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//Thursday d. 10.03.22

Free of ownership. Soon, we will subscribe to glasses, bikes and washing machines

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Subscription POV #23

By Morten Suhr Hansen

Allow me to start this article on a personal note. I’d like to tell you about my personal subscription to glasses because it entails some quite interesting perspectives on how we will buy our long-lasting consumer goods in the future. Or buy might not be the right word because we are actually going to subscribe to having access to them, instead of owning them.

A couple of years ago, Danish Synoptik (part of the world’s largest optician chain Grandvision) launched a subscription on glasses. Other actors before them had tried their luck with subscription-like services that were more like payoff solutions, however, Synoptik chose to go all-in on the new subscription movement and create a true subscription, where the ownership befell on Synoptik and where you, after a six-month starting period were able to cancel your subscription with 30 days notice. But actually, there’s not much reason to do that!

A pair of broken glasses. That’s where I loved my subscription

The subscription model is fully flexible. I can choose between all glasses and sunglasses in the selection and naturally, I get them adjusted with the right glass. I need to choose at least two pairs of glasses and I pay a monthly fee, depending on the cost of the glasses. Wouldn’t that be the same as buying them on a payoff solution? No, because the magic lies in the flexibility and the service that follow with the subscription.

Every year, I can switch out a pair of glasses for a brand-new pair, and if I need a new glass configuration, my glasses will be changed, free of charge.

This was perfect for me when I made self-inflicted damage to my sunglasses and without problems, had them changed for a new pair with a small excess payment.

Two important behavioural patterns drive the new subscription model

My mission here is not to run an advertising campaign for Synoptik (even though it might seem like it). My mission is to advertise the subscription model as a whole. Because there are some aspects of my behaviour as a subscriber that are interesting and which have perspectives for other companies as well, who are thinking of implementing a similar model.

Firstly, I have to conclude that the collective value of my glasses shopping is far higher than if I bought them the traditional way. The monthly price is more tangible than an expensive, one-time payment and at the same time, I worry less about buying more expensive glasses, because I know that I have the flexibility and freedom to change them if I like.

Secondly, Synoptik has lifted me out of the market for glasses. I’ve become far more loyal to this chain than when I bought glasses the regular way and went for the best offer.

Both effects, the increased revenue, and increased loyalty is something that we often see with our customers, who introduce a subscription to long-lasting consumer goods.

Assets-as-a-Service is the name of the new subscription form

Naturally, this tendency is not only happening with glasses – soon we will be able to subscribe to all types of more expensive products.

The Danish startup WhiteOn has thrown itself into white goods. Now, you can subscribe to a washing machine and a tumble drier without any hassle and with free delivery and installation. The question is if you bought your last washing machine ever!

Dutch Swapfiets has done the same with bicycles. A flat, monthly fee gives you access to your own bike, with delivery and service, when the tire is flat or the chain jumps off. Four Swapfiets bikes are now part of my own household’s daily transport.

The largest car importer in Denmark, the Semler Group (deals VW and Audi) has launched Dribe, which is a car subscription. Now, you can subscribe to a whole garage of cars and change cars depending on your needs.

I could continue the list with products like hearing aids, computers, printers, and furniture, all products that we Danes can now subscribe to.

In other words, we’re talking about a trend where we as consumers would rather have access to a service than buy a product. We could call it the new business area “Assets-as-a-Service” – the ability to subscribe to assets that we formerly would buy ourselves.

The business model is a clear advantage for the companies that manage to develop a real combination of the product and the additional services, but first and foremost this development is driven by us consumers. We already demand flexibility and freedom. Freedom from ownership and all of the hassle that comes with it. At the same time, this model is sustainable. It works against the ‘buy and throw away’ culture and gives companies an incentive to create products that last longer.

What is the next product that you would rather subscribe to than buy? Feel free to comment with your own suggestion!

Read more Subscription POV here.