Many businesses believe that membership and subscription models will be crucial to future growth but two new reports indicate that most are a long way from harnessing their potential.

Growth strategy firm Manifesto Growth Architects surveyed 504 senior business leaders across sectors spanning retail, finance, leisure, automotive and utilities for its How to Make Money from the Membership Economy report and found that 70% thought such models would be key to their prospects in the years ahead.

But only a quarter (24%) were currently implementing subscription models, with very few (7%) generating significant revenue via membership.

A similar proportion (24%) were trialling membership models but were not sure how they would evolve, while one in five (22%) saw potential but were unsure how to proceed.

Subscription fees often define the membership model, but Manifesto suggested that transactional, advertising and affiliate income can hold equal if not greater revenue potential and argued that business leaders need to explore new customer propositions in the wake of evolving tech and behaviour shifts linked to the membership economy.

A simple example of how businesses are failing to tap this model as successfully as they could, comes from separate research by The Kite Factory (formerly MC&C Media), which surveyed 2,000 consumers of DTC brands.

Most preferred to discuss subscription products on social or messaging platforms (35% used Facebook, 27% WhatsApp and 17% Facebook Messenger, but 80% said that subscription service providers still use email to communicate with them (just 19% of brands use Facebook, while 9% opt for Twitter).

The gap was particularly significant among 16-24-year olds, just 9% of whom said they preferred using email to communicate about their subscriptions, though this is compared to only 18% of those aged over 55.

This disconnect between the way businesses communicate and the platforms on which their customers are talking to each other, The Kite Factory said, is a key contributor to brands failing to achieve meaningful dialogue with existing or prospective customers in the subscription space.

Sourced from Manifesto Growth Architects, The Kite Factory; additional content by WARC staff