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How the Subscription Model Opens up New Competitor Sets

In the digital age, convenience is king, so it is perhaps no surprise that the subscription model has seen rapid growth across industries. In just its first day, the Pret coffee subscription service gained 16,500 members, leading the way in a line of coffee retailers ready to attempt the same market shift.

Consumers place value on ease and personalisation, with the average Brit having 2.4 subscription services, according to RIFT. There are big players in the market, from Netflix to Gousto, and the UK market is set to keep growing, being expected to hit £1.8bn in market value by 2025, according to Whistl.

These models increased in popularity massively during the pandemic, but current cost-of-living pressures have led many consumers to make cuts to their budgets, with 41% agreeing that subscription services are the first area to go (the7stars QT, November 2023). Research from Lloyds Bank found that 1.2 million subscription payments were cancelled between 2021 and 2022, as consumers re-examined their expenses in what the bank termed a ‘subscription audit’. Barclaycard, meanwhile, reported a 5.7% reduction YoY in subscription spending. As consumers re-evaluate their priorities, there is greater onus on subscription-based brands to demonstrate the value in their propositions.

In a tough economic climate, businesses from vastly different industries now find themselves in competition with one another. Access to growth audiences is being limited not just by competitors within your industry, but by competitors within your business model. For the first time, pasta is pitted against Paramount Plus, and not everyone will come out on top. Consumers are reaching their own conclusions about which brands offer the greatest value to their lives. According to research from YouGov, we might be reaching a saturation point when it comes to the subscription model, and brands will have to work hard to stand out. Amidst cross-category competition, that will involve homing in on unique selling points and identifying your specific customer benefit. Individuality is increasingly important to consumers, with the7stars ‘Cultural Codes’ whitepaper identifying a growing trend of micro-communities and a focus on identity. Finding your brand’s niche within a cluttered market can be an excellent way to stand out from the crowd and keep your place in the subscription roster.

Amidst persistently high inflation and squeezed margins, price rises are often a necessary evil for subscription brands. But while two-thirds of consumers are inclined to think negatively of subscription services that raise prices, according to the7stars QT, the effects of this can be negated through clear communication and strong customer relations. When increasing the price of a subscription, offering additional benefits as well as hassle-free cancellation and more flexibility, such as the option to temporarily pause a subscription, will help consumers to justify maintaining their subscription while cutting back elsewhere.

As recent trends have shown, subscription models will be no less important to Brits as 2024 progresses. But amidst a saturated market and tightened household budgets, brands should consider new ways to demonstrate value and convenience to their audience.