Consumers are moving toward individual purchases to subscription-based products. Netflix and Spotify changed the way people consume media by offering movies and music through streaming. The individual does not own the copy but can watch or listen as much as they want as long as they pay a small monthly fee.
Soon after, more subscription-based products emerged in the market. To challenge Netflix, Apple and Disney launched their own streaming platforms. Spotify found competition in Amazon Music and YouTube Music.
Other goods are being sold as part of subscription boxes, too. In the past couple of years, as a response to the busy schedules of working adults and demand for more nutritious food, meal boxes emerged. Blue Apron and Hello Fresh entered the market to offer meal plans that are easy to cook, include all ingredients, and have the right proportions, healthy, and, most importantly, delicious. In the realm of beauty, BoxyCharm, Birchbox, and FabFitFun allow members to try out new products. Of course, Dollar Shave Club has been offering a monthly replacement razor subscription for years.
During the pandemic, it has been a lifeline to many local businesses and consumers.
Retail Subscription Rise Because of COVID-19
When the pandemic was officially declared, offices and stores had to close in an effort to curb the spread of the virus known as Sars-CoV-2. This led to an economic downturn that caused millions to become jobless and thousands of businesses around the world to shut down permanently.
It has been disastrous. Governments offered financial aid to those affected by the lockdowns, but it was not able to save everyone. Many tried to continue operations online to reach their customers and continue earning a profit despite the lockdowns. Others banded together to create monthly subscription boxes.
Here is how a subscription box works. A fan of beer, for example, wants to try different brands and flavors. You have heard about beers made with Australian Galaxy hops being sold, but not anywhere near you. A company that offers subscription boxes assumes the responsibility of choosing beverages from other nations and sending them straight to your door. Of course, the products are curated by staff or owners. You get something new in each box every month or quarter. But it is a fun way to explore a product that you are interested in.
Subscription boxes give businesses a way to sell their products during lockdowns. Through this model, businesses get the chance to advertise their offerings to new customers, too, without spending exorbitant money on digital advertising.
Demand for Subscription Boxes on the Rise
Based on statistics, it does not seem to be a passing trend. People are stuck inside their homes and are either too busy with remote work and childcare or really bored. A subscription box is a convenient way to get food and other goods. Opening the package, which is delivered straight to the consumer’s door, also feels like Christmas morning — a distraction to the horribleness of the current global crisis.
A survey conducted by CouponFollow found that one in five consumers in the U.S. has purchased a subscription box during the pandemic. The most popular, however, are food-based products such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. BarkBox, a subscription service for dogs, is also widely used by respondents.
The popularity of meal boxes does not really come as a surprise. With restaurants either closed or have reduced capacity, people have no choice but to get take out or cook at home. Hello Fresh and Blue Apron make deciding what to eat on your next meal so much easier. It also makes trips to the grocery stores less frequent, therefore, minimizing potential exposure to the virus.
The Future of Subscription Boxes
Many retailers are noticing the shift and planning on offering their own subscription-based products in the near future. Some expect that, by 2023, up to 75% of direct-to-consumer brands will have their own subscription offerings.
A report by the Royal Mail in the United Kingdom also supports the belief that subscription services will only increase in popularity, even after the pandemic has ended. By 2022, the British postal service estimates that the market will reach £1 billion in value.
However, there will be challenges for businesses that want to enter the subscription market. As the model grows in popularity, so will competition. It will be difficult to stand out, especially as many other services have made their mark or have more resources for marketing.
The subscription model for products is not new, but it is becoming more integrated into everyone’s lives. The pandemic seems to have boosted its popularity but it is a model that likely will persist in the coming years.