Liz Cadman is the founder of My Subscription Addiction, a website dedicated to covering everything subscription box, that features trends and reviews. We sat down with her to learn more about her perspective and insights on the subscription box industry.
Q: Given your experience reviewing subscription boxes, why do you feel consumers have heavily gravitated toward this e-commerce trend?
A: Subscription boxes are a great way to try new things (sometimes pushing you out of your comfort zone), get a great value (many boxes offer a huge return on investment) and they offer a way to try things out in sample size before committing to buying the full version.
Q: Many different industries have found success in the subscription box formula, including beauty, fashion, sports, pets, food, etc. Why do you think the subscription box format can be so easily translated to a variety of products?
A: Subscription boxes are a great way to sample a large variety of products, brands, etc. This was a perfect fit for the beauty industry, and many other industries are discovering how easy it is to use subscription boxes as a method of discovery with potential clients.
Q: In your experience, what do you think makes a great subscription box?
A: Providing a great value. This is usually a retail value, but with some boxes, it may be convenience (like meal kit delivery boxes) or the value of exclusivity (like getting to try products before anyone else, etc.).
Q: How can subscription box companies build brand affinity?
A: Presentation is such an important part of the subscription box experience. It can really take the box from a collection of items to an unboxing experience where the consumer forges a strong connection with the brand. Many of the best boxes give consumers the feeling like they’ve just unwrapped a box from a close friend. For example, when the box is beautiful, the packaging accents the items, there is a note from the curator explaining the items and how to use them, why they were selected, etc., it makes for a personalized unboxing experience.
Q: From your experience managing My Subscription Addiction, what insights have you gained about curating boxes and developing the packaging?
A: The packaging can’t be an afterthought. It has to be something that is considered throughout the process of building the box from concept to completion. You’ll also want to think about what your box will look like immediately opened, because that’s something that will often be shared on Instagram and other social media. Does the packaging material make the items pop? Or do items disappear in the sizzle? If the lid will be open in the picture, what does the inside of the box look like? Is it properly branded?
Q: How do you feel the packaging design affects consumer response to subscription box services?
A: Packaging is often the first impression a consumer has of the brand, and it sets the tone for the entire unboxing experience. At the worst, a subscriber may get an item that wasn’t properly packaged and was damaged in transit. The result is a terrible box experience from start to finish. At the best, the box and packaging feel special and personalized, and work to highlight and explain the items in the box. (You wouldn’t buy your friend a fabulous gift, then wrap it in old newspaper. The same goes for boxes: The packaging should match how great the items are!)
Q: What would you like to see subscription box companies do to either their curation process and/or packaging in the future?
A: A great exercise to do when planning out packaging is to mail out your box and ask friends to send pictures to you of how it looks when it arrives. Then have them send unboxing pictures. Do the pictures match up with what you want the branding and opening experience to be? Many subscribers will receive their boxes where they work. This is a great way to catch the eye of potential new subscribers. If someone saw your box on a desk 20 feet away — would they be able to identify what the brand is and would they be curious about the contents?
Q: What do you tell consumers who want to purchase a subscription box as a gift? What should they look for?
A: First, make sure the subscription is a good fit for their gift recipient. The best way to do this is to look at reviews of past boxes and ask yourself if you think they would have liked those boxes. Next, look at the packaging. Will it feel like they are unwrapping a gift every time they receive it? If I’m picking between two similar boxes, the packaging can be the differentiator in which box I pick to gift.
Q: How has working in this industry affected the way you look at packaging in general? Are you a more elaborate gift wrapper now? Do you send more gifts and packaged goods through the mail to friends and family?
A: I’m definitely more conscious of gift wrapping — though I know enough not to trust myself to do it! Now when I’m ordering gifts like flowers, I check out the company through Instagram hashtags to see what the flowers look like in the boxes when they arrive, not just what they look like on the company website.