Subscribing to a club, a monthly magazine or an online music service is not new news, however the growth in subscription-based retailing shows that, more than ever, convenience is king. From coffee to T-shirts, pants to a box of surprises, consumers are signing up to receive their favourite products at regular intervals for a fixed monthly price. The success of services such as Amazon Prime and Argos Shutl shows that we really don’t have much time to shop and we definitely don’t have time to wait. We want it fast and we want it delivered right to our front door so we don’t even have to carry it.
Subscription services tap into wide and varied customer mindsets; curated boxes are often grouped by theme – deluxe beauty, kids’ crafts or organic treats influenced by the season. There’s often an element of happy surprise because the contents of the box usually change, making it more fun to open. Then there are the specific item services, which send you the stuff you use every day or week. This service guarantees you get the products you love, week in week out, and is particularly relevant for time-poor consumers. Sampling allows you to try before you buy, and celebratory and third-party collaborations bring a sense of confidence and endorsement.
It seems there’s a sliding scale, dependent on how adventurous a customer is and how much trust they have in a brand. A trusted brand can edit the appropriate products to the right level of quality, making them relevant to a customer’s needs and wants. At one end you have safe and reliable – quality goods you know and love – and at the other, the element of risk and reward – you may not like what you receive but at least it’s local, seasonal, on trend… and who knows you may even love it!
There is of course something exciting and almost smug about getting a delivery of all your favourite stuff, beautifully packaged up from your favourite brand. It makes you feel special and clever, especially as you have done nothing other than hit a few keys on your iPhone from the comfort of your sofa. You have of course also handed over your email address to your chosen retailer to then build up a profile of everything about you. And you have also committed to spending a fixed amount of money per month for a year or so. This is where the benefit to the retailer comes in: guaranteed regular sales, plus an insight into the customer’s world, allowing for tailored marketing and targeted promotions. Subscriptions are a way of getting and growing a fan base, and enabling a customer to start a dialogue with your brand.