Subscription Fatigue: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Fight It

by | Jan 27, 2023 | Business, Resources

Subscription fatigue is real. This phenomenon is becoming an increasingly common issue for consumers and business owners alike.

According to recent research, most people underestimate how much they spend on monthly subscriptions — sometimes by as much as $133 (or more!). Plus, nearly half of people have even forgotten about subscriptions they’re not using anymore.

As a subscription business or membership site owner, you might think this is good news. But in fact, all of these behaviors are nothing but symptoms of a larger problem: human attention is limited, whereas apps and ads flashing at humans are seemingly…infinite.

What is subscription fatigue, how do you fight it, and what’s the best way to ensure it doesn’t affect your membership site?

Read on and find out more.

What Is Subscription Fatigue?

In short, subscription fatigue occurs when customers become overwhelmed with subscription services and products. Customers may feel like they don’t need any more subscription services or that the subscription options available aren’t worth the money they’re spending. Or, they might struggle to keep up with subscription renewals and payments.

Clearly, we’re all being bombarded with subscription options left and right. Phone and utilities are subscription services, subscription boxes are a popular way to shop, and subscription streaming services dominate our entertainment choices. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: grocery, equipment, and even cars might soon become widespread subscription products.

There’s nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, actually: subscription businesses enable people use products only for as long as they need them, avoid waste, and enjoy better-tailored subscription experiences.

However, subscription fatigue becomes a concern consumers associate these experiences with pressure and a bank account that’s drained too quickly.

subscription fatigue

Causes for Subscription Fatigue

Subscription fatigue doesn’t just happen.

It crawls into people’s lives, often without much noise, and many causes can tip a consumer over the fatigue bridge:

Too Many Subscriptions

People are increasingly trying subscription services, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. It’s easier than ever just to hit the subscribe button… only to forget about them as soon as a new one comes up.

With so many subscription options attacking consumers from every corner of the internet, it’s easy to see how it can all get a little bit much. And it’s just as easy to see how this can create a form of anxiety in consumers: instead of getting joy, learning, or community from their subscriptions, they are getting the exact opposite.

Added Costs Piling Up

Subscriptions piling up can also become a financial problem. With subscription prices going lower and lower, people can find themselves paying more subscription fees than they expect.

Additionally, subscription services sometimes impose hidden fees, which can make the whole financial side of the problem even more poignant.

Last but not least, it’s very hard for the human brain to perceive automated subscriptions as actual money going out of an actual bank account. They happen automatically, every month, and they’re digital payments — so you don’t have to do anything while your bank account is being charged. Again. And again. And again.

Subscription fatigue losing money

Decrease in Standards

Sometimes, subscription fatigue happens not because of a larger context or because the subscriber hasn’t been paying attention to how many services they’ve been paying for every month.

Sometimes, just sometimes, subscription fatigue occurs when there’s a decrease in standards on the business’ side. When customers feel like subscription services aren’t providing them with the value they had expected, subscription fatigue is likely to happen. They might not unsubscribe for a million reasons, but even so, they aren’t getting the value they subscribed for — and thus, a sort of fatigue is installed.

Similar issues can appear outside of the subscription economy too. People are overwhelmed by content, advertising, and apps — subscription fatigue is just one element of a bigger, more systematic issue: the plaguing of the internet with irrelevant and cumbersome content, ads, and apps.

Subscription Fatigue and Subscription Businesses

Alright, how is subscription fatigue affecting businesses that work on a subscription model?

First of all, this type of fatigue can lead to a drop in engagement. When this happens, subscription businesses can experience a subscription growth slowdown, and their subscription numbers can go down.

But subscription fatigue goes beyond just subscription numbers. If people are finding subscription services to be too much of a hassle, subscription businesses can experience an increase in churn rates and a decrease in customer satisfaction.

What’s more, disengaged subscribers are also far less likely to recommend your business to anyone else — thus making growth (or revenue recovery after churn) very difficult.

How Subscription Businesses Can Cut Through the Fatigue

The good news is that subscription fatigue is not insurmountable. There are a few key strategies subscription businesses can use to fight subscription fatigue and ensure their customers remain engaged and satisfied.

Focus on Quality

Subscription fatigue is very often related to the quality of the product or service you’re offering. For example, if you run a membership site, subscription fatigue is more likely to occur if the content you’re offering isn’t fresh or relevant.

In the subscription economy, quality should always be the top priority — both in terms of product and customer service. Subscription businesses need to make sure that they are offering quality products and services at all times, if they want to cut through subscription fatigue.

Sure, being able to offer both quality and quantity can have its benefits. But if you’re a solopreneur or a small team, that might not always be possible. So whenever you have to choose between quality and quantity, choose the former. It might seem counter-intuitive, but remember people paid for your membership site and its unique point of view, content, and community — not for rehashed content they can find on Google.

Make the Subscription Process Easy

Your subscription process should be easy from A to Z. That means that from subscription payments to content delivery — everything should be easy and accessible. Your members should have access to all the information they need, and subscription payments should be automated so members don’t have to worry about manually paying for subscription renewals.

Billing information and frequency, subscription plan features and content, and subscription payments should all be easy to manage.

Offer People the Option to Pause

Sometimes, people just don’t have the time to go through your course or make the most out of your community. Or they might go through a rough patch from a financial standpoint.

Whatever their reasons, people will appreciate if you show flexibility and offer them the option to pause their subscription. Sure, you don’t have to do this with all subscription plans — but it’s an excellent way to keep people in the loop (and in your sales funnel). It also creates a very human relationship between you and your members — and establishes trust.

subscription fatigue pause

Make Sure Your Pricing Remains Competitive

Your subscription pricing should remain competitive. Because subscription fatigue is often linked to subscription prices, subscription businesses should make sure that they are offering subscription plans at a fair price.

Furthermore, you should also consider offering:

  • Free, trial, and low-cost plans
  • Financial assistance
  • Rent-to-own options

These pricing options will help you stay close to your subscribers, even when they are not fully paying members or they don’t pay for the highest subscription plan there is. When the time comes, they will be far more likely to consider buying from you.

Put Extra Effort into Customer Retention

Subscription businesses should put extra effort into customer retention. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones — that’s a universal law of all subscription-based and many other business models.

Some tips to keep in mind when it comes to customer retention include:

  • Send out subscription renewal reminders
  • Engage people through email, social media, and blog comments
  • Offer discounts when people renew their subscription
  • Create subscription rewards and loyalty programs
  • Make subscription cancellation easy

Incentivize People to Refer You

Last, but not least, always offer incentives for people who refer subscription members to you.

Referral programs should be easy and attractive, so people will be motivated to spread the word about your subscription business. Offer discounts, free subscription plans, and other incentives to people who refer subscription members to you. That way, you’ll be able to grow your subscription business without having to put in extra effort into customer acquisition.


Subscription fatigue can feel like a hidden monster you don’t know how to fight. However, with the right subscription plan, process, pricing, customer retention strategy, and referral incentives in place, you can ensure your subscription business stands the test and retains its subscription members.

It’s time to fight subscription fatigue and ensure it doesn’t stand a chance against your business!

You May Also Like

Is a Trial Membership Right for You? Pros and Cons to Consider

Membership Prices, Explained: How to Know How Much to Charge for Your Membership Site

Running a WordPress Membership Site? Here Are the Do’s and Don’ts to Remember

Subscription Websites: Ideas to Inspire You to Build Your Own Membership Site (+ Examples)

Tiered Levels on Your Membership Site: To Do or Not to Do?

18 Ways to Increase Member Retention for Membership Sites