How to succeed in the subscription economy

The subscription economy is booming, writes Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO and Co-Founder at Content Guru. From movies to music, groceries to razors, and even cars, consumers are increasingly turning their back on traditional ‘one-time’ purchases in favour of forming long-term relationships with brands they trust. So much so, that in the past seven years, the subscription e-commerce market has grown by more than 350%. 

Today’s consumers can now subscribe to just about any product category; makeup, meal kits, contact lenses, cosmetics, pet food, clothing, personal grooming and dental supplies. Indeed, according to a recent survey by McKinsey, 61% of online shoppers had signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products or services on a recurring basis.

It’s easy to see why. Subscription shopping offers a convenient and low-cost way to automate the repeat purchase of commodity items that need replenishing on a regular basis or access a range of media streaming services. It’s also exerting a strong appeal for consumers eager to access innovative products or personalised experiences – such as personally curated selections of clothing, skincare or food.

However, McKinsey’s research also found that consumers are quick to cancel services that don’t deliver a superior experience, so this should be top of the agenda for all businesses.

Long-term relationships equate to sustained growth and profitability

Switching to a subscription business model that delivers recurring revenue injections offers significant benefits for businesses, including a more predictable income and improved cash flow. But with demand for ‘as-a-service’ offerings in both B2B and B2C sectors on the up, companies that want to succeed in this new subscription economy will need a comprehensive understanding of how to nurture long-term customer relationships.

This pinpoint focus on relationships requires a new way of thinking that goes beyond simply concentrating on the ‘product’ or the ‘transaction’ alone. To survive and thrive in the subscription economy, companies need to invest in meeting changing customer demands as smoothly and effectively as possible.

Leveraging data on which products and services are popular to refine offerings further is just part of the story. Staying close to consumers depends on building closer connections and long-term engagement to foster customer loyalty.

Mastering service delivery through every channel

Organisations that are at the forefront of today’s subscription economy are harnessing artificially intelligent solutions such as chatbots and Natural Language Processing (NLP). This technology enables businesses to provide end-to-end customer journeys that are characterised by impressive speed, efficiency and personalisation.

By establishing a genuine omnichannel perspective, they’re able to adopt a truly customer-centric approach and generate the insights needed to deliver outstanding experiences at every stage of the purchasing journey.

Companies are seamlessly integrating all communication channels, making it easy for customers to move across multiple touchpoints, sign-up for subscriptions and self-serve when they need additional support.

By prioritising investments in new technologies, the companies that remain ahead of the curve have turned their contact centres into value centres, delivering what matters from a customer-satisfaction standpoint.

Contextualised, personalised and frictionless experiences

More satisfied customers have fewer issues that escalate into calls and are more likely to sign up for new products. Little wonder then that an omnichannel contact centre that deploys AI, working hand-in-hand with human agents, is critical for delivering the intelligent assistance that today’s service-driven consumers demand.

In recent years the chatbot has evolved, thanks to advanced new conversational user interfaces that make it easy for customers to track orders, receive advice and product recommendations, or escalate to a human agent for more complex issues. Instantly updated with the entire customer conversation and history, contact centre agents are able to seamlessly take over from the virtual assistant.

Similarly, NLP is providing unprecedented insights into how a customer is feeling and the nature of their issue. This game-changing technology extracts contextual meaning from tone of voice, key words, and sentiment expressed to generate a much deeper picture of the caller and even predict their future actions. Perhaps ironically, AI deployed in this way is helping organisations related to their customers on a more human level. Using this information, customers are routed to the agent or department best equipped to handle their enquiry. But it doesn’t end there.

NLP also offers organisations a way to find patterns of data in huge volumes of customer interactions and use these insights to determine areas of excellence or improvement within the business. In other words, NLP pinpoints the key information needed to cultivate customer loyalty.

To achieve success in the subscription economy, businesses will need to implement consistent, successful and tailored journeys across their entire customer base. Fortunately, today’s sophisticated customer engagement technologies make this an achievable reality.