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What is a Subscription Box?


To put it short, a subscription box is a recurring physical delivery of curated niche-oriented products packaged in a box designed to create an experience and offer additional value on top of the actual products. It’s not just about the products that are being delivered, rather it’s about the experience it brings.

Subscription Boxes Today

Subscription box industry is getting increasingly more and more popular. Customers love subscription boxes because unlike any other consumer products we’re used to receiving in the mail, subscription boxes offer exciting experience where checking the mail becomes fun again. Not only just niche companies who participate in this market, big players in retail industry also jumped the wagon. So, what exactly is a subscription box and how you can define what is a subscription box and what isn’t? Have a look at our short introduction to subscription box.

Furhter Defining a Subscription Box

There’s no official description of subscription box, even Wikipedia entry on the topic gives a vague and overgeneralization definition. However, customers tend to define it as “monthly delivery of cool stuff that I like in a box”. The lack of no official definition of a subscription box stems from the fact that a subscription box emphasizes on a consumer retail concept rather than business models.

What are the traits which helps to define a subscription box?
Even though defining subscription boxes can be tricky, there are several traits which help to draw a line on what’s considered as a subscription box and what’s not, which are:

  • Must be a physical delivery
    Part of what makes a subscription box appealing is because it’s delivered physically to the customers so digital subscriptions can’t be classified as a subscription box.
  • Must be a recurring subscription or membership
    There has to be a recurring subscription or membership of any term or frequency for the box to get delivered to the customers.
  • Must feature one or more distinct value propositions
    The satisfaction that customers get from a subscription box is often not directly associated with the actual products inside, it’s the combination of the products, the experience and unique value propositions that make subscription boxes different from other consumer goods.


Surprise in a subscription box value proposition means at least one or more items in the box must be a mystery item or unknown to the customer before delivery. Surprise triggers anticipation and excitement to the receivers and it also provides a good opportunity to release ‘teaser products/sneak peaks’ at key times of the month to make customers stay engaged.


Slightly different than ‘surprise’, discovery emphasizes more on customers discovering items they’ve never seen before rather than having some ‘mystery’ items. Discovery-based subscription is most popular in consumer industries that have lots of options and can be difficult to navigate (like the beauty or natural products industry) and attract customers who are looking for quality product they have yet to discover.


Curation means a thoughtfully picked variety of products related to a specific niche or category. This is essentially promising that the items in the box won’t be totally random. Subscription boxes that use this value proposition will usually position themselves as an authority or expert in their category, promising to only deliver items that have been ‘hand selected’ or vetted by a knowledgeable team. While ‘curation’ seems like similar to ‘discovery’, the difference is that the products in a ‘curated’ box are expected to go through a more critical and thorough examination. Curation subscription box manifests in three distinctive ways: Customer influenced curation, thematic based curation and expert curation.


Savings in this value proposition means a clear savings on the price paid for the box versus the total retail value of the items inside. This is a standard practice for subscription box review blogs. Showcasing this can be tricky because even though subscription boxes have nailed to the other value propositions, ultimately customers need to feel that they’re getting a good deal on the products in their box. On top of that, it has also become a common habit of subscription box customers to research the products received in their box in order to tally up and confirm the total retail value.

Thoughtful Presentation

Thoughtful presentation oversees custom packaging to the way products are arranged inside the box and also probably the number one most unifying trait. Many subscription boxes feature beautiful retail quality packaging, custom inserts, stickers, tissue paper and more. Ultimately, it should be clear that an effort was made to make the box and the process of opening it a part of the experience rather than simply a means to get an item to a customer’s door.


Convenience doesn’t equal a recurring ‘auto-delivery’, rather it’s about the ease in which subscription boxes solve problems for customers. This boils down to how they frame their service and build their “expert” persona, where they’re not just making it convenient but also decisively unique to customers.

Now that we have shortly introduced you to subscription boxes and outline what makes some products categorized as subscription boxes, are you excited to also join the party? Tell us in comment section below!

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