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Gift subs: 5 minutes with… Hannah Wood

With the August bank holiday behind us, it’s time for subs marketers to turn their attention to Christmas! To fully capitalise on the busy gifting season, publishers needs to start planning now, says isubscribe’s Hannah Wood.

By Hannah Wood

Gift subs: 5 minutes with… Hannah Wood

Q: With Christmas being a particularly busy period for subscription sales, what should publishers be doing now?

A: From October time, consumers will start thinking about and actually purchasing Christmas gifts. Publishers can set themselves up for a successful sales period by planning in advance, important factors being:

  • E-commerce shop maintenance: Ensuring any obstacles to a smooth checkout process are resolved in advance, to best guarantee a positive customer journey and experience purchasing from you. You want the speed of purchase to be at its optimum!
  • Plan marketing activity: Both internal and external. What promotions are being offered by subscription agents, your affiliate network or other companies you work with? These can get booked up in advance and you want to ensure maximum exposure of your brands.
  • Plan for key dates: For example, Black Friday. Whether you incentivise or not, this will be a busy shopping weekend and being prepared for an increase in traffic is important.

Q: From past experience, what strategies and tactics work particularly well in generating gift subscriptions?


  • Consider the gift giver, who may not be familiar with your brand: The gift giver knows their gift recipient enjoys gardening but isn’t really familiar with any gardening magazines themselves. Ensure the key features of your brand stand out and highlight your USPs.
  • isubscribe display imags, a digital page turner to enable the shopper to ‘look inside’ the magazine to sample a few pages from a previous issue – this really helps to get the gift giver on board!

  • Appeal to different types of shopper: Have a range of subscription options including 6 and 12 months, Direct Debit and Credit/Debit Card payment options. There is a clear preference for CC when buying a gift but if this means a higher priced subscription then some shoppers prefer to make the saving and take out a DD.
  • Similarly, cater to both early and late shoppers. Early shoppers will want to have their gift list ticked off in October and with subscriptions, this means having the option to delay the first issue until after December 25th is essential.
  • Those a bit more on the last-minute side will find a subscription an ideal gift, but with the first issue not arriving until a few weeks later, they will want the option to fill out a digital gift card to let their recipient know that magazines are coming their way!

    Providing these extras makes the purchase an easy decision!

  • Re-iterating the USPs of subscriptions: We work within subscriptions every day and sometimes may sound like we’re stating the obvious, but re-iterating key reasons why a subscription is a great gift can’t be done enough; the gift that gives all year! Regular, free delivery right to your door!

Q: What factors should publishers take into account when considering pricing and special offers in the run-up to Christmas?


  • Budget! As well as offering a range of subscription lengths and payment options, consider the spend objectives of the gift giver and price under a threshold; £29.99 is more attractive than £32.99 for example.
  • Competition: How have your competitors priced their subscriptions in the past?
  • Extras go a long way: Whether a subscription comes with access to digital content, a wider community/club for like-minded hobbyists, a free gift or extra issues, these are all valuable and attractive reasons to subscribe. Shout about them!

Q: What magazine sectors typically do well at Christmas time and are there any particular sectors where you think there is potential for growth?

A: Our top categories are indicative of isubscribe’s audience; our core customer is female 40+ buying within home and lifestyle sectors, yet our customers also diverge into wider interests such as politics, motoring and travel. A recognized trend on isubscribe is the growth of niche and hobby magazines.

The Home & Garden category is our most popular; sales are not only for masthead brands but significant growth is seen amongst the more niche sector of home growing fruit and veg; Morton’s Kitchen Garden jumped to 3rd best seller during Christmas 2019 from 8th in 2018 (and 95th in 2017!)

Kids’ & teens magazine subscriptions continue to trend upwards, with key brand The Week Junior often in our top 25 overall sellers, and Teen Breathe breaking into 2nd best seller within this category during Christmas last year. Reading material that meets the growing interests of consumers at any age is met with a positive response and increased subscriptions.

Q: Since the beginning of lockdown, what subscriptions trends have you detected?

A: Consumer trends have led to simple pleasures such as pursuing a hobby, spending time in the garden and reading. With regular delivery right to the door, magazine subscriptions are a valued source of entertainment during lockdown and isubscribe experienced an increase of 260% in overall sales.

Puzzle magazines have performed outstandingly. Historically having smaller sales volumes, publishers of puzzle magazines have seen an increase of up to 1,200% compared to the weeks before lockdown

Trends saw the Home & Garden category surge in sales. Weekly magazines in the entertainment category also saw strong growth; Hello! magazine and also TV listings titles.

Children’s magazines have also enjoyed a high increase as parents look for educational and fun offline material whilst home-schooling.

Q: Once a publisher has gained a new subscription through sites like isubscribe, what steps should publishers take to increase the chances of that new subscriber eventually renewing?

A: Subscription aggregators like isubscribe are a valuable means of introducing a new subscriber to a publisher, from a different audience than the publisher reaches directly.

Once a publisher has that subscriber, it’s important to keep up communication with them directly – nobody can do that better than the publisher who creates the content the subscriber enjoys reading on a regular basis.

Ensure communication touch points; a tailored welcome letter/email arriving within good time, detailing access to the subscriber’s account which they can manage online. Keep the subscriber informed about their benefits and updates to the magazine. All of which builds up to a renewal notice series from the publisher towards the end of the subscription, which the subscriber would ideally renew in the online account they have been using.

If the customer opted in to receive marketing communication from the publisher, make sure this is utilised. The initial sale may have been through the aggregator but once the subscription has started, the narrative is very much from the publisher who delivers the magazine content, and who can continue to provide interesting and well-curated content to the subscriber.

There are many additional benefits to this direct communication; whether the subscriber signs up to the publisher’s newsletter, follows on social media, joins a member’s club, subscribes to one of the publisher’s other titles, and then renews with the publisher directly.

isubscribe provides new subscriptions for publishers.

About us

We are the UK’s leading and most comprehensive subscription superstore and have been generating sales for publishers since 2000. Based in London, isubscribe also has market leading operations in Australia and New Zealand.

With over 3,000 consumer and specialist magazine titles across all genres, isubscribe provides new subscriptions for publishers in all B2C and B2B markets and increases online presence for publishers by reaching new markets, particularly in the lucrative gifting sector.

020 7199 0161