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Razors. Printer ink. Cleaning products. Dinner recipes with pre-weighed ingredients and nice easy instructions. You can order almost anything on regular subscription now. With 90% year-on-year growth in subscribers1 , the popularity of these services is exploding and it’s no wonder that businesses of all kinds are getting in on the action.

But what are the benefits for both buyers and sellers? More importantly, while subscriptions are still enjoying their meteoric rise, how can you make the most of the demand?

The Covid phenomenon

In 2020, partly due to necessity when in-person buying was sometimes impossible, consumers shifted to online shopping during lockdowns. By February 2021, 75% of shoppers2 said they were bagging more bargains online compared to pre-Covid. Whether due to shortages, a lack ofin-store stability, or shoppers seeking more reliability, existing subscription businesses saw massive growth and a slew of new sellers popped up.

But even in a world where Covid is less prevalent, the popularity of subscriptions shows no sign of fading. It seems that consumers’ appetite continues to grow at an average of 31% a year, according to Recharge.3 New subscription businesses enter the market all the time, across a vast array of industries and offering an even broader range of products.

Different types of subscription service

Replenishment subscriptions

These include regular use items, like dog food, nappies and laundry liquid. Things you’re going to run out ofthat you’ll want to stock back up on. Instead of going in-store or manually adding them to your cart, they arrive on your doorstep without hassle.

Curation

These are ranges ofitems chosen for you, such as snack packs, ethical chocolates or new additions to your wardrobe. These are often highly customisable and offer a more personalised, but still highly convenient, experience.

Access

These are your service subscriptions, like the (now seemingly endless) range of TV streaming services, magazine subscriptions or software.

So, what are the benefits?

If subscription services continue to be so phenomenally popular among shoppers, they must be doing something right. Consumers can benefit from:

  • Savings: Customers might choose to sign up for better value (often if you subscribe, you make savings when compared to buying the product over and over by yourself).
  • Convenience: No need to go in-store; no need to remember to buy when you’re running low; and – with curated subscriptions – there’s even no need to make a specific choice. Just pick from a few initial options on sign-up and you’re away.
  • Entertainment: There’s always a bit of a thrill receiving a parcel in the post. Plus many subscription services offer ‘blind’ boxes, where the shopper picks a topic (such as beauty or gaming) but doesn’t know exactly what items they’re getting… and who doesn’t like a surprise?

The perks aren’t all on the shoppers’ side either. Businesses can benefit from:

  • Increased acquisition and retention: If subscriptions are the ‘next big thing’ then organisations can miss out by not playing the game. By offering a model that gives consumers greater convenience and control, businesses can see a broadening of their customer base and, because a user then needs to opt-out once they’ve subscribed, greater retention.
  • Easier forecasting: You no longer need to be psychic to know how much you’re making next month or what your costs are likely to be – just total up your subscriptions. This long-term stability can also help businesses be more certain that they have money to invest in other projects, products or services.
  • A brand community: Subscription services often have the soft, but still increasingly important, benefit of creating engagement and loyalty among a customer base. Creating positive chatter and excitement on social media, or on your own forums, can only be a good thing.

The challenges

But making the shift towards subscriptions isn’t always easy. There are a few challenges businesses may need to navigate:

  • Moving from a transactional model (where you make a sale and move on) to a relational one (an ongoing service that relies on building long-term rapport with customers) is not a simple task. Businesses that are successful in this space align with their customers’ values, understand what benefits a subscription service could truly offer them, and create a strong sense of community.
  • When the market is so crowded, getting noticed can be tricky too. Knowing your point of difference is key. It’s important to harness data to understand your customers (it’s always safer to look at the stats than assume you know!) and deliver what they want in a timely fashion. Long delivery lead times won’t do the trick if your competitors can get there quicker.
  • The need to involve third parties, whether for deliveries or the technology to support a new model, can be tough. When part of the customer experience is out of your hands, you need to know it’ll reflect well on your brand. To make it a seamless customer journey, you need reliable partners you can trust to deliver a positive experience – every single time.

Wherever you are on the subscription model journey, it’s clear that subscriptions are here to stay. And that they are a big opportunity for almost any kind of ecommerce business to grab – and keep – a customer base crying out for modern convenience and control.

 



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