What is subscription fatigue and what can you do about it?

Subscriptions, subscriptions, subscriptions! They’re everywhere, and this business model doesn’t seem to be going anywhere – but is there a breaking point for the consumer?

There’s often a limit to what individuals are willing to pay, and with so many businesses shifting toward monthly or yearly payments, this can eventually create a predicament for both membership site owners and members.

Bills stack up, subscription fatigue rears its ugly head, and poof! Members churn, you lose money, and members lose out on your content, too.

What do I mean by subscription fatigue

I’m talking about the anxiety customers get from the ever-accumulating monthly costs of maintaining subscriptions to all kinds of things, from streaming services and gym memberships, to membership sites like those discussed regularly on our blog.

The bottom line is this:

Sometimes, it’s just too much.

So, what can you do about it? How can you mitigate the effects of subscription fatigue? What can you offer your members to keep your membership in their good graces when it comes time for them to eliminate monthly expenses?

Let’s look at a few important strategies to keep in mind.

Over-deliver on value

The one thing that makes a membership irresistible is high value. Some of the most successful memberships are those that offer so much in the way of benefits that members just don’t want to miss out.

In our post about what members value most in a membership, we talk about the importance of ongoing value, because the very nature of the membership model is based on exactly that. You promise to deliver value on an ongoing basis, and your members agree to pay recurring fees in exchange for this value.

It can be a great deal for everyone, but the way members see it, they need to see the real-world results of your membership in order to justify paying for it – especially when subscription fatigue hits!

Think about how your membership improves the lives of your members. Does it save them time or money, provide entertainment, give them skills that improve their careers and earn them more money, simplify their day-to-day lives, or help them in some other meaningful way?

It might seem like memberships that provide entertainment should theoretically be the first ones on the chopping block, but that isn’t necessarily the case. For instance, how many people do you know with a Netflix subscription? Now, out of those people, how many have said they want to get in better shape, but (for whatever reason) won’t pay for a gym membership?

Priorities aren’t always predictable based on types of content or the purpose of a membership site; It really comes down to how much your members would miss you if they canceled.

Use tiered memberships

In our post about member retention, we talked about how offering membership tiers can inspire members to stick around. This is because giving members more options – different price points for different levels of access to your content – allows them to choose a membership that is most suitable for them.

This can make a big difference when it comes to subscription fatigue because if your members feel like their subscription is appropriate for their needs and budget, they are less likely to view the membership as expendable. Sometimes, people get rid of subscriptions just because they don’t really need them, so focus on designing your membership offerings around what your members need (and actually use), and you may be able to stop churn before it happens.

In general, it’s important to be sure that you’re using the right pricing model for your product or content types, so check out our post on the topic over here!

Offer alternative options

When it comes to membership site revenue, something is better than nothing, right? Of course, ideally you want long-term members who stay with you for a while, but one way you can reduce the potential effects of subscription fatigue is to simply give members alternative options, so that if they don’t want to pay monthly, they have more options than simply canceling.

One great example is allowing members to freeze or pause their memberships. This is a great way to encourage them to stay connected to your site, while giving them the freedom to adjust their commitment according to their life requirements.

Another example is offering a one-time pass that gives members a certain degree of access to your content for a one-time fee. This means that you still earn money (even if it’s not recurring), and they still get to benefit from your content in some way.

Focus on member engagement

Grow your member community

If you want your membership site to thrive, the benefits of community cannot be overstated. A member community gives members the ability to educate each other, form friendships, get motivated by others, and generally become more involved with, and more attached to your membership.

Although it’s a cumulative effect over time, building a community around your membership site takes things to a whole new level, and creates extra value that members don’t want to lose – even if they experience subscription fatigue.

Start using gamification

Although it may seem simple, gamification (or using game-like elements on your website) is a highly effective way to increase member engagement. In fact, we wrote a whole post about it here!

Gamification makes consuming membership content more fun, introduces a competitive element, and keeps members coming back to your site again and again. The fact is, the more engaged your members are, the less they are going to want to part ways with your membership.

Prevention is where it’s at

While there are certainly things you can do if your members do decide to cancel (just take a look at our post about winning back lost members), the best way to guard against subscription fatigue is to take preventative measures.

Over-delivering on value, using tiered memberships, offering alternative options, and focusing on member engagement by growing your membership community and using gamification all contribute to creating a top-shelf experience that your members just won’t want to give up.

What have you done to combat subscription fatigue? Do you have some insights to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy Jones is a content writer at Sandhills Development and founder of Looplicious. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, she's a world traveler and animal lover with a passion for creativity and maker culture. When she’s not writing blog posts for Easy Digital Downloads, Restrict Content Pro, and AffiliateWP, she can be found hanging out with other people’s dogs, or writing, recording, and performing music.

One comment

  1. Thank you for the very informative article!

    I have a family archive, and I am having problems getting family members to join (and pay a nominal fee of $9.95 per YEAR).

    Most of my family members have subscribed so they receive weekly posts that contain the Title of the post and a picture (no content). In order to fully access these weekly posts, a paid annual membership is required.

    I am debating whether I should stop sending these weekly emails to everyone hoping this would entice family members to join and then receive the weekly emails…

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