Hello Fresh. Stitch Fix. Zoom. KiwiCo. Imperfect Produce. These are just a few of the subscriptions I’ve signed up for since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A person is wrapping up a packageBefore March 2020, I almost never shopped online. But as the stock in grocery stores became harder to predict, I signed up for my first subscription food box. Shortly after, I extended the children’s subscription box gifted to my kiddo in an effort to keep him entertained in isolation. By February, nearly a year into pandemic life, I signed up for Stitch Fix – a big stretch for someone who never purchases clothing online. I was hesitant and nervous I’d regret it … until the first box arrived. After not shopping for clothes in over a year, it was exciting to try on new outfits and imagine wearing them outside of my house (someday).  

My experience is not unique. It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a surge in e-commerce. In fact, one in four U.S. consumers turned to subscription services during quarantine, according to research from Bazaarvoice. The pandemic has pushed many people to find convenient, online alternatives to numerous in-person activities. 

But as we move closer to the “after” of pandemic times, many brands are wondering which factors will help transition COVID customers into loyal, long-term customers. Where should they focus their energy?  

When discussing the rapid growth and success of subscription services in an article for MarTech Series, Suzin Wold, senior VP of marketing at Bazaarvoice, says, “Younger consumers are some of the most powerful influencers and their use of social media plays a large part in enabling customers to share experiences that credit these brands … brands have to use the voice of the customer to create more meaningful shopper experiences, which ultimately results in more sales and customer loyalty.”

New data on product abandonment and consumer preferences published in a report by The Manifest shows that customer onboarding strategies are also integral to a business’s ability to retain customers. A successful onboarding process would increase the likelihood of spending more on a product or service for 46% of consumers. In addition, the research shows 51% of customers will abandon online products or services in the first month after purchase. This data suggests that an onboarding strategy is just as important in a customer’s first week as later on in their consumer journey. 

So will brands succeed in keeping COVID customers long-term – specifically the hesitant ones like me who would have never signed up pre-pandemic? Only time will tell. But Bazaarvoice’s study does report promising data for subscription services, with 85% of consumers saying they will continue to pay for their subscription post-lockdown. 

I personally don’t know how my behaviors will change. Will I want to keep my current subscriptions? Return to old habits? Adopt a hybrid? No matter what, I do know I’m looking forward to seeing more data as restrictions continue to ease.