leading provider of natural and organic period, bladder, and body care products. Founded in 2016, the San Francisco-based company offers premium feminine care products to women and girls nationwide. Dedicated to improving the feminine care industry by prioritizing women's health, the B Corp’s mission is to shake up the outdated feminine care category and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Gray Bike began working with Cora in 2018, and managed their entire engineering operations through 2021.

Challenge

Cora is dedicated to providing the best user experience for its customers. The company, which sells personal care products online at cora.life, Amazon, and big box retailers, caters to the unique needs of its online shoppers by providing highly customizable single box and subscription plans. By actively listening to its shoppers, product development efforts can directly align with the needs of the company’s loyal customers.

In order to have the agility and speed to react to purchasing behaviors on its website, the direct-to-consumer business had to overcome several marketing and technological challenges. In the past, Cora offered its products solely by subscription. However, the website’s subscription management platform was complex and lacked scalability. A previous developer had designed their complex subscription engine from scratch, and while highly flexible, customizations were not only time-consuming, but costly.

According to Neha Mittal, Director of eCommerce, “Everything was hypercustomized. If something broke or if there was a bug, it wasn’t an easy fix. We knew we had to get ourselves out of the custom platform we were using and find an off-the-shelf solution. We wanted to be able to scale, pivot quickly, and lower our development costs.”

Solution / Results

Cora approached Gray Bike, their digital products provider and technical advisor, to find the best subscription platform for its unique business requirements. Gray Bike, which has deep expertise in ecommerce subscriptions and custom integrations, began with a discovery process that involved extensive investigation, thorough research, and product analyses.

“Gray Bike was our thought partner. They challenged what we asked for and offered suggestions in areas we may not have been aware of,” said Neha. “They conducted a test where we offered a few products as a one-time purchase instead of by subscription to learn if our customers wanted this option. The response we received was an immediate yes.”

After careful vetting, Gray Bike recommended Recharge, a subscription management solution which offers an easy-to-use merchant portal and lets customers manage their subscriptions directly from the store. The platform also integrates with Shopify, Cora’s ecommerce platform.

“Gray Bike really understood our business goals, and their technical perspective was invaluable. They evaluated different vendors, created a checklist of pros and cons, and helped us understand which platform was the best for us and why,” explained Neha.

Migrating Tens of Thousands of Subscribers Without a Hitch

With any migration, there is a risk of impacting the customer experience. Moving to a new platform can affect subscriptions, payment processing, and every customer touchpoint. “Gray Bike helped us navigate and articulate the value to each stakeholder in the project, roles, timing, and what types of challenges we should anticipate.”

As part of the migration process, the operations teams wanted to restructure the SKU offering to reduce ongoing operational costs. This required the creation of unique shipping and fulfillment processes which introduced additional complexity into the project. Gray Bike was able to execute the request seamlessly with zero impact to the customer, timeline, or budget.

“With tens of thousands of subscriptions, and many moving parts, we’re happy to say that the transition was accomplished with lower churn than expected,” said Neha. “Gray Bike took the time to understand every aspect of our organization and met frequently with our operations and warehouse fulfillment teams.

The Gray Bike team took the lead and interfaced with Recharge and Cora. “They made sure our expectations were met in the migration and asked the tough questions to ensure an effective onboarding process, which was extremely helpful,” added Neha.

Gray Bike also built a customized app that directly integrates Shopify with Zendesk. “It was critical that the customer service widget on the website continued to function, especially during such a massive migration, and Gray Bike made sure it worked flawlessly,” noted Neha.

Launching New Products in a Fraction of the Time and Cost

With the old platform, launching new products online was time-consuming and expensive. The custom subscription engine required an engineer to implement most changes, the plan management was confusing for the end user, and due to the complexity of the platform, it could take up to a month for changes to be implemented.

With the new solution, everything has been moved in house and Cora can launch a product entirely on its own without any development support. It’s quick and easy to sell a product either by itself or through the subscription model. Gray Bike created a convenient product launch template that streamlines the launch process, saving 30 days or more per product.

“Our development costs went from roughly $5,000 to $10,000 per product launch to being done internally without external support,” explained Neha. “Over 50% of our monthly revenue is now coming from one-time purchases compared to our subscription-only program.”

By reacting quickly to consumer insights, Cora can satisfy the needs of its customers, and according to Neha, this has proven very fruitful. “After we migrated to the new subscription platform, our conversion rate increased by 58%. The ability to jump in and launch or edit products as needed makes us more agile and scalable, preparing us for long-term growth.”

Off-the-Shelf Solution Reduces Development Costs by 75%

Historically, Cora’s development costs were one of the teams’ highest line items. To ensure the best customer experience, the company’s subscription platform offers annual plans and product bundles, but this was challenging from a technical standpoint and made for a sticky customer experience.

“Any time we made a change, it was like we were building everything from scratch versus using a solution that was built for subscription plan management,” said Neha. “We had thousands of SKUs and were spending a lot of money to maintain our custom solution. Our customers were experiencing decision fatigue from having so many product choices, and we were concerned about the barrier to entry with a subscription-only plan.”

Feedback from the operations team indicated that the high number of SKUs was difficult to manage from a distribution standpoint. Cora needed a more cost-effective, sustainable, and long-term solution for its direct-to-consumer business without sacrificing the ability to customize its offerings.

During the migration, Cora’s SKUs decreased to around 300. “As part of the project, we analyzed buying patterns to gain a better understanding of what consumers were purchasing. We stripped out SKUs with zero purchases and put together combinations that made the most sense,” explained Neha. “Unlike the old platform, we didn’t have to create multiple SKUs based on whether a product was part of a subscription or a one-time purchase. Now, we can use the same SKU for a quarterly subscription or one-time product purchase, and this is easily managed within Recharge.”

Neha is thrilled with the results and the experience working with Gray Bike. “We wouldn’t have the savings or the scale that we have today without their help,” she said. “Gray Bike took the time to understand our business, our consumers, and our operational teams. They served as our technical advisor and web developer and made sure our direct-to-consumer experience was as strong as it could be. As a result, our customers are happier and our overall development maintenance costs dropped by 75%.”

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