Could The Subscription Box Boom Provide An Opportunity For Print?

More than a quarter of Brits are signed up to subscription boxes. So what does this mean for print marketing trends?

cardboard subcription box

The rise of the subscription box is one of the great business success stories of the past decade.

It’s now possible to get everything from food and clothes to pet toys and Japanese snacks delivered to your door on a regular basis – all enticingly packaged in a box that’s highly satisfying to open. It’s a trend that started in the US but is quickly being adopted by consumers in Europe and the rest of the world.

While many boxes are provided by start-ups and may not stand the test of time, the concept is certainly here to stay. Royal Mail predicts the market will be worth £1 billion by 2022, so how can marketers use print to capitalise on this?

Subscription box statistics

By 2018, the average Brit was spending an estimated £60 per year on subscription boxes, with more than 27% subscribed to at least one.

The most popular box is the healthy snack service Graze, with 12.3% of Brits subscribed. Pact Coffee is waking up 8.5% of us in the mornings, while Glossybox is making 7.8% of us more beautiful.

Boxes are most popular among 24 to 34-year-olds, with more than half signed up to one or more.

Some 30% of men are subscribed compared to 24% of women, and male grooming boxes are thought to be the biggest growing category: two million subscribers are predicted by 2022.

make up subscription box

The gift that goes on giving

So what’s their attraction to customers? According to McKinsey, people subscribe for three main reasons – replenishment (to save time and money on physical shopping); curation (to be surprised by new product varieties), or access (to gain exclusive access to products they can’t get elsewhere). 

In a world of almost overwhelming choice, they give you the benefit of variety without the burden of decision-making.

Some offer miniatures you can sample before committing to a full-size product. Others, like meal boxes, suggest they’ll take the hassle out of catering by doing your planning and shopping for you.

Subscription boxes also appeal to our sense of mystery, and our enjoyment of surprise gifts – it’s like your birthday, 12 or even 52 times a year! And especially in lockdown, with so many of life’s pleasures curtailed, subscription boxes give us something to look forward to each week or month.

Top boxes for print lovers

It’s not just food and beauty. There’s a subscription box for everything, and printed matter is no exception.

There’s Book & A Brew, which provides a hardback novel and a pack of tea every month. Or The Willoughby Book Club, which lets you choose the genre but picks the title for you.

Avid readers who like to learn something new can try out Stack, which provides one mystery independent magazine per month.

And there’s even a revival of that old favourite, stationery. Boxes such as Papergang supply quality products to lovers of hand-written notes and letters.

cardboard subcription box

Subscription boxes: marketing trends

Subscription services also offer marketers the opportunity to think ‘inside’ the box when it comes to adding value to the content or cross-promoting products.   

A lot of the appeal comes from the child-like joy we experience in opening a beautifully packaged box and pulling out its contents one by one. And those mysterious contents can include your printed marketing materials, aimed at the valuable Millennial target market.

These materials might be integral to the box. Recipe cards in meal boxes, for example, turn the selection of spices and foodstuffs into a kit for a delicious dinner. Instruction booklets may be required for games, hobby kits or even plants.

Alternatively, they can be promotional. A mini-magazine might convert someone trying out a new beauty brand for the first time into a devoted customer. Gift guides can provide subscribers with inspiration for birthdays, anniversaries and seasonal celebrations like Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

And flyers can entice subscribers with more offers from the same brands or sister companies, such as money-off vouchers or further trial boxes.

Overall, subscription boxes show that the future of marketing is not just digital. They demonstrate our love for something tangible and print fits in perfectly.

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