boxes

I love when a blog post weeks intersects with a podcast release. This month, Camaya and I tackled the topic of subscription boxes called “You Check All My Subscription Boxes”. This particular topic is what we describe as “me-search” because I have invested a lot of time into reviewing and subscribing to different subscription boxes. Let’s start with the basics.

What is a subscription box?  How much are they?

A subscription box is a service you subscribe to gain access to everyday as well as exciting new products. It is similar to a magazine subscription, and you receive consumer goods in the mail on a monthly or quarterly basis. They usually come in a cardboard box, which is how they got the name subscription boxes. Subscription boxes have seen a significant growth in all areas including beauty, food, and  book subscriptions increasing almost 30 times between 2013 and 2016.

Subscription boxes can range from $10 a month up to hundreds of dollars depending on the box and its contents.

How many different types of subscription boxes are there?

There are typically four different types of boxes:

  1. Subscription for replenishment – this type of subscription box replaces the same or similar items. Examples, razors, vitamins, hair care products
  2. Subscription for curation – receive a curated selection of different items, with different levels of price points to consider. Examples, apparel, food, beauty products
  3. Subscribe for access – gain exclusive access or VIP perks.  Example, apparels and food
  4. Subscribe for surprises – this box usually is the same types of products, but the smaller monthly themes are different. For example, you subscribe to a pet company and Tarzan gets dog toys each month, but since its October, he gets a Halloween themed toys

What does the research say?

There is limited amounts of research on subscription boxes, but the research we did find is brand new!

According to the article “What’s in the Box? Investigation of Beauty Subscription Box Retail Services”, one of the biggest takeaways is that product quality, product assortment, and product uniqueness were positively related to the attitudes toward subscription box retail services (SBRS). Among the product attributes product quality was the strongest predictor of attitude toward SBRS. What does this mean? Consumers think positively towards beauty subscription boxes that have good quality products (Lee, Sadachar, & Manchiraju, 2019).

We also found another article focusing more on children’s books called “The Element of Surprise: A Study of Children’s Book Subscription Boxes in the USA.” This research article focused on the curation of the children’s books as well as the surprise factor, but also that the element of surprise was a key characteristic of a “perfect gift.” (Noorda, 2019)

Is a Subscription box a need or a want?

We briefly discussed this in the podcast, and I do think it’s worthy of mentioning again. For some people, subscription boxes feel like a want or a fun expense. For some of the subscription boxes, like a food delivery, they could actually be cost effective for you. Only you know your budget. As subscription box retail services grow, making sure you receive quality products that you enjoy, that you can use, and are a good deal will be important to us as consumers.  The one great benefit of subscription boxes? You can cancel them at any time (within their cutoff window) if you’re facing a financial hardship.

Subscription boxes can be a fun addition to your life or they can be a way to replenish items without having to remember. Just remember to budget for them in your spending plan.

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Lee, J.-G., Sadachar, A., & Manchiraju, S. (2019). What's in the box? Investigation of beauty subscription box retail services. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 48(1), 85–102.

Noorda, R. (2019). The element of surprise: A study of children's book subscription boxes in the USA. Publishing Research Quarterly, (35), 223–235. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s12109-019-09641-z