How subscription users become ex-users

Research project

How subscription users become ex-users

Shocks and dissatisfaction as a cause for quitting the use of a platform and switching to another provider.


A large number of companies generate their revenues depending on the number of users via subscriptions (e.g. Spotify, Netflix) or advertising (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).
The loss of users or subscribers therefore has a negative impact on the profitability of these companies; either directly, via less revenue from subscriptions, or indirectly, via less advertising revenue. In order to ensure the competitiveness of the companies dependent on these revenues in the long term, it is essential to prevent people from discontinuing their use.

Existing research explains the discontinuation of digital technologies as the result of users' perceptions. In particular, perceived dissatisfaction is used to explain this behavior.

This DFG-funded project extends existing explanatory approaches by illustrating that drastic, disruptive events, colloquially referred to as shocks, can cause users to stop using a digital technology regardless of their satisfaction. For example, the birth of a child can cause users to have less time for Netflix and cancel their subscription, even though they are generally satisfied with the service.

The goal of this project is to develop a theoretical understanding of why individuals stop using digital technologies. In particular, we focus on the relevance of shocks (e.g., birth of a child, job change, publication of private data on the Internet) and how these lead individuals to interrupt their usual routines and stop using a digital technology.


Our previous research findings show that there are different types of shocks. These can be directly related to the use of digital technologies (e.g., data scandal with publication of private data, contact with disseminated misinformation) or occur in the user's environment (e.g., moving to a new city, separation). We were able to group these types into a taxonomy to characterize shocks.

The taxonomy highlights opportunities for future research on shocks: Did positively (e.g., birth of a child) and negatively perceived shocks (e.g., separation) differ in their impact on user behavior? Do the effects of shocks wear off after a certain period of time? Which type of person is more or less susceptible to shocks? When do users perceive a certain event as a shock?

Selected publications

Meier, M., Maier, C., Thatcher, J.B., and Weitzel, T. (2022)
Shocks and IS User Behavior: A Taxonomy and Future Research Directions
Internet Research (ahead-of-print),


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project management

Prof. Dr. Christian Maier


Marco Meier (M.Sc.)