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Is The World Oversubscribed?

Tien Tzuo
CEO, Zuora

Is the world oversubscribed? The Atlantic Magazine seems to think so. In a recent piece called “We’ve Reached Peak Subscription,” Amanda Mull writes that:

“The pandemic has been a boom time for subscriptions; not only have flashy streaming services for all kinds of video and audio content proliferated and grown, but delivery memberships for takeout, groceries, cleaning supplies, toys, supplements, raw meat, and virtually everything else have seen their subscriber bases swell. No one is sure how many subscriptions the average household will bear before it snaps and starts canceling things, but we might be about to find out.”

To which I say: Nonsense. Hogwash. Poppycock. Balderdash.

It’s true that personal subscriptions exploded during the pandemic, as stay-at-home forced us to seek digital alternatives to stay connected to the experiences we love. But if you think subscriptions are popular now, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In fact, according to the latest Subscription Economy Index, which is based on hundreds of subscription companies across dozens of industries, churn is actually lower than before the pandemic! Contrary to popular belief, we’ve found that subscription companies are keeping most of the gains they made during shelter-in-place.

The pandemic has changed us irrevocably. Today we’re all divinely discontent. We demand convenience and personalization. We demand compelling digital services that magically improve themselves. We demand autonomy and flexibility. We demand equity and sustainability. And we want all these things to happen yesterday.

Do you really think these new expectations are going away anytime soon? If anything, we want more subscriptions, not less. But clearly, the bar has been raised. Crap-in-a-box doesn’t cut it anymore. In this new world, thousands of companies have become instantly expendable.

Cable TV? Expendable. Clickbait news? Expendable. Generic retail experiences? Expendable. Drab doctor visits? Expendable. Brick-and-mortar retail shops with no online presence? Expendable. Cars that stay stuck in time forever? Expendable.

According to the US Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales accounted for just 13.2 percent of total US retail sales last year. That statistic tells me that over 85% of the consumer economy is still largely transactional, anonymous and at the risk of becoming completely expendable.

And all of those subscription companies that thrived during the pandemic? They have a secret. They understand that subscriptions aren’t about “monthly stuff.” Instead, they’re about creating direct, dynamic relationships with your customers, and exceeding their expectations.

In short, these companies have unlocked the power of the divinely discontent consumer, and have avoided the expendability trap. And in order to learn from these winners, and unlock the potential of this new post-pandemic economy, you’re going to need a new set of keys.

So how do you get those keys? Well, you can start by joining us on April 7 at our event, Zuora Unlock, to hear from a lineup of visionary speakers, myself included, and learn what it takes to start owning customer relationships today and into tomorrow.

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