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Understanding the scope of online subscription services

If customers interact with your business on anything more than a one-time basis, chances are you can use subscription billing as a form of stable revenue. Two industries have already adopted subscriptions in ways many wouldn't expect: transportation and education. As TechCrunch reported, a European auto manufacturer created an electric car consumers can't purchase - they can only rent the car for a weekly subscription fee of 33 euros. Buying or leasing a car costs thousands of dollars, but these subscribers get the convenience of driving for approximately $37 per week. 

Amber Mobility, the manufacturer, hopes to combat the fact that most vehicles sit unused throughout the majority of the day. This creates tremendous amounts of waste, both in terms of the materials used to build the cars and the spaces parked vehicles occupy.

Meanwhile, companies like Lynda.com and Skillshare offer tutorials and other educational materials on a subscription billing model. Instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on college courses, individuals anywhere can pay $10 to $20 per month and learn valuable skills.

Traditional universities are incredibly profitable, but subscription education services are lucrative in their own right. A separate TechCrunch article reported Skillshare raised $12 million earlier this year to increase its business. The company has 3 million subscribers and provides 5,000 classes, and it hopes to expand internationally.

Skillshare provides online tutorials on a subscription basis.Skillshare provides online classes on a subscription basis.

Adapting subscriptions to your product

Any product or service that customers use for an extended period of time - video, internet-connected devices, education, clothing and more - can be adapted to a subscription business model. You don't have to reinvent the wheel or find the next great subscription box idea to succeed. All you need is to create a recurring charge customers find more agreeable than a one-time payment.

If you're truly at a loss or are afraid subscriptions won't work long-term, it might be beneficial to focus your business toward specialization rather than providing a general product or service. As Forbes noted, specialization is a solid strategy for smaller companies hoping to compete with large enterprises in an age of rapid innovation. Consultants 500 founder Rufus Franck told Forbes he expects only a third of major companies today will still exist in 25 years . These companies need services and experts proficient in specific areas to make smart business decisions in the future.

"Society and businesses cannot know everything and therefore need specialists with practical experience to help and guide us," Franck explained to Forbes.

As long as you can show customers the benefit of lower, recurring payments, there's a way to make subscriptions work, no matter which route you choose. 

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