Subscription Box – The Boom in the eCommerce Market

eCommerce has seen an incredible boom in the subscription box industry, and it makes perfect sense.

Naturally, a consumer market that already spends more of its time shopping online would enjoy receiving a big box of surprises on a weekly or monthly basis delivered right to their doorstep. While this may seem obvious, the level of growth has shocked even the experts, with the number of shoppers increasing exponentially in just a few years.

With the right strategy, retailers can capitalize on this emerging trend.

Subscription Box – Market Growth

Since 2010, the subscription box has made a major impact in online retail.

Research conducted by Mckinsey shows that 15% of online shoppers have signed up for at least one or more subscription box services. Even at 15%, that represents an enormous opportunity for online retails, especially considering that the NRF (National Retail Federation) expects online retail to grow as much as 8-12% in comparison to the retail industry as a whole.

On top of that, eCommerce sales will likely gross somewhere between $427 billion and $443 billion in 2018.

That’s huge!

This trend has brought on an enormous growth in the number of subscription-based companies looking to get a piece of that billion dollar pie. In fact, at least 2,000 subscription box companies have entered the market in recent years. These include big names like Blue Apron, FabFitFun, Ipsy, Birchbox, and Netflix.

Within this sector, three different types of subscriptions have emerged: replenishment, curation, and access.

Replenishment subscriptions automate the purchase of commonly used items such as razors, toilet papers, and toothpaste. Curation, on the other hand, brings a surprise box of items in industries like apparel, beauty, and food. Meanwhile, access subscriptions give discounts or members-only perks, typically in industries like food, beauty, and apparel.

Curation has surpassed the two by far, comprising 55% of total subscriptions.

Consumers Can’t Get Enough of Subscription Boxes

It comes as no surprise that eCommerce has entered this new era of subscription-based services. It doesn’t get much easier or more convenient than getting a box automatically sent to your door each month.

When it comes to curation-based subscriptions, people essentially get a box of surprises on a weekly or monthly basis.

Even if they purchase the subscription itself, the arrival feels like Christmas morning each time with a whole bunch of goodies gets delivered right to the doorstep. Not to mention, curation subscriptions also give businesses an excellent opportunity for introducing new products to their target market.

Subscription Market – Present & Future

Consumer reports reveal that visits to top subscription box websites surged, increasing by nearly 3,000% between 2013 and 2016, reaching 21.4 million visitors.

The trend hasn’t gone unnoticed, and many existing and emerging brands have started to offer their own subscription-based services. In 2014, for example, Walmart launched their Beauty Box subscription filled with makeup and beauty items.

Since the subscription box has broken into the online shopping arena, retailers have adapted their business strategies to make way for the new trend in eCommerce. The subscription box model doesn’t limit itself to already established brands. Many new, under the radar companies have emerged from out of nowhere and have experience exponential growth in the industry.

Take, Birchbox, the company that essentially started the subscription box movement, delivering its monthly care package of beauty samples for just $10.

Since then, the company has grown, serving over 800,000 subscribers and taking in over $96 million in sales annually. Of course, big names like Adidas, Starbucks, and Macy’s have firmly planted their feet in the market as well.


Looking ahead, despite the rapid growth of the industry, it remains unclear where the subscription era is heading. Businesses looking to make it in the industry need to stand out from the competition.

eCommerce companies should invest in developing a solid brand that reaches the right audience.

Subscription services also have their own practicalities to consider such as shipping, packaging, ordering, and so forth.

One thing remains certain: The subscription box industry is booming. With the right approach, eCommerce businesses can cash in big time with this new, growing trend.