illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Online Shopping, Coffee Subscriptions and DTC Jobs

Featuring Square, Roku, NPR, Counter Culture Coffee and NBA League Pass

Entering into the third month of quarantine, the world is starting to return to normal as different countries try to stay safe as they reopen businesses, enjoy outdoor leisure activities, and try to envision how else we’ll need to change. In the U.S., our new normal means watching more streaming TV on services like Roku, doing our online shopping using hassle-free payment methods like Square, and subscribing to food delivery, meditation apps, fitness subscriptions and clothing subscription boxes to meet our ever-changing needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, tens of millions of Americans are without work, but some companies are still hiring though, including the NBA who has three positions open for its direct-to-consumer streaming service.

Square’s POS Reputation May Aid Its New Online Checkout Button

Square Inc. has a new online checkout button called Square Online Checkout that will making shopping online easier. Using the new button, online merchants can accept secure payments from multiple online channels and customers. With easy online sharing, merchants can get in front of potential buyers with one link that can be shared in a text message, email or social media post.

The new checkout option is hassle free, allowing customers, donors and patrons to make payments via Square without having an account or a special app. It is compatible with credit and debit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay, says Digital Transactions. There are no contracts, monthly fees or start-up costs, but merchants will pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

Alise Bailey, editor, made the announcement on Square’s blog.

Square Online Checkout

“Whether we’re buying groceries, books, or a lamp, eCommerce is ubiquitous to our daily lives — especially in recent months. If you own a brick-and-mortar business, you may have begun the shift to bring your business online.

“But we know that what works for one business may not work for another. That’s why we’re introducing Square Online Checkout, an online checkout link or button that allows you to accept payments without having to build an online store.

Square Online Checkout quickly generates a checkout link or button for any of your goods, services, memberships, and more. Whether it’s your first product or your newest offering, you can post the link anywhere online — email, text message, an existing website, or your social media channels,” wrote Bailey.

Learn more on Square’s website.

Roku Grows to 40 Million Accounts in First Quarter

With everyone stuck at home in March and April, streaming services and platforms are attracting a lot of viewers. Roku, one of the leading names in streaming platforms, is among the companies seeing huge growth. The company hit close to 40 million accounts in the first quarter. Roku started small with a simple HDMI stick you could plug into your TV and has since graduated to set top boxes and even smart TVs to help users easily access content.

Since their launch, Roku has launched The Roku Channel, a dashboard where users can tap into free and premium content. Their first quarter revenue exceeded Wall Street’s estimates due to the massive COVID-19 streaming surge. Variety reports that Roku ended their first quarter with almost a 3 million account increase from last quarter, and subscriptions are up 37% year over year. As far as revenue goes, they are experiencing a 55% year-over-year increase, and their revenue for Q1 was $320.8 million. Their stock shares decreased in price after the company mentioned that advertising revenue would see a slower growth, as U.S. spending across the board is dropping.

Overall, Roku’s year-over-year streaming hours rose 80%. Streaming hours overall have risen by about 30% because of the shift to stay at home and stay healthy orders across the country. Most consumers are opting for streaming services over linear TV, because they are ultimately in control of what they are watching, and even if there are ads, there are far fewer ads than traditional television.

Image courtesy of Roku

“The pandemic associated stay-at-home orders and increased unemployment appear to have accelerated the shift from linear TV viewing to streaming during the past few weeks,” said founder and CEO Anthony Wood and CFO Steve Louden in a May 7 letter to shareholders.

The company recognizes that they too may see negative impacts from COVID-19 and are anticipating a slowdown in growth.

“We remain committed to our strategic investment areas and to extending our competitive advantages. At the end of Q1, however, we took steps to slow the rate of growth of our operating expenses and capital expenditures, so progress may be slower. Depending on the impacts of COVID-19, we are likely to run at an adjusted EBITDA loss for FY 2020 given that much of our operating expenses are headcount and facilities related and therefore generally committed in the short-term. We ended Q1 with $590 million of cash, cash equivalents, restricted cash and short-term investments,” Wood and Louden wrote.

NPR Launches Coffee Club to Support NPR’s Work

NPR is venturing into new territory. They have partnered with Counter Culture Coffee, a specialty roaster based in Durham, North Carolina, to start The NRP Coffee Club. Celebrating their 25th anniversary, Counter Culture Coffee’s mission is to bring coffee perfection “dedicated to real environmental, social and fiscal responsibility with a commitment to creating cutting-edge coffee people.”

NPR and Counter Culture Coffee are offering a few subscription options with a rotating selection of signature blends. Their Single-Origin one bag subscription is $19 and comes every four weeks. Their Single-Origin two bag subscription is $36.10 and is also delivered every four weeks. Consumers cannot pick their coffee in this subscription, these are selected by Counter Culture’s Coffee Department and are seasonal.

