Personalized subscriptions – will we ever get there?

personalized subscription
Image credit: Carlos Banyuls /

Without question selling personalized subscriptions is a tougher road than anyone thought. Now that you can get almost anything on subscription the flaws are becoming all too visible and not just the obvious misuse of data or security issues.

The problem with personalized subscriptions is that there is only one person who knows what he really wants – the customer. And the problem with that is that the customer may know what he wants today but he does not know what he wants in three months time.

While the big consumer companies are continuing to trial subscription services, with some success, customers are still not welcoming them with open arms. A customer may love the idea that he need not worry about buying new razor blades, he may love the idea of getting a selection of wine every month and he may start out loving the idea of getting skincare products that he really liked when he first went on the website that offered them.

What happens then is that the customer has a dry month, switches to beer, his moment of shaving every day went out of the window or he finds that he has now inadvertently stockpiled eight months’ worth of beauty products?

Unless it is very easy to turn off the service, the road from there leads to frustration and annoyance. Of course the company does not want to make it too easy because then you cannot plan your subscriptions business.

Should companies even be doing this?

The answer must be that they should because they need to show customers their full range of options. But they should do it with care and a long term view.

When ATMs were first introduced no-one wanted them. The majority of people wanted to go into a bank branch and cash a cheque. They felt that was easy and secure. Banks introduced them anyway and basically forced customers to use them even though the early versions were hacked (physically in some cases) robbed and so investment in their security had to be increased.

In the long run it was worth it. Customers became used to them, banks got to cut their costs and ultimately customers could not believe they once chose to go into a bank branch rather than press a few buttons.

Should big companies persevere with a subscription model for everything?

The answer is yes, but the line between intuition and ‘in your face’ is thin and the journey is made more difficult every time a new data breach is uncovered or an advertising campaign is thrust into the faces of people who do not want them. Trust is eroded.

Common sense is required.

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