Subscription Box Owners Discuss The Future Of The Market

Adam Fabirkiewicz
Adam Fabirkiewicz | 5 min read

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Check out what experts and owners of subscription box services have to say about the market and its future.

Subscription boxes emerged as one of the most popular business models in e-commerce. It's relatively easy to create such a company and if you come up with an original idea, the business will probably be flourishing.

Nonetheless, we decided to approach some of the owners of subscription boxes and find out what are their opinions on packaging designs, how do they choose their projects and imprints and what does it really mean to be a subscription box owner.f

Each of them was asked to answer the following questions:

1. What types of subscription boxes will gain in popularity in the coming years?

2. From the packaging point of view - what makes a subscription box attractive for a customer?

3. What’s important in starting a subscription box service?

Here are their answers.

Rosita Muniz,

Answer 1. The boxes that truly provide high value for the price and continue to deliver above what they promise - they will gain popularity. Health, Fitness and Wellness are the hottest trends that continue to move in the direction of healthier living. Niche boxes that offer one of a kind experiences or limited series items will also continue to be popular.

Answer 2. We just invested quite a bit in new packaging, updated branding and a new website.  This is why.
Fit Snack is a monthly subscription box to get you healthy, fit, and happy! We provide:

  • Healthy snacks from the world’s best brands.
  • Fitness tools to keep you inspired.
  • Nutritional tips to keep you feeling great.
  • With each purchase, we donate snacks to kids in need.

women with fitsnack custom box
Provided by

Having said that, none of this matters if we do not deliver a beautiful brand and packaging experience that tells our story.

So... we rebranded for the following reasons:

  1. Our logo, and overall branding needed to represent the thoughtful, vivid attention that we put into curating the best monthly box we can.
  2. Our tone, brand and language needed consistency.
  3. We needed a place to grow from. Our new look and feel will allow us much more flexibility with mobile and creating beautiful partnerships.
  4. We needed our packaging and brand to be the experience that we are. We can work around the clock to curate the best Fit Snack boxes possible, but it won't matter if the experience of our branding and packaging is sub-par. The love that we put into our presentation is felt through the end-to-end experience we create.

fitsnack subscription box packhelp article
Provided by

Answer 3. Be prepared to work hard and understand that majority of your work is on-line.  My sister Anita and I started Fit Snack because we wanted a company that supports our healthy lifestyles.  What we found was that we needed to spend a lot more time on-line, not moving much and sitting on our butts than either of us planned.  In today's e-commerce work environment, it takes extreme discipline to make time for healthy meals, snacks and movement. No matter what business you are in, it's up to each individual person to make time for their own health.

When starting a subscription box company, it's important to build strong relationships and deliver what you promise.  It's also important to get smart on marketing and sales. If your only lies in what goes in the box, then you have to find passion in sharing it with the world. As with any start-up, be prepared to put in the work!

Andrew Flocks,

simple loose leaf company packhelp post cardboard box
Provided by Simple Loose Leaf

Answer. 1  Over the coming years, I see two trends that are going to continue to develop within the subscription box industry.  The first is personalization boxes that offer content based on the wants and desires of the customer receiving the box. These boxes will be able to evolve with a customer and make a transition to similar service hard as the customer has already put time and energy into getting the best experience out of the original box. Example being a men’s clothing box, like Stich Fix, once you have your preferences and tastes discovered by the system you are less likely to change what service you use.

The next box type that I see continuing strong in the subscription space is the convenience box. The ones that answer a problem before you have the problem and make it cheaper to have a great experience. One example of this is Dollar Shave Club, in that they allow you to have new razors on hand at all time. Another example is boxes that deal with niche items that are not as easily found in a local market. Examples of this might be higher end coffee, loose leaf teas, healthy snack that cater to a specific need like vegan, vegetarian, diabetic.

"Personalization boxes that offer content based on the wants and desires of the customer receiving the box will be the future" -

Answer 2. This is a good question that can start to take up an immense amount of time and energy for any subscription service.  And unfortunately, there isn’t a magic bullet for this question. But I think there are some first principles that can be used to work towards finding a packaging design and format that will handle a given box.

The initial first principle, in my opinion, is to start with the concept of “Elegance through the act of simplicity”.  This idea translates into focusing on having a design that is simple and to the point. One that does not complicate the experience without a very good need. Complication can lead to a complex experience, but unless that experience is perfect it will leave the customer feeling like a cat that has had its fir stroked the wrong direction.

