The coffee roaster now gets more than half of its online sales from subscriptions. Gross merchandise value is up 372% since April 2021.

Equator Coffees, a coffee roaster founded in 1995, switched to direct-to-consumer sales in the 2010s from selling wholesale. It launched a subscription service in 2016, hoping to acquire 100 subscribers. About six years later, it has more than 2,500.

The increase in subscriptions has accelerated over the past couple of years, said Elan Lieber, the brand’s senior performance marketing manager. The pandemic “fast-forwarded” what subscriptions Equator Coffees could offer. It began working with Ordergroove, a subscription-management vendor, in April 2021. Subscriptions now account for more than half of Equator Coffees’ online revenue, and that percentage continues to grow, Lieber said. The lifetime value of a subscription customer is three times higher than for customers who buy individual products, he added. 

“The subscription is the big loyalty component for us,” Lieber said. “When someone comes to Equator and starts a subscription, that’s where we see a really strong, long-term relationship versus just a one-off purchase.” 

Equator Coffees uses Shopify as an ecommerce platform, and Ordergroove powers Equator Coffees’ subscription through a Shopify plug-in application. Ordergroove’s content appears on Equator Coffees’ website as an offer for subscriptions on the product details page. When customers buy a subscription-eligible bag of coffee from Equator Coffees, the subscription offer will appear beside the one-time purchase option for the same product. 

Subscription adjustments

Ordergroove offers a technology called Instant Upsell, said Casey Burt, director of client services at Ordergroove. That’s the ability to add products to an upcoming subscription order either as a net new subscription if it is a replenishable or subscription-eligible product or as a one-time purchase. 


Burt said it is beneficial to the retailer for building average order value. Equator Coffees’ gross merchandise value, including the charge for starting a subscription and recurring revenue, also increased 372% in its first seven months using Ordergroove.

The roaster offers incentives for buying products with a subscription, including 15% off the first bag. Equator Coffees also offers free shipping for all subscription customers, from the first time they order to the end of their subscription, Lieber said. Subscribers can pause and change their subscription at any time. 

“There’s no penalty or ‘you’re committed for X period,’” Lieber said. “It’s very transparent, full control to the customer.”

Ongoing customer communication

That personalized customer experience helps Equator Coffees reach out to new and existing customers differently. 


“You know that they’re getting a specific product on a specific date, and that allows you to do a lot of really interesting things from a post-purchase perspective,” Burt said.

Each subscription delivery comes with its own pre- and post-delivery transactional emails, allowing Equator Coffees to connect several times with each subscriber customer. Equator Coffees can suggest products based on the customer’s subscription. Subscribers get an email confirming their order’s scheduled delivery date, and those emails remind them they can make changes.  

A-B testing helped Equator Coffees determine what type of messaging to use with customers, Lieber said. That could include how much information customers want from the retailer, and how specific they want the information to be. Some customers preferred to learn about the brand’s sustainable supply chain, and others focused on product quality or collaborations. Another segment just wanted information about the retail cafes. 

“Everybody has a very specific palate and flavor profile that they like, so we really focus on meeting them where they are,” Lieber said. “People who buy blends from us, we really only communicate to them about blends. People who are big fans of single-origin coffees, we’re always talking to them about single-origin coffees. A lot of it comes down to meeting our consumers where they’re at so they feel they’re getting relevant information from us.”


Subscribers also get early and first access to any new coffees the brand releases, Lieber said. Equator Coffees also gave them a first look into a cafe it launched in southern California, he added.

B Corp. status

Equator Coffees, a certified B Corp, meets certain environmentally friendly and sustainability standards. It also means meeting certain standards for how it treats its employees and how its suppliers treat theirs. That supply chain experience is part of the selling point for Equator Coffees, Lieber said.

“We really strive for sustainability throughout our entire business,” Lieber said. “We utilize World Centric No Tree cups in our retail cafes, and then we use BioTre 2.0 bags, which are made from 99% renewable resources. Across the board with our supply chain, we really work hard at making sure we can be as sustainable as possible.”

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