If there’s a new service that’s overwhelmed the apparel, beauty, lifestyle and food markets, it’s subscription boxes. A way to provide consumers with a unique approach to shopping while bringing them directly in (physical) contact with products, further enticing them to buy, subscription boxes permit consumers to personalize the products they receive, creating an experience that’s centered on the individual. Available usually on a monthly, bimonthly or quarterly basis, subscription boxes are essentially packages that are customized for the individual. Subscription boxes may fall under any number of categories, from alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, meal kits, pet food, video games, vitamins, razors, contact lenses, feminine products, and men’s, women’s and children’s apparel. Not surprisingly, it’s a hit with end users.

When selecting their ideal subscription, consumers can choose from a few options. According to a 2018 McKinsey & Company report, there are three main categories: curation boxes, which provide items based on the consumer’s set preferences; replenishment, which provide consumable products, like soap and razors; and access, which provide access to exclusive products or discounts on products, like food. Many boxes send consumers product samples, like beauty and haircare, providing them with a way to sample firsthand, then directing them to the website if they’re interested in purchasing the full-size item. Other boxes require consumers to pay a fee to receive items, such as apparel and accessories, and if the user decides to buy any of the items, the fee is deducted from the total cost. Stitch Fix, a personal style subscription box for men, women and kids that works with more than 1,000 brands to serve its 3.1 million clients, is $20 per box, which is dubbed a “styling fee.” If the end user likes the package received, perhaps containing a sweater and jeans, they are then charged for these items, with the $20 deducted from the overall price. The appeal? Well, the items are already in consumers’ homes which, arguably, increases the likelihood they will keep them as opposed to shopping in-store.

According to Forbes, subscription company websites received 37 million visits in April 2017, an 800-percent increase since 2014. Of these site visits, 35 percent were for beauty boxes, 33 percent for food boxes, 16 percent for apparel boxes, 12 percent for lifestyle boxes, two percent for pet boxes and two percent for kids’ boxes. According to McKinsey & Company, 15 percent of ecommerce shoppers have subscriptions for recurring boxes, mainly received on a monthly basis, though 35 percent of subscribers have three or more active subscriptions. Women are more likely to subscribe to subscription box services (44 percent) than men (40 percent), though men are more likely to hold more than three subscriptions. In fact, 18 percent of men who receive subscription boxes are subscribed to six or more. The sheer success and popularity of subscription boxes makes this a marketing strategy to closely consider, particularly for new brands. Brands do not necessarily need to create their own subscription boxes; they can pitch products to boxes that are currently popular among consumers for a new avenue of getting products into customers’ hands.


Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.