Unwrapping the Essentials of Subscription Box Marketing
  by:  |  Dec 26, 2023
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Subscription Boxes

Whether it’s a gift from someone or a treat for themselves, subscription boxes help spotlight brands and change the way customers experience their products. We’ll unpack the basics of subscription box marketing, learn the advantages your brand may enjoy with this approach, and look at industries that succeeded in the game. Read on!

What is a Subscription Box?

A subscription box is a curated set of products shipped to customers on a regular basis, whether it’s monthly, annually, or cadence set by the merchant. It’s a proven means to generate reliable recurring income since subscribers pay according to scheduled intervals, while keeping customers engaged and regularly interacting with your brand.

There are three types of subscription boxes — curated, access, and replenishment.

  1. Curated. A curated subscription box typically revolves around themes determined by the merchant. For instance, if you’re running a local deli — a curated subscription box may mean sending your customers the featured cheese of the month or a sampler pack that includes a couple of varieties. You get to handpick which products go into the box, pack them in your custom boxes, and ship them to your customers.
  2. Access. An access subscription box is perfect for brands with a calendar full of product launches, promos, and gimmicks. With this type of subscription box, you can give your customers the VIP treatment with exclusive access to your events, first dibs on discounts, or gifts tied with new releases.
  3. Replenishment. A popular type of subscription box, replenishments work best for supplies that people use constantly, whether it’s meals, baby essentials, or personal care products. It’s also common for merchants to give repeat customers a discount, thus the “subscribe and save” upsell, to keep replenishment subscribers engaged and to reward them for their brand loyalty.

Subscription boxes are typically packed and shipped in custom mailer boxes. These boxes are crafted from sturdy corrugated cardboard and come in a range of sizes, making it convenient to organize your products inside. This allows you to create a neat and organized display when the box is opened. They’re quite customizable, too. These days, you can print your own box design and add precision-cut box inserts to cushion fragile product packaging and prevent the products from moving around during transit.

A Quick Peek at the Subscription Box Timeline

It is believed that the emergence of subscription boxes started in the early 2000s when beauty company Birchbox launched their curated boxes of personal care products. Netflix also jumped into the subscription box trend early by mailing out DVD rentals, way before the dawn of the streaming services era. As more companies saw the potential of subscription boxes, more brands amplified their reach by arranging custom product kits which in turn grew the demand for sustainable and eco-friendly packaging.

A couple of decades later, the popularity of subscription boxes surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With the lockdown making it difficult for many people to leave their homes, brands saw the opportunity to stay connected with customers by meeting them half-way — by curating packages of daily essentials such as meals, household items, beauty products, and pet food. A consumer insight survey released by Jabil in 2021 revealed that 68% of Americans use a subscription service, while 79% expressed interest in signing up an auto-replenishment service.

The Subscription Box Advantage

Subscription boxes not only make receiving mail enjoyable but offer conveniences and benefits for both merchants and recipients. If your business is considering the addition of a subscription box to your marketing and sales strategy, below are just some of the benefits you’re likely to enjoy.

  • Strengthen Brand Recall. When it comes to building relationships, as they say, proximity is key. While subscription boxes cut the need for customers to visit the store, the scheduled recurrence of deliveries gives them a feeling that you’re reliably close, strengthening brand recall and customer loyalty.
  • Easier Inventory. Inventory management is crucial not only in ensuring that all orders are accounted for but also in overseeing storage space for all your products and packaging. Subscription boxes ease some uncertainty in your supply chain, you’ll have a reliable number for product manufacturing and mailer box sourcing to ensure all orders are fulfilled. It also makes storage less of an issue as you can plan around the space available to you, scheduling delivery of your products and packaging just in time for shipment. This reduces overhead costs and losses from spoiled inventory.
  • Establish Recurring Revenue. Subscription boxes can help you secure a stable source of income by converting new customers to long-term patrons with expected levels of spend. As customers commit to paying their subscriptions on schedule, it gets easier to stabilize your cash flow and forecast your income, whereas one-time purchases are tougher to predict when or if they’ll be repeated.
  • Encourage Trials. A curated subscription box, for example, allows the merchant to test new products before they launch them in the mass market and with minimal risk. You can send sample sizes of actual products as a teaser and get them excited for full-sized versions of your upcoming items. You can also add a QR code to the box which links to a digital feedback form, allowing subscribers to write about their experience. This way, you can gather valuable feedback from customers who already support your brand and use this information to fine-tune your campaign prior to launch.
  • Enhance Packaging Personalization. Beautiful packaging always stands out and when it comes to subscription boxes, getting the packaging right is half the battle. For a successful subscription offering, you need to develop a design that’s unique to your brand and will genuinely delight your customers. And this isn’t limited to just the look either. Apart from customizing the look of your box, you can enhance your customer’s unboxing experience by presenting your subscription box as if it were a limited-edition media kit by adding custom tissue paper, box inserts, and stickers.
  • Foster Community Engagement. Subscription boxes may not be for everyone, sure, but this also allows you to cater to specific niches or special interests that not all brands can do. In addition, subscription boxes allow you and your customers to create a community where you can encourage sharing of experiences and feedback so you can improve your customer service, product offerings, or other aspects of the customer experience. Your community is also a good source of user-generated content as reviews and testimonials can help you spark interest and propel sign-ups.

The Trendsetters: Subscription Box Fan Favorites

Implementing a subscription service is an exercise in creativity, curation, and customer service.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of the industries and brands that took a shot at subscription boxes and made it work.

Beauty and Personal Care, Birchbox. Cosmetics connoisseurs at Birchbox send their subscribers beauty and makeup products every month. They also offer three types of memberships which offer different perks including customizable items, exclusive discounts, access to full-sized products, and free shipping.


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A post shared by Birchbox US (@birchbox)

Food and Beverage, Blue Apron. This New York City-based company delivers fresh ingredients to their subscribers across the country, and all their customers need to do is cook them according to the recipe that also comes in the box. A comprehensive menu is available on their website and the meals come in different serving sizes so customers can order the right portions. Blue Apron’s subscription kit’s prices depend on the number of servings ordered and the frequency of delivery.


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A post shared by Blue Apron (@blueapron)

Pet Food and Pet Products, BarkBox. Beloved by many pet parents, BarkBox is a subscription service company that curates gift boxes for dogs of all ages. Their kits usually include a couple of toys, and bags of treats which may depend on a theme or the season. The toys vary from squishy to more durable ones for dogs that are heavy chewers, but they also offer customizable boxes so that fur moms and dads can curate their boxes further. A subscription to BarkBox starts at $22 and customers can pick between 1-month, 6-month, and 12-month plans.


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A post shared by Bark (@bark)

Lifestyle, Health, and Wellness, FabFitFun. FabFitFun curates an entire experience for their subscribers to try, and their catalog is packed with various products across beauty, fashion, tech, home, and wellness. They also offer two types of subscriptions — seasonal, which lets customers pay per box they receive and annual, where subscribers pre-pay for four boxes.


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A post shared by FabFitFun (@fabfitfun)

Read more: 12 Best Subscription Boxes for Everyone

Ready? Set. Curate.

At UPrinting, we can help you create the subscription box of your dreams. Build your custom mailer box with our premium quality materials and food-safe, high-definition ink, then tie it altogether with custom inserts, tissue paper, and stickers. Call us at 888-888-4211 anytime between Monday and Friday, or from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekends and we’d be happy to walk you through the customization process. Talk soon!

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