Twitter, Tripadvisor Herald The Next Wave Of Subscription Models

We can’t say 2020 wasn’t a watershed for subscription models, as at least 75 percent of all U.S. consumers signed on for at least one of them as the year ended. This has led to a rush of all kinds of new subscription options – from cars to streaming services to clothes, and even to Coca-Cola. At this point, it seems there is nothing one can’t buy via subscription. As CEO Brian Bogosian told Karen Webster in a recent conversation, it’s all a positive development for a rapidly digitizing economy.

“I think only good things will happen for merchants who endeavor to move into this area,” he said. “Part of the process inevitably is understanding your consumers’ wants, needs and desires better than your competitors do. And getting closer to your customer, understanding their needs, is integral to a successful online strategy.”

The past few weeks have seen some new, and perhaps surprising, entrants to the subscription field, in the form of Twitter and Tripadvisor experimenting with the model. Though different in kind and intent, both represent outside-the-box applications for two verticals where they have been conspicuously absent thus far: social media and travel. And both stand to prove that subscription models aren’t limited only to some verticals. As Bogosian noted, they can be leveraged to offer the consumer consistent value over time, enhancing the relationship and building loyalty by providing convenience.

Not every service will work, said Bogosian – at the end of the day, customers will decide where that value really is, and which subscriptions will go the distance.

Twitter Subscription Foray

While details are still emerging and no official word is out from Twitter on the subject, the rumor on the street – which has been confirmed by unknown sources in the company – is that Twitter will roll out a subscription version of its service that may allow subscribers to pull back tweets, add more visual decoration to their walls, put up things like automated responses and perhaps even see specialized Twitter content that is not available for non-paying users.

Bogosian hailed the move, noting it was a smart way for Twitter to get serious about monetizing the most desirable parts of its very popular platform. “I think it’s going to expand the breadth of what that platform was originally intended to do and create more of a community-like service with a full array of different options,” he predicted.

Webster, however, has her doubts. A foundational idea behind social media platforms, after all, is that access to the content is free for the users. But Bogosian said that as a platform, Twitter “has a lot of content that people would pay to access.” While it remains unknown how Twitter will develop its subscription program, it will allow the company to target enhanced services in a way that appeals to its user base. That’s something that is also reflected in Tripadvisor’s latest entry into the subscription field, he pointed out.

Tripadvisor’s Subscription Journey

Subscription services in the travel industry have been heretofore largely unseen, but Tripadvisor is offering a $99 yearly subscription to give consumers better access to pricing, experiences and other exclusive incentives. Noting that he had just booked his first family trip in a year, Bogosian applauded Tripadvisor for getting out ahead of what he expects will be a lot of pent-up demand.

“I think you’re going to find that Tripadvisor should have a broad array of properties and customers, and they will be able to recoup the value and the $99,” he said. “People will vote with their feet if they don’t provide the value they are promising. But I think there’s a great opportunity for them to do so.”

Bogosian noted that Tripadvisor is finding ways to build a subscription bundle that makes the opportunity to return to travel even more inviting and appealing – which is the key trick to subscription magic.

Consumers realistically can only afford so many subscriptions, Bogosian said. But by the same token, any subscription service can be successful if it delivers the right value set to consumers. That knowledge will result in subscriptions expanding and becoming more tailored to the consumer going forward. “I really think it’s the wave of the future,” he said.