The market for subscription boxes is booming. According to research by McKinsey the entire market was worth $57m in 2011 and by 2016 it grew to $2.6bn. Although some subscription services included in the numbers are services like Netflix, over 55% of all subscriptions are for boxes of products to be regularly delivered.
Fast Company recently reported that at the end of 2018 there were over 3,500 subscription box services operating in the US market, an increase of 40% on 2017 and 47% of those services had launched in the last year. The Fast Company analysis suggests that the market for subscription boxes is getting crowded – 13% of the services closed last year. This suggests that subscription box services need to be good because those that are just average will quickly fail.
One area that does appear to work well is the beauty box. Companies like Birchbox, Ipsy, and FabFitFun have all built a strong following and each has a slightly different strategy. Birchbox uses the boxes as a tool to drive additional purchases. Ipsy focuses on personalization and FabFitFun focuses on a broader wellness theme, rather than just beauty alone.
Thousands of people are now using these services and reducing the need to spend time trawling stores looking for new beauty products. But, as you might expect, most of these customers are women. I believe there is an enormous market for male grooming subscription boxes and so far only a few leading brands have made serious efforts in this area.
Dollar Shave Club is the giant. Launched in 2012 with little more than some boxes of razors and a funny YouTube video the company was acquired by Unilever in 2017 for a billion dollars. Since the acquisition Unilever has attempted to broaden the product range so the brand moves beyond razors alone.
Both Birchbox and Gillette offer $10 monthly grooming kits to men, but here is where I think all these companies are missing an opportunity. Almost all the men’s grooming subscription boxes are focused on beards and products associated with shaving. Of course men without beards need to regularly shave, but take a look at the products men buy more generally and it goes far beyond caring for beards alone.
One of the main reasons women use subscription boxes is for the convenience of just getting the products delivered directly to their home. I’m sure that men value this convenience just as much and I’m sure that many of them would be prepared to pay a regular amount for a personalized grooming kit that includes additional products, such as cleansers and moisturizers.
The major pharmacy chains might want to analyze some of their customer behavior. They surely have the data on which products men purchase regularly and which they prefer. Perhaps some of those retailers might use this intelligence to create subscription boxes that include all the grooming products men purchase regularly – it sounds like a great idea that could do well if the experience of the beauty boxes is an indicator. Subscription boxes are big business and with more male customers coming soon I believe this is an area worth watching closely.
Photo by Luca Rossato licensed under Creative Commons