The Subscription Divide: Millennials Love Them. Baby Boomers Are Dubious
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From discounted Subway sandwiches to expedited delivery of Sephora beauty products, more and more industries are experimenting with offering customer perks via monthly subscriptions, a practice once reserved primarily for the likes of traditional media companies and gyms.
While some opine about the onset of subscription fatigue as a result of this trend, a new Morning Consult survey shows that this is not necessarily the case for certain segments of consumers — namely younger customers and men.
In the survey, respondents were asked to indicate their interest in paying for subscriptions in nine different product or service categories. Gen Z adults and millennials expressed the highest levels of enthusiasm among all demographic groups across nearly every tested option, and men were frequently just behind. Nearly half of Gen Zers (46%) and millennials (49%), for instance, were interested in subscriptions on average, compared with about a third (34%) of the general public. Baby boomers and women, meanwhile, reported the lowest levels of interest — often significantly less than that of the public.
Larger portions of baby boomers (48%) and women (42%) also said they felt “overwhelmed” by the amount of subscriptions currently available than did Gen Z adults (33%), millennials (37%) and men (39%).
The Subscription Divide
Restaurants, health care and retail lead the way in subscription interest
- Restaurants garnered the highest levels of subscription interest across every demographic group. Half or more of Gen Z adults and millennials also expressed interest in health care and retail subscriptions.
- The difference between interest in subscriptions among men and women was smallest in retail and largest in financial services.
- Nearly half of Gen Z adults (48%) said they would be interested in paying for subscriptions to internet personalities or content creators, while 44% of millennials said the same. Previous Morning Consult research found that most Gen Zers spend over four hours daily on social media.
- In a separate survey question, Gen Z adults (81%) and millennials (77%) reported being more likely to feel loyal to brands with which they have subscriptions than did Gen Xers (67%), baby boomers (54%) and all U.S. adults (68%).
Americans Aren’t Overwhelmed by Subscriptions — Yet
Younger consumers are more satisfied with the state of the subscription economy
- More than half of Gen Z adults (57%), millennials (53%), and Gen Xers (53%) said they are content with the amount of subscription offerings currently available. Significantly fewer baby boomers (42%) shared this view.
- Men (51%) were more likely than women (47%) to be satisfied with current subscription options.
- Approximately 1 in 10 respondents from each demographic group said they feel underwhelmed by today’s subscription market.
There is consensus around one part of the subscription ecosystem: additional features or rewards to reward consumer loyalty. Significant majorities of all adults, generations (excluding baby boomers) and genders said they expect sweetened perks after participating in a particular subscription offering for a year or more.
Many companies are following this insight to remain competitive in the increasingly crowded space. Others, like Twitter Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc., are charting an opposite course — putting previously free features like account verification and security behind a monthly paywall.
Twitter's Blue offering has reportedly netted $11 million in revenue from 385,000 global subscribers (or less than half of 1% of the platform’s monthly user base) in the three months since its launch. No data is yet available for Meta's Verified program, which rolled out earlier this month.
The March 23-26, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,201 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Ellyn Briggs is a data reporter at Morning Consult covering brands and marketing. @ellynbriggs