These days you can subscribe to just about anything. Need a car, vitamins for the year, a weekly cycling class, or perhaps the ingredients for dinner delivered on ice? You got it—and all it takes is a single click.
The subscription business model is expanding across all industries—and fast. Use cases for subscriptions continue to expand and evolve, benefitting both consumers and businesses. Subscription businesses have consistently grown 5-8x faster than traditional businesses, according to the SEI report. It is clear that subscription-based products and services are here to stay.
How do you, a consumer, manage all of these online subscriptions?
Use this guide to learn the ins and outs of the subscription economy and how to effectively navigate your online subscription management.
The Subscription Business Model
Subscription business models date as far back as weekly milk deliveries. They’re based on charging customers a monthly or yearly fee for ongoing access to goods or services. Subscriptions are often renewed automatically with a pre-authorization of a credit or debit card. The focus of subscription-based models is customer retention, not just acquisition.
The Subscription Economy
Early subscription business models struggled to gain momentum due to a lack of infrastructure and consumer demand. But the model has evolved due to advancements in digital payment platforms and logistics, as well as increased consumer demand for simplicity, convenience, and now, safety. Super fast shipping, same-day delivery, and ultra-convenient payment methods—including digital wallets—have become standard. And as safety concerns continue to be top of mind for many post-pandemic consumers, subscription-based offerings have adapted.
Benefits of the Subscription Model
This so-called ‘Subscription Economy’ offers benefits for consumers and businesses alike. Consumers can stream hours of digital content, have products delivered to their door, or gain access to clothes and cars on demand— all for a monthly fee. Businesses can gain data about customer behavior, generate recurring revenue streams, and acquire other valuable tools and insights for expanding and growing in today's marketplace.
Benefits of the Subscription Model: Businesses
For businesses, the upfront revenue often associated with a subscription model is enticing and has encouraged outside-of-the-box thinking when it comes to strengthening customer relationships and tailoring product or service offerings.
Businesses that have adopted subscription models over the past decade have found it easier to track and predict revenue. Subscription payments are designed to be continually billed to customers for a period of time until they are intentionally canceled or the contract expires.
Recurring payments are easier to predict, especially when a contract is involved. The ability to forecast revenue via this model makes it possible for businesses to make longer-term operational decisions and present data to shareholders. This is why you will often see term minimums set by companies on subscriptions to allow for more accurate revenue data to be collected.
With more and more businesses taking on subscription models to sell their products or services, the focus has shifted towards cultivating long-term relationships with consumers, rather than just acquiring new ones. This line of thinking offers consumers a better experience overall as businesses adapt to the specific needs of their existing customer base. For example, let’s say that you decide to subscribe to a clothing rental service. Over time, your specific preferences are established and used to help suggest other items of clothing that may pair well with your previous selections. In contrast, when you make a one-off purchase, businesses learn little about your specific preferences or future behavior, and it is harder to tailor offerings to you.
Customers have more choices than ever before. However, when a customer signs up for a subscription, they are essentially pledging their loyalty to that specific brand. Because the subscription-based model is based so heavily on ensuring existing customers are satisfied, there is often higher customer satisfaction overall.
Benefits of the Subscription Model: Consumers
The subscription business model satiates consumers’ seemingly unquenchable thirst for convenience, novelty, and safety—at a lower cost.
Subscribe and Save
Consumer costs are often lower overall under a subscription model. Businesses often offer discounts to customers to entice them to join a subscription plan. The longer you subscribe, the more money you save versus making the same one-off purchase.
Try before you buy. According to a survey by C+R Research, 43% of consumers said they sign up for the free trial of a subscription before deciding to pay for a subscription service. This method is used by a number of companies to give customers a taste of what they could have with little risk.
The Covid-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders had a positive and profound effect on streaming service subscriptions. Demand for subscription meal delivery kits also increased, as dining options were scarce and the safest option was to cook at home. Contactless delivery was introduced on a number of mobile apps, allowing consumers to choose how much or how little contact they would have with a delivery driver.
How to Manage Online Subscriptions
From gaming subscriptions to health and home, the subscription model has proven to be beneficial in many ways. But the sheer volume of subscription services can be hard to manage. Some people sign up for so many subscriptions that they forget which ones they're using—or just paying for. This section has some pointers for you to manage your online subscriptions more effectively.
Perform a Subscription Audit
One way to manage your online subscriptions is to perform a subscription audit. Seeing all of your subscriptions in one place can be extremely eye-opening, and allows you to assess which subscriptions offer you the most value and pinpoint the ones you’ve been paying for and not using for the past five years—yikes!
