Don’t you love getting packages in the mail?
Whether it’s a shirt you ordered from your favorite store, or a surprise care package from a loved one, or even a surprise package from a subscription box company.
We love getting packages in the mail too, especially if it’s from a subscription box company. We can’t get enough of the surprise factor, the delight after tearing through the cardboard shipping box or poly mailer and getting to the brightly colored box beneath.
We almost hold our breaths as we open up the box and imagine a little burst of light coming from within as we peek inside, take out each shiny, new item one by one and line them up. Maybe we even arrange it with the pretty packing paper and box and snap a photo for Instagram.
We’re not the only ones here at Brandable Box who love the thrill of a subscription box. A study from McKinsey & Company shows that the subscription ecommerce market is worth about $10 billion. It’s grown more than 100% since 2013 and has generated over $2.6 billion in sales today. These are all impressive stats for a market that wasn’t very prominent before 2010.
Some of our own customers are subscription box companies. We’ll throw them in with our favorites below. But first, join us as we go in-depth on subscription box companies. We’ll explore a little history and how they work.
How Did Subscription Box Companies Start?
Forbes credits beauty and grooming company Birchbox for setting the subscription box trend in motion back in 2010. The idea was simple. Subscribers pay $10 a month and receive monthly boxes filled with samples of high-end beauty and grooming products like moisturizers and spot-brightening serums to mascara and illuminators. The draw was that for a low, set price each month, you’d get a surprise box of products that are valued at $100 or more.
Since then, Birchbox has grown to serve more than 2.5 million customers and operates in six countries. Today, more than 3,500 other subscription box companies have made their claim on the subscription box market. Even big players like Amazon and Walmart have their own versions of boxes.
Why Do Subscription Box Companies Work?
The same study by McKinsey & Company breaks down subscription box companies into three buckets: replenishment, curation, access. These buckets are why the subscription model works so well at drawing in customers. Let’s break them down.
Replenishment is about convenience. Who wants to remember to buy razors every month? Subscription box companies that make shopping a convenience for their customers win big.
Access is about paying a premium to get a discount or service. This doesn’t take up much space on the subscription box company market.
The third and most popular segment of the subscription box market is the curation bucket. This is the kind of subscription box we talked about at the beginning of this article. People love the feeling of opening a package on Christmas Day. With subscription boxes sending a monthly surprise your way, that feeling is attainable way more than just once a year, and the feeling never fades each time.
With each of these buckets comes one more secret ingredient that makes subscription box companies work—personalization. Most companies allow their customers to tailor each month’s box to their distinct tastes and needs. In that same study by McKinsey & Company, researchers found that 28% of subscribers to curated boxes say having a personalized experience is the most important reason they continue their subscriptions. It all adds to that Christmas morning feeling.
How Do Subscription Box Companies Get Customers?
A study from Hitwise shows the fastest growing method of marketing that gets customers hooked on subscription boxes and it’s unsurprising — affiliate marketing, also known as influencer marketing. If you think about it, what’s the most likely channel you first saw a subscription box company like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh or FabFitFun? A social media channel like Instagram or Facebook. That’s because influencer marketing is an effective channel.
When someone with thousands of followers posts a video of themselves opening a subscription box for the first time, also known as an unboxing video, it does something to viewers. It makes them want the product.
How Can I Start My Own Subscription Box Company?
If you’re thinking of going into the subscription box field but can’t afford influencers, don’t worry. The study from Hitwise shows channels like email, social media and search still work to attract customers. But first, you'll have to start your company. Here are a few helpful pointers.
1. Pick Your Subscription Box Company Bucket
Decide whether you want your subscription box to fall into the replenishment, access or curation bucket. Then, decide what kind of products you want to offer. The more value your box adds to your customers' lives, the more successful your subscription box can be.
Adding value doesn't necessarily mean you'll need to source the most expensive products. Your value item can be something as small as a handwritten note from you.
2. Choose Your Packaging
Like we mentioned above, the unboxing experience is part of the thrill of subscription boxes. You'll want your box to match your subscription box brand. A good box will garner shares on social media, which will help spread the word about your company.
Branded packaging doesn't have to be complicated. Consider printing your company logo on your shipping boxes with Brandable Box. We’re not only affordable, but we’re also so simple you can order from your mobile device. Just upload your logo, choose your printing upgrades and check out.
3. Build Your Online Store
Once you have your product squared away, you'll be ready to launch your online presence. Several platforms exist that can help you get your online store up and running in no time and with no coding experience needed. If you choose Shopify as your platform, we have a step-by-step guide to help you set up.
