16 Subscription Business Models: What Consumer Brands Can Learn

Joanna Perry

January 22, 2020

We've profiled 16 subscription business models from around the world in our latest piece of ecommerce insight.

The aim is to highlight best practice, and provide inspiration to consumer brands who want to create ecommerce subscription business models of their own. You can download the full report here.

Monthly subscription box start-ups have generated a lot of buzz; brands and retailers are also adding subscription and auto-replenishment options to their existing ecommerce sites. 15% of American online shoppers have signed up for at least one ecommerce subscription service, according to McKinsey. The number of online subscriptions springing up has also grown quickly in Europe and Australia.

Why subscription business models?

When analysing the 16 examples we’ve looked at both the proposition and the business that has introduced the idea. Subscriptions succeed where they deliver against one of the three following aims. They are:

Access: Providing customers with products they can’t get elsewhere, or at a cheaper price through subscription;

Curation: Providing inspiration with an edited selection of products that may be personalised to customers’ tastes;

Replenishment: Providing convenience by automating the ordering of items that customers regularly require.

Some of the examples are trying to excel at meeting one of these aims – such as Amazon’s Subscribe & Save proposition for the replenishment aim. Others, such as health snack provider Graze, meet all three of the aims to some degree.

Key subscription takeaways

Each example provides different inspiration, but there are some clear themes from our research that it is worth highlighting.

  • The model must support customer acquisition and retention. Long subscription terms will limit sign-ups, but churn rate is also a crucial metric. Discounts for longer subscriptions, and discounts for paying in full upfront are both mechanisms to encourage loyalty.

  • To meet the replenishment aim, it’s helpful to allow the customer to choose the shipping cycle, or offer the exact amount that’s required for a standard cycle, such as Dollar Shave Club with its monthly delivery cycle.

  • Ensure your offer stays relevant to subscribers beyond the minimum time-frame. What’s going to ensure that they renew? Nike’s and KiwiCo’s propositions are designed to adapt with the customer.

  • Add value for customers who commit to longer subscriptions, or pay the total cost of the subscription upfront. Create a model that adds value for additional commitment, such as GoodnessMe Box has.

  • If you have an existing ecommerce site, how could a subscription model complement this? Amazon’s Subscribe & Save option is one that relevant D2C brands could consider adding to their website.

  • A subscription model can test new products, or generate feedback from customers. KiwiCo uses customer feedback for product development, and the brands supplied by GoodnessMe Box want their products sampled to generate exposure.

  • Technology can be both an enabler and a blocker. Ensure systems don’t limit your ability to create an optimal proposition. Gousto uses AI to predict demand and HP is dabbling in the Internet of Things with HP Instant Ink.

In conclusion, we’ve found that the best subscription business models solve a customer problem and happen to do it with a subscription, rather than the other way around. Spotting a customer pain-point or gap in the market should be the first aspect of any subscription model development.

Download the full report now, and contact us here if you would like more details of how we could help you to develop or optimise a subscription proposition. 

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Slowing Inflation is Music to Consumers’ Ears
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Slowing Inflation is Music to Consumers’ Ears

**Instrument Pricing Changes Tune Amid Record Inflation** Compared to 2022, consumers should expect to pay more for musical instruments, but the rate of inflation shows signs of slowing. **The backstory:** America’s most popular musical instruments saw a notable price increase in 2022 compared to 2021, but the rate of inflation eased in Q4 ’22. **Why it matters:** Slowing inflation within this product category could indicate economic pressures like increased demand, rising labor costs, and supply chain disruptions are easing across the consumer landscape. **What we’re seeing:** The average cost of musical instruments increased 7.5% from 2021 – 2022; however, when analyzing individual increases year over year, some instruments saw price increases as high as 21%. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Instruments — 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-02Lwk" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/02Lwk/2/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="379" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * Trombones experienced a 21.73% increase compared to 2021 * Trumpets +20.08% * Flutes +18.6% * Recorders +16.13% * Saxophones +13.63% * Clarinets +10.55% * Drums +5.41% * Ukuleles +5.17% **However:** Inflation among these same instruments was significantly less in Q4 ’22 compared to Q4 ’21. In some cases, prices decreased from Q4 ’21 – Q4 ‘22: <iframe title="Price Change for Instruments — Q4 2022 vs. Q4 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-6X6GZ" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/6X6GZ/2/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="379" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * Trombones +11.23% * Flutes +10.41% * Saxophones +5.94% * Clarinets +5.59% * Trumpets +3.10% * Recorders +2.85% * Drums -2.59% * Ukuleles -8.46% **Moreover:** Certain instruments saw inflation reverse in 2022. On average, prices for melodicas, guitars, and violas saw their prices decrease by 4.41%, 3.19%, and 0.97%, respectively. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Instruments — 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-0Tefk" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/0Tefk/3/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="259" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **Diving Deeper:** Inflation was more significant when comparing Q4 ’21 to Q4 ’20 than when comparing Q4 ’22 to Q4 ’21, indicating a slowing down of price increases for consumers. <iframe title="YOY Q4 Price Change for Instruments — 2020 – 2022" aria-label="Stacked Bars" id="datawrapper-chart-p6iqt" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/p6iqt/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="206" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * In Q4 ’21, average prices for all instruments were up 8.89% compared to Q4 ’20. * When comparing Q4 ’22 to Q4 ’21, the average price for all instruments only increased by 2.65%. **The takeaway:** While consumers should expect to pay higher prices for instruments this year, overall inflation impact within this product category appears to be slowing down. With National Ukulele Day coming up on February 2, now is a great time for ecommerce brands to take advantage of slowing economic worries and reach new consumers. * Want Pattern’s data science team to power your brand with consumer insights like these? Contact us to [request more information](https://pattern.com/contact-us/) today.

