Subscription boxes saw a huge period of growth in the last decade, almost doubling every year during the first part of the decade – creating a market filled with potential, but with relatively few providers. Now the trend of sending subscription boxes as gifts or easy ways to enjoy new products is entering a new decade…and new types of growth are expected! Here’s where the subscription box market stands, and the key trends to watch for in 2020 and beyond.
Subscription Boxes are Here to Stay
When subscription boxes first started around a decade ago, people weren’t sure if the trend would last or how long customers would remain interested. After all, at first glance it seems strange that people would agree to pay for a collection of items when they don’t know what the products will be! However, this is one of the primary advantages that gave subscription boxes such staying power: people like being surprised, and the rotating nature of the boxes gave people an easy way to experience many different things over a period of time they controlled.
And since then subscription boxes have evolved beyond a random assortment of products to normal, day-to-day items such as razors, air filters, and even socks that you would be buying regularly anyway but now without having to think about it.
So don’t expect subscription boxes to go anywhere. On the contrary, they have become a key part of the ecommerce market, and predictions estimate that by 2023 around 75% of all direct-sale companies will offer some kind of subscription box.
More Men’s Boxes
A broad McKinsey study about the subscription box market shows that women are more common buyers than men by about 60% to 40%. However, there are signs that men’s boxes are a particular strong section of the market and have plenty of growth potential. For example, when you look at who has multiple subscription boxes, men easily outstrip women and are far more likely to have three or more subscriptions (this trend held when comparing the United States to UK boxes, too). Men appear more likely to get more common supplies through reliable subscription methods, from shaving products and clothes to food. Hygiene and personal care boxes like Duke Cannon are particular popular among male buyers.
International Growth Awaits
Most subscription boxes thus far have been from North America and the UK – but this is going to change in the near future. The big reason is that international boxes are exactly what North American buyers are looking for: an easy way to a variety of great products from particular cultures or nations that they like. Imagine getting authentic cuisine ingredients from Thailand, or beloved apparel from Italy, through ongoing boxes. These options will continue to grow in 2020, with the UK still being a particular international focus – and the coming decade will make the boxes a worldwide phenomenon.
Big Brands Will Get Involved
In the beginning, subscription boxes were a way for relatively small online stores to gain more attention and develop unique channels for purchasing. Ipsy, Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club, countless foodie sites and diet brands all tried this….and it worked! But now we’re seeing big brands get involved, and that trend will certainly continue in 2020. Amazon already has a number of subscription boxes and businesses can expect many more to be added (this is also a great sales channel for boxes if you are worried your site doesn’t have enough reach). Wal-Mart and Target are starting to offer their own subscriptions too. Other large stores will find ways to enter the market as well.
When the big brands get involved, this does tend to change the marketing landscape and create additional challenges. But smaller subscription services can take heart: Subscription boxes will still excel when it comes to niche products and items that aren’t easy to get anywhere else.
Subscription box packaging can be hit or miss – which is why we offer options for customized kitting and special packaging solutions for unique businesses. These types of advanced packaging options open up the subscription model to more brands, and we expect packaging to continue to grow in importance among subscription box fulfillment services.
Customers Will Continue to Grow More Conscious of Quality
As markets expand, customers tend to acquire more experience regarding quality and expectations, and subscription boxes are no different. In 2020, we’ll see customers highly focused on product details, sourcing, arrangements, origins, sustainability and overall general quality. A food box isn’t much good if food arrives stale, and new clothes aren’t great if they’re scratchier than expected. Expect customers to focus on the details and images that subscription web pages provide, as well as reviews about the subscription service and what others thought. Fulfillment partners like Sherpack will also play a key role in ensuring quality and first impressions.
Customization Will Become More Common
Even today you can find excellent examples of customization in the subscription service market. For example, food subscription boxes may give you the option to order a box for someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, or someone with specific allergies. Self care boxes offer options for male or female, or for the types of items that people are specifically interested in – and so on.
In 2020 and beyond, you can expect these customization options (under the broad label “curated”) to grow even more common and well-crafted, with sites offering easy methods to limit boxes or point boxes in the right direction without actually picking products out one by one. The goal is to open up subscription boxes to as many types of customers as possible, while adding assurances that boxes will remain pleasantly unpredictable while not including anything buyers don’t want.
Looking to grow your subscription box service in 2020? Align with a fulfillment partner who understands the industry. Fill out our quote form today to get started.