Young people spending close to £1 bn on subscriptions to combat loneliness during lockdown

More than quarter (28%) young people in the UK (aged 16–24) say they have used mobile apps as a way to combat loneliness during lockdown, with total spend across the country in this age group for subscription services now reaching £968 million per year, research from Emarsys finds today.

The reasons why young people are turning to mobile apps are varied, but 32% say that they feel more “in control” when using an app, while 30% say that apps help make them feel “more connected” during lockdown. 20% also say that they have used apps as a way to boost their mood.

As a result of mobile usage increasing, young people are now spending on average £430 per year (£36 per month) on physical and digital subscription services.

52% of young people in the UK are now using subscription-based apps (such as Netflix or Spotify) to help them relax during lockdown. A further 20% of young people in the UK have signed up to physical subscription services (product delivery boxes) to boost their moods during lockdown. Of these, 28% say that these delivery boxes feel like a “surprise gift” when they come in the post.

Commenting on these findings, Em Sheldon, fashion, beauty and travel blogger, said: “I can see the appeal of signing up to both digital and subscription services. Digital subscriptions give you something to turn to in the moment of feeling a bit down, while the mystery of a physical subscription service gives you something exciting to look forward to in the absence of being able to go on holiday or easily see friends and family.”

However, while consumers have signed up in droves to digital and physical subscription services, many cancel after around five months. The biggest reason stated by consumers for cancelling is of a perceived lack of value for money (36%), the free trial ran out (18%) and the offering wasn't personalised enough to their tastes or needs (14%).

Sheldon continued: “My advice to consumers is you should regularly check what you’ve signed up to and actually make the most out of those services. If you feel you’re not getting the best value out of them or that the service isn’t tailored to you and your needs, you can always cancel them to save money and focus on the ones that do give you a personalised service.”

Also commenting on these findings, Chris Godderidge, VP mobile, Emarsys said: “Loneliness has been a huge problem during lockdown with many people feeling stranded without being able to see their family and friends. It’s understandable how young people especially have turned to mobile apps for a bit of escapism.

“Now that we’re nearing the end of lockdown, it’ll be interesting to see whether young people stick with the subscriptions that got them through lockdown. Retailers have a job on their hands to retain these new customers, and will be working hard to personalise the experience on a one-to-one basis to demonstrate value for money and to encourage them to stay.”

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