You can subscribe to just about anything these days, even cheese...
The consumer subscription industry has boomed in recent years, with a raft of services catering for almost every need and want from NHS prescriptions and pet care items to nutritious snacks, movies and makeup, as well as my personal favourite, food items; most importantly cheese.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that we’ve started seeing a movement where such services are not just catering to what consumers already like, but are actually pushing them towards products that they may have never tried before, which is ultimately creating a unique purchaser journey that has the power to shape future consumer tastes.
Consumers lead increasingly busy lives and don’t have time to spend hours researching products that may appeal to them and with so much on offer the usual endgame is just resorting back to what they know. After all, when overwhelmed with choice, it’s easy to select the ‘safe’ options that are previously tried and tested.
This is the key reason behind the rise in popularity of subscriptions and delivery services as consumers prioritise ease and increasingly lean towards dedicated services that not only eliminate the need to search for individual products but also add an element of excitement and the unknown to previous routine-based shopping.
Minefield of Value
You only have to look at the economic value of the subscription market to realise its power and capabilities to influence not just how people shop but what they shop for.
In 2017 alone the subscription market was worth £583m, and with the market booming it’s now estimated that one in four people are signed up to a subscription service of some sort, whether its food, alcohol, flowers or films.
And it’s not showing any signs of stopping, with predictions that the industry will double in value to £1 billion* by 2022.
Food & drink subscriptions alone are estimated to be worth £555m by 2022, and with recipe and meal kit subscriptions popping up from all directions, there is a clear opportunity for businesses that offer a quirky and convenient service to capitalise on this.
Driven by Tech
Technology in the last decade has changed our everyday lives in a multitude of ways. From seamless online banking and food delivery through to dating, grocery shopping and even gifting.
Tech’s ability to extract, digest and manipulate data has shaped the way we go about our everyday lives, and whilst we may not realise it, it has influenced our personal tastes and preferences.
For instance, our CheeseTech business uses powerful algorithms that match each customer with hundreds of combinations of unique cheeses, delivering a completely bespoke cheese journey.
For our yearly subscribers, they will receive 60 different cheeses to try over that period, exposing them to cheeses they may not have normally come across, which ultimately impacts and influences their cheese tastes.
We want people to feel inspired by cheese and tech, and our new app, for example, is the first ever app designed entirely for purchasing cheese. This is a great way to engage those who may not know where to start or what they like when it comes to cheese.
We believe this is a great way of introducing the consumer to cheese that they would not normally select and shake their tendency to stick to what they know.
The somewhat outdated high street model has already gone through momentous turbulence and changes over the last couple of years, with numerous retailers going through restructuring in a bid to revamp their offering to attract customers and retain business.
My view is that if the subscription market continues to grow at the pace it has over the years, we may see this as the deciding factor in the demise of the traditional in-store experience.
Everyday essentials will be available on a subscription basis, saving the time poor consumer time. In London alone, 51% of the population are already subscribed to a subscription service of some sort. This creates an incredible opportunity for subscription businesses to actively shape consumer’s choices and tastes, whilst ultimately moulding definitive trends.
For the cheese industry, even though the UK cheese market is worth £2.6bn* it’s incredibly ripe for disruption, and I’m a strong believer that the future of cheese lies firmly online, supported by tech, and driven by a subscription model.
But the next big change will be in the way we harness AI (Artificial Intelligence) to deliver an even more intelligent and personalised selection to subscribers.
Such capabilities will pave a way for subscription-driven businesses to greater personalise its offering and to provide the goods that meet the customer’s exact needs, whilst continually tracking customer data over time to improve their experience.
After all, if you knew that there was a service out there that could make better choices for you than you could, why would you not use it? With no limit to the intelligence driving the subscription market, people will not be limited to the shelves of their local supermarket.
There will be a greater access to better knowledge, better service and better products - with the convenience of delivery to your door.
We’ve seen this demand translate into our own growth. Since I set up The Cheese Geek a year ago, we’ve delivered a tonne of cheese, and over 1,000 unique cheese combinations. As a result, the business doubled its revenue in 2018 and is on course to do so again in 2019.
We’re now on track to capture a small-but-tasty 2% of the 'cheese at home' market in the next five years, which would represent revenue of around £52m**.
* The UK Subscription Box Room Report, Global Data, 2019
Edward Hancock is founder of The Cheese Geek.
Subscription Businesses Are Shaping Consumer Tastes, This Is How