9 Subscription Box Companies We Love
1. Blue Apron
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Blue Apron for the WIN!💙👩🏽🍳 As most know I love to cook, but since being pregnant I haven’t been in the kitchen much at all. I went through a period of time feeling exhausted and dealing with morning sickness. (more like all day sickness lol)🍼 This change put a damper on our regular schedule since I had no motivation to cook or plan our meals for the week. :: Now that I’m feeling like myself again and in need of a little push to slowly get back into the swing of things, I figured I should give Blue Apron another try.🍽 They make it so simple with perfectly portioned fresh ingredients and easy to follow recipe cards that even Nigel can jump in and cook. Let’s see how this goes! 🌽🥕🥩🥬🍅 @blueapron
Blue Apron ships you ingredients for up to four meals a week along with the recipes to make them.
You can choose a plan depending on your family size. You’ll get either two or four perfectly planned portions of balanced, quick meals.
FabFitFun is a seasonal subscription box sent out four times a year.
For $50 each, FabFitFun delivers a mix of eight to ten full-sized beauty, fitness, fashion and home treats.
Pups! Themed boxes! What’s not to like! If you’re as obsessed with your furry best friend like our team is with ours, you’d like BarkBox. BarkBox ships your good boy a themed-box of two toys and two bags of treats and one chew once a month.
Past themes include "The Good, The Bad and The Pugly," "The Knights of Hound Table" and “Sniffin’ Safari.”
As with most subscription boxes, BarkBox allows you to personalize based on your dog's size and breed. Plans start at $29 for one month.
Instagram photo by Michael Soike
If anything, we’d get a Quip subscription solely for its sleekly designed oral care products. Quip is not your typical curation subscription box. It falls into the access category. With a three-month subscription, you’ll get refills on Quip toothbrush heads, floss and toothpaste.
5. Dollar Shave Club
Like Quip, Dollar Shave Club is another access category subscription box company. You won’t have to remember to refill your razor blades or shaving accessories since Dollar Shave Club will send you a box of refills either once a month or once every other month.
6. Kentastic Cakes
Kentastic Cakes creator Ken decided that anyone living away from home should always have access to a tasty reminder of home. So he created Kentastic Cakes, a box filled with homemade, from-scratch sweet treats that satisfy any sweet tooth aching for home.
You’ll get to choose between a one, three, six or 12 month subscription. Each cake crate comes with one cake in a cup, four cake pops, three to six cookies and one mystery treat. And, Kentastic Cakes happens to be a Brandable Box customer
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I love subscription boxes almost as much as I love the Amazon Truck ❤️ . . @birchbox does an amazing job each month of sending great samples that can make a huge difference in my skincare and beauty routine. Typically, I am routine oriented and rarely venture out — this is true about the food I eat as well as the clothes I choose. Brand loyal. . . With @birchbox I am able to test new products without feeling like I have wasted money or without feeling overwhelmed with another huge bottle on my vanity — anyone else feel me? . . These cute little products typically find their way with me on trips and have always been impressed. . . Subscription and items linked 👇👇 . Liketoknow.it/trendyheidi . @oribe @briogeo @realchemistry @phasezeromakeup . . #love #newproducts #skincare #bblogger #beauty #skin #amazing #style #fancy #casual #chic #wiwt #wiw #ootd #ootn #trythis #sponsored #instagram #insta #whatsinmybag #asseenincolumbus #adidas #shoes @ruggable @thehypehouse.vip
As we shared earlier, Birchbox offers both a monthly women’s beauty box as well as a men’s box for $10 and $20, respectively.
Influencer Trendy Heidi communicates the value of curation subscription boxes like Birchbox perfectly—you can test new products without having to spend the money on a full-sized item only to find out it's not the best fit for your skin or hair.
8. Try The World
Just as its name suggests, you’ll get to experience the world with Try The World. With your subscription, you’ll get a monthly box of the best treats and snacks from around the world. Experience food cultures at your door just by ordering a box.
9. Rock Performance
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The January Breakaway box starts shipping out TODAY 🚨🚨🚨 What’s in a Breakaway Box? What’s inside is a surprise BUT... I can tell you that this month's "GAME TIME" box is loaded with options for that tough 2 hour or so window 🏒 between school & practice 🏒 between conditioning and on-ice 🏒 or short breaks between games. Enough carbs, protein, and fat for fuel- without feeling full or tired. As always- all snacks are 🥅 non-GMO 🥅 no synthetic sugars 🥅 no artificial colors There’s more than just my client athletes approved snacks - learn more about the Breakaway Box here >> http://bit.ly/TheBreakawayBox and take advantage of the almost over "Hat Trick" special! #fueltheirgame #breakawaybox #subscriptionbox #snacktime #sportsnutrition #sportsnutritionist #hockeylife #hockeymom #hockeytournament #hockeyfamily #hockeytraining #teenathlete #healthyhabits
Rock Performance is a Brandable Box customer. Started by a sports nutritionist and wellness educator, Rock Performance provides nutritional education for teams and camps across the United States.
Their Breakaway Box is highly personalized to kids who play hockey. With your subscription, your active child will get a monthly box filled with five to seven healthy snacks. We love that the Breakaway Box also includes healthy recipes to inspire the younger generation to get into the kitchen and create healthy meals. Each box also includes a stress-management technique and access to a 30-minute online nutrition Q&A.