Are subscription boxes worthwhile?
- Jameson Morris, one of the founders of SubscriptionBoxes.com in 2011, defines a subscription box as “a recurring, physical delivery of niche-oriented products packaged as an experience and designed to offer additional value on top of the actual retail products contained in a box.”
- According to McKinsey & Company data, subscription box subscribers tend to live in cities and fall between the ages of 25 to 44.
- A recent subscription impact report found that at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a 22% rise in subscriber acquisition rates for companies, including food and beverage subscription boxes, attributed to the fact that “much of the population [was] keeping grocery store trips to a minimum.”
- Couponfollow.com asked over 1,000 consumers why they purchase subscription box services. Fifty-one percent said the reason was “to try new products,” while 39% said they “simply enjoy receiving products in the mail,” and another 37% said they found subscription boxes to be “easier than shopping.”
People who pay for subscription boxes often do so because rather than making a purchase, a subscription box—with contents unknown—feels more like a gift. And the kind of surprise resulting from a gift can lead to heightened satisfaction. However, the surprise is costly, and learning to spend money more responsibly will lead to more long-term happiness.
Subscription boxes are not financially advisable for multiple reasons. When you don't know the exact products you're paying for, the subscription box company has an incentive to include the cheapest possible products to improve their profit margins. Companies also benefit from the fact that you are only checking out once instead of checking out multiple times for individual items. This aspect of subscription boxes entails that it's easier for a potential customer to click that purchase button than it would be otherwise. Additionally, while the monthly price—for example, $20—may not seem like very much, twelve months of that subscription, $240, may be more than you would typically spend on similar items in a year.
Further, subscription boxes are bad for the environment because they regularly utilize packing materials and resources to send packages out—something that would be unnecessary if a customer simply went to a store and bought items that they needed. Basically, with a subscription box, you are paying for unessential things that—if unable to be regifted—will end up in a landfill. Since it's equally simple to buy items online as it is to get a subscription box, there is little benefit to the latter.
According to an article in Fast Company, the subscription e-commerce market was $57 million in 2011 and grew to $2.6 billion by 2016. A recent survey by First Insight revealed 25% of respondents were already receiving subscription boxes, and another 32% planned to start a subscription in the following six months.
These boxes are a great way to expand your knowledge of different brands/recipes/etc. and open you up to new favorites. Similarly, the brands included in the boxes are sometimes small businesses that can grow their client base with minimal marketing investment.
Subscriptions are wide-ranging, with more than 3,500 different services available, allowing for customization depending on your unique interests. Additionally, 55% of these services are curation-based, providing consumers the ability to customize each box’s contents to avoid disappointment.
Each month, items are picked, packed, and shipped directly to your home. According to Veronica L. Thomas of Towson University, “We can see that consumers value convenience and time and are willing to pay for it. We now can get our groceries delivered, whole outfits delivered without even browsing a website.” Moreover, these services are typically easy to pause if you go on a vacation or simply need a break. Many subscription boxes are also eager to prove savings to retain their subscribers. For example, FabFitFun discloses the retail price of all items in their boxes to demonstrate what a great deal you get by only paying $50.
Finally, the simple joy that comes from a monthly box with goodies tailored to you should not be overlooked. Laurice Wardini says, “Receiving a subscription box every month resembles receiving a gift.”