Published December 1-10, 2021
Subscriptions are an integral part of our daily life as consumers. From newspapers to Netflix, subscriptions inform, educate and entertain. In a world of change, they are a constant. Our recurring payments create a predictable revenue stream for brands. While the idea of “recurring revenue” is what is now also powering the growth of SaaS (software as a service) in enterprises, our focus in this series will be the consumer side of subscriptions – the B2C and D2C world. In some industries like media and OTT, the subscription is the product. In others like ecommerce, subscriptions help businesses offer lower prices on products in return for the repeatability of membership fees. Subscriptions are now making a comeback in the digital world, and require a rethink of the brand-customer relationship. We will explore this new world of subscriptions, and also how brands can use martech to improve customer retention and drive exponential forever profitable growth.
Subscriptions are a welcome alternative for the one-off transactions. Singleton selling means that the brand needs to persuade the customer continuously for the next purchase. A subscription means that once the commitment is there, the customer is likely to stick for months and years, thus ensuring high lifetime value. This is also the reason why subscription companies with low churn can command premium valuations. B2B SaaS companies with net revenue retention of greater than 120% can trade at upward of 10X multiples on revenues. Similar is the case with B2C and D2C companies. Once churn is controlled to not more than a few percent each year, renewals combined with the new customer additions each year create a monotonically increasing revenue stream which is what investors love.
There are three key challenges that brands have to conquer to build high growth and profitable subscription businesses. First, keeping the cost of acquisition under control. This must be a fraction of the lifetime value. If a customer is likely to stay for 36 months, then spending 6 months of monthly revenue on acquisition is justified. But if most customers will churn in 12-18 months, then the spend on new acquisition may need to be much lower. Second, how to ensure retention to keep the churn rate low. A monthly subscription means that the customer is at most 30 days away from ending the relationship. This means the brand has to offer “daily delight” and become a utility in the life of the customer. Retention is also linked to usage – the more the customers use the product, the more likely they are to continue. Third, brands need to be able to drive referrals from their existing customers – this ensures new customer acquisition costs are lowered. This will only happen with happy customers. Therefore, the retention and referral elements in the customer journey need the creation of a deep relationship – which is where martech comes in. While the core product is of course the primary factor, opening a parallel communications channel with customers can also drive improved mental availability of the brand and ensure renewals.
As we will see, subscriptions are here to stay and on the rise. A subscriptions business has to be run differently from the one-off transactions business. In this series, we will dig deeper into the world of subscriptions and see how the coming martech era can make the business even better.
The earliest subscriptions in my life that I can remember were to Amar Chitra Katha and Children’s World. Both brought in new content delivered by the postman once or twice a month. I also remember paying a subscription fee to join the library near my home. There was an annual fee and a deposit, and that allowed me to borrow books at a fraction of the cover price. Famous Five, Secret Seven, Hardy Boys, and the various comics ranging from Phantom to Mandrake to Commando all made their way into my life through the library membership. When I was in the US as a student, I joined two of the book clubs: Monthly Book Club and Quality Paperback Club. They had a nice model which gave me access to new books at a discount.
A different set of paid subscriptions continue to be core to my daily life. Dropbox was one of the first in the new generation of services that I subscribed to and still do. As digital media platforms have created paywalls and move away from advertising, the paid subscriptions have also increased – Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Economist, Business Standard, Economic Times Prime, Bloomberg Quint, The Ken, The Information are the ones I subscribe to. (A few have got interrupted thanks to the ridiculous friction that RBI has introduced for recurring payments.) Then, there are the OTT platforms: Netflix, Hotstar, Sony Liv, Apple TV+. In the physical world, there are many. Newspapers, magazines, telecom (mobile, broadband), Amazon Prime. A Zoom subscription became a necessity with the onset of the pandemic. I also have an EazyDiner membership to get discounts when eating out.
What is now interesting is to see the use of subscriptions by a growing array of companies. The food delivery companies have Zomato Pro and Swiggy Super. Apple offers cloud storage for a few dollars a month. Then, there is Spotify and the music platforms. A few hundred rupees for a dozen or more services can add up quickly to a fat subscriptions budget!
As the competition for customers heats up, more brands will use subscriptions as a way to buttress their business models. For long, the Internet had only two revenue models – advertising and transactions. Subscriptions are now emerging as a strong third pillar not just for the digital first companies, but also for physical world companies looking to ensure loyalty.
