How subscriptions become indispensable to consumers’ lives

New York, NY

New research from Digitas unpacks the growing need of subscriptions—and what it takes to turn them into something consumers can’t live without. 

Today, there are more subscription* services than ever—consumers can now pay a subscription fee to access entertainment services, transportation and groceries, on-demand fashion and more, across both B2C and B2B landscapes—and it’s shattering the traditional purchase funnel.

For brands, this presents both opportunities and challenges, as companies seek to make their subscription services not just nice-to-have, but a need-to-have – deeply woven into their subscribers’ lives, offering conveniences, access and perks that they feel they can’t live without.

A new study from Digitas, “The Subscribers Dilemma: From ‘More Please’ to ‘No Thanks’”, examines consumer subscription preferences—and what makes them feel indispensable to the consumer’s way of life. The most essential subscriptions, according to the study, are in the clothing, music and TV/movie categories. The least essential? Transportation, pet food/supply and personal care.

The survey was commissioned by Digitas’ intelligence hub, Vera, and conducted online by the Harris Poll of over 2,000 U.S. adults, among whom over 1,400 currently have subscriptions.

Click here to view full results of “The Subscribers Dilemma: From ‘More Please’ to ‘No Thanks’”, along with a companion guide on how brands can navigate and connect with consumers in the growing subscription economy.

*Subscription defined as an agreement whereby a customer pays an organization a subscription fee (e.g., monthly/annual) for access to products or services.

Subscribers among the following categories believe these subscriptions to be absolutely essential:

  1. Clothing/Accessory Subscriptions (35%)
  2. Music (35%)
  3. TV/Movie (34%)
  4. Gaming (31%)
  5. Grocery (27%)
  6. Books (26%)
  7. Prepared Meals (24%)*
  8. Transportation (23%)
  9. Pet food/supplies (23%)
  10. Personal care (20%)

*Note: Small base size n<100

Motivators to subscribe:

  • Exclusive content? Nah: four out of five (81%) subscribers say access to exclusive content wasn’t a necessity to impact their decision to subscribe.
  • Peer validation: Adults ages 18 to 34 are more than 2X as likely than those ages 45+ to say they’re more likely to go forward with a full subscription if they’ve received compliments from peers on their subscription items (14% vs. 6%).

Connecting with brands: Smart email marketing is surprisingly subscribers’ preferred means of communication for correspondence related to their service, while chat bots are the least preferred.

  • 68% say they prefer to hear from their subscription companies via email
  • 3% say they prefer to hear from their subscription companies via chat bots  

Survey method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Digitas, between November 8-12, 2018, among 2,020 adults ages 18 and older, 1,461 of whom currently have a subscription. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact The study comes from Digitas’ intelligence hub, Vera, which is dedicated to uncovering truths that help brands achieve better connections and drive ambitious outcomes.  

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