What Issues Will Subscription-Based Products Face in 2030?

This is the second in a series of three posts on the future of payments. See what the near future looks like and come back next week, when we look at how millennials are impacting e-commerce.

The subscription industry has greatly expanded over the last decade, bringing with it box services, cloud services, and streaming media.

Just think back to 2009: Netflix was primarily a DVD distributor, AWS was still a burgeoning service and Blue Apron was still three years away from founding.

Life comes at you fast, and in the future, it will be faster.

What will the subscription industry look like in 2030? It’s impossible to say for sure, but we have an idea:

  • Mobile focused
  • Digital payments
  • Niche strategies
  • New markets

Mobile first

In 1980, analysts predicted that by the year 2000 the number of cell phone subscribers in the US would grow to 900,000. It ended up being 109 million.

By 2012, the number of cell phone subscribers worldwide climbed to 1 billion.

We’re in a mobile-heavy environment now, but the future will be mobile-centric.

Mobile technology has had such a dramatic impact on our lives that it’s contributing to all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

It’s been especially impactful on emerging markets:

  • Mobile banking is reshaping the African economy and creating an environment of financial inclusion. Google Pay is the third most downloaded iOS app in India.
  • Educational apps are improving lives and accessibility. Subscription apps like Bright’s English for Beginners (over 20 million downloads) are bridging the education divide.
  • Whatsapp has simplified international communication by making it easy for people to stay in touch without paying standard phone bill rates.

This is prime real estate for subscription businesses.


Typeform is a SaaS that creates stylish forms to better capture data. They started as a web-based product intended for desktop use, but found they weren’t giving their users what they wanted.

The Typeform team started with customer habits and built a product with them at the center. By doing so, they created the Typeform LITE mobile app. After debuting it, signups went well – at times surpassing desktop use. Instead of having their customer base only able to use their product sometimes, they unlocked the option to access it all the time.

Then, there’s the rise of augmented reality. Unlike virtual reality, AR is mobile-focused and there is no clunky headset that tether users to a machine. The potential to provide subscription services is great – and with better customer engagement. It’s niche technology, so it’s unknown exactly what the industry will look like, but the growth opportunities are significant.


Major League Baseball has implemented in-stadium AR features as part of the wildly popular At-Bat app (annual $19.99 subscription), allowing fans to see real-time data and statistics from their seat.

AR is still relatively nascent, but the potential is great.

Key takeaways

  • At the very least, make sure you have a mobile-friendly site and checkout process.
  • Consider whether your product’s mobile presence could be improved by a responsive site or a dedicated app.

All digital payments

We’ve discussed some of the ins and outs of where digital payment technology is headed in the near future and how they’ll impact the subscription industry. The end of the next decade, however, could be even more exciting.

Mobile wallets are already here and should become even more ubiquitous in the future. Sixty-four percent of consumers plan to use a mobile wallet in 2020, a thirty-nine percent increase from today.

If you’re not already accepting them, you should put it on your to-do list today.

The most interesting development around digital payments will be blockchain, called the 5G of the payment industry. Bitcoin and various other cryptocurrencies have sparked a wave of innovation and investment in related FinTech startups.

It has challenges, but the benefits to business and customer are significant:


The oldest magazine in China, Technology Life, announced in 2018 that it would start accepting Bitcoin starting in 2019 for an annual subscription. The magazine is the first major media company to do so in the country.

Key takeaways

  • Make sure your payment gateway and/or subscription billing provider offers varied digital payment options.
  • Consider how (when?) you’d like to start accepting cryptocurrency.

A niche strategy

The last ten years have been a gold rush for subscription services with both booms and busts.

The Software as a Service (SaaS) business model exploded, with revenues expected to top $85 billion in 2019.

It hasn’t all been roses, though. Subscription box services saw steady growth from 2010 to 2015 before experiencing a decline.

Growth has shifted from mainstream offerings to more niche options.

It’s not enough to have a meal box, you need to have a keto meal box. Multiple options now exist so that creators to make content for very specific audiences, and get paid for it.


If you want an engaged audience, you want nerds. Lots of them.

WarnerMedia, the entertainment division of the new confab created by the AT&T-Time Warner merger, knows this. There will be a streaming service that includes the new company’s various offerings like Friends and Seinfeld, eventually.

Before that, however, “DC Universe” launched, servicing all your Batman fanboys and Wonder Woman fangirls. Despite having far less content than other providers, the highly focused audience it serves is tuning in at great numbers.

Key takeaways

  • Don’t be afraid to target a niche market — if someone can run a successful business investing in Magic the Gathering cards, your product isn’t too specific.
  • Create a product built around a deep understanding of your customer that solves their very unique problem(s).

Emerging markets

The information age has made it easier than ever before to compete on a global level. It’s brought challenges as well, but there has never been a time in human history where it’s more possible to reach foreign markets.

The habits and lives of consumers are changing. City dwellers are increasing at a rate of 65 million a year, and the majority of consumers will soon be urban.

By 2030, 75% of people will have both mobile and internet access. Wages for the middle class in emerging markets like China are steadily rising.

Gen Zers will make up 40% of consumers by 2020 having never known a world without smartphones or social media.

Developing localized products, content, and marketing plans is paramount to keeping up with competitors.


Only five years after launching in non-English languages, 75 percent of Dropbox customers were found outside the United States. A steady, thoughtful approach allowed the storage provider to turn into an international power house.

Dropbox used a data-driven approach to decide where and when to expand. Using their own algorithms, the company was able to decide where they could have the greatest impact. They identified markets – like the Nordics – where they had some market penetration, but were still a relatively small player.

That was their sweet spot (mature markets, high digital usage) and where they started. It wasn’t enough to simply expand. Dropbox had to smartly expand.

Key takeaways

  • An emerging market may surprise you — consider split-testing one of your digital ad campaigns in an emerging market and test its performance against other markets.
  • Make sure your payment gateway and subscription billing provider accept multiple currencies. If you’re successful in a new market, you may want to consider using DCC.

Before you plan for the future, of course, there’s the present. If you’re looking to start a subscription business or want to make sure you’re on the right track, check out our Six-Month Success Checklist for the must-dos. Download it today and set yourself up to win:

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