The age-old concept of ‘sample before you buy’ has manifested into the subscription box business model, an idea that is extremely popular globally, but is slowly finding acceptance in India. A study by Hitwise, which measures behaviour across desktop, tablet, and smartphone devices, providing marketers with a sampling of online behaviour, showed that in the US, visits to subscription box sites had grown 3,000 per cent from January 2013-2016, with 21.4 million visits in January 2016.
Additionally, Subscription Commerce Insider points out that an average subscriber in the US has seven or more different types of subscriptions, with 12 more subscriptions on his/her wishlist for future purchases.
In 2016, L’Oréal Paris created L’Or Box, a Red Carpet box that hid a ticket to the Festival de Cannes (L’Oréal Paris being the festival’s official cosmetics brand) for one lucky recipient. The box contained samples of beauty products by L’Oréal.
Sisley Paris also offers a monthly subscription box containing a curated selection of five Sisley product samples. The box is available to Sisley Club Gold and Platinum members, with each month’s box following a theme like ‘At-Home Spa’ or ‘D-Tox’. “I have to admit I still love receiving surprise gifts in the mail, and the Evening Ritual sample package from Sisley met all my expectations. I love that each month follows a theme too. So excited to try this out and looking forward to next month's package,” shared a customer in her review of the box.
“The success of innovative subscription brands, particularly among younger age groups, has disrupted some industries and has challenged established business models,” observed Warc Toolkit 2017, earlier this month, as one of the key trends in how brands are going the direct-to-consumer way.
The India perspective
Basil Varghese, co-founder, MyGiftBoxCo, which calls itself the premium subscription box market place in India, echoes the above observation. “The younger generation is for the subscription boxes. We estimate that about 10-15 per cent of consumers will find subscription boxes interesting and would love to try one of them,” he said.
My Gift Box Co, conceptualised by George V, launched its full version in April 2016, offering 30+ subscription boxes every month. They offer curated boxes from mainline brands such as Park Avenue, Gillete, Biotique, United Colors of Benetton, AXE, Loreal, Maybelline New York, VLCC, Lakme, Revlon, Colorbar, etc. in addition to brands that are yet to make it big in India.
My Gift Box Co has registered a growth ranging between 10-15 per cent new subscribers each month. “This, however, does not mean that the growth in the number of boxes is the same because we have customers who have opted for three-month and six-month subscription plans and they are included as one customer and not as six boxes,” clarified Varghese.
A niche market
According to competitive intelligence and ecommerce marketing platform, Connexity, the typical subscription box client is the 25-39 year old female with above-average education and income, who predominantly lives in multicultural urban neighbourhoods in big cities, and who is active and health-conscious. And while it may seem that women are the primary audience, there’s room for men, children, grandparents, and even pets.
For example, MyGiftBoxCo offers Adam Box and Homme Box for men, Grand Care Box for grandparents, and an assortment of other boxes such as Yoga Box, Organic Box, Ayurveda Box, India Box, World Box, Youth Box, Book Box, etc. In the wider market, there’s Paper Planes, a monthly magazine subscription service available all across India; Wag Box, a subscription service catered to dogs; The Nibble Box, India’s first online snack subscription service; The Revolver Club, India’s only vinyl subscription service, to name a few. For tea connoisseurs, there’s Tea Box and for pregnant women or mothers of new-borns, there’s Happiness in a Box.
While ‘niche’ may be the name of the game, it is evident that several avenues are opening up in India to welcome the subscription box business model.