Everyone has a story of their subscription service going wrong. The Ziploc bag collection that ran out of control that has taken over the basement. The soap subscription that has you giving away festively wrapped boxes of Zest to neighbors at Christmas. The forgotten pressing of the pause button that leaves you borrowing your spouse’s deodorant before heading out early in the morning. The moment when the service one signed on to make their lives easiest quite unexpectedly does the opposite and makes the consumer’s life full of that much more friction.
The problem, sticky.io CEO Brian Bogosian told Karen Webster in a recent conversation, is that human lives don’t fit neatly into the 30-day subscriptions services offer. People go on vacation and don’t need their subscriptions filled. They want to be able to try out new products and offers. Seasonal demands greatly increase or decrease how much they need of certain things.
“People think of subscriptions every month. It’s not every month, it’s when the consumer really needs it and figuring out how to meet those demands. And it’s really hard to do unless you’re using technology in a way that makes the user engage; it comes down to this user-driven commerce.”
Tapping Tech To Know The User
One-size-fits-all models don’t work well in subscription services because the only thing they guarantee is a model that doesn’t quite fit anyone properly — effectively a one-size-fits-none. What subscriptions services need to adopt first, Bogosian said, is simple flexibility that allows consumers to fit the service offering to their needs. Modulation offerings that let people order more or fewer items at will, he said, can go a long way toward building a better member portal.
But beyond simply giving consumers the ability to do it themselves — which any consumer who has ever forgotten they paused a subscription only to need the item suddenly can affirm — is a solution with real limits. Subscription providers, he noted, can dig deeper into their technology tools to be a useful part of that customization process.
Subscription services have a lot of data at their disposal when it comes to understanding the consumer’s wants at a more granular level — looking over their shopping history can reveal a lot about their preferences, buying habits and patterns. And that data, combined with modern artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools, he noted, opens up a world of options when it comes to tailoring the offer to the consumer’s needs.
“I think we can really fine-tune the offer. And then even put the tools in your hands to allow you to refine the selection and delivery of these products. It’s about using machine learning and AI to make this as tailored and custom to the customer as possible,” he said. “It’s not one-size-fits-all. This is a way to avoid all the usual problems that subscriptions have today and the cancellations they see.”
Getting It Just Right
It’s impossible to build that ideal “Goldilocks solution” for subscription services — where everything is just right for the consumer’s needs — in the abstract or ahead of time. Because just right, from the consumer perspective, isn’t a static state able to be placed on a set schedule. Just right is always about right now and what the consumer specifically needs to have at that moment.
And the future of subscriptions, Bogosian said, will be in merchants’ ability to leverage all that D2C data they’ve gathered to be able to meet those at-the-moment needs — from getting the right object or set of goods they want, to finding the right way to deliver them to them on time. Does the consumer need it in three hours? Do they need it in three days? The more merchants can get these very granular questions resolved, the better they will be able to deliver consumer satisfaction in “being able to refine exactly what the offer is to the consumers’ want,” he said.
“I think that you’re going to see a lot of these things consolidating around how they provide the optimum customer satisfaction,” Bogosian said.