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Younger Consumers Spearhead Shift Toward Subscription-Based Gifts This Holiday Season, New Survey Shows

Economic landscape and desire for personalized experiences drive Millennial and Gen Z consumers toward lower-cost gifts with meaning, according to Recurly holiday consumer report

SAN FRANCISCO - September 19, 2023 -The holiday shopping season is revealing a fresh trend led largely by younger consumers: the pivot toward subscription-based gifts. As a difficult economy forces consumers to tighten their belts, Gen Z and Millennials are turning to subscriptions as a way to give meaningful gifts on a budget. This is among the key findings  from Recurly’s new consumer report, “Unwrap the Subscriptions: 2023 Holiday Trends.”

The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults revealed 81% of participants across age groups said the current economy will impact the way they’ll approach gift-gifting this holiday season, with 49% saying they intend to spend less on gifts, 43% saying they plan to shop for more deals, and 36% saying they will give gifts to fewer people.

Amid this overall belt-tightening, an increasing number of respondents are favoring gift subscriptions. Fully two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they “definitely” or “possibly” would be interested in giving a gift subscription this holiday season—an increase of 4% from the 2022 Recurly holiday survey. Millennial and Gen Z consumers led the way in this increase, with 73% of Millennials and 70% of Gen Z respondents saying they were interested in giving a subscription.

The shift is more pronounced among those most affected by the economy. Among the 46% of respondents who said the economy would have a “significant impact” on their holiday gift-giving, 37% said they were “definitely” interested in giving subscriptions, compared to 27% of respondents overall. 

Among all respondents, 73% said they were willing to pay up to $100 for a gift subscription, with 34% willing to pay between $50 and $100.

"While this holiday season may see more cautious spending, the spirit of finding that perfect gift remains unchanged. Subscriptions have emerged as a way to provide meaningful experiences to fit tighter budgets. The rising interest in such gifts, both from givers and recipients, hints at a holiday season with fewer predictable presents and more thoughtful surprises,” said Theresa McEndree, CMO at Recurly.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • Millennial and Gen Z respondents were the most enthusiastic about receiving subscriptions as gifts, with 40% of each group saying they were “definitely” interested in receiving a gift subscription this holiday season. That compares to less than a third of for other age groups.

  • When asked what category of subscription gift they would be most likely to give, gaming subscriptions—such as Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now, and Twitch—came out on top, receiving the vote of 35% of respondents. This was closely followed by food and beverage subscriptions like UberEats and HelloFresh (33%) and streaming video subscriptions like Netflix and Paramount+ (31%). Gaming’s popularity was largely driven by Gen Z consumers, with 48% saying they would be most likely to give them as a gift. 

  • When asked what category of subscription gift they would most like to receive, food and beverage subscriptions were the winner (44%), followed by streaming video (40%), and in-person entertainment such as movie theaters, theme parks and concerts (35%). Food and beverage was the top choice among all age groups except Gen Z consumers, who again opted for gaming subscriptions (41%).

The survey also showed that any resistance to gifts such as gift cards and subscriptions is declining. While the biggest reason cited for not giving subscriptions was that respondents “preferred to give a physical gift in person,” this factor was less important for younger consumers. While nearly half of Boomers favored giving physical gifts over subscriptions, this preference drops to 37% for Gen X, 25% for Millennials, and just 23% for Gen Z.

Editor’s notes:

Findings based on an internet-based survey conducted by Censuswide and Recurly, August 2023. The sample size included 1,000 respondents each in the U.S. and U.K., 18+ years or over, who have intentions to either give or receive gifts during the upcoming holiday season.

About Recurly

Thousands of innovative companies across digital media, streaming, publishing, SaaS, education, consumer goods, and professional services industries rely on Recurly to unlock transformational growth using subscriptions. Recurly’s all-in-one, integrated platform removes the complexities of automating subscription billing at scale by enabling teams to manage and optimise their subscriber lifecycles with ease. Category-defining companies including Sling, Twitch, BarkBox, FabFitFun, Paramount, Lucid, and Sprout Social have chosen Recurly to manage billions of dollars in recurring revenues, future-proof their recurring billing and revenue management, and recover billions of dollars in lost revenue due to churn. Founded in 2009, Recurly is based in San Francisco, with offices in Boulder and London. For more information, visit Recurly.

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