subscription psychology

The psychology of the subscription shopper in 2019

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Featured Image by: Nicole DeKhors

Evolution is natural and happens gradually over generations and through centuries.  Being alive today is wildly different than those who never experienced the 21st century.  We have evolved; technology has changed shopping which has exponentially increased wants and expectations. We can shop for anything from our couches, find a date from the comfort of our beds. Health can be tracked from a watch, and people have more apps on there phones then they could use regularly.  Shopping is almost effortless these days. Adapting as a business, understanding consumers, and providing the tools shoppers expect is a constant battle.

Knowing your customers isn’t enough, businesses need to understand, and cater to their customers to succeed in the subscription commerce.  Charging a customers’ card on a recurring basis is a dream come true for business owners, and convenient for customers.

Understanding today’s subscription shoppers could be the difference between succeeding and failing for businesses with recurring revenue models.

EVOLUTION OF CONSUMERS

The days of making wish lists from catalogs, window shopping, or sending checks with order slips are virtually gone. Print catalogs were moved online and almost all businesses were forced to adapt with technology.

Ok, ill concede… My grandma still gets catalogs in the mail, but she does her shopping online with her iPad!

She’s savvy enough to find lists on Amazon, open a birthday list with links to items she can click and purchase, and can FaceTime. Parents have to keep up with technology if they want to understand, provide, keep safe, and mold their children into ethically and morally sound individuals.

TIME AND TECHNOLOGY 

Before internet and email people were made aware of new stores, sales, services, and specials through traditional forms of media. These included things like television ads, print media, snail mail, billboards, & other signage.

Since technology continues to evolve at a neck-breaking pace, consumers have been conditioned to expect new and better experiences all the time.

Digital communication channels have been exploding with growth since the year 2000. Shoppers now have features like: live chat, customer portals, social media, online knowledge banks, etc., etc.

Consumers also have the ability and channels to voice their opinions, good or bad and/or research other options. Shoppers have less incentive to be loyal and it’s easier for them to take their business elsewhere with a clicks. This is why having solid tools behind your business mean EVERYTHING when you are scaling a business.

None of these consumer features were options in the past without spending thousands on development. However, with changing technology tools like PayWhirl have emerged to help make the billing part of your life easier.

WHO ARE SUBSCRIPTION SHOPPERS?

Almost everyone today is a subscription shopper in one way or another; if it’s not for meal delivery, clothing, makeup, or razor replenishment, it’s for media like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Audible. For more specific/niche market subscriptions there tends to be a general consumer profile.  A study by McKinsey & Company describes subscription shoppers as:
younger urbanites, 25-44 years old, with incomes from $50,000 – $100,000 living in urban environments in Northeastern United States”.

Another study by Hitwise describes today’s US subscription shopper as: 18-24 year old female millennial hipsters in college towns, who like to try new things, and value product suggestions and reviews.

However the UK Hitwise describes the subscription shopper as: young females with a spread of personal incomes, who are fashion-conscious, ethical, and influenced by celebrities and external recommendations. They are moving to include “older adventurous males with higher incomes, who are time-poor and willing to pay for quality”.   

Technology is the driving catalyst in consumer evolution, whether they are young and hip or old and refined. No matter what generation a consumer belongs to, their wants and expectations have changed. Subscribers today are shopping online, reviewing products/services, contacting customer service, managing accounts, and searching for the best deals and experience. They are interested in innovative products and technology, but require validation from recommendations and reviews before committing to a purchase.

WHAT SUBSCRIPTION SHOPPERS WANT

Today’s subscription consumer wants everything they can get without a lot of effort.  Instant gratification with personalization intrigues them.  They want free things like shipping, exchanges, and/or returns. Shoppers like being rewarded through loyalty programs that earn points. Those points can be used toward things like, better deals/discounts, priority shopping on sales not yet available to the public, and free items like a tote bag.

Flexibility

Flexibility is also important to subscribers. When it comes to options companies can offer like frequency of deliveries, payment options, and add-ons for customized plans. Customers also want to shop from their phones, desktop computers, iPad’s, and Alexa or similar voice commanded assistants without difficulty.  They also want to have a variety of brands and product/service options to choose from; after all, they are adventurous and like to try new things!

Expectations

It’s because of these technological advancements, subscription shoppers expect to be reached when they’re in the mood and have the time to shop. They don’t want emails, ads, or messages about products/services when it’s inconvenient. They expect companies to know, or have an idea of, the right time to reach them which is when they are in a shopping mood and have time to check out email ads and peruse websites.  Customers like being reminded of things they forget to keep track of. They are interested in sales, items status (back in stock), or things they might have left in their cart.

Personalization

It’s because of this detailed personalization they also expect to be recognized as a customer not just a random person when they contact customer service.  If their contact information is on file, they expect the customer service agent to address them by name and know their recurring order history, payment methods on file, subscription profile information, etc.. 

Consumers also take security very seriously and expect companies with their private personal information to keep it private and personal.  Security breaches are detrimental to the success of customer retention.

WHY CUSTOMERS SUBSCRIBE

Maybe its targeted incentives, a consumers’ willingness to try something new, an attempt to make their lives easier, or a great recommendation/review; no matter the reason today’s shopper will sign up and give a subscription a try. 

Consumers like subscription businesses because they have the ability to adjust order capacity, and there’s a smaller upfront investment. They also have the freedom to continue or discontinue the subscription. More times than not, cost is aligned with the value of products or services.

It’s not enough to know the demographic of subscription shoppers, or what they want. Subscription businesses need to understand why customers subscribe, why they stay, and why they cancel when they do. McKinsey & Company did a study on these reasons with the goal of understanding the journey shoppers take and the reasons they make those decisions when it comes to subscriptions.

To find out why consumers signed up for a subscription, they were asked: 

Thinking back to when you first started thinking about subscribing to [brand], what are the 3 main reasons you subscribed? Which of the following is the most important reason you first started thinking about subscribing to [brand]?

To find out why consumers continued subscribing they were asked: 

Now, what is the most important reason why you continue to subscribe to [brand]?

To find out why consumers ended up cancelling the subscription they were asked:

You indicated that you used to subscribe to [brand] but no longer do.  Which reasons below best describe why? Note: Only showing individual brands that were answered by 40 or more respondents.

Analyzing your subscription shoppers regularly is a strategic necessity because of fast moving markets, advancing technology, and new business models which are changing subscribers’ wants, needs, and shopping habits.  Subscription businesses must dive into the customers’ journey, know their digital preferences, product affinity, demographic, and how they respond to offers.  It’s not easy, but PayWhirl’s reporting and analytics pages can give businesses valuable information and statistics need to make key business decisions.

Customers often will give signals about their needs, wants, and intentions from their first interaction. All you have to do is listen!… Or have a tool like PayWhirl that will help you track valuable information about customers.  

They want to be heard, understood and respected as individuals.  That’s why 84% of customers say being treated like a person and not a number is very important to winning their business. 

As always, if you have any questions about this blog post or PayWhirl’s recurring payment features. We’d love to hear from you.