Subscription Based E-Commerce...What's the deal?

In the past week, I've had this interesting fascination with the concept of subscription based e-commerce, or better known as, monthly subscription boxes. If you are unfamiliar with what these wonderful "boxes" are, it is a box of 4-5 goodies sent out to customers monthly. For example, there are boxes tailored for beauty products, doggy treats, and even just women.

So my curiosity about these subscriptions is: where did they all come from? If you do a simple Google search, you are hit with well over 20 different start-ups that market a box. One of which just might spark your interest and get you hooked month after month. I want to walk through different aspects of this "fad" (if you will) that make it so appealing to consumers -- to the point where a number of start-ups are able to sustain themselves by playing in this space.

 People love the element of surprise
Quite simply, people love to receive presents. Subscribing to a box is a guarantee that we will be getting something, but who knows what! And that's the point -- not knowing builds anticipation, which keeps the company top of mind in-between days where we haven't received anything yet. (When will I receive the box? Have other people gotten their's yet? Let me check the forum. Maybe their website will have a spoiler..)

Our mailboxes are starving for some lovin'
I'm sure we all agree, unless you are one crazy online shopaholic. But we rarely receive hand-written letters, or much less, bank statements anymore in our mailboxes. I think a part of us are nostalgic for the good old fashion "I got a care package" feeling. Yes, it's not from our moms, but it is most likely goodies we would have wanted if we knew they existed.

Sometimes we don't know what we want (but we know we want) 
We all want things, but sometimes we don't really know exactly what it is. Subscribing to a box allows us to throw to the winds the hassle of figuring it out, and still getting something.

You also subscribe to a community 
I'll speak from personal experience about the community that circles around a box, and how helpful it is in building your brand. I subscribed to Birchbox, a box for beauty and makeup products, for about half a year. In addition to just receiving my lovely box every month, I found myself seeking other ways to be part of the Birchbox community. I began to read their blog posts, "like" their Facebook sneak peaks, and even follow the team's Instagram to get behind-the-scene shots of the company. And this community is not limited to Birchbox's social networks, it also seeps into beauty forums such as MakeupTalk. I subscribed because I was interested in beauty products, and Birchbox provided a community for such like-minded people to talk about it.

It's extremely easy to cancel (too easy) 
On the sad chance that the box is just not cutting out for you, these start-ups have made it extremely easy and seamless to cancel your subscription. This goes hand-in-hand with how beautiful and simple to navigate most of these websites are.

That sums it up for me! The other interest thing about these subscription boxes is the variety in price points. I've seem them range from $10 - $50. I know that different boxes are targeting different people, but I'm curious to know what the common thread between all the different subscribers is. Maybe it's the reasons I mentioned above, or it could possibly be more scientific than that. I also wonder: is this market saturated with enough start-ups that there is no more room for another?

I'll definitely continue to keep an eye out for this market, and I'm excited to see where it will go!