The Rise of the Subscription-box Service

Subscription-box services have blown-up in the past few years. You can now get pretty much anything delivered monthly to your door. There are food-of-the-month boxes, sex toy boxes, sock or underwear subscription programs, art project boxes for kids or adults, and pet-lover boxes.

The rise of the subscription-box service is due in part to several factors:

  • The first being the busy nature of our work and personal lives, suggests this Inc. article. Rather than having to spend valuable free time after work, or on the weekends, running errands we can now get some of those items delivered to our door. With countless decisions to make every day and errands to run, subscription-boxes, help eliminate some of those mundane tasks.
  • The novelty factor: the anticipation of receiving the box that you’ve been expecting, and the excitement of discovering which new products received this month. It’s like receiving a gift or a care package.
  • The experience, explains this CBSNews article. “This business is about the art of giving to yourself,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD, a consumer market research group. “Millennial consumers, in particular, love the idea of self-indulgence, and subscription companies really understand this.”
  • And of course, finally, the underlying purpose of the service: the introduction to new products. Subscription-boxes provide subscribers with products that they might not have tried or discovered otherwise.  

But beyond the factors that appeal to the customer, the subscription-box service is an effective business model. 

FastCompany article says that “there is a sense that the barriers to entry into subscription commerce are fairly low: All you need is a website, some marketing tools, and relationships with suppliers who want a new channel for getting products or samples to consumers.”

Liz Cadman, the founder of My Subscription Addiction, explains that getting good value for the money is the biggest driver of subscription-box sales. “People, on average, are looking for a box with a value of about double what they paid,” Cadman says. “It helps them justify the risk of spending money when they don’t exactly know what is in the box.” 

Should the subscription-box service trend fizzle out anytime soon, it is the company’s who think beyond the box that will last. With some subscription box-services, the business model is not simply about the monthly box, but about using the box to lead consumers to buy full-size products on the company’s online shop. Original subscription-box vanguard BrichBox just launched its first brick-and-mortar store last year in Soho, and I imagine that other subscription-box companies looking to the long term will soon do the same. 

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