Subscription Commerce

New Data: How Subscription Box Merchants Can Contend In The Amazon Age

Consumers can access a wide range of retail products through subscription boxes, including meal kits, pet supplies and beauty items — to name a few options. These services are highly popular, with an estimated 41.2 million American adults subscribing to some type of subscription retail product offering.

The subscription box market is filled with familiar brand names like Blue Apron, Dollar Shave Club, Loot Crate and Stitch Fix, but one name holds a commanding share in consumer retail products: Amazon. New PYMNTS survey data found that nearly half of respondents — not including those with Prime accounts — receive some type of retail product through an Amazon-backed subscription.

The company’s domination in subscriptions means merchants have little room for error as they seek to onboard and retain customers. The most recent Subscription Commerce Conversion Index, a PYMNTS and Recurly collaboration, is based on survey responses from 2,130 U.S. retail product subscribers, and aims to help providers pinpoint the best opportunities for success in the Amazon age.

The good news for these merchants is that an overwhelming share of subscribers are highly satisfied with their current services. The bad news is that cancellation risks are still high for roughly one-fifth of those respondents in the next 12 months. In other words, subscription box merchants cannot afford to take their customers’ loyalty for granted.

So, what can subscription merchants do to improve retention, and reduce the threat of subscribers reaching for the cancellation button? According to PYMNTS’ research, they could be successful by offering bundling services, and enabling subscribers to purchase items beyond those included in the subscription box. This is true whether subscribers are enrolled in box-of-the-month services or want to replenish items like toothbrushes, diapers, shaving products and other items. The availability of bundling services could go a long way toward subscriber retention.

Among the notable findings outlined in the Index:

  • The average U.S. subscriber spends $464.81 on consumer retail product subscriptions — including for beauty products, clothing and fragrances — each year.
  • Amazon is the most popular subscription service, with 45.5 percent of respondents indicating they are enrolled in some type of consumer retail product subscription.
  • Satisfaction with consumer retail product services is strong, with 82.4 percent of subscribers indicating they are either “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their services.
  • The PYMNTS analysis found that 20.1 percent of consumer retail product subscribers plan to terminate their services in the next 12 months.
  • Among those subscribed to services with bundling package availability, 85.5 percent reported being satisfied with their services.

Find more than 200 data points outlining consumers’ subscription preferences in the Index, plus a Deep Dive on the key distinctions between box-of-the-month subscribers and those for replenishment-focused offerings.

About The Index

This edition of the Subscription Commerce Conversion Index, a PYMNTS and Recurly collaboration, gauges subscribers’ experiences in accessing consumer retail products using subscription services. The survey results are based on input from 2,130 qualified respondents.


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