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Software stores leading the way when it comes to subscriptions, report finds

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The recently published SubscriptionX 2024 report, which will be discussed as part of Ecommerce World Review on 10 July, showcases that software stores are leading the way when it comes to offering subscriptions, with music and streaming services the most popular among consumers.

Subscription service uptake is generally increasing across all segments, with some markets proving particularly popular. 

The majority of global retailers offering a subscription programme are software stores, which account for one in five of those available. One reason for this is the move towards ongoing payments instead of one-off purchases when it comes to tech products and services, making them more affordable and ensuring access to the latest versions. 

Bookshops closely follow with 18% of total subscription services and consumer electronics stores making up 16%. Telecommunication providers account for one in 10 subscription services available worldwide, while music, film or TV retailers make up 8% of the total. 

Less common are subscription services offered by multi-sector stores and fashion apparel or accessories retailers, which each have 6% of the global market, indicating an ongoing preference for bricks and mortar stores in these areas. 

Consumer benefits of signing up to subscription services can include free delivery, early access to new products, special discounts or members-only events and it appears such perks are becoming increasingly popular. Our research shows that more subscription plans now unlock additional retail-specific perks than in previous years. In 2024, 51.6% of surveyed retailers offered extra store-specific benefits – marking an increase on 42.5% the previous year. 

Lion’s share for Amazon
The rapidly increasing popularity of subscriptions is reflected in the annual global net revenue of the world’s largest ecommerce retailer, Amazon. Launched in 2005, the company’s membership service Amazon Prime alone now has more than 200 million subscribers in at least 20 countries worldwide. 

It is, therefore, unsurprising that our research shows that subscriptions accounted for a 7.69% share of Amazon’s total revenue in 2023, more than twice the 3.15% share reported in 2014. 

However, the subscription share of Amazon’s revenue has plateaued in recent years. While it doubled between 2014 and 2018, when it made up 6.36%, it has risen by just under 0.5 percentage points in the following five years. Indeed, as our 2023 report also highlighted, while Amazon’s subscription revenue is increasing – albeit slowly – it is not anywhere near as significant for the company’s earnings as Amazon Web Services, online stores and retail third-party seller services.

Constant streaming 
Music and video streaming are overwhelmingly the most popular usage of subscription service by type, with 43% of shoppers surveyed subscribing to such services. Subscription boxes for various item types are also popular. Clothing or footwear boxes make up 18% of global subscription services, with beauty or cosmetics boxes making up 17% and food subscription boxes, 16%. Accessories boxes made up one in 10 of subscriptions, while nearly a third (31%) of overall subscriptions were for other services entirely. Our research highlights a particular preference for services such as software, online books and TV and video streaming. 

This feature was authored by Hazel Davis, and is one of many in the SubscriptionX 2024 report. The report dives into the allure of recurring memberships amidst economic uncertainty and explore the nuances shaping consumer behaviour. From curated meal boxes to indispensable necessities, discover how the subscription model is growing and becoming a feature of modern ecommerce. It also looks at real-world examples through in-depth case studies of Hotel Chocolat, Graze, Cocoon, Netflix and Gousto.

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