Subscription boxes, once seen as a fading trend, are showing signs of resilience during the COVID-19 era. Associations might consider the idea as a way to surprise and delight members when in-person interactions can’t happen.
Subscription boxes were already seen as a peaking craze a year ago, when Marketplace noted that the industry had reached $10 billion in value in 2018. They’d been picking up interest for years before that.
Might this be time for a comeback, perhaps as an association member perk? Subscription value is close enough to membership value that it could be a good idea to give the box model another look. At a time when in-person events are off the table, it could offer a much-needed personal touch.
If you’re intrigued, keep in mind these points on the status of the subscription box in the COVID-19 era:
Many subscription box firms are growing because they fill a pressing need. Many subscription box firms seem to be drawing interest because their products can keep people occupied at a time when they’re stuck at home more often. This is especially true of children, who no longer have their school routine, noted the toy news website Kidscreen. “All of the subscription services I spoke with are experiencing an uptick in members now, and for obvious reasons: They arrive at the house without families having to leave for pickup, with minimal human touch, and in answer to a parent’s specific need,” wrote the site’s Robin Raskin. “Toy subscriptions and online services for kids providers can offer predictability, constancy, and quality.”
The market is crowded and complicated, however. A recent analysis of the subscription box business by the National Retail Federation explained that COVID-19 has increased uncertainty in the sector and could distract people who might otherwise be interested in the services. And the added competition could make it tough to stand out. “Subscription models require a high level of commitment on the part of the consumer,” said Unity Marketing’s Pam Danziger. “And it’s hard enough to get that commitment in normal times.”
Nonetheless, subscriptions are showing resilience. In the latest edition of Zuora’s Subscription Impact Report [registration], the firm found that roughly half of the subscription companies it analyzed were maintaining the status quo with limited impact from the COVID-19 crisis, with some areas growing faster than others—in particular, video streaming (a 400 percent increase over the norm at the start of the pandemic), digital news and media (a 110 percent increase), and e-learning software (an 80 percent increase). Digital Media Solutions noted that the food-delivery service Blue Apron and the STEM activity kit seller KiwiCo have been particularly strong.
Getting started requires some good vibes. Word-of-mouth is essential to building growth, notes TotalRetail, and often a little boost from an influencer or a strong customer support game can make all the difference. “By partnering with websites like My Subscription Addiction or influencers who post unboxing videos on social media, businesses can gain an advantage over competitors and prove attentiveness to customer satisfaction,” author Georg Richter writes.