The subscription box craze isn’t anything new, but the COVID-19 pandemic played a huge role in subscriptions experiencing a renaissance while many brick-and-mortar businesses struggled. Wicked Reports analyzed specific trends around subscription boxes and their broader economy to illustrate the pandemic impacted the industry.
Subscriptions rose in popularity largely due to convenience. In the depths of the US lockdowns that began in March 2020, many people turned to online purchasing so they could shop safely at home. Subscriptions were not limited to just foods and household items. There were major gains in beauty, personal care boxes, and pet supplies, as well. Streaming services also saw a huge surge in subscriptions during the pandemic, for the first time passing 1 billion subscribers worldwide.
Subscription boxes are also known as replenishment services, and usually consist of multiple products, either selected by the customer or curated by the service itself (particularly in the case of niche products). The items are shipped to customers on a regular schedule. Customers sign up for such services for a variety of reasons, including getting a dependable source of specific products they regularly use, such as fresh veggies or groceries, or trying out different items from their favorite brands, or testing out products they haven’t tried , which often come as “surprise items” in their box.
A July 2021 customer insights survey conducted by manufacturing firm Jabil found that 79% of consumers expressed interest in auto-replenishment services, following a growing trend that had already seen gains among consumers the previous year. Household staples such as food, personal care, and pet supplies were the biggest draws, and the results further found that popularity for subscription box services is directly correlated to both income level and geographic residence, with urban centers having a higher pattern of subscribers.
Subscription services did not always receive such huge gains. In 2010, when subscription box services began taking off with pioneering offerings from Birchbox and Blue Apron, companies struggled to keep subscribed customers. Consumers expected that such services were a way to save both time and money and many found subscription boxes to be expensive. Consequently, companies early to the subscription service model had to restrategize and find alternative ways to appeal to customers.
The change in consumer perception and preference in the last decade has turned the tide on subscription box popularity. Continue reading to learn how the pandemic in particular has revived the subscription box industry.