A recent book that brought to light the power of the subscriptions business was “Subscribed” by Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of Zuora, which offers products for subscriptions management. Tzuo, who also coined the term, “Subscription Economy”, wrote in his 2018 book:
The goal of business should be to start with the wants and needs of a particular customer base, then create a service that delivers ongoing value to those customers. The idea [is] to turn customers into subscribers in order to develop recurring revenue.
… We have new expectations as consumers. We prefer outcomes over ownership. We prefer customization, not standardization. And we want constant improvement, not planned obsolescence. We want a new way to engage with business. We want services, not products. The one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it anymore. And to succeed in this new digital world, companies have to transform.
…When you finally discover your customers, it changes everything about your company. It affects every role. With a subscription model, suddenly your development team is spinning up new services based on usage data, as opposed in response to the loudest voices in the room. Your finance team is getting ahead of churn and test-driving new ideas. Your customer service team is proactively advising, as opposed to reacting to, tickets with scripts. Your marketing team can tie pricing to value, so they can come up with creative new packages and services. You’re no longer hamstrung by back-end processes that can’t adapt and scale. There are no more strictly linear, bucket brigade–style operations. Your organization is fluid but cohesive, recurring and responsive, and above all, relentlessly centered around your customer.
… [The] shift, from a product-centric to a customer-centric organizational mindset, is a defining characteristic of the Subscription Economy. Today the whole world runs “as a service”: transportation, education, media, health care, connected devices, retail, industry … So why is this shift happening right now? Because of the way those subscriptions are being delivered—digitally—and the huge amount of data those digital subscriptions are generating.
Tzuo has this graphical representation which captures the transformation:
From Zuora’s website: “At the heart of the Subscription Economy® is the idea that customers are happier subscribing to the outcomes they want, when they want them, rather than purchasing a product with the burden of ownership … In the old world (let’s call it the Product Economy) it was all about things. Acquiring new customers, shipping commodities, billing for one-time transactions. But in this new era, it’s all about relationships. More and more customers are becoming subscribers because subscription experiences built around services meet consumers’ needs better than the static offerings or a single product … Focusing on relationships requires a new way of thinking. Rather than placing your focus on the “product” or the “transaction,” Subscription Economy companies live and die by their ability to focus on the customer. The formula for growth lies in delivering multi-channel experiences and services (that get better over time) … So as a business in the Subscription Economy, your focus is on retaining existing subscribers, monitoring usage, accounting for recurring revenue, finding new ways to deliver ongoing value to your customers that will build long-term loyalty.”
Subscriptions, relationships, retention, renewals, and recurring revenue – these are the same ideas that are also at the heart of the coming martech era.
Robbie Kellman Baxter wrote “The Membership Economy” in 2015. She explains the idea:
What is the Membership Economy? Some say it’s all about subscriptions. Others say it’s about community and communication. Still others say it’s about belonging. Some say it’s been around forever, in associations, loyalty programs, and gyms.
I think the Membership Economy is all these things. I define membership as the state of being formally engaged with an organization or group on an ongoing basis. Members are part of the whole—although they don’t always contribute to the experience of other members. An organization able to build relationships with members—as opposed to plain customers—has, as we’ll see, a powerful competitive edge. It’s not just changing the words you use; it’s about changing the way you think about the people you serve and how you treat them.
The Membership Economy model works for both organizations and individuals. Executives and investors alike see that the model succeeds because it reduces uncertainty in their revenue. When done correctly, membership appeals to the members too, because membership provides recognition, stability, and convenience while connecting people to one another.
… Membership is an attitude, an emotion. A subscription is a financial arrangement. It’s quite possible for something to be both a subscription and a membership organization. In fact, the Membership Economy is the logical extension of subscriptions.
She contrasts the Ownership Economy with the Membership Economy:
She adds: “The key metrics in the ownership economy are conversion rate, transaction size, and economies of scale. In the Membership Economy they are retention and customer lifetime value.”
According to Robbie, the three primary advantage of the Membership Economy are:
It creates recurring revenue and removes lumpiness. Most businesses have to deal with seasonality—some more than others. Having monthly subscription revenue can smooth out the peaks and valleys in annual sales.
