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The Resurgence of Subscription Boxes – Raising the Dead

For nearly 100 years, subscription boxes have been available to consumers. In 1926, the first subscription service, a book of the month club, was created to help ensure everyone had access to books and promote various popular books. The first book of the month club paved the way for other subscription services, like Columbia House tapes and CDs being sent monthly to subscribers, where they could keep them or return them if they didn’t like them and get a refund. By 2010, however, the internet had changed subscription box services, and the modern version was created.

The Creation of Modern Subscription Boxes

Experts attribute the start of modern subscription boxes to Birchbox, which offered a monthly sample box filled with cosmetics. Subscribers paid a monthly fee and received a small box filled with sample sizes of different cosmetics each month. Still available today, Birchbox is the sixth most popular option, with thousands of choices available, from food to dog toys. Top brands available include the Dollar Shave Club, Ipsy, Blue Apron, BarkBox, Hello Fresh, and Sephora Play. Subscription boxes provide samples of products to promote sales, replenish products the consumer buys and uses frequently, or offer access to special perks and discounts.

Difficulties with Subscription Boxes

It was hard to keep consumers interested in the early years of subscription boxes. The original subscription boxes had to make sure they provided the best deals possible, as many consumers found them to be expensive. Many consumers preferred to go into a store and see products instead of receiving small samples to try, so there wasn’t a huge demand for expensive subscription boxes. Combined with difficulties scaling, the subscription box model had a rough start in the 2010s. All of that would change in 2020 with the pandemic.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Lockdowns

In February 2020, it became apparent that COVID-19 was spreading much further than expected and would become a pandemic having huge implications on the world. By March, lockdowns were in place, and officials advised consumers to stay at home to help reduce the spread and protect as many people as possible. Lockdowns and shutdowns led to changes in how consumers would shop, as many people didn’t want to or couldn’t risk getting sick with COVID-19. For those who wanted to stay home, a reliance on delivery services followed the start of lockdowns.

Changes Made to How Consumers Shop

Experts and officials recommended that consumers stay home as much as possible, reducing shopping trips and avoiding going to any place that wasn’t necessary. Many stores were closed down temporarily as they did not provide essential services, but people still needed groceries and other necessities. The pandemic’s start showcased a need for more delivery services, including essentials like groceries, to keep people from needing to go to the stores. Having to stay home as much as possible created a surge in online shopping, including a resurgence in the popularity of subscription boxes.

The Impact on Subscription Boxes

Subscription boxes became a way to receive products without shopping in person, allowing consumers to continue checking out new products even though they didn’t leave their homes. They provided a little bit of reliability, showing up at the door every month, even though much of the world was unpredictable because of the pandemic. The pandemic also brought out an increased focus on self-care, which led to more consumers buying luxury boxes to treat themselves or promote mental well-being.

Thousands of different subscription boxes became available, including everything from necessities like groceries to fun toys and kits to keep kids busy and entertained at home. Families with kids at home could order arts and crafts boxes to help keep the kids learning. Households with pets could have food, treats, and toys delivered directly to the house, avoiding a trip to the pet store each week. Want to learn how to cook? A food-based subscription box with ingredients, recipes, and tools would be the perfect option, and there’s no need to go in-person to a cooking class. Everything is done at home and delivered monthly, making this a fantastic choice during the pandemic and after.

Today’s Subscription Boxes

As of 2021, more than two-thirds of consumers use subscription boxes for items they need, including food and beverages, cleaning supplies, personal care items, pet food or supplies, and more. The number of boxes, products available through subscriptions, and percent of consumers using subscription boxes have all grown significantly. There are subscription boxes for just about any interest and all of the necessities needed at home, making it easy to get everything without going shopping in person. For consumers who wanted to stay safe during the pandemic, this was a way to avoid missing out on anything while still being safe at home. Today, with the pandemic starting to wane, it’s a more convenient way to shop and provides easy access to various products without consumers having to take time out of their busy day to go shopping.

Developing New Subscription Boxes

Though there are tons of subscription boxes available, new companies are seeing the benefits of this type of service and how it can help boost profits throughout the year. Almost any company can offer a subscription box, and some companies are built exclusively for that purpose.

One of the trickiest parts of creating a successful subscription box service is warehousing and fulfillment. Often the type and number of products in the box change each month, so having a 3PL partner that is well-versed in subscription box fulfillment is critical to getting it right and keeping customers happy.

With a slow start nearly 100 years ago, subscription services have helped consumers conveniently access a variety of products. Modern subscription boxes cover almost anything consumers may be interested in and offer the ability to purchase necessities and fun or entertaining products without having to go shopping. Those considering offering a subscription box service to consumers can easily choose any products to sell and get started today when they work with a shipping company.

Andrew Kirk

I am an experienced logistics and supply chain executive with over 15 years in the global end-to-end logistics field, including retail, direct sales, and B2B. I leverage strong relationship skills, a team-oriented management style, and a focus on talent development to drive results and lead change for our internal team and clients alike.