Subscription models are becoming increasingly interesting propositions to non-traditional companies entering this space. Manifesto Growth Architects’ Sam Jordan, explores why customer experience is at the core of the most successful membership brands.
You can’t think about the customer of the future without thinking about subscriptions. Over the last few years the way we buy products and services has been revolutionised by brands adopting subscription-based models: from tv, news and entertainment to household shopping, meals, shaving products and now even cars.
These services offer the consumer of the future some of the things they crave: convenience, quality experiences, and in some cases, belonging. As consumers’ lives become more time-constrained, more pressurised and more digital, they want brands to make their lives easier and provide connections to like-minded communities with similar interests.
The CX imperative
For businesses that are delivering subscription-based services the customer experience is paramount. This is a combination of many important factors but, in short, it’s both what you see and how you deliver it.
First, make it simple and easy for them to receive, use and return – if they want to. The barriers to doing this have to be systematically removed to deliver a good customer experience – and a good experience is the minimum customer expectation now. Also, don’t forget the product. Product consumption is still the core of the customer experience. People expect value based not only on the price they pay but the commitment they’ve made to you.
Engagement is also a factor in the customer experience, it should add value to the customer, not annoy them. For the business it’s an essential tool in creating and maintaining usage habits and upselling and cross selling in a way that increases the value of the customer over their lifetime.
What they’re buying
Moving beyond the borderline clichés of ‘digitally savvy’, ‘mobile first’, ‘experience seekers’, etc., the future customer is someone who will trade their time, trust, money and commitment for convenience and value. They’ll ‘outsource’ essential and hugely important parts of their existence to brands that can step in and offer services that enhance their lives.
Imagine the customer who subscribes to a car service in 10 years’ time – by then ownership will only be for collectors! They select the ‘school run’ option from Uber (or Volvo, or Amazon, or Tesco…). Every morning a car drives itself to their house to collect their kids and take them to school, maybe with an adult with them but maybe not. This service is a pretty compelling proposition for busy working parents. But think about how much faith the customer is placing in this brand – their kids are at risk. So, there’s safety of course, but also reliability; imagine the hassle and trauma involved for the parent if it doesn’t turn up on time or if it breaks down.
Based on this make-up, the customer experience will be the main focus for businesses in the future. It won’t be good enough just to make great things, they have to be provided in a way that adds value to the customer. And this is important as a good customer experience will be the minimum expectation and a great one is potentially a competitive advantage.
As a result, we’ll increasingly see businesses that specialise in the customer experience. They’ll find and acquire customers with value-adding propositions based on these experiences and manage the delivery experience. They already exist of course, Uber, Airbnb and even Spotify do just this. They don’t own any of the inventory they’re providing, but they do own the customer experience and therefore the customer relationship. That’s what they are experts in and that’s what customers (and stock markets) increasingly value.