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Opinion: Why the subscription box industry is important to your brand


The subscription box industry is growing fast and offers great opportunities to tie customers in around delivery and product, says Marie Louise Dalton, global vice president of marketing at Hitwise.
The subscription box industry is one of the fastest-growing retail verticals in the UK, with online visits rising by 30% year-on-year, reaching a total of 76.7 million visits. As shoppers seek out more customisable and convenient shopping options, brands and marketers are scrambling to get a piece of the pie.

The surge in subscription box traffic is largely driven by two categories which are well established in this space: Food & Alcohol (think HelloFresh) and Fashion & Beauty (think Birchbox or Harry’s).

With a total of 3.1 million people visiting a subscription box website in the last three months of 2017, it’s clear subscription box services are becoming a major staple of Christmas gift-giving in the UK.

Looking at the demographics of these consumers, we found that 18 to 24-year old women were the primary traffic drivers during this period. This age group was 16% more likely to have visited a subscription box website, and 10% more likely to be female. More surprisingly, however, Hitwise found that subscription box visits by shoppers aged 45+ rose by 40%, with a staggering increase of 125% being attributed to male shoppers.

The attitudes of the subscription box audience tend to be in line with traditionally Millennial perspectives: they are fashion-conscious, ethical and influenced by celebrities and external recommendations. However, when looking deeper we see several key audience attributes emerge within different subscription box categories. For example, visitors to the Food and Drink subscription box category are more commonly:

  • an even split between men and women
  • between the ages of 18 to 34
  • often snack on the move (rather than having a proper meal)
  • would be willing to pay more for a quality wine

Specific demographic and attitudinal preferences like these enable marketers to speak to the particular needs of each subscription box audience, rather than bucketing them all under a general “Millennial” stereotype.

Zooming into individual players, each category has its dominant players and the Hitwise data showed the top three brands in the ‘top players’ categories, accounted for around 60% of each category’s traffic in 2017.

We know that food and beauty are established subscription box industries — but what’s next? We dug into Hitwise search data to identify emerging subscription box trends, and found interest in items such as ‘gin’ and ‘wine’, as well as more niche health areas like ‘fitness’, ‘supplement’ and even crafty ‘bridal’ and ‘scrapbooking’ searches.

As visits to the subscription box industry continue to rise, we can only expect to see a continual growth in this space throughout 2018. By understanding the behaviours and motivations of people who use subscription boxes, brands and marketers can better serve consumer needs as they evolve.

To read more on the subscription box industry and which brands are getting ahead, read the full report here: Subscription Box Industry.

Image credit: Fotolia

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