Subscription Fatigue

I’ve been working on our 2019 taxes this week, which I enjoy because it gives me a 10,000 foot view of Bottle’s financial picture.

Andy Blechman 27 Feb 2020 • 2 Min Read

I’ve been working on our 2019 taxes this week, which I enjoy because it gives me a 10,000 foot view of Bottle’s financial picture. 

As I was sorting out and categorizing expenses, I realized that Meredith and I have been paying Verizon $20 a month for an iPad line we never use. 

This happened a few more times — spot a subscription, get bummed I wasted money for something I don’t use, figure out how to cancel it. I’m sure most people have experienced this at some point in the last few years. 

The market is flooded with subscription services. And as a result consumers are experiencing subscription fatigue — a term Will coined to describe the fact that customers are hesitant to sign up for yet another subscription. 

There is anecdotal and empirical data that suggests this is an observable trend that is likely to continue. 

For example, a few months ago Sunbasket, a leader in the meal kit space, moved away from a pure subscription model. You can now place a one time order or sign up for a meal plan through the service. And unlike other meal kit companies that have struggled, Sunbasket appears to be thriving.

Harry’s introduced a new membership program earlier this week and is sunsetting subscribe and save on individual products. 

Finally, PWC surveyed 2,000 Americans about their digital subscriptions. Two interesting observations from the survey:

A quarter of all consumers are actively looking to unsubscribe from some of their services, citing a lack of need, perceived worth and making room for another service as top reasons to terminate.
Many consumers already know how to get the content they want, strategically maneuvering in and out of subscriptions to curate their library of content. This mindset may only increase in popularity as an onslaught of new services enter the market. Nearly two-thirds of consumers who intend on subscribing to a new video service would terminate or downgrade one or more of their current subscriptions to make room for a new one.

Subscription fatigue is a real trend. How brands adapt will be critical to their evolution. We believe that brands can effectively navigate the fatigue by creating soft subscriptions.

Instead of asking a customer to commit upfront, a brand can follow up with a text post purchase nudging a customer to reorder. We think this is an elegant way to increase repurchases while avoiding the inertia associated with signing up for a subscription.