The next principle is centered on knowing what you will need your packaging to do for you. What are you going to expect your box/bag/poly mailer to carry to your customer? If a subscription box has a uniform content strategy that has all of the products in the box being about the same size, like Simple Loose Leaf’s tea packaging were all of our teas are the same amount and each box has the same number of teas each month, then use a box format that doesn’t need any extra packaging to make it ship well. If the box is going to carry a wide range of products that have different sizes, shapes, and container material, then go for a box that is larger that will allow you to be versatile in what padding products you use.

tea custom packaging

Answer 3. What is important in starting a subscription box is a huge question, like asking what is important in raising a child or a successful marriage. The entire sum of success for a subscription box will boil down to how well the founding team can communicate. Communicate with each other, with their suppliers, with their customers, and the how well that communication flows from other to them.

Communication in this sense is not simply picking up for phone and calling a baker about doing a special run of holiday dog cookies to feature in your dog snack box. It is being able to communicate your vision of what you the dog treats need to be and to quickly incorporate the baker’s insights on what the dog treats can be. From the customer’s perspective, are you communicating your vision of the subscription box?  When they see your branding and marketing efforts, does the customer know what you see in your mind’s eye?  And most importantly, do you have a way to receive communication from the customer about their experience.  This line of communication will take the form of customer feedback surveys, website analytics looking at key performance indicators for visitor behavior, customer lifetime value, initial purchase size, and how often a customer brings you another customer through referral programs.

All of these channels will have to come together so that the founding team can build a subscription box service that is built on a hybrid of the founder’s vision, the suppliers' abilities, and the customer’s needs.

Jon Clark,

Answer 1. I see grocery/personal products growing in popularity in the future. Clothing, beauty, pet and even meal subscriptions have been growing for years. Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods and the broader acceptance of consumers receiving their essentials via mail open up a broader opportunity for a wider set of food items.

Answer 2. I think the experience has to be memorable. With the explosion of e-commerce growth in general, customers are more and more accustomed to receiving packages in the mail. Most come packaged in a stale brown box with little character or memorable characteristics. Most customers can purchase what is included in a subscription from a variety of sources. As a business owner, you have to think "what will make this subscription worth renewing?". I've found the personal connection that can be made and/or the surprise factor is what keeps customer renewing. Think a personal note, a unique message or note inside the box, etc.

"As a business owner, you have to think what will make your subscription worth renewing" -

nomad coffee club subscription box packhelp
Nomad Coffee Club box

Answer 3. One of the biggest surprises for me when building our coffee subscription business was the cost and nuances of shipping. You really need a plan to minimize shipping costs and ensure you're prepared for the customer service issues that arise with missing shipments, etc. Even more importantly, if you're working with a dropshipper, ensure they have a solid integration with your e-commerce platform in order to manage shipments when orders start flowing in.

Debi McCormack,

Answer 1. I believe the boxes that will succeed in the next few years are those which offer something unique and exclusive – it’s not enough anymore to source products that can easily be found elsewhere, put them in a box and expect customers to be satisfied. The products need to be beautifully designed and packaged, unavailable anywhere else and produced in limited quantities so that they feel special and exclusive. This doesn’t mean they have to be expensive – our boxes include around 7 gifts each month and all have been created just for us, and they represent great overall value.

custom card
Provided by

Answer 2. First impressions are really important, the box needs to look exciting as soon as it comes through the letterbox. We design ours to fit through letterboxes too so you don’t have to wait in for them. Of course protection is really important too so they have to be sturdy and be able to withstand being posted all over the world.

Answer 3. Being prepared to work hard and make mistakes as you learn! Creativity, fast thinking and the ability to change if you think customers are looking for something else. It’s not as easy as it looks!

Liz Cadman,

Answer 1. We're seeing large companies get in on the subscription industry (Amazon, Target, Sephora, Macy's), and I expect that trend to continue. With the rise of e-commerce and the end of Brick mortar browsing, subscription boxes are emerging as the new way for consumers to discover products.

Answer 2. When a box feels like you are opening a gift, everything inside the box feels a little more special, too. Plus customers are often inclined to share gorgeous boxes and packaging on their social channels, so it's extra important for subscription box companies to make sure their boxes look great open and closed.

"Research the category you are considering to make sure you have a differentiator" -

Answer 3. I would advise anyone considering entering the subscription box service to fully research the category they are considering to make sure they have a differentiator. For example, at this stage in the game, I wouldn't recommend launching a $10 beauty box unless you have a clear difference between your subscription and Play by Sephora, Birchbox, and Ipsy.

Create your own customised packaging.

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