From our special correspondent in the future (just that),
Tuesday, November 1, 2050, 7 a.m. As with every awakening, Jérémy’s radio (yes, it still exists in thirty years’ time) tunes into the airwaves ofAmazonFM, for which he pays a monthly subscription of 4.99 euros. “It’s not expensive and the information is of high quality”, he convinced himself when subscribing. Anyway, no need for a lot of arguments: this is his 37th current subscription. By force, the mechanics are broken in.
His coffee comes thanks to his Starbucks card, which allows him to have a drink every morning for the modest sum of 20 euros a month. A real abo-mania, you say? The first signs were already present at the junction of the 2010 and 2020 decades. An Ipsos study from October 2021* indicated that at the time, a French person accumulated 10 monthly subscriptions on average. “There has been a clear trend towards subscriptions in recent years, it is a booming market that is set to develop,” predicted Philippe Moati, director of the Society and Consumption Observatory *, in 2022.
The Del Arte revolution
An important step was taken in October of the same year, when the restaurant chain Del Arte offered a subscription allowing you to eat at your table every day, all for 35 euros per month. But why such a success for the purchase in package? Marcel Botton, CEO of the consulting agency Nomen **, a specialist in brands and their promotion, had his own idea: “This has the advantage of reducing the price for the consumer and of offering companies recurrence. In an era where buying habits and behaviors are changing rapidly, building customer loyalty is the most important task. »
Now, in 2050, everyone is subscribed to their favorite restaurants. For Frédéric, it’s Sushis-store and Pizza-ions. But before lunch, obligatory visit to the Neo-fit gym, there also a subscription. Head to the metro. Metro who reminds him that he still has not terminated his public transport subscriber card in Rennes, from where he moved three months ago. “Every day, I tell myself that I’m going to cancel, but I’m lazy and I’m postponing. In the meantime, I’m paying…” Frédéric self-flagellates.
The Netflixation of the market
“The problem with the subscription is that it doesn’t adapt to the unexpected. A move, an injury, a trip… We also pay for empty spaces,” said Marcel Botton. From 2021, it demonstrated its influence: 47% of French people had already felt trapped by a subscription (free month offer, ease of subscription, difficulty in canceling), and 40% continued to pay subscriptions that they no longer or barely used, according to the same Ipsos study.
The best known case, we come back to it, is the gym. Subscriber in January, deserter in March… No! It’s out of the question to fall into this cliché for Frédéric, at the rendezvous this Tuesday to type his best series of traction. The height of happiness after a good sweat, Neo-fit has prepared the strawberry protein shaker that he loves so much. “This is also the advantage of the subscription for the company: to better know its customers, and thus best meet their expectations by maximizing costs and profits”, according to Pierre-Louis Desprez, associate director of Kaos Consulting **. “It’s the Netflix effect: the more films you consume, the more the algorithms will understand your tastes and recommend relevant films”, Philippe Moati schematically. This increases the grip of subscriptions on our lives, explains the director: “A subscription takes time to be optimized and to get to know you well. It becomes even harder to end it, because you realize that it took effort to build such a successful relationship. »
Frédéric illustrates this with his shaker: “Before, Neo-fit would have bought banana, chocolate, apple drinks… when in doubt. Now that everyone is a subscriber, they know who’s getting what, and they’ll make the right purchases. There is no more mess. This is THE promise of the subscription: to avoid waste. The Vélibonator that Frédéric rides at noon – for which he of course pays a subscription, you are beginning to follow – is the perfect example of this: “Can you imagine the raw materials wasted if each bicycle user bought one? », Congratulates Frédéric.
As early as 2022, Pascale Hébel, co-director of a marketing consulting firm**, posed this analysis: the subscription is the transition from consumption of property to consumption of use and service. Instead of buying a car, I’m going to rent one for a trip. In theory, this allows less consumption, but also makes objects that are too expensive to buy accessible. Sylvie, Frédéric’s wife, subscribes to Decath-X. Against thirty euros per month, she can borrow the sports equipment of her choice. “This summer, we were able to kayak, paddle, and even sail. Do you think we would have had enough to buy all that? laughs Frédéric on his bike (whose subscription he has just topped up).
Here he is at the Sushi-store. “In itself, I’m not very hungry, but you have to eat there three times a week if I want to make my package profitable,” says the 30-year-old. A real problem vis-à-vis the ecological crisis, detailed Pierre-Louis Desprez: “The subscription system pushes consumption and growth, it’s just a little more hidden. But in a world where a French person consumes 2.7 times more than what is needed for the planet, the subscription, which allows you to have everything and consume everything, would benefit from a serious change to be a healthy model. » Pascale Hébel spins the metaphor of the all-you-can-eat buffet: « You will generally eat more than you are hungry, to make the purchase profitable ». In other words: how many Netflix films or series would we not have watched if we had to pay for them individually?
Despite a slight stomach ache after the sushi he didn’t want, Frédéric spent the afternoon working. “The CDI, what is it other than one more subscription? he laughs. His best friend from work, Romain, offers him a Mexican tonight (he subscribes to the FuturoTacos channel). But for Frédéric, a non-member, it would cost 50 euros per meal. Because yes, unit purchases have become overpriced. Already in 2022, cinemas justified their screenings at 13 euros with the famous “yes, but with the 10-seat pass, it’s cheaper”.
“Companies risk boosting the price per unit, in order to further encourage the customer to subscribe, anticipated Pascal Hébel. We will lose the capacity for occasional and unit purchases. There will be less freedom of purchases, of frivolity. » Philippe Moati: « Subscriptions confine the consumer, it is even their function: that he stays with the brand and does not go elsewhere. Admittedly, Frédéric goes to the restaurant every day. But only in two restaurants.
Invisible price rise
Grumpy at having missed this Mexican restaurant, Frédéric returns home. Tuesday is invoice day; he (re)discovers the overall cost of his subscriptions – almost half his salary – and the rise in many of them. An inconspicuous increase, and therefore all the more dangerous: “Most consumers no longer have any idea of the price, of what they are spending, of the increases in progress”, pointed out Pascale Hébel. In 2021, 35% of consumers did not know how to precisely list the number of their subscriptions and their monthly cost. Philippe Moati: “The price increases are all the more insidious given the grip of the subscription. The consumer undergoes ”status quo deals”: He tends to reproduce what he has already done and what he already knows. »
Sylvie is already asleep, and Frédéric goes to bed as he got up: with AmazonFM. In the meantime, the flat rate has increased to 10 euros per month. Ok, the information is quality, but it’s starting to get expensive…