What is a monthly box?

What is a monthly box?

In a nutshell, a subscription box is a recurring physical delivery of select niche products packaged in a box designed to create an experience and provide added value beyond the products themselves. It's not just about the products that are delivered, but rather the experience they provide.

Subscription boxes today

The subscription box business is growing in popularity. Customers love subscription boxes because, unlike other consumer products we are used to receiving in the mail, subscription boxes offer an exciting experience where checking the mail becomes fun again. It's not just niche companies that are participating in this market, the big players in the retail sector have also jumped on the bandwagon. So what is a subscription box and how do you define what a subscription box is and what it isn't? Take a look at our brief introduction to subscription boxes.

Define a subscription box more precisely

There is no official description of the subscription box, even the Wikipedia entry on the subject gives a vague and overly general definition. However, customers tend to define it as "monthly delivery of cool stuff I like in a box." The lack of an official definition of a subscription box is due to its focus on a consumer retail concept rather than business models.

What are the characteristics that define a subscription box?

While defining subscription boxes can be tricky, there are several characteristics that help distinguish what is considered a subscription box from what is not:

It must be a physical delivery

Part of the appeal of a subscription box is that it is physically delivered to customers. Therefore, digital subscriptions cannot be considered as subscription boxes.

Must be a subscription or recurring membership

There must be a recurring subscription or membership, regardless of duration or frequency, for the box to be delivered to customers.

Must present one or more distinct value propositions

The satisfaction customers get from a subscription box is often not directly associated with the products it contains. It's the combination of the products, experience and unique value propositions that make subscription boxes different from other consumer goods.


Surprise in the value proposition of a subscription box means that at least one or more items in the box must be a mystery or unknown item to the customer before delivery. The surprise triggers anticipation and excitement in recipients and also provides a good opportunity to launch "teaser/exploration products" at key times of the month to keep customers engaged.


Slightly different from "surprise," discovery places more emphasis on customers discovering items they have never seen before rather than "mystery" items. Discovery-based subscriptions are most popular in consumer industries that have many options and can be difficult to navigate (such as the beauty or natural products industry) and attract customers who are looking for quality products they haven't discovered before.


Curation is the thoughtful selection of a variety of products related to a specific niche or category. It's essentially a promise that the articles contained in the box won't be completely random. Subscription boxes that use this value proposition typically position themselves as an authority or expert in their category, promising to deliver only articles that have been "selected" or vetted by a knowledgeable team. While "curation" is similar to "discovery," the difference is that the products in a "curated" box are meant to be more critically and thoroughly reviewed. Curation subscription boxes manifest in three distinct ways: Customer-influenced curation, topic-based curation, and expert curation.


In this value proposition, savings means a clear savings on the price paid for the box versus the total retail value of the items in it. This is standard practice for subscription box review blogs. It can be difficult to highlight this, because even though subscription boxes are consistent with other value propositions, customers need to feel like they are getting a good deal on the products in their box. In addition, subscription box customers have become accustomed to researching the products they receive in their box to calculate and confirm the total retail value.

Thoughtful presentation

The thoughtful presentation, from the custom packaging to the way the products are arranged inside the box, is probably the most unifying feature. Many subscription boxes feature beautiful commercial-grade packaging, custom inserts, stickers, tissue paper, etc. Ultimately, it should be clear that an effort has been made to make the box and the opening process part of the experience rather than just a means of getting an item to the customer's door.


Convenience does not mean recurring automatic delivery. It's about the ease with which subscription boxes solve customer problems. Rather, it's about the ease with which subscription boxes solve customer problems. It comes down to how they frame their service and build their "expert" persona, where they don't just make the service convenient, but are also unique to customers.

Now that we've briefly introduced you to subscription boxes and described what makes certain products classified as subscription boxes, are you excited to join the party? Let us know in the comments section below!

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