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Inside Dental Technology
February 2019
Volume 10, Issue 2

Subscription Economy

Daniel Alter, MSc, MDT, CDT

The economy has been front and center on every media outlet this past year. While the US economy has enjoyed a positive upswing, albeit a volatile roller coaster ride in the stock markets, it is nonetheless always prudent for a businessperson to examine the state of economy and the variables that move it in an attempt to identify potential opportunities. According to an in-depth survey by McKinsey & Company,1 subscription-based commerce has been growing 100% year-over-year for the past 5 years. The largest retailers in this field are generating more than $2.6B in sales in 2016, up significantly from $57.0M in 2011. Even Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's Mad Money and co-founder of TheStreet, Inc, recently called subscriptions the "future of commerce."

In his Forbes article, "The State of the Subscription Economy, 2018,"2 Louis Columbus calls out some of the most relevant findings from the McKinsey & Company study. Subscribers themselves are most likely to be 25 to 44 years old, have incomes ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, and live in urban environments in the US—much like in the dental industry. Women account for 60% of subscribers, while men are more likely to have three or more active subscriptions. New dentists are within these demographic sectors and are heavily cross-vested in this mode of commerce.

There are also differences among the types of subscriptions available. Curation-based subscriptions account for 55% of all subscriptions, making this category the most dominant. Curation-based subscriptions reflect online customers' demand for a continued series of personalized, high-quality experiences. Replenishment-based subscriptions account for 32% of the market, and access subscriptions comprise 13%.

Furthermore, 15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products on a recurring basis, frequently through monthly boxes. The opportunity for growth is staggering.

This customizable and unique subscription-based commerce experience provides the consumer with an impression of gaining greater value than expensed for a nominal fee. Consumers use this type of commerce when they pay membership fees to various platforms, including Netflix, Amazon, Costco, financial services, water delivery, and so much more.

For a small fee, my own family subscribes to a company that delivers an age-appropriate and educational STEM or art project to my children each month. The joy, anticipation, and excitement my kids experience are a great value for the monthly charge.

Surely there are ways that dental laboratories can implement subscription-based commerce among their clients to capture greater clientele engagement and revenue streams. With a bit of creativity and ingenuity, there is no doubt in my mind that a successful strategy can be developed to reap the greatest advantage and opportunity.

It is my honor and pleasure to elevate and inspire with knowledge.


1. Chen T, Fenyo K, Yang S, Zhang J. Thinking inside the subscription box: New research on e-commerce consumers. February 2018. Accessed January 3, 2019.

2. Columbus L. The state of the subscription economy, 2018. Forbes. March 14, 2018. Accessed January 3, 2019.

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