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Survey Insights into Subscription Usage Patterns in 2021
Increased preference for shorter billing cycles and usage-based pricing among most notable changes
ALPHARETTA, GA - June 24, 2021: 2Checkout (now Verifone), the leading all-in-one monetization platform for global businesses, today released the key findings from its 2021 global subscription survey, which aimed to better understand how consumers around the world navigate, choose, and use subscriptions. The survey was conducted with a global audience from over 90 countries during the months of April and May 2021.
The survey revealed, among other things, that the onset of the global pandemic has not deterred users from their recurring contracts, though some shifts in preferences in this category exist. More insights are detailed below.
Subscription categories most purchased
Streaming services and software, desktop or cloud-based, continued to attract shoppers' interest, as shoppers still stuck indoors sought out online sources of information. 73% of respondents mentioned they bought at least one entertainment subscription (streaming) such as Netflix or Spotify, and online news such as The New York Times. Software came in at a strong second at 43%, although when adding SaaS to the equation, at 30%, and cloud storage, at 17%, the tech category stood strong. Subscription boxes, while the least mentioned category at 8%, will likely see an increase in the following year.
About half of respondents - 49% - mentioned they are purchasing subscriptions a few times a year, with the rest evenly split between one purchase per month and, at the opposite end, only one subscription or fewer per year.
Pandemic impact on subscriptions
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that caused people to stay home more, subscriptions became more popular, with 37% of respondents acquiring more subscriptions, 51% keeping a similar level, and only 13% choosing to give up some of their previous recurring contracts.
Important factors when choosing a subscription
The flexibility of the contract remains the most important factor when choosing subscriptions, similar to 2020, for more than half of respondents (52%). Recommendations from friends, access to the user's preferred payment method, and free trials are also factors that have driven up adoption.
Preferred payment method: mobile wallets
Mobile wallets including PayPal and Apple Pay have outpaced credit and debit cards as the preferred online payment methods for subscriptions, chosen by almost three-quarters of respondents (71%). Cards continue to be a top favorite for 41% of subscribers, while 37% sometimes use direct debit and online banking for subscription payments.
In terms of subscription purchase devices, the popularity of mobile has almost matched that of desktop technology.
Automatic renewals gain traction
The convenience of automatic renewals continues to gain traction year over year. Over half of respondents - 65% - reported preferring automatic renewals, an 11% increase versus 2020, while the remainder favored the control offered by manual renewals. Auto-renewal mechanisms with embedded revenue recovery tools became that much more important to provide customers with uninterrupted service.
Shorter billing cycles support spend control
Quarterly and monthly billing were preferred over yearly payments - at 46% and 35% respectively, versus 19% annually - which could suggest a need for more control over spending, enhanced perhaps by the current uncertain times.
Usage-based model gains ground
When it comes to pricing models, preference is split between a fixed price or flat rate (41%) and pay-per-use pricing or usage-based (41%). Whereas 65% of people reported favoring flat rates for subscriptions in 2020, more respondents are looking for pricing schemes tailored to their consumption patterns in 2021.
Drivers of subscription renewal
Access to competitive pricing and special offers is the primary reason among respondents for renewing their subscription - 62% are price-focused. Over half - 53% - renew their subscriptions based on the positive product experience, whereas 51% continue their recurring usage given the product's flexibility and ease of use.
On the flip side, the customer support received is the most important deal-breaker in subscriptions - 45% of respondents are ready to cancel a subscription if they have a poor support experience. Cost considerations are a close second: respondents cancel when they don't use the product enough to feel it's worth the investment (36%), when the recurring payment becomes a financial burden (36%), or when they encounter unexpected service costs (34%).
"This is the second year of the pandemic and the appetite for subscriptions remains strong at a global level. There is a clear need for more flexibility and agility in terms of how businesses selling subscriptions go to market - so that shoppers can try, pay for, and renew their preferred packages, via any channel," said Alexandra Badea, VP of Marketing, EMEA, Verifone. "Our products offer merchants both flexibility and control over their subscription products, as well as speed-to- market, due to our all-in-one monetization platform. Survey insights such as these are a great validation of the technology needed to serve customers better and improve client retention."
For more information, view the infographic on the 2Checkout Subscription Usage Patterns 2021 Worldwide Survey.
This report was based on a survey conducted in March-April 2021 on 1598 respondents from 91 countries around the world.