Mornings can be hectic in a household with school-age children. Suddenly, there is no milk, no matching socks in size 12, and the rabbit has wrecked its cage in a desperate search for food. How convenient it would be to have rabbit food delivered on your doorstep instead of having to haul it home after work.
New research on the subscription economy carried out by MEC on behalf of Nets confirms its rapid growth, not least in the Nordics where the average consumer has taken out 8-12 subscriptions, while the European average is about 4.
The numbers tie in well with the Nordics being Europe's most digitised region, according to the European Commission's Digital Economy and Society Index 2017. Most of the population uses the internet and has advanced digital literacy, and across the Nordic society there is an efficient and secure sharing of data across the private and public sectors.
Convenience is king
While newspaper and magazine subscriptions have been prevalent for years, customer-preferences are driving the business model into other industries. The set-up is simple: by paying a regular fee, the consumer gains access to a product or service that is mass-customised using big data, and often includes a surprise element to retain interest. The growth in the subscription economy is not least driven by physical goods-based services, with beauty products, household products and animal food products as sought-after categories:
"Modern life is hectic, and the convenience of having your household products delivered on the doorstep is an important driver in the subscription economy, along with the cost element," says Rafael Grill, Corporate Services at Nets.
He is backed by MEC's findings, which also indicate access to a greater variety of products and services as another key driver.
The disloyal customer
According to MEC, the average Nordic consumer subscribing to more than four services is likely to be a woman aged 25-44 earning just above €40,000 a year. She is estimated to spend nearly 4% of her disposable annual income on subscriptions, which roughly translates to some €75 a month.
A female consumer subscribes to both goods and services across categories, but with a higher preference for physical goods than the typical male subscriber. Age matters too, as Generation Z subscribers of both genders are likely to subscribe to video and music services as well as beauty subscriptions, while Generation X subscribers aged 45-65 prefer video streaming, beauty products but also household products.
The average male subscriber has a propensity for access-based services, probably driven by a demand for unique content by providers such as Netflix and HBDO, and for gaming:
"In the future, I think we'll see media service providers increasingly differentiate themselves by content, which means consumers will subscribe to more than one service. This again could well lead to a higher customer churn, as subscribers will switch supplier when a new and exciting production comes along," says Rafael Grill, Corporate Services at Nets.
Young consumers value experiences over ownership
"2-hour grocery delivery. It's a thing" it said on a sign displayed outside a Whole Foods store in February. Promoting the Amazon Prime Now Delivery, the sign pretty much sums up the proliferation of e-com and subscriptions in the US. 2017 numbers by McKinsey and company, quoted by Forbes, indicate that the US subscription e-commerce market has grown by more than 100% over the past five years. Meanwhile, the British milkman is experiencing a renaissance with consumers going back to glass bottled milk delivered on the doorstep, prompted by Prime Minister Theresa May announcing government plans to scrap all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. Doorstep deliveries of glass bottles are up by 25% in just two years to about one million, according to industry body Dairy UK.
As Generation Z (age 15-24) enter the workforce, they are expected to further drive the subscription economy due to their preference for experiences and renting over ownership. Apart from media services, consumers are expected to opt for subscription services built around new experiences which makes leisure and food categories likely to become popular categories. Travel is also likely to emerge as a popular sub-category, with subscription services offering convenience and cost-saving. Within food services, the rise of the conscious consumer is expected to affect the supply of sustainable foods, while the appetite for variety will be another driver within the food category.
SUBSCRIPTION ECONOMY: CONSUMER PERSPECTIVE is the second of a two-part whitepaper series. It looks at the consumer aspects of a subscription economy; the demographic make-up, references, and how changes in the composition of subscribers is impacting supply in the subscription economy. Read the first whitepaper on business aspects of the subscription economy here.