It builds a more direct relationship that strengthens the brand, by putting customers at the organization’s center. An organization that has a strong, positive relationship with its members is able to use that loyalty to grow as members recommend the enterprise to others and to resist competitive threats.
It generates an ongoing data stream that can be used to improve services and identify opportunities to increase satisfaction. The more the organization understands its customers’ needs, wants, behaviors, and attitudes—that is, much more than their raw demographics—the better it can serve those needs.
A recent 2020 book by Robbie “The Forever Transaction” builds on the core idea of the Membership Economy: “It’s about orchestrating the moment when customers remove their “consumer hats” and don “member hats,” commit to your organization for the long term, and stop considering alternatives. For many companies this is the holy grail: loyal recurring customers, often paying automatically, indefinitely. To earn a “forever transaction” you must offer a “forever promise” in return. You commit to deliver a result, solve a pain point, or achieve an outcome for your members forever, in exchange for their loyalty. To justify the forever transaction, you need to rethink not just your pricing, but all the elements through which you deliver value.
Call it the Subscription Economy or the Membership Economy of the Forever Transaction, the focus is the same: direct data-driven customer relationships built on the premise of recurring revenue.
Adam Levinter’s “The Subscription Boom” provides many case studies of successful subscription businesses: Amazon, Netflix, Dollar Shave Club, IPSY and Stitchfix. Adam writes: “While recurring revenue is attractive, subscription also provides predictive cash flows, better inventory control, and juicy customer lifetime values—all while avoiding the volatility of a typical boom-and-bust product cycle. Most important, subscription creates better customer loyalty by building a relationship between brand and customer. A traditional model means a brand must go to great efforts to re-engage a customer to make a repeat purchase. Subscription, on the other hand, means that that onus shifts from merchant to customer, who, by default, is automatically opted in to repeats unless they sever the relationship by cancelling.”
Adam describes the origins of Dollar Shave Club, which offered blades on a subscription basis:
The men’s grooming industry is a great case study in understanding the fundamental shift in power—from corporation to consumer—at the center of this book. Gillette and Schick spent about a century pumping out variations of the same products, until Michael Dubin realized that their lack of customer insight was a major opportunity for Dollar Shave Club (and then its East Coast competitor, Harry’s) to disrupt the status quo.
Dubin’s plan of attack against the long-time incumbents focused on customer pain points. As Dubin put it to Fortune magazine, “the beginning of the story is about solving a problem for guys. And the problem that we’re solving at the very basic level [is] that razors are really expensive in the store. It’s a frustrating experience to go and buy them.”1 Shaving is a simple act, easily accomplished with a standard blade, so why did it have to be an expensive hassle? If a man could get cheap everyday essentials delivered via Amazon, a trip to the local Walgreens to ask a store clerk to unlock a display case—a brutal annoyance—shouldn’t be necessary. The solution to men’s shaving woes lay in a new value-driven formula, built around the customer, that would remove such headaches.
Dollar Shave Club was eventually acquired by Unilever for $1 billion in 2016. It had over 3 million subscribers at that time.
Another origin story: “Stitch Fix began in 2012 by targeting fashion-conscious women who loved looking great but hated going anywhere to shop. New customers to the website fill out a form detailing their style preferences, clothing needs, and price points. Algorithms then churn out a set of potential choices, which one of the company’s stylists tailors to the individual customer before shipping five items direct, for a $20 fee. Anything a customer doesn’t want can be returned free of charge. Should a customer keep any of the items, the $20 styling fee is applied toward the purchase—and customers who keep all five items receive a 25 percent discount.” Stitch Fix went public in 2017 and is currently valued at over $3 billion.
A common theme that Adam finds across the successful subscription companies: “… [A]s we enter the next chapter of consumerism, a customer can no longer be just a customer. They must be a loyal follower. A subscriber. A “true fan.” … The power of the fanbase lies in the multiplier effect. Fans become little marketing organisms that spread brand awareness through word of mouth at dinner parties, family affairs, conferences, networking events, and on social media. They write blogs, post product reviews, share photos on Instagram, and upload videos on YouTube highlighting what they love, and why they love it … Subscription is a mechanism that lets a brand not only establish an engaged fanbase, but also turn that fanbase into potential profit—fast. As musician Robert Rich pointed out in response to [Kevin] Kelly, it’s tough to make a living from only 1,000 fans if you’re only selling them one album and concert ticket a year. To generate real traction you need to sell them something several times over. Subscriptions are a great way to do just that.”
