This op-ed was written by Zuora SVP of Products Tom Krackeler for Thrive Media and was originally published with the title, “Six Examples of For-Profit Companies Making a Huge Social Impact” on February 2, 2018.
The investment by more and more companies across all industries and around the globe in building meaningful relationships with their customers is starting to pay dividends for our world as we know it.
Smart companies no longer sell products to consumers they may not even know. They are building products and services around their customers, providing ongoing value in order to build and strengthen their relationships and ultimately grow with their customers.
There’s new evidence that the shift is paying off big for businesses — as subscription businesses are already growing 9X faster than the S&P 500, according to the Subscription Economy Index (SEI).
But the benefits of that stickier customer relationship go beyond increased revenue and consumer satisfaction. They are empowering businesses to tackle global challenges from reducing global energy use to influencing smarter city planning to raising support for refugees and more.
As we look ahead to 2018, here are six examples of subscription businesses that are taking on global challenges with the power of their community of customers behind them.
- Ford – Improving city infrastructure through transit innovation
Traditional automotive companies like Ford are moving beyond simply selling cars. They are reinventing themselves around the service of transportation, or MaaS (mobility as a service). Ford is innovating in cities and beyond with subscription models and alternative transportation solutions — like Ford GoBikes and shuttle service Chariot — that make more sense in congested urban centers.
With rapidly increasing urban populations, these types of mobility experiments aren’t just an exercise in automotive companies maintaining their relevance. They’re a necessity. As Ford leans in to its own digital transformation, it’s helping inform the design of our cities of tomorrow.
- Financial Times – Upholding journalistic integrity
In an era dominated by real and imagined threats of “fake news,” there’s more need than ever for quality journalism that upholds the highest values of journalistic integrity.
Journalism has infamously faced some challenges in the ongoing shift from print to digital. Throughout this transformation, traditional publications have increasingly experimented with paywalls and other pricing structures to encourage paid subscriptions. That is why we celebrated in November 2017 when the Financial Times announced that they had surpassed 900,000 paying subscribers.
In 2018, we predict we’ll see more quality publications experimenting with pricing and packaging in support of their mission to provide real news that matters.
- Schneider Electric – Committing to renewable energy
We’re starting to see an encouraging shift towards renewable energy from large, global organizations — and this is only looking to continue in 2018. Take for example French multinational Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation with operations in more than 100 countries. In recent years, Schneider Electric has begun transitioning its traditional business to a customer-centric, recurring revenue business model. As they’ve improved process efficiencies with this subscription model, they’ve been able to focus on optimizing their core business which has led the company to recently announce its commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
Towards this end, Schneider has joined the RE100, whose members (including some of the world’s largest businesses such as Apple and Facebook) are committed to 100% renewable power. They’ve also joined the EP100, a global initiative comprised of businesses that are committed to doubling their energy productivity.
- Symantec – Protecting consumers and businesses from cyberattacks
In 2017 we witnessed large scale cyberattacks — from the Equifax hack to the Dyn attack to WannaCry ransomware — that affected millions of consumers, exposing data, costing billions in losses and negatively impacting critical infrastructure.
The 2018 threat environment is one of our most pressing global challenges and businesses are predicted to spend more than $1 trillion on global cybersecurity initiatives between 2017 and 2021. But it’s not just businesses that need to invest in cyber defense; consumers need to play their part as well.
Take cybersecurity software Symantec which has transformed itself into a security-as-a-service provider offering their solutions as subscriptions. With so many connected devices representing potential cyber vulnerabilities, Symantec launched the Norton Core router, a home Wi-Fi router that proactively watches all the consumer electronics in your house. Subscription-based offerings such as these empower consumers to take responsibility for their own cybersecurity.
As Greg Clark, CEO of Symantec, has noted: “All of us normal citizens need to take responsibility for some things to take care of our digital safety, our cyber safety.” Working together with informed and armed consumers, companies like Symantec can help protect us against the complex threat landscape we all face in 2018.
- HBO – Supporting global crises
HBO is activating its legion of Game of Thrones fans (16.5 million tuned into the Season 7 premiere in July) in support of the #RealmToTheRescue campaign. In partnership with the International Rescue Committee, HBO is using the platform of its smash hit GoT to shine light on the refugee crisis and to encourage involvement in its Rescue Has No Boundaries initiative.
With OTT, content providers are no longer limited to connecting with their viewers once a week in primetime. Streaming content compresses time and enhances the viewing experience. And it provides the foundation for an ongoing relationship between content providers and subscribers, one that companies like HBO can leverage for a good cause. With 13.5 million Syrian refugees requiring humanitarian assistance, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch notes, “It’s not about the number, it’s about the people. We’re trying to look for understanding, solidarity, and humanity.”
- Lynda.com – Making quality education accessible
Wth tuition and the cost of living rising, access to traditional higher education is out of reach for too many. Non-traditional education options like online courses and bootcamps are growing in number to fill the gap. According to Joshua Kim, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL), online learning addresses the “higher ed challenges around access, costs, and quality.”
That’s why online learning platforms like subscription-based Lynda.com are so critical. They help anyone learn the necessary skills to achieve professional and personal goals. What’s more, Lynda.com isn’t just available as a paid subscription (for individuals and organizations) or through affiliation with educational institutions. Lynda.com’s vast library of 6,215 learning videos taught by industry experts is also accessible through many public libraries throughout the U.S. and Canada. This unprecedented access to education helps to even the playing field.