Pandemic Boom Begins Wearing Off for US Subscription Brands

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on October 7, 2021

Attest releases its latest direct-to-consumer research report, surveying 2,000 working-age Americans

[7th October 2021] – Attest, a SaaS consumer research platform for today's fastest-scaling and biggest brands, today releases a report that shows the pandemic boom is finally starting to wear off for US subscription brands and that they will have to work harder to win customers in 2022. The new research found that 41% of Americans say they have an active product subscription, compared to 47% of consumers in 2020.

In line with this downward trend, the data also highlights a decline in the number of consumers actively looking for a new product subscription; down from 18% in 2020 to 14% today.

Americans are also less likely to have multiple product subscriptions in 2021; only 18% have more than one now, compared with 21% last year. Interestingly, the number of people who say they have never had a product subscription remains consistent from 2020’s research, stubbornly at 29%, which means brands have not been successful in tempting this segment over the last year.

What are Americans subscribing to?

Of the respondents who have a product subscription, over a third (37%) say they have a food or drink subscription - making it the most popular type. This is followed closely by personal care or health/fitness subscriptions (36%). The biggest shift from 2020 came in pet product subscriptions; last year, this was only the fifth most popular type of subscription box, but now it’s third (at 32%). Rising to fourth place this year is toiletries and cosmetics (30%), pushing clothing and shoes down to fifth (29%).

In terms of demographics, Millennials aged 26-40 are the most committed to product subscriptions with 49% reporting having one or more (25% currently have one, and 24% have more than one). Meanwhile, Gen X (aged 41-55) are most likely to say they had a product subscription in the past but not now (32%), indicating subscriptions may have failed to deliver value for this age group.

America’s product subscribers cite convenience as the primary reason for their purchase - nearly a third (32%) own a subscription because it’s delivered straight to their door. This reason has jumped into pole position in 2021 (doubling from just 16% in 2020).

Opportunities still exist for brands

Despite the decline in people with subscriptions in 2021, the survey finds that 65% of Americans are open-minded to purchasing a product subscription. In fact, only 21% say they’re unlikely to consider a subscription (down from 27% last year).

However, there’s one thing that’s most important for Americans thinking about buying a product subscription. Nearly 7 in 10 consumers (68%) say value for money is their biggest purchasing concern. The second most important factor is the ability to choose what products are sent (54%), followed by a subscription that can be easily paused or canceled (53%). Meanwhile, ‘unboxing’, a prominent phenomenon of the social media age that has seen many D2C brands focusing on nailing great packaging and presentation, is important to just a fifth of Americans (21%).

This attention on value for money is also reflected in how much consumers would spend - most Americans are willing to pay between $10 to $20 a month for a new subscription (30%). A further 22% would pay $21 to $30 per month, while 12% would be prepared to pay $31 to $40 and 11% would shell out $41 to $50.

The Subscription Economy in 2022

Attest also asked Americans what they feel is currently missing from the Subscription Economy and what they would like regularly delivered to their door in the future.

The number one item most likely to be mentioned was alcohol. While there are already a number of subscription boxes catering to drinkers, the research threw up some ideas from consumers for more niche offerings. These include alcohol and cigar boxes, boxes that mixed alcohol with cosmetics and lingerie, and boxes with small samples of beers and spirits.

Behind alcohol, Americans expressed demand for the delivery of cannabis by subscription - with weed now legal in a number of US states for both recreational and medical purposes - this could represent a growth sector for subscriptions.