With success stories growing, the idea of subscriptions is expanding its footprint across many industries.
Commentary – 1
Wikipedia: “Rather than selling products individually, a subscription offers periodic (daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, semi-annual, yearly/annual, or seasonal) use or access to a product or service, or, in the case of performance-oriented organizations such as opera companies, tickets to the entire run of some set number of (e.g., five to fifteen) scheduled performances for an entire season. Thus, a one-time sale of a product can become a recurring sale and can build brand loyalty. Industries that use this model include mail order book sales clubs and music sales clubs, private web mail providers, cable television, satellite television providers with pay television channels, providers with digital catalogs with downloadable music or eBooks, satellite radio, telephone companies, mobile network operators, internet providers, software publishers, websites (e.g., blogging websites), business solutions providers, financial services firms, health clubs, … as well as the traditional newspapers, magazines, and academic journals.”
Finextra: “The benefits of a subscription service extend beyond consumers to merchants themselves. The model provides them with rich data points and greater customer insights to better track consumer habits and product interests…For consumers, subscriptions are also much easier to manage – especially when those payments are made using a card … Consumer demand lies at the centre of the shift to a subscription economy. With everyone leading increasingly busy lives, time is a valuable commodity. As such, convenience and flexibility are the two most important drivers in the purchase journey.”
Tien Tzuo: I think the number one mistake that we see people make, companies make, is really to say, “Let me take my same business model of selling you a product and let me just do it on a recurring basis.” So we’ve got the whole stuff in the box market. And that’s not really what it’s about … Subscriptions are about personalization and consumption … I mean, if you look at, say, a Stitch Fix, it’s not just about, “Hey. You get some clothes.” You actually have a stylist that understands who you are, understands things are going in your life. You have somebody you could talk to. So they’re curating where they’re building the whole experience that delivers something real, something higher, of higher value that you’re really, really looking for… It starts with the customer and it starts reimagining them as a subscriber.”
The Economist: “Investors like a business which offers recurring sales and oodles of data on customers. The Subscription Trade Association reckons global revenues grew at an average annual rate of 17% between 2014 and 2019. That encouraged venture-capital firms to invest close to $3bn worldwide in online subscription firms between 2018 and 2020, according to PitchBook Data. But finding customers is pricey and keeping them has proved hard, given high cancellation rates among those who find themselves tossing away unused products at the end of the month. Shipping costs nibble away at margins. Competition has intensified, both from a fresh influx of startups and large established firms that have launched or acquired their own services.”
Scott Galloway: “Subscription, whether it’s the move to Netflix, whether it’s the move to LinkedIn — more and more people like the idea of saying, “I don’t want my data molested. I want more privacy. I want a business model that focuses on the relationship with me.” And the smartest people aren’t pitching advertisers, they’re pitching new product ideas that enhance my relationship and make it worthwhile for me to spend $12.”
Scalefast: “Subscription services have long been a core offering for Direct to Consumer (DTC) brands. In the post-pandemic world, they are even more important than ever. 75% of DTC brands will offer subscription services by 2023, according to the Subscription Trade Association, and the global subscription commerce economy will account for nearly 20% of the market … Subscription services offer higher margins for DTC brands, lower retention spend, greater predictability in terms of stock levels and cashflow, and a faster feedback loop.”
Commentary – 2
Subscribed.com lists out the 5 key benefits of a subscription model:
Reduced cost of acquiring new customers: Long-term loyalty, as measured by customer lifetime value, will boost retention rates and increase CLTV. Having a better return on acquisition spending can increase your profit margins dramatically.
Lower retention spend: You don’t need to remarket in great detail to your customers so that you can focus on other things. The cheaper your marketing is, the less likely your subscribers are to churn.
Better financial forecasting: Subscriber-based business models offer the benefit of predicting your revenue stream accurately and reliably. With a solid grasp of your economic forecast, you can make better business decisions.
Better inventory management: You can anticipate demand and supply more accurately, resulting in a more consistent business process.
