When it comes to getting your product into the hands of consumers, start thinking inside the box. Inside subscription boxes, that is. In recent years, subscription boxes have become popular with on-demand services that touch on dog toys (BarkBox), personal stylists (TrunkClub) and grooming (BirchBox). Then everyone wound up stuck inside because of COVID. Clearly, these boxes are here to stay! Let's talk about how this part retail, part e-commerce option could be a great thing for your company.

What Is a Subscription Box?

A subscription box is a collection of goods that are delivered on a periodic basis to your doorstep. Some are weekly, like Misfits Market Produce, while others are quarterly, like the lifestyle subscription box FitFabFun. Beauty boxes remain a popular category, with companies like Ipsy, Petit Vour, and Dollar Shave Club serving the needs of style-conscious consumers. There are also hobby-centric boxes, such as puzzles (Buffalo Games), arts and crafts (Craftee), sustainability (Earthlove), plants (The Sill), or kids’ projects (KiwiCo). The average US consumer purchases two or three subscription services currently, and the overall “subscription economy” is predicted by UBS financial services to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025. To put it into context, that’s more than double the $650 billion it’s estimated to be worth now. Again, consumers are clearly not giving up on their monthly boxes any time soon!

How Do Subscription Box Models Work?

There are two main options for the subscription box model. One option is to launch your own subscription service. The other option is to include your company’s products as part of a themed subscription. Launching your own box offers a recurring business model that could be the right fit for your goals. It builds brand loyalty, and you can keep track of your inventory. If you choose instead to have your products featured in an existing subscription box, this also offers its own benefits. This offers you another form of access to the consumer, as many subscription box services make it easy for customers to purchase more from the brands they love.

Related: What’s Hot in Promotional Products

What's in It for Companies Making Products?

Subscription boxes build customer loyalty in a way other forms of outreach cannot. Customers can easily commit to a brand's specific box, removing competition because the shopping ends unless the customer decides to change services. When a subscription box can consistently deliver goods that its customers love, this increases brand loyalty. On the business end of things, subscription box services offer a pipeline of predictability; they receive upfront payments for their products and have a set amount of customers each month. It's easier to see metrics and manage inventory. Companies can also partner with a subscription box service as part of their marketing strategy and thus get their product (whether it's a sample or full-sized) directly into the hands of their target audience.

But one thing to watch out for is that as more consumers get into the subscription box game, subscription fatigue becomes a potential problem for brands. Subscription fatigue is when consumers feel like they have too many subscription services and need to cut down to save money. They get too overwhelmed by all their boxes and they get tired of the recurring payments. How can you solve this? Brands can avoid subscription fatigue by making sure their subscription has a high value of goods that the consumer actually wants. Subscription boxes will often have the retail value of the goods in the box be more than the monthly cost of the service, in order to help make customers feel like they're getting a deal. Other boxes that offer one brand exclusively have a business model that optimizes convenience by sending new shipments before the customer runs out.

Related: The Utility of Promotional Apparel

Thinking of adding a subscription box element to your marketing plan? Whether you need a new partner to create, design, market, package, and ship your subscription boxes, or you’re looking to learn about how a box service can work for your business, Ironmark can help. From board games, to school stores, to award shows, Ironmark has the team in place to grow your subscription box business or help you start one. When it comes to manufacturing, kitting, printing, warehousing, fulfillment, and shipping, we specialize in supporting businesses to create powerful, customer-focused subscription boxes. Personalize it, customize it, and let Ironmark get it out to your customers.


Written by Chris McCready

Chris McCready directs strategy and implementation for Ironmark’s digital marketing clients. Her 15 years of experience within a variety of agencies across the country has provided a wealth of knowledge and expertise within market research, branding, digital strategy, social media, marketing automation and web development. Under her direction, strategic marketing plans for Ironmark clients result in increased brand awareness, visibility, lead generation and revenue.

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