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Picture this. You’re visiting your parents, a 30-minute drive away. You have a subscription to your chosen motor company’s monthly service, which offers the full spectrum of its car range at a cost. The weather is great, so you select the autonomous convertible. Once it arrives, you get in and choose your favourite playlist from Spotify’s personalised suggestions, a service you pay for to avoid being interrupted by advertising. There’s no need to watch the road so you check the news behind the paywall of your preferred publication, another service you don’t mind paying for to minimise ads. You arrive at your parents and collectively choose a film from their preferred streaming provider, a service they pay for to avoid adverts.

In this scenario, when will you have seen advertising? Not on billboards or websites, you were reading ad-free articles while on the road. Not over the radio or on the TV, you pay for these services so you don’t need to be interrupted. Even the motor company had to rethink its approach to catch your eye by offering you access to its full range of products, not just one.

We’re rapidly heading towards a subscription-based world. The services described in the above scenario – and more – are available or being developed now. If subscriptions become the norm, companies across a huge variety of industries are going to have to think seriously about how they advertise themselves in the not-too-distant future.

Perhaps the key will be to take the focus away from the products themselves and put more emphasis on the customer experience and overall brand perception. After all, if you have an option to affordably subscribe to a full spectrum of products, not all of which you require, it will be the service provided to you and your idea of what that brand represents that influences your decision. First impressions will be vital – as once a brand loses your attention, opportunities to get you back on side may be significantly diminished.

Customer reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations will also become vital. Drawing on the experiences of those using services for a sustained (and contracted) amount of time will surely be the best way to gauge its success – for both the company that created it and consumers alike. User-generated content and social media may become even more important.

And what will brand partnerships look in a subscription-based future? Will we invest in package deals so our Asda shop, for example, arrives in the autonomous Land Rover that is picking us up from the airport after a week sunbathing in the South of France? It seems the options brought by the dawn of autonomous cars will almost be infinite, as The Economist recently predicted. And that’s just one factor.

Automation is not a new topic and subscriptions are not groundbreaking, but the need to consider their power in an era of rapid change and technological advancement is clear. It is not enough to sit and wait for what will happen. All industries must not only consider what the customer of the future looks like, but also how they will be consuming information and basing their decisions.

Naomi Whittome By Naomi Whittome, Senior Account Manager