While most consumer habits are reverting back to normal, spending on subscriptions has remained well above prepandemic times. That’s partly because people are enjoying them—and partly because they keep forgetting to cancel.
The strategy of locking people into small, recurring payments predates the internet and even credit cards, but it gained momentum during the pandemic. It doesn’t just add up to a lot of money for many household budgets—it has created hundreds of billions of dollars of value on Wall Street. Companies that get it right and keep you satisfied, or at least paying, have been rewarded richly for their predictability and rapid growth. Subscription businesses saw revenue grow by more than 300% between 2012 and 2018, five times faster than the overall pace of the companies in the S&P 500, according to management consulting firm McKinsey.