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 brands analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where she conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises brand and marketing leaders on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Prior to joining Morning Consult, Ellyn worked as a market researcher and brand strategist in both agency and in-house settings. She graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in finance. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].