Slowing Inflation? What Musical Instrument Pricing Tells Us
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Slowing Inflation? What Musical Instrument Pricing Tells Us

It’s safe to say consumers and brands alike are eager for a change to the pattern of rising inflation, steadily increasing in many ecommerce categories . Pattern’s internal team’s data scientists analysis of instrument pricing shows a glimmer of hope that inflation may be slowing, which would be great news for brands selling online.

At Pattern, we’re interested in and monitoring trends and news related to pricing since price is a key factor in a brand’s profitability (as explained in the Ecommerce Equation). When brands are able to optimize their price, conversions, and traffic, they can optimize their profitability. And profitability leads to better allocation of resources, better brand control, and gives leaders the ability to expand their presence to new markets worldwide.

YoY Instrument Pricing Increased at a Slower Pace

When analyzing the pricing changes of instruments from 2021 to 2022, our teams found that prices increased, but at a slower rate than from 2020 to 2021.

As shown below, the year over year Q4 changes show quite a lower rate of increase.

Inflation Improvements Raise Profitability

Because inflation impacts online shopping behaviors, lower inflation can lead to better overall profitability for brands. This idea, of course, is nuanced, but Pattern’s Ecommerce Equation can help illustrate the general principle.

When inflation rises, consumers change their spending habits. Shoppers spend more time researching products, forego premium, higher-priced brands, and buy more in bulk. Brands tend to see a loss of loyalty as they’re forced to raise prices.

Price is a key variable in the Ecommerce Equation: price x conversion x traffic = profitability. As inflation lowers, brands can expect better performance in all of these areas—more traffic as spending habits return to normal, higher conversion from returning customers, and price that better fits consumer demand. As inflation lowers and these variables stabilize, brands will see profitability increase.

Raise Your Profitability with Pattern

As an ecommerce accelerator, Pattern is obsessed with gathering data that helps our brand partners succeed. We’ve created best-in-class technology, models, and analytics to understand changes on the horizon and inform our decisions. With an incredible team of data obsessed Pattern employees, we see what makes the difference in truly great ecommerce performance and apply those learnings for brand partners. 

Ready to improve your profitability? Contact us here.

Inflation hits LEGO, but lighter than you’d suspect
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Inflation hits LEGO, but lighter than you’d suspect

**Some sets get more expensive, while others become cheaper** In June 2022, LEGO announced it would be increasing the prices of their sets. Ever since, consumers anticipated their favorite plastic construction toy prices to increase [by as much as 25%](https://9to5toys.com/2022/06/02/lego-officially-confirms-price-increases-coming-to-most-sets-later-this-fall/). **Why it matters:** Consumers are feeling the sting of inflation in all areas of their lives, from groceries and gas to entertainment. With LEGO Day right around the corner (January 28th), fans may wonder whether it’s a good time to purchase a set. **What we’re seeing:** While inflation continues to ravage the economy, consumers are seeing a small reprieve when it comes to the pricing of LEGO sets. Despite the anticipated 25% price increase, average prices among the top LEGO sets only increased by 4.7% year over year when comparing Q4 2022 to Q4 2021. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for All LEGO Sets – 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Interactive line chart" id="datawrapper-chart-3gn9L" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/3gn9L/3/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="393" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * During this same period, annual prices for some of the most popular LEGO sets were up as much as 23%. <iframe title="U.S. Price Change for LEGO Sets – Q4 22 vs. Q4 21" aria-label="Split Bars" id="datawrapper-chart-vh7B2" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/vh7B2/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="708" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **Yes, but:** Prices of other popular sets were down by as much as -12% during this same period. Depending on the kit, consumers might actually find some popular LEGO sets have gotten less expensive since 2021: * LEGO Star Wars Imperial Probe Droid was down -6% in Q4 2022 vs. Q4 2021 * LEGO Creator Tuk Tuk was down -7% * LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Millennium Falcon was down -10% * LEGO Ideas Tree House Business Kit was down -12% **However:** Even for the sets that experienced a price decrease, the decrease was less significant in Q4 2022 as set prices increased across the board following the June 2022 announcement. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Individual LEGO Sets – 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Interactive line chart" id="datawrapper-chart-KjSXz" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/KjSXz/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="400" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **The takeaway:** While prices didn’t increase as much as consumers anticipated, inflation still had an effect on the cost of LEGO sets. As ecommerce brands prepare for increased demand ahead of LEGO Day, they could increase customer interest in all sets by promoting the sets that have seen a price decrease. * Pattern’s data science team analyzes consumer demand on Amazon to understand how economic forces impact pricing and shopping behavior. If you’re interested in using insights like these to propel your ecommerce strategy forward, [contact our team today. ](https://pattern.com/contact-us/)