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US Understanding Consumer Usage and Attitudes Toward Subscription Services Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Understanding Consumer Usage and Attitudes Toward Subscription Services market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

This report examines usage and perceptions of online subscription services and automatic replenishment services across key categories (including Beauty, Food and Drink, Apparel, Household products).

The consumer-driven replacement subscription services covered in this Report span the consumer journey from consumers consider solutions through purchase and replenishment. Once established, successful subscription services sit firmly in Consumers Replenish (see graphic below), eliminating other purchase considerations from the purchase cycle.

What you need to know

The success of subscription box startups such as Dollar Shave Club, Birchbox, and Blue Apron has inspired a host of other companies including retail chains to launch their own subscription services. Offerings span industries from meal kits to pet products to intimate apparel. Models vary between recurring, allowing consumers to set standing orders for products they use regularly; on-demand, whereby consumers schedule deliveries as needed, and exploration, where consumers pay a set fee to receive a box of retailer-selected items.

Despite the fact one third of all adults report shopping online at least once a week and nearly three quarters do so at least once a month, adoption of online subscription services remains low. Many consumers still have negative perceptions about subscription services, including cost, general product usage concerns, or freshness, in the case of food products. Thus retailers need to take extra steps to overcome potential barriers to entry, such as guaranteeing freshness of food products or by better communicating why signing up for a subscription is a better value than ordering products one at a time.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Matt Lindner, a leading analyst in the eCommerce sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Subscription services are evolving as more companies across a variety of product categories are in or entering the market. Consumers have interest in signing up for product subscriptions; however such programs must be tailored in a way that makes the consumer’s life easier and adds value. Product quality and quantity are top concerns, as is cancellation. Companies looking to enter and continue in the subscription service/automatic replenishment market need to stress the convenience and cost savings of such services in order to better appeal to more consumers. Marketing should focus on how these services should be thought of as a “need to have” rather than a “nice to have. Matt Lindner
Senior eCommerce Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • What clothing shoppers are buying online
        • What shoppers seek when buying clothes online
          • Definition
          • Executive Summary

            • Overview
              • Category Evolution
                • Key issues and opportunities
                  • Issue: consumers still want the tactile experience of shopping in person, resulting in concerns about buying without seeing
                    • Opportunity: using alternative options to create stress-free shopping and prompt more purchases
                      • Issue: word of mouth impacts sales
                        • Opportunity: quality reviews can promote transparency and increase retailer credibility
                        • Apparel Online – State of the Market

                          • Online shopping is here to stay: consumers are almost entirely connected
                            • Figure 1: Devices used to access the internet, December 2017
                          • Consumers will spend on clothes, even if they face financial restrictions
                            • Figure 2: Items purchased, by household income, September 2018
                        • Market Breakdown

                          • Sales shift toward casual
                            • Figure 3: Items purchased, dress versus casual, September 2018
                          • Dress clothes: a thing of the past or a purchase reserved for in-store?
                          • Market Perspective

                            • Consumers appreciate the convenience, but still have concerns with buying clothes online, no matter the recipient
                              • Thoughts on shopping for self, versus others:
                                • How can retailers make online clothes shopping easier, no matter the recipient?
                                  • Subscription or rental services
                                    • Try before you buy
                                      • Supplemental information
                                        • Figure 4: Everlane email campaign, September 2018
                                    • Key Drivers

                                      • Convenience and recipients drive consumers to shop online
                                        • Figure 5: Item recipients, September 2018
                                      • Using social media to connect with customers and create loyalty among online shoppers
                                        • Retailer spotlight: Everlane and Outdoor Voices
                                          • Figure 6: Outdoor Voices email campaign, September 2018
                                      • Retailers: What’s Working?

                                        • Key takeaways
                                          • Retailers most shopped for apparel online
                                            • Figure 7: Amazon core 10 email campaign, October 2018
                                          • Amazon reigns, but traditional retailers remain relevant
                                            • Figure 8: Retailers shopped, September 2018
                                          • Men shop Amazon, while women visit traditional retailers and mass
                                          • Retailers: What’s Struggling?

                                            • Key takeaways
                                              • Retailers battle to win the loyalty of Hispanic shoppers
                                                • Value prompts where Hispanic shoppers buy clothes online
                                                  • Figure 9: Retailers shopped, by those of Hispanic origin, September 2018
                                              • Retailers: What’s Next?

                                                • Key takeaways
                                                  • Retailers and concepts to watch
                                                    • Alternative retailers attract young, higher income shoppers and parents
                                                      • Figure 10: Retailers shopped, by select demographics, September 2018
                                                      • Figure 11: Ann Taylor Infinite Style email campaign, August 2018
                                                  • Consumer Insights – What You Need to Know

                                                    • What consumers seek – convenience and comparison
                                                      • What prevents purchases
                                                        • What influences purchases
                                                        • Online Shopping Behavior

                                                          • Key takeaways
                                                            • Familiarity and price dictates most shoppers’ behavior
                                                              • Figure 12: Online shopping behavior, September 2018
                                                            • Older shoppers need convincing to shop new retailers
                                                              • Figure 13: Online shopping behavior, men & women 55+ vs overall, September 2018
                                                            • Young adults and parents are targets for basket building
                                                              • Figure 14: Online shopping behavior, by age of children in household, September 2018
                                                            • Hispanic shoppers read reviews and are willing to share
                                                              • Figure 15: Online shopping behavior and pre-purchase process, Hispanic origin vs overall, September 2018
                                                              • Figure 16: Everlane email campaign, October 2018
                                                          • Items Purchased and Item Recipients

