The beauty of ecommerce is that it provided one of the most valuable commodities that today’s time-strapped consumer needs:
More specifically, ecommerce allows consumers to gain access to just about anything they need or desire without having to leave home. In fact, an online consumer doesn’t even have to leave their chair.
They simply sit down in front of their computers for hours at a time, making informed shopping choices, comfortable and uninterrupted by crowds or pushy sales people.
For years, the ecommerce space has been dominated by regular shopping-cart purchases, but over the past few years, the online retail industry has seen a new niche player rise to the top of consumer’s shopping list:
The periodical subscription box.
Consumers can now pay a fee (usually based on monthly increments) to gain access to curated products that arrive to them in a compact gift box on a regular basis.
One of the most successful subscription boxes that opened the door for many is Birchbox, an online retailer of mid-to-high range cosmetic products. But over the last couple of years, there have been several food and beverage subscription plans that have enjoyed financially success and brand reach.
Why do subscription box plans work for consumers, and why do consumers want to order food and beverages via a subscription plan?
Most working professionals often feel that their sole purpose of working is to send money to bill collectors, family members, and sometimes, friends. And in the minds of many consumers, treating themselves to something special is something that they desire, but it’s not always something they feel they deserve.
After all, being a responsible adult often entails sacrificing one’s desires for their needs.
Subscription boxes addresses the working adult’s need to fulfill their desires in a manner that’s reasonable, and often, fiscally responsible.
The boxes contain curated products that are a great value for the subscription price. In many cases, the retail value of the curated box outweighs the subscription fee, adding value to the subscription plan for the subscriber.
These boxes also add an element of personal encouragement. The average consumer primarily receives gifts only a handful of times a year (fewer than that even, if the consumer is single with no children).
When the subscriber receives their boxed treats in the mail, they often glow with the same excitement as a child on Christmas morning!
All in all, the curated box allows the subscriber to treat themselves to a re-occurring personal gift as a reward for working to earn a living and tending to their personal responsibilities.
Again, the number-one reason why consumer shop online is to save time. However, the subscription boxes allow subscribers to save even more time by packaging themed products, preventing the subscriber from hunting all over the Internet for what they might possibly want (or need).
How can an artisinal or niched product producers introduce their offerings to new customers on a large scale, quickly, efficiently, and affordably?
They can align their products with the right subscription service that will curate the new and hyper-niche products, introducing the products to highly-captivated consumers across the country. This way, once the consumer becomes hooked on the product, they’ll be incentivized to continue to buy the newly-introduced product from the original retailer.
There are many consumers who live for buying products that are new and different. Discovering new and different products via a subscription plan offers the ultimate in convenience and allows the subscriber to feel like a tastemaker, since they often discover the niche product before the general public.
If there’s one group of consumers who crave convenience and highly-niche products, it’s foodies.
Thanks to cooking shows of all varieties, these “foodies” crave the ability of replicating the same recipes that their favorite celebrity chefs do. And those with specialized dietary delight in subscribing to a service that delivers the exact products and ingredients they require, right to their door.
Here’s a brief run-down of some of the major food subscription players making headway in the industry.
Hello Fresh offers subscribers the ability to pay for curated meal plans. All of the meals includes a recipe guide along with pre-packaged, pre-measured ingredients.
Each box is packaged to allow for three meals a week.
Subscribers can select from the two-person meal box, a veggie box, or a family box that feeds a family of four three times a week. The subscription membership also allows members to receive access to online content such as chef-created recipes (including Jamie Oliver-branded recipes) video cooking instructions, nutritional information, and more.
Delivery for Hello Fresh is available throughout the continental U.S. Price points per box vary according to the subscription plan.
Blue Apron’s brand niche is all about farm-to-table fresh cooking ingredients. Like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron allows home cooks to create three meals a week. But unlike Hello Fresh, Blue Apron only advertises the two-person meal option, and the family option (leaving out the vegetarian option).
Blue Apron advertises that their boxes are packed for “refrigeration”, allowing the boxes to keep the food ingredients fresh and safe to eat even if the box is delivered without the subscriber being home to accept it.
The Blue Apron website also allows members to view cooking instruction videos while also granting members the ability to purchase professional cooking tools and utensils. Membership plan fees vary according to the subscription selected.
For the unrepentant snacker who loves discovering quirky, foreign, and unique items at any price, then Mouth is the subscription plan for this type of consumer.
Mouth brands itself as a program for the hipster sophisticate. Not only can the subscriber pay for a wide variety of flavor pairing, they can also select from carefully curated and themed liquor selections.
Subscription boxes, particularly foodie boxes, provide consumers with a fun, out-of-the-ordinary way to gain access to their favorite products, hard to find products, or products they never knew existed! This burgeoning trend is providing a great opportunity for many retailers in many verticals.
So what about you – have you tried any of these services? Better yet – are you a niche retailer who’s thought about getting your products into a subscription service? I want to hear your story in the comments.