Study: Leading subscription box retailers emerge

While online subscription box retailing is still a niche market, it is growing rapidly and consumers have selected their early favorites.
 
According to analysis of online behavior from Hitwise, a division of Connexity, specialty beauty retailer Birchbox and specialty men’s grooming retailer Dollar Shave Club tied among subscription box retailers with U.S. consumers in January 2016, garnering 3.6 million visits each. Curated goods retailer Loot Crate followed with 3.1 million U.S. visits. Weekly fresh ingredient retailer Blue Apron (2.6 million) and weekly individualized snack retailer Graze (1.3 million) rounded out the top five.
 
Although monthly visits to subscription box retailers are less than 1% of the visits received by top online retailers, the category is still seeing explosive growth. There were more than 21.4 million total U.S. visits to subscription box retailers in January 2016, an almost 3,000 % increase from 722,000 in the same month the prior year. In contrast, U.S. visits to the top 500 online retailers grew 168% in the same period.
 
During the 2015 holiday season, 8.6 million Americans (4.3% of the online population) visited one of the 127 sites in the Hitwise subscription box shopping custom industry index.

Analysis also shows that subscription box shoppers are demographically valuable. They predominantly fall into the 25-to-39-year-old age bracket and skew more heavily female than the average female shopper.
 
Given these demographics, it is not surprising that subscription box sites receive more than half of their visits coming from smartphones or tablets. During the 12 weeks ending January 23, 2016, 53% of U.S. visits to the subscription box industry were from a mobile device, compared with 35% of all online visits that come from mobile.
 
Subscription box shoppers also tend to be more attuned to social media. In the U.S., 13.5% of referred visits to subscription box sites in December 2015 came from a social media site, whereas the typical retail site received only 8.4% of traffic from social.
 
Multimedia sites and blogs are also significant drivers of traffic for subscription box sites. Dollar Beard Club, for instance, saw 4.9% of visits come in from YouTube alone when it launched in June 2015, due to an introductory video that went viral. By comparison, the typical retail site that month received just 1.6% of upstream visits from YouTube.
 
However, search is still the primary driver for subscription box site traffic, though less dominantly than for overall e-commerce sites. In the U.S., 34% of referred traffic to subscription retail sites came from a search engine during the month of December 2015. That same month, retail sites as a whole received 40.7% of traffic from a search engine.
 
As more consumers become familiar with subscription sites, Hitwise analysis suggests search grows in importance. The share of U.S. visits to subscription sites driven by search engines rose a relative 20% in the last year.

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