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GUEST COMMENT Move over Netflix and Hulu — Retail is the next big subscription waiting to happen

Image: iStock

Over the last few years, the streaming subscription wars between Netflix and other services dominated the headlines. As that competition starts to cool down, a new battle is heating up. Amazon’s Prime service is starting to face fierce competition from competitors like Walmart+; with Target and other major retailers lining up to jump in. These new subscription services are poised to offer savings, as well exclusive products and fast delivery. 

Launching a subscription service enables organisations to offer their own services and promotions to scale, but also focus on an exclusive audience. Subscription services like Amazon Prime allow for organisations to take control of and leverage their buying power to provide exclusive deals and savings. 

Following Amazon’s footsteps, however, subscription services have also given competitors like Walmart the opportunity to upscale their digital presence and connect ecommerce services like Walmart+ to their physical stores. An element to building a subscription person like Amazon Prime or Walmart+ is also access to consumer data. 

Retailers are providing customers with exclusive perks or subscription-based discounts in exchange for information about their buying habits. Especially as we see strategies like Buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) grow, we’ll likely see subscription programs grow in tandem — providing a way for brands to cultivate loyalty but also reach consumers where they’re shopping. 

Organisations need to ensure that their digital infrastructure, be it apps, inventory, fulfilment software, etc. is prepared to handle the surge of traffic that these services bring. If not, systems will crash, orders will get lost, and people will quickly dump the service. Not to mention, the UX needs to be seamless and engaging. Keeping in mind — people are paying for this additional service — they don’t need to solely subscribe to shop with the retailer. Another key consideration for these businesses is to be adaptable. 

Whether it’s the product/service you are offering or the pricing, you need to be able to adjust. Competition is high and growing in this space, so being adaptable to the current landscape is imperative. 

In any situation where there’s a market leader, (Amazon Prime) increased competition fuels innovation and lowers prices. Amazon’s Prime offerings not only include expedited shipping, but access to Amazon’s large catalogue of movies and music. 

Walmart+ is looking to capitalise on their own unique offerings to offset that – it could include free delivery and exclusive access to new products before they go on sale. In this space, the competition might be fierce, but the customer is always set to win by gaining major perks from the brands they’re most loyal to. 

Generally, there’s no indication that the subscription-driven growth these companies are experiencing is set to slow down. While profits driven purely from the subscription services might level off, these services will remain innovative and ultimately drive  increased engagement with existing customers. 

As more consumer data becomes accessible and retailers focus on transparent relationships to exchange information with their consumers, this will translate to more thoughtful, targeted programs and experiences that cultivate loyalty. While supply chain issues might hamper upscaling of some of the delivery and fulfilment promises retailers have given, it doesn’t dim their potential in the long term.


Chris Cobb, VP of Design at Nerdery

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