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Sales trend: monthly low cost sample mailer subscriptions

A sales trend is being proven fortuitous across America as subscription commerce is expanding and consumers are getting boxes of products, not knowing what’s coming, but excited to try new products.


Sales trend to brush up on

In recent years, a sales trend has taken root in America with monthly low cost sample mailers consisting of small amounts of products pulled together in a box, chosen by the retailer. It’s called subscription commerce, but think of it as consumers sending themselves or others a care package – it’s a surprise, it’s novel, and it’s not expensive.

Retailers are looking around their inventory considering whether or not they can combine smaller entities together, hire some staff, and depending on the size of the operation, be up and running with a new revenue stream, and a new way to get consumers to try new products.

Additionally, product manufacturers from big (dog treat manufacturer) to small (one-gal knitting web store) can expand their offering and have something novel to promote online and in stores.

From a branding perspective, it’s also working because retailers are getting valuable consumer information and now have more reasons to reach out and promote other products and services to them, rather than getting lost in the sea of tweets.

Below are four examples of the sales trend to brush up on and get inspired by:

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1. Birchbox $10/mo

arguably started the modern version of the trend by sending out high quality beauty product samples in a bundle, allowing fashionistas and non-fashionistas alike to not only try the latest and greatest products, but get familiar with brands without breaking the wallet (and shipping is included in the monthly price).

Fashion bloggers went gaga over Birchbox when they launched, and it is the delight of their buyers. Shoppers fill out a survey about themselves, and what they send out matches their interests, along with a list of a description of what was sent (and the price of the full-sized product, although some products are sent in full size like lip balm). Birchbox offered a limited time “home” edition, sending candles, cocktail napkins and the like, and has options for men, making it a popular gift.

2. BarkBox $18/mo

Dog owners (or someone giving a gift to dog owners) chooses the dog’s size, and pick a plan (monthly, 3-month, or 6-month), and like Birchbox, shipping is included in the price which starts at $18 per month for a BarkBox subscription. The boxes ship out on the 15th of every month, and 10 percent of all proceeds go to an animal rescue group.

The company explains, “Each month your dog will receive a box full of 4-6 goodies to enjoy. Each box will include a different mix of goodies like bones, bully sticks, toys, treats, gadgets, shampoos, hygiene products, food samples, and more. There’s plenty in each box to discover what your dog really loves and wants more of in the future.”

3. Graze $5/mo

is currently by private invitation only, so buyers can sign up for the waiting list, or ask a current member for an invitation if they have extras. Newest to the scene, their focus is on healthy snacks like organic dried fruits and nuts. Buyers select their preference and rate whether they “like, love, or would like to try” each food which is combined to create their box which comes every second week for $5.00 per box. The subscription is not a long-term contract and can be canceled any time with a one week notice. Graze ships through the USPS and fits inside of your mailbox, so no signature is necessary.

4. $7/mo

Like Graze, is in private beta, so users request to get an invitation. is subscription service developed by Walmart, and is focused on getting subscribers to try new food, often from their organic lines, starting at $7.00 per month for themed boxes. What sets this service apart from the others is that they have set up an online community where subscribers can review the products they’ve tried from the boxes each month, “earning points” to redeem on other products. If a member liked something they were sent, they can order a full-sized version of it from the website.

Why this sales trend is expanding

Subscription commerce is a fun sales trend that will most certainly expand in 2013, as it is low cost for the consumer, and taps into an important trend that runs parallel to social media: trying new things. So many consumers today flock to their favorite social network to ask for suggestions on what to eat for dinner, what show to see, what nail polish to use, which outfit to buy, and so forth, making many decisions based on input from friends and even strangers, which has caused countless people to expand their horizons. This sales trend is a simple extension of that behavior, but removes the effort consumers must put forth, and simply sends them the latest and greatest to try out.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Deidre Woollard

    February 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    The Fancy also does curated boxes including one curated by Ashton Kutcher and another curated by Pink.

  2. Vicki Moore

    February 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    I like that the price points are low. I’ve thought about all sorts of different programs but many of them are just too expensive.

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