                                                            • Key insights
                                                              • Casual clothing is most common
                                                                • What are they buying?
                                                                  • Figure 17: Items purchased, September 2018
                                                                • Who’s buying clothing online?
                                                                  • Figure 18: Item recipients, September 2018
                                                                • Young shoppers are actively buying clothing, regardless of income
                                                                  • Figure 19: Anthropologie email campaign, November 2018
                                                                • Men make more self-purchases, while women shop for others
                                                                  • Figure 20: Item recipients (NET), by gender, September 2018
                                                                  • Figure 21: Item recipients (NET), moms vs dads, September 2018
                                                                • Older shoppers shouldn’t be overlooked
                                                                  • Figure 22: Item purchased for self only, by age and gender, September 2018
                                                                • Self-purchases prompts different behavior
                                                                  • Figure 23: Item purchased for self only, by select online shopping behavior, September 2018
                                                              • Reasons for Buying Clothes Online versus In-store

                                                                • Key takeaways
                                                                  • Recipients drive top reasons for shopping online
                                                                    • Figure 24: Reasons for buying clothes online versus in-store, September 2018
                                                                  • Appeal to young shoppers by helping them stay on budget
                                                                    • Figure 25: Everlane email campaign, December 2017
                                                                    • Figure 26: Reasons for buying clothes online versus in-store, by age and income, September 2018
                                                                  • Black shoppers appreciate the ease of comparing and buying, while Hispanics like to manage spending
                                                                    • Figure 27: Reasons for buying clothes online versus in stores, by Black and Hispanic shoppers, September 2018
                                                                • Barriers to Buying Online

                                                                  • Key takeaways
                                                                    • Product accuracy and buying without seeing are top concerns
                                                                        • Figure 28: Barriers to Buying Online, September 2018
                                                                      • Older women possess product concerns while young women are blocked by post-purchase frustrations
                                                                        • Figure 29: Barriers to buying online for women, by age, September 2018
                                                                        • Figure 30: Amazon Prime wardrobe email campaign, November 2018
                                                                      • Additional fees prohibit young shoppers and parents more than others
                                                                        • Figure 31: Barriers to buying online, 18-34s vs over-45s and parental status, September 2018
                                                                    • Pre-Purchase Process

                                                                      • Key insights
                                                                        • A combination of product information and reviews is especially important
                                                                          • Figure 32: Pre-purchase process (all or most of the time), September 2018
                                                                        • Active shoppers more likely to compare shipping, delivery and returns before buying
                                                                            • Figure 33: Pre-purchase process (all of the time), by age, September 2018
                                                                            • Figure 34: Pre-purchase process (all of the time), by parental status, September 2018
                                                                          • In-store browsing is still important to parents
                                                                            • Figure 35: Amazon Prime fashion email campaign, November 2018
                                                                          • Hispanic shoppers turn to social media before buying
                                                                            • Figure 36: Checking social media for reviews, by Hispanic origin, September 2018
                                                                        • Attitudes toward Buying Clothes Online

                                                                          • Key takeaways
                                                                            • Online has impacted how consumers buy clothes, with many doing a mix of online and offline shopping
                                                                              • Figure 37: Attitudes toward buying clothes online, September 2018
                                                                            • Youngest generations shop around and buy more frequently
                                                                              • Figure 38: Attitudes toward buying clothes online (select), iGen vs overall, September 2018
                                                                            • A bad experience could deter older shoppers from returning
                                                                              • Black shoppers are adventurous online
                                                                                • Figure 39: Attitudes toward buying clothes online, Black (Non-Hispanic) shoppers vs overall, September 2018
                                                                            • Reviews and Endorsements: Attitudes and Enhancements

                                                                              • Key takeaways
                                                                                • Product reviews and personal recommendations are most important
                                                                                  • Figure 40: Attitudes toward reviews and endorsements, September 2018
                                                                                • What consumers want in reviews
                                                                                  • Older, male shoppers are dissuaded by negative experiences
                                                                                    • Shoppers have mixed feelings regarding browsing and buying through social media
                                                                                      • Figure 41: Attitudes toward reviews and endorsements (disagree), by select demographics, September 2018
                                                                                  • Desired Improvements

                                                                                    • Key takeaways
                                                                                      • Shoppers want reassurance on potential purchases and assistance with unwanted items
                                                                                        • Figure 42: Desired improvements (NET any rank), September 2018
                                                                                      • Improving reviews – sharing and content – could persuade parents to shop more
                                                                                        • Figure 43: Desired improvements (NET any rank), by parental status, September 2018
                                                                                      • Hispanic shoppers show an interest in styling opportunities
                                                                                        • Figure 44: Desired improvements and online shopping behavior (NET any rank), by Hispanic origin, September 2018
                                                                                    • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                      • Data sources
                                                                                        • Consumer survey data
                                                                                          • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                                            • Direct marketing creative
                                                                                              • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                                • Abbreviations