Subscription ecommerce has seen phenomenal growth over recent years. From monthly gin boxes to quarterly beauty boxes (and even subscription gifts for your pooch), it seems there's a subscription for everything.
But is it just a fad? As this sector was vastly inflated by lockdowns, will the novelty wear off as Covid restrictions end in the UK?
Want the quick version? You'll find the top numbers here, with a little more detail further on:
We conducted a small survey of 1,003 people in the UK in March 2022 (using Google Surveys) and asked the following question:
And when we look at specific age groups, there's a huge variation. In short, it's younger consumers who are more likely to have active subscription memberships. In fact, a phenomenal 36.7% of 18 to 24 year olds in our survey claimed to subscribe to at least one (29.8% to one and 6.9% to more than one).
If you'd like to see the raw data from our Google Survey, you can access it here.
Subscription Demand in Search
One of our favourite ways to gain a little insight into the thoughts of consumers is to dig into their Google search habits. So, with a little help from kwfinder.com, we've taken a look at the statistics around subscription ecommerce to find out about growth in the space.
As a popular gift option, it will come as no surprise to find that searches by consumers for subscription products peak at key gifting seasons. So, for consistency, we took a look at the estimated number of searches in Google UK for various subcription terms in December 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2021 to see what happened before and during Covid.
Here's what we found:
|Search term||Dec 17||Dec 18||Dec 19||Dec 20||Dec 21|
|Food subscription box||1600||1900||1900||5400||3600|
As we'd expect, there's very clearly a peak throughout the height of the Covid pandemic where online shopping across a host of verticals surged, subscriptions included. But even as restrictions have eased, volume remains high.
Comparing December 2017 with December 2021 (the latter being free of the majority of Covid restrictions), there's a significant growth.
What's exciting for subscription retailers is that our statistics here look at just 5 search queries out of thousands of possible variations. The demand from consumers is vast and growing. Better than that? Subscription customers typically represent much higher lifetime value customers too.
Where consumer demand rises, so too does demand from retailers for the technology to fulfil.
Processing and managing subscription customers presents challenges that don't exist in one off transaction processing and fulfillment.
Amongst the very many things that retailers need to sell, fulfil and manage subscription customers are these key things:
Ecommerce platforms haven't traditionally been built from the ground up for this type of transaction. So as retailers look to add subscriptions to their existing offerings, we've seen a demand in the technology to facilitate it.
In much the same way that consumers head to Google when they're looking for a subscription product, retail business owners head there when researching their options too.
So we look at a look at a few queries to look at patterns over time (globally in this case).
Searches for "subcription ecommerce platform" in Google (globally) have risen by 53% since January 2020.
Where we really this demand though is when we start to look at queries implying retailers trying to add subscription functionality to platforms that don't support it natively.
So, for example, retailers using Shopify have to subscribe to a third party app to enable this functionality and searches for "subscription app shopify" have seen huge increases as a result.
Searches for this query have risen by 296% since January 2019, from 480 searches that month to 1,900 in January 2022.
If we look at the volume monthly over that time, we can see a clear peak once again through the height of the pandemic restrictions.
But even as we see restrictions lifted in much of the world, the numbers still look high as retailers on the platform look to try and add subscription functionality:
A phenomenal surge at the height of the pandemic has tailed off slightly as restrictions have eased. But we still saw more than double the searches in January 2022 vs January 2022.
Want to start offering subscriptions to your customers? We support subscriptions right out of the box - no third party plugins needed.