The gravitational pull of sub-box services is hard to resist

By Susan Richter, Head of Content

The phrase ‘craft beer’ used to be one that I reserved exclusively for the very upper echelons of hipsterdom. It belonged to the bearded beings of east London, who sat in back alley cafes sipping artisanal flat whites and reading tattered novels that you’ve probably never heard of before.

But just earlier this week, in a moment I still can’t quite fathom, I found myself handing over my hard-earned cash to Flavourly, one of the many craft-beer subscription box services available online. In return, I’d be receiving a box of bottled beverages, delivered right to my front door, in less than 48 hours’ time. Just like that, I had become the very person I used to snobbishly scoff at. I sat down. I thought about my actions. I considered moving to Shoreditch. What had caused such a change of heart?

Monthly ‘sub-box’ services have long been seen as a major disruptor to traditional retail companies; a sobering slap round the chops of those who have yet to realise that, in this day and age, convenience is everything. In retrospect, I suppose this was the driving factor behind my own purchase. While I’m sure I’d have fun travelling to different breweries in search of beers that appeal to my taste buds, I’m also 8000{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} more sure that I’d rather have someone do the hard work for me and then deliver the goods straight to my house.

But convenience alone isn’t enough to drive people to make that all-important purchase, and that’s why sub-box companies employ clever marketing and social media tactics.

First, there’s the offers. Many companies will offer money off your first delivery, which is enough to tempt even the most casual of browsers. Once signed up, the customer is often given a personal code that can be passed on to a friend and guarantees money off for the both of you. It’s a simple move that encourages and rewards word-of-mouth promotion, and it certainly persuaded me to pull my debit card out of my wallet.

Then there’s the well thought-out social media presence which promotes customer engagement and participation. Flavourly is a great example of this: once signed up, it asks you to take photos of your box with the hashtag #TweetMyBeer and review each beer as you drink them. Another stalwart of sub-box social media excellence is Glossybox, who collates all its customer’s reviews and comments into a regular blog series. It’s another simple but effective tool that satisfies our innate craving for community spirit.

However, these methods do not guarantee success. Birchbox, who specialises in beauty products and was one of the first companies to popularise the sub-box idea, recently admitted dwindling growth, and the wider industry has seen a huge 90{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} drop in venture capital funding.

The sub-box companies that continue to thrive are the ones focused on curating unique, high-quality product offerings that customers cannot easily find elsewhere. They’re also placing plenty of attention to detail in personalising each delivery for its customers, whether that involves hand-picking beers based on their personal taste preferences or including a bespoke letter or mail-out with each box.

Exclusivity is essential in this area of retail, and if more companies take these words on board then we’re sure to see monthly sub-boxes arriving at our front doors for years to come. I’ll drink to that!