Old-fashioned monthly subscription services—think Meat of the Month’s modern makeover—are on the upswing, as The New York Times recently noted. Subscribers to New York-based startup Birchbox, for example, fill out online beauty profiles, then pay $10 a month to receive a “birch box” filled with suitable sample-size makeup and skin care products; customers can buy full-size versions on the company’s website. There are variations on the theme: JewelMint gets a sense of a member’s style and emails her a selection of jewelry she might like each month; the customer then chooses one piece as her “purchase” (for $29.95) or elects to skip the month.
These monthly services tap into three of our 10 Trends for 2011. Non-Commitment Culture is part of it, since the subscriptions are fairly low-risk financially—with Birchbox, for instance, customers get to enjoy various treats without paying for the full size—and can be canceled anytime. Monthly services satisfy the urge to splurge with what doesn’t feel like (but may add up to) a significant investment. Then there’s Hyper-Personalization, one way to generate consumer excitement in the post-recession world. ShoeDazzle, for example, says its celebrity stylists match each customer’s fashion profile with suggested footwear. And the fact that most offers are good for just a month or so ties in to the new Urgency Economy, since customers feel compelled to act while they can.
Finally, the monthly model helps time-crunched shoppers stay on top of the trends by simply outsourcing curation to the experts. Much like meal-delivery services are a convenient way to stay healthy, customers may find monthly subscription services to be a stress-free way to stay hip. While the monthly delivery revival has thus far been confined to women’s beauty and fashion, look for retailers to experiment with other categories, from menswear and household goods to food and services.
Image credit: Birchbox