A subscription audit can be as simple as making a list on your phone of all of your active subscriptions. You’ll want to include the following information:
- Name of the company
- How much the subscription costs
- How frequently it is billed
- Length of subscription and terms
- The account or card used as your payment method
- Cancellation policy
Taking inventory of the subscriptions you already have will require a bit of digging as you scour your bank accounts for recurring charges. Knowledge is power when it comes to online subscription management.
If you're looking to take an easier route, you can try a subscription manager instead. With a subscription manager like Truebill you can “…manage and cancel subscriptions with a tap.” Their service notifies users of upcoming subscription payments and even offers concierge subscription cancellation. Most subscription management tools are free to use and come in handy if you’re looking to save time and money.
Read the Fine Print
Many companies will boast about how easy it is to cancel a subscription if you aren’t satisfied, but this usually comes with a fair bit of fine print. Familiarize yourself with the company's specific policy on cancellations and always make note of a company's support address for any questions that come up.
How to Cancel Subscriptions Online?
All good things must come to an end. We get it, sometimes it can be tricky to figure out how to cancel a subscription once you’ve signed up. Keep these tips handy for the next time you decide to cancel one of your subscriptions.
Create Virtual Cards with Privacy
Whether you're subscribing to a wine of the month club or virtual classes with your favorite spin instructor, you should consider the payment method you want to keep on file.
When signing up for your next subscription, opt for a payment method that offers flexibility, control, and convenience.
Privacy Virtual Cards are a fantastic way to optimize your online subscriptions. Each Privacy Card you generate offers the ability to set limits on how much or how frequently a card can be used. You can also easily pause or permanently close a card.
Types of Privacy Cards:
- Can be used as many times as you’d like with the same merchant
- Lock to the first merchant they are authorized with and cannot be used with any other merchants, ensuring that a breach at one merchant doesn't put you at risk across the internet
Merchant Cards work best for online subscriptions because of the control they offer.
- Automatically close 2 minutes after your first transaction is authorized
- Cannot be used again after one transaction
Single-Use Cards are perfect for times when you are unfamiliar with a particular merchant.
Didn't use a Privacy Virtual Card to sign up for a current subscription? You can easily generate a Privacy Card and update the card information with a merchant—and you're good to go!
Virtual Card Controls
When using Privacy Cards to manage online subscription payments, it’s easy to monitor and stop subscription payments all in one place.
Using individual controls, you can pause the Card used to pay for the subscription while you read up on a particular company's process for canceling a subscription.
Closing a Privacy Card doesn’t cancel or nullify the agreement between you and the business! It’s always best to reach out to the business directly to find out, and follow, their cancellation process.
Types of Online Subscriptions
Subscription services have altered the way that we cook, travel, consume entertainment, and order household items for ourselves, and even our pets—with almost every good or service imaginable available for purchase using automatic interval-based payments.
Health & Nutrition
Forget the shopping list! Foodies and health nuts can choose from subscription boxes with fresh pre-portioned meal ingredients, ranging from celebrity-approved gut health tinctures to ready-to-eat lunches delivered straight to their door. How's that for no contact?
Media & Entertainment
Chose a streaming subscription for your binge-watching pleasure. With thousands of shows, movies, and music to choose from you may find yourself doing more scrolling than watching—don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Travel & Transportation
Why buy the car or the house when you can share it? Ride-sharing and travel booking companies are now offering paid subscription tier options. These subscriptions often offer exclusive frequency discounts to paying users.
From re-upping on toilet paper to toothpaste, all of your household essentials can be put on an auto-ship schedule so you never run out of or even have to think about making a last-minute drive to the store.
New beauty products are coming out in droves! It can be difficult to shop for makeup online or stray from your favorites, so opt for a subscription box that allows you to try the mini sizes before you commit to the full-size product.
Online gaming subscriptions were among the first subscriptions types to become popularized in the home. It’s easy to see why, they’re fun for the whole family, and make great gifts for the teen who is impossible to shop for.
Let’s face it, our furry friends are often considered part of the family. Treat your pet, and your wallet to a subscribe and save dog food plan, or opt for organic fresh food delivery because—they deserve it!
Online Subscription Management: Your Subscription Ecosystem
As the subscription economy continues to evolve, consumers should be empowered to take online subscription management into their own hands. Ultimately, curating a subscription ecosystem can enhance your day-to-day life—saving you time and money, and restoring peace of mind.