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?

Key Subscription Ecommerce Statistics

Want the quick version? You'll find the top numbers here, with a little more detail further on:

  • 1 in 10 people in the UK is a member of at least one subscription box type offering already
  • A further 1 in 20 isn't yet but wants to be
  • Over a third of 18 to 24s say they're a member of at least one subscription offering
  • Demand for subscription gifts has more than doubled in the last 4 years
  • Between January 2020 and January 2022, searches for "subscription ecommerce platform" increased by 53%

How many people buy subscription boxes?

We conducted a small survey of 1,003 people in the UK in March 2022 (using Google Surveys) and asked the following question:

  • Are you a member of any subscription box clubs (i.e where you get a package delivered monthly or other frequency sucg as beauty subscriptios, food or drink subscriptions etc)?

We found:

  • 7.4% of people subscribe to one subscription club
  • 3.3% subscribe to more than one
  • 5.6% don't subscribe to any but want to

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
Subscription gifts 4400 6600 6600 12100 9900
Food subscription box 1600 1900 1900 5400 3600
Gin subscription 2900 3600 3600 6600 4400
Beer subscription 2900 5400 4400 8100 6600
Coffee subscription 5400 5400 6600 11900 9800

 

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. 

Demand for Technology

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:

  1. To automatically take payments at the correct frequency. For some subscription products, it might be the case that everyone gets billed monthly. For others, customers might have the flexibility to choose the frequency they receive their orders. Some might be on monthly, others on quarterly. Your technology needs to take the right payment on the right date for each customer
  2. To enable you to fulfil the order. Your technology should be ensuring that an order is created for each product/box you're sending out so that your team can pack it up and process on time every single time
  3. Customer subscription management. Your customers should be able to login, cancel, amend, pause or upgrade subscriptions easily. 

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).

"Subscription ecommerce platform"

Searches for "subcription ecommerce platform" in Google (globally) have risen by 53% since January 2020.

  • In January 2020, 170 searches for the term were made globally
  • This number was  260 in January 2022

"Subscription App Shopify"

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. 

Getting started with subscriptions

Want to start offering subscriptions to your customers? We support subscriptions right out of the box - no third party plugins needed.

 

 

 

Published

16 Mar 2022
 

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