Opportunities for better relationships with customers: With an in-depth understanding of their customers’ preferences and usage behaviors, subscription retailers can provide customized content to them. Additionally, when you construct a strong relationship with clients, you can easily promote upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
McKinsey (from a 2018 article): “The subscription e-commerce market is growing quickly. For consumers, subscription products or boxes offer a convenient, personalized, and often lower-cost way to buy what they want and need. Companies in the space must develop great experiences (as opposed to great subscriptions) to avoid high churn rates and to accelerate both growth and profitability … There are three broad types of subscriptions: replenishment, curation, and access. Replenishment subscriptions allow consumers to automate the purchase of commodity items, such as razors or diapers. Curation subscriptions seek to surprise and delight by providing new items or highly personalized experiences in categories such as apparel, beauty, and food. Last, access subscribers pay a monthly fee to obtain lower prices or members-only perks, primarily in the apparel and food categories.” The chart below elaborates:
Forbes: “One big reason for the rise of the subscription model is price. Costco customers pay the annual fee for unique goods sold at low prices. A company like Dollar Shave Club exploded in popularity because it sold people cheaper razors than they could buy in stores, plus they were delivered directly to the customer’s door. This speaks to another factor: convenience. Of the three big subscription buckets — replenishment, curation and access — the replenishment bucket makes its bones off convenience. Personalization is a third reason subscriptions are so hot. Finally, there’s curation, which is slightly different from personalization. Curation is the feeling that an expert is pulling together pieces to make an exceptional product.”
Razorpay: “It took a while for the subscription model to gain a foothold in India. But the success of brands like Amazon Prime and Hotstar has proven that there is a massive market for subscription businesses in the country … Brand loyalty, which once upon a time guaranteed a minimum ROI, is no longer something can be relied upon. Today, you have to win your customers repeatedly with every interaction. While they need to see the value of your service each time they use it and every time they pay for it, they also expect a personalized experience.”
Subscriptions can be considered to fall in two categories: boxes and bits. Boxes are about getting periodic packages from the D2C or ecommerce companies one subscribes to – for example, razors (Dollar Shave Club) and clothes (Stitch Fix). Bits are about digital goods – for example, media (NYT, WSJ), OTT (Netflix, Hotstar), and Zoom. There are also some hybrids – for example, Amazon Prime, which is about faster delivery and digital (Amazon Video and Music).
While the focus on product and pricing is core to building a subscriptions business, I believe that all subscription companies should consider a parallel track called “Plus”. Plus is about building a deeper relationship with the customers (subscribers) using engaging content. Plus ensures mental availability of the brand and hopefully, prevents churn. Think of it as the surprise that comes with the subscription, which adds to the delight. For box subscriptions, the product itself may be delivered once a month, but Plus can be delivered daily, thus keeping the brand top of mind.
Plus has 3 components:
- Push microns: a daily short mobile-friendly email, readable in 15-30 seconds, linked to the category of the subscription
- Personalisation: by asking and gleaning the subscriber’s preferences, the content sent can be made much relevant
- Progency: the product-led agency that can implement the Plus program, thus ensuring the brand marketing team is not distracted from its core functions of retention, reactivation and referrals
Push microns combine three ideas I have previously discussed – Ems, AMP and Atomic Rewards. Ems are the short, informative, story-like and sequenced emails sent daily. All emails are AMP-enabled to make them interactive. They can have atomic rewards – micro-incentives to drive specific actions (opens, clicks, feedback, form fills, and more).
Personalisation can be the outcome of analysing subscriber behaviour or using AMP to get direct inputs via the emails on preferences. This can help the brand send better curated content. Atomic rewards could be used to incentivise the subscriber to collect zero-party data.
Progency is the way to bring Plus to life. The big challenge that most brands face is time and talent. The internal marketing teams need to focus on the core products. This is where the Progency comes in. The Plus program can be outsourced to an agency which can do everything: concept, content, creative, and communications. By using a proprietary full-stack martech platform, the Progency can be held accountable for outcomes and paid based on performance.
The Plus program thus opens up a new channel for customer engagement for brands with their subscribers. It brings the brand in front of the customers for a few seconds daily even if the actual “product” is delivered at a much lesser frequency. A basic Plus program can be run for one rupee per subscriber per month – a very small investment to ensure that subscribers do not churn because the cost of reacquisition via Google and Facebook can be many times more.