Image courtesy of NPR Coffee Club

They also offer different bags you can buy separately, at $17 a bag. Consumers can pick what blend they want. There is a subscribe-and-save option for these bags, where shoppers can save 5%, and they can choose the frequency of delivery. Delivery options for weekly, bi-and-tri weekly and monthly are available. A portion of proceeds from buying coffee through Coffee Club goes directly to NPR programming. Subscribers will receive coffee beans directly to their door, an enamel pin, invitations to exclusive events, programming and digital content. You can sign up for their Coffee Club email list to learn more.

The partnership with Counter Culture coffee and NPR sparked based on NPR’s long-standing commitment to quality, sustainability and education. Counter Culture coffee was founded in 1995, and has been on a pursuit of coffee perfection, as well as creating a sustainable coffee.

“We are thrilled to work with NPR on this exciting initiative. For 25 years, Counter Culture Coffee has been focused on providing exceptional coffee experiences. This partnership allows us to highlight our commitment to quality, sustainability, and education; values that closely align with NPR and their loyal listeners,” said Brett Smith, president and founder of Counter Culture Coffee.

Online Shoppers Become Resourceful in the Wake of the Pandemic

With the coronavirus pandemic causing sheltering in place orders and quarantines worldwide, many people are turning to subscriptions to get products and services they can’t get while stuck inside their homes. Subscription video on-demand services like Disney+ and Netflix are attracting viewers in record numbers, but they aren’t the only subscription companies seeing growth right.

For example, consumers are using the popular food delivery service Imperfect Foods to get produce and pantry items delivered to their door, as often as once a week. People are also opting for wellness subscriptions like Calm and Headspace, clothing subscription boxes like Kidpik and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club, fitness subscriptions like Peloton and Booya Fitness, and more. Can’t go shopping? There is probably a subscription product or service that will fill the bill.

ReCharge, a payment software provider for subscription services, reports that there has been strong growth across multiple verticals. Forbes reports that they saw something that wasn’t just a percentage of growth here or there. Several subscriptions that ReCharge powers are seeing gains in the double-digits, and even exceeding the numbers compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

With U.S. spending on the downswing, you might think consumers wouldn’t be signing up for as many subscriptions, but they are finding new ways to meet their needs by shopping online. Some CEOs of subscription businesses are seeing significant growth while traditional retail is currently in shambles. Home goods stores like Pier 1 Imports and Art Van Furniture have filed for bankruptcy this year. While e-commerce is alive and well for some stores (e.g., Target, Walmart, Home Depot), they are not experiencing the same type of growth that subscriptions are.

Due to the shutdown, advertising online has declined dramatically, and made for a more consumer-friendly approach of getting new customers from social media or Google. It is now easier than ever to find a new subscription box. Just try shopping online and then watch related products show up in your Facebook and Instagram feeds, and you’ll see what we mean.

After the pandemic, it is likely that this trend will continue as more consumers opt for the convenience and safety of shopping in their own homes. The pandemic has helped people become more resourceful in getting everyday goods and services delivered when and where they want. This is very good for online retail but could be devastating for big box and other retail stores.

NBA League Pass Is Hiring!

Image courtesy of NBA League Pass

The NBA currently has three subscription-related positions open for its direct-to-consumer streaming service, NBA League Pass. If you are passionate about basketball and subscriptions, there might be a great opportunity available for you.

Engagement & Retention Strategist
New York, New York

In this role, you will help drive the retention efforts for the NBA’s Direct-to-Consumer product, NBA League Pass. You will be responsible for conducting analyses and generating insights related to our subscribers, driving strategic partnerships with external parties, and developing / executing retention focused strategies with cross-functional teams to ultimately deliver a world-class experience for our League Pass subscriber. The ideal candidate will have experience in product strategy with a strong interest in and preferably some experience in customer retention at a subscription business. In addition to customer retention experience, the candidate should be technically proficient with the ability to establish, track and communicate critical metrics unilaterally to all business partners. Read more.

Subscription Growth Strategist
New York, New York

In this role, you will drive the lifecycle strategy for growing organic users on the NBA’s website and app into NBA League Pass subscribers. The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in and preferably some experience with crafting user journeys in a subscription or e-commerce business. In addition to this experience, the candidate should be technically proficient with the ability to establish, track and communicate critical metrics to all business partners. Read more.

Payments Strategy Lead
New York, New York

In this role, you will focus on leading strategy behind integrating different customer payment methods and the prevention of involuntary churn within the NBA’s Direct-to-Consumer product, NBA League Pass. The ideal candidate will have strong U.S. and international experience in the payments space preferably at a subscription business. In addition, the candidate should be technically proficient with the ability to establish, own and communicate critical metrics unilaterally to all business partners. Read more.

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