Over the past decade, the subscription economy has grown 435% and demonstrated expansion rates up to eight times faster than traditional business models. The industry may soon tip the scale into a trillion-dollar market. While this sector saturation is promising for profits, it also poses a significant problem for the very consumers driving such demand for growth. As digital subscriptions become increasingly competitive, consumers want minimal effort for maximum returns, but many aren’t seeing those expectations met.
Market research from C+R in 2022 showed that consumers pay 2.5 times more for subscriptions than they realize (or often want to!), and the same year, the Kearney Consumer Institute revealed that 40% of subscribers also think they hold far too many subscriptions. Subscription companies that fail to account for this gap between sector interests and consumer satisfaction will find themselves at a disadvantage, even despite all the industry-wide success. Alternatively, companies who put users first and recognize the foundational role of user-centric strategies for product and service development will differentiate and dominate the market.
The user experience (UX) is at the heart of user-centric strategies and makes explicit the real returns subscribers enjoy. UX is the aggregate of touch points end-users have with a product or service. Every interaction throughout the customer lifecycle builds up to create the overall user experience and value perception. The quality of those UX interactions determines whether or not a user purchases, keeps, and optimizes their paid engagement. Companies that prioritize users and correctly leverage the power of UX in these five areas will begin to unleash and maximize their own competitive advantage.
Functional technology is the starting point for assessing UX. The quality of paid content doesn’t matter if a user can’t engage efficiently on their preferred device. This means site loading times should be a top consideration when determining how well the overall tech stack supports each point of the UX.
Assessing products and services through a UX lens means ensuring interfaces are logically navigable in minimal steps. Users should be able to intuitively understand layout and easily access what they came for. The Online Marketing Institute shows the real cost…“The fallout from poor website design is enormous:
UX logic must be clear to the user, not just the designer – so success requires consistent research, testing, and iterating for usability.
Similarly, well-designed user experiences are ones where users scarcely notice they exist. For example, users aren’t frustrated trying to engage content or purchasing options; form lengths, registration paywalls, payment processes, and content navigation are clean and coherent.
There are many types of friction in e-commerce ecosystems, but subscription models that emphasize UX are more likely to create low friction, high connection consumer environments.
Copy content can contribute powerfully to differentiation. Clear, actionable, and conscientious copy demonstrates an understanding of users and makes the case for why they should take action, not just how. Brand design expert Micah Bowers demonstrates that effective UX copy creates context for clear decisions:
“In today’s crowded and consumer-centric digital landscape, it isn’t enough to say, “Click here. Sign up. Submit.” Choices must entice. Decisions must delight. Think of UX copy as a brand’s digital ambassador, customer service liaison, and top sales closer all rolled into one. It’s a guiding voice that leads users through a product’s most important interactions and infuses digital experiences with brand personality and cohesiveness.”
Leveled-up, UX copy does more than demand users take action. Instead, it is text that connects, converses, and converts.
Personalization marks the competitive shift to a truly sophisticated UX that resonates every time. Businesses that progressively profile by earning user data through persuasively constructed registration forms and smart paywalls can serve custom content recommendations and messaging and ensure real-time responsiveness to each user’s needs. To today’s selective subscribers, this demonstrates real value beyond ‘a price just thrown on a feature and called a subscription,’ as global industry consultant Robbie Kellman Baxter warns against.
The 2023 Digital News Report noted that a lack of perceived value was a key factor in a significant number of users saying “nothing could persuade them to pay for online news.” Paired with broader subscriber trends reported by C+R and Kearney, the burgeoning success of the subscription industry needs to be viewed critically. While subscriber demand is likely to continue, businesses hoping to capture a truly competitive market share will stand out when subscriber expectations are met, down to each individual experience.
A smooth, connective, and low effort UX through tools like personalization and highly functional tech stacks blatantly demonstrate the unique value of a subscription; meanwhile, clear, actionable copy and intuitive services augment every interaction. Subscription marketing expert Anne Janzer argues that subscription fatigue in a saturated market comes from “ill-fitting subscriptions.” But a sharp focus on standout UX can change that.