Let us imagine what different brands can do with their Plus programs. (Some of the content examples below have been taken from the Vartam service.)
A books, music or OTT subscriptions brand could send me daily recommendations of what to read, listen or watch.
|Long Bright River is a thriller crime novel by author Liz Moore. Although the book is marketed as a thriller, as with the best crime novels, its scope defies the constraints of the genre; it is family drama, history, and social commentary wrapped up in the compelling format of a police procedural.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore is arguably one of the most intriguing and exciting books that came out in early 2020 and was highly anticipated for a good reason.
|Graceland is the seventh solo album by American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. It is infused with a unique African element, which helps the songs feel fresh. Paul, the musician quintessential, capitalizes on unique sounds of song embryos created by a collective of African musical genius willing to provide, as they do, the bulk of original material, which Paul overlays folk lyric Americana upon a westernized format of folk Africana.
The album won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1987.
|The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, based on his own 1999 novel of the same name.
The story is about a socially awkward teenage boy Charlie (Logan Lerman), who enters high school and is nervous about his new life. The film depicts his struggles with him, unbeknownst to him, post-traumatic stress disorder, as he goes through his journey in high school making new friends – free-spirited Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller).
A food delivery or health-related subscriptions company could offer daily tips for a better life. Here are some possible themes:
A company with interest in offering electronics products management and maintenance subscription services could offer periodic information on new gadgets.
Subscription services like Dropbox and Zoom could offer daily productivity tips. Media companies could offer a story from the archives or daily inspirational quotes. A restaurant could offer recipes and cooking tips. The list goes on. While the content listed here is primarily textual, it could even be delivered in the form of short videos. The common underlying theme is to build a parallel channel which delights subscribers daily, elicits periodic feedback from them, and provides an early warning of churn (should subscribers stop opening the messages). Because this can be run as a performance-based outsourced activity, brands are not encumbering internal teams with yet another activity.
Plus is a new idea – I have not seen any paid subscription platform do this. It is an idea that smart marketers can deploy in their effort to drive subscriber retention, engagement, and loyalty.
Tien Tzuo’s book “Subscribed” has a hypothetical income statement of a subscription company:
The key is to think ARR: annual recurring revenue. Subscription businesses have a predictable revenue stream. In the example above, the ending ARR ($120) = starting ARR ($100) – churn ($10) + new ARR added ($30). Cross-sell and upsell can also help drive ARR higher. The key is the “recurring” nature of the revenues. This is what makes the subscription business attractive. Also, by encouraging existing customers to refer their friends and family, the cost of sales and marketing for new customer acquisition can be brought down. Taken together, this can lay the foundation for a profitable growth flywheel.
In the enterprise world, B2B SaaS companies are doing just that. Salesforce pioneered software as a service with its CRM system offered not as an on-premise installation but via the cloud. In the past two decades, SaaS has become the preferred model for most enterprise software. My company, Netcore, also offers communications and martech solutions via the cloud as SaaS. Our North Star metric is NRR – Net Retention Rate, meaning the growth in revenues from the same cohort of customers over the past year. Anything over 120% is very good.
B2C and D2C companies need to also bring in this thinking. What products of theirs can be offered on a subscription basis? For products with a lower purchase frequency, is there a new line that can be created which offers subscriptions? By shifting the mindset from ownership to membership, from one-time to recurring, brands can reinvent their business economics.
For every business, subscriptions can be the new growth engines. Subscriptions enhanced with the “Plus” program (push microns, personalisation and Progency) can be a big driver for the coming martech era. The key is to shift thinking from just retention to subscription. Companies who execute well can be the disruptors, the new profipolies, benefiting from exponential forever profitable growth.
Subscription is yet another example of an old idea that is being reinvented for the digital age. Writes Adam Levinter in “The Subscription Boom”: “Subscription is experiencing a resurgence in the digital age. Yet the subscription model has been around for about 400 years, dating back to the sales of books and periodicals in the early seventeenth century. Perhaps the first known direct-mail subscription business is the Book of the Month Club, which was started in 1926 by entrepreneur Harry Scherman, who arguably set the template for the current subscription-box model we see today … It won’t be long before [subscription is] the norm rather than the exception for companies that want to thrive and compete.”