If you thought subscription box trends evolved in 2020, then the evolution of the subscription box industry in 2021 might have bowled you over.
Of course, the events of the past year and a half bowled us all over - the pandemic has impacted nearly every facet of life. And while it remains to be seen what pandemic consumer habits will stick around now that we are looking forward to returning to “real life”, we’re certain that the more clever and innovative ways the subscription box industry quickly evolved to meet emergent consumer needs will endure.
Subscription box history is happening in front of our eyes - and your simple business plan for a subscription box product should evolve with the changing times.
DTC consumer brands found us at home - and bored
Before we jump in, you may be wondering: “DTC: What does it mean?” DTC stands for “direct to consumer”, referring to the way many of us prefer to shop nowadays - and the way most of us had to shop during the pandemic.
There’s no doubt many consumers staying home during the pandemic found themselves searching for projects to occupy them - and DTC businesses were happy to oblige. DTC companies that formerly did standard e-commerce saw an opportunity to increase revenue and transitioned to DTC subscription brands.
Home improvement subscription boxes
One area in particular that flourished thanks to an increased consumer demand for projects around the house were DTC tool companies and DTC paint companies. As one study from Harvard University found, spending on home improvements and repairs grew more than 3 percent, to nearly $420 billion, as people modified living spaces for work, school, and leisure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subscription box companies that successfully transitioned with this trend into “home project” boxes like Handy Box won big.
Gardening subscription boxes occupied consumers, too
Some of us didn’t have any outdoor space to enjoy during the pandemic. Others among us practically lived outside last year, diving into gardening to keep ourselves busy. Subscription boxes like Urban Organic Gardener provided us seeds and, importantly, support for those of us without green thumbs with seasonal seeds and instructions based on our local climate.
Subscription box games services took off while we stayed in
Subscription box companies kept consumers busy with games also kept customers coming back for more. The proliferation of monthly murder mystery kits, for example, offer a sample of a simple business plan for subscription boxes that works very well for the format. Cliffhangers month after month delight and surprise subscription box customers, who stay tuned each month to solve the “whodunit”.
Subscription boxes catered to parents quarantining with children
If you’re like most parents, you ran out of ways to keep your children busy by Week 2 of the pandemic. So thank god for subscription box services innovating to provide craft kits, kid-friendly baking projects, and monthly learning games like Little Passports to keep our children occupied!
DTC companies that emphasized community resonated with subscription consumers
The pandemic reminded us that we are all one community and have to do our best to maintain one another’s well-being as well as our planet’s sustainability. Whether that means the popularity of subscription boxes like Grove that sell reusable, refillable, organic cleaning products, or Misfits that sends you the discarded - but very delicious - misshapen produce that don’t make it to market, consumers loved that they could find a way to consume consciously amidst the chaos of current events.
Subscription box companies took care of our pets, too
Our pet obsession skyrocketed during the pandemic with 23 million Americans adopting a new pet. Many of us were already using subscription box services like Chewy and Barkbox to meet our pet’s monthly needs, but in the midst of a pandemic, we didn’t just want to feed our fur babies - we wanted to protect their well-being, too. Subscription meal boxes like Cat Person began to provide monthly meal plans tailored to our pet’s specific nutritional needs.
The pandemic highlighted the benefits of subscription for customers
While some of the subscription box craze may slow down post-pandemic, consumers learned how much easier life can be when they automate the things they would like to buy anyway - and save themselves a trip to the store.
Consumers also discovered the ways subscription box services can keep us connected - to one another in the form of monthly games or book clubs, or even to the larger global community with ideas like Advocrate.
Convenience and connection are key - and while we craved them especially during the pandemic, it’s likely that consumer preference for these things will remain strong, even as we venture back outside.
The pandemic drove innovative new trends in the subscription box market
Whether our desire for subscription boxes were driven by necessity or leisure, there’s no denying that the pandemic accelerated innovation in the subscription box industry. Now, you can find almost whatever you want in the form of a subscription box. Whatever your hobby, there is a subscription box for you.
Subscription economy customers demand novelty - and your subscription economy customer service needs to oblige
The challenge for DTC consumer brands trying to succeed in the subscription box industry in 2021 is the unending consumer desire for novelty. While the pandemic inspired unprecedented innovation in the subscription box market, we know that subscription economy customers - and more specifically, retaining subscription economy customers - will be the key determinants of trends to come.
Retaining subscription customers doesn’t have to be rocket science. You already know so much about your customers - you know their customer subscription details, and you know from their purchase history what their subscription economy consumer perspective is. You can provide them thoughtful, personalized service.
Customer retention - whether you’re a subscription box or any other consumer brand - isn’t rocket science! If you’re wondering, “But how much does it cost to retain a customer?” then we can tell you - a lot less than winning new customers.
Some of the tricks of the trade have changed. For example, while subscription box affiliate programs still offer a popular option, more and more DTC companies are turning to subscription box Reddit reviews and ads or even subscription box apps to find success.
But some things have not changed. Subscription economy customers are savvy, and they require more than your mother’s dunning-type software to succeed. While you need technology to support your customer retention efforts, these initiatives must be underpinned by a human touch in order to keep your subscription customers happy - and subscribed.
Learn more on how you can create a bullet-proof customer retention strategy.