A growing share of consumers are seeking comfort and convenience in subscription services as they remain at home to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some subscription businesses such as Netflix are experiencing a surge in demand, with the online streaming service adding a record 15.8 million new subscribers during the first quarter for fiscal year 2020, largely due to the lockdown.
Some consumers are, however, tightening their belts as they feel the financial strains from the economic downturn, and subscription services may be one of the first to go. This means many are either using their friends’ or families’ accounts or canceling subscriptions that they do not often use. Companies are therefore strategizing how to continually deliver value and avoid frictions in service to retain their subscribers and emerge stronger on the other side of the pandemic.
In this month’s Subscription Commerce Tracker®, PYMNTS examines how the subscription economy is competing to meet customers’ needs and build trust while sustaining operations in a market that is being challenged by the pandemic.
Media and video streaming services have become welcome escapes for consumers under stay-at-home orders. They are relying hard on these platforms during the pandemic — not only for accessing the latest news and data, but for entertainment and remote work. Eighty broadband and telephone companies have thus banded together in an agreement to not disconnect consumers during the lockdown, according to Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Merchants in other industries are receiving the same helpful hand to help get by, such as small, independent restaurants. Food delivery platform DoorDash recently added 100,000 independent restaurants to its subscription offering, DashPass, without charge. DashPass enables consumers to place orders from eligible restaurants without paying the usual delivery fees. The hope is that new restaurants added to the app will see improved sales, while giving DashPass a better chance at survival.
Meal kit providers such as Blue Apron, Freshly and HelloFresh are all experiencing an uptick in orders as consumers try to take infrequent trips to grocery stores. Freshly delivered 5 million meals in March 2020 but anticipated delivering just 3.5 million. Demand for subscription-based services is being observed across the board, though: One report found that 22 percent of subscription firms across multiple industries have experienced growth in sales since the pandemic began.
For more on these and other subscription news items, download this month’s Tracker.
How Understanding Customer Preferences Pays Off
Consumers are turning to online subscriptions to get their caffeine fix now that cafés across the country are shut down. Engineering trust and building loyalty takes more than just delivering to their doorsteps every month, however. In this month’s Feature Story, PYMNTS spoke with Mike Lackman, CEO of New York-based coffee subscription provider Trade Coffee, on how personalization and offering in-store like buying experiences has become key to retaining customers.
Some subscription businesses including food delivery, digital content, gaming and streaming services are benefiting from a surge in demand, while others are struggling to retain subscribers. The subscription market is looking to avoid disruption to business models as the pandemic takes its economic toll. Pause features may be one viable option for helping sway subscribers away from canceling. In this month’s Deep Dive, PYMNTS examines how allowing users to temporarily suspend their accounts could go a long way in effectively saving customer relationships and the costs of efforts to acquire new subscribers or win back those who have canceled.
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