Membership Retail

type - trends
sector - retail
A wave of apparel brands are shunning mass selling in favour of membership models, in turn reducing product waste and cultivating stronger communities

Drivers: what’s happening

Amid the tightening of purse strings and a shift towards more conscious shopping, retailers are having to focus on efforts to foster loyalty among their customers. While many brands have embraced the pandemic-proof strategy of subscription services in recent years, the bid to deepen engagement with customers is evolving into membership models. Here, two-way relationships help to grow and develop brands based on consumer needs or opinions.

With research by Yotpo revealing that 37% of consumers consider themselves to be loyal to a brand only after making five purchases, there is an opportunity for brands to establish membership systems that offer customer rewards, generate feedback and cultivate communities.

As we usher in an era of Neo-collectivism, this strategy feels more pertinent than ever. Commenting on the power of membership models for consumers, retail futurist Doug Stephens reflects‘People will be asking the question: if it’s not just about more stuff, what is it about this brand that’s going to give me a more cultural experience? How is this going to make the world a better place or my life better?’

Published by:

25 July 2022

Author: Abi Buller

Image: Early Majority Lookbook April 2022, UK


The Membership by For Them

Case studies: what’s new

On Running

Membership schemes can support consumers in adopting more eco-conscious buying habits, encouraging them to become repeat customers with brands that align with their values. Swiss running brand On is experimenting with this approach, inviting its customers to sign up to a circular service, Cyclon, in anticipation of the launch of its first recyclable shoe this summer. The scheme invites customers to pay £25 ($30, 29.95) a month, in return for a replacement pair of running shoes every six months. Old shoes are returned to On for recycling into new products. Considering the average lifecycle of well-used running shoes, the scheme aims to solve a pain point for frequent runners that are also hoping to adopt more environmentally focused habits.

For Them

Other brands are exploring membership models that enable co-creation with customers. Launched in 2021, queer wellness brand For Them is experimenting with a membership model in which products, such as chest binders, are developed directly with its audience. It is initially drawing on feedback from more than 4,000 global members of its Discord channel, where For Them sources ideas for new product launches. Looking ahead, the brand plans to expand its community into a membership platform, where users will have access to a safe space for sharing advice and meeting like-minded individuals.

Early Majority

Some membership approaches are building strong communities and brands before any products are even released. Pioneering this is technical outwear label Early Majority, whose ecological membership scheme ensures the brand meets its aims of producing the fewest number of products for the maximum possible number of customers. For a limited time, shoppers will be offered the option to invest £358 ($440, €416) for a lifetime membership to the brand, with Early Majority pledging special content, prices, exclusive products and goods that are circular and ethical for sign-ups. Customers outside of the membership model will be required to pay a 60% premium for its garments.

‘Departing from the dominant industry model, we are building a business based on growing a supportive community over producing unnecessary product’
Early Majority

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