By Brit Morin (Founder & CEO, Brit) Subscription services have been around for more than a century. Generations before us were the first to enjoy subscriptions to magazines, newspapers, and more. As a kid, I even remember being forced to go door-to-door to sell subscriptions for wrapping paper. (Side note: Who really needs a monthly subscription to wrapping paper?)
Only in the past several years has our friend, the Internet, disrupted the traditional subscription model of the media monoliths, forcing them to think about new ways to offer online subscriptions as well as free versions of their content. In doing so, more and more new companies began to see the opportunity to apply the subscription model in unique ways to Internet businesses. But, it wasn’t until 2011 that light bulbs went off across the industry -- today, there are subscription service options for everything from monthly beauty supplies to dog toys.
And so far, the economics of these new models still seem quite lucrative. Subscription service companies are able to strike deals with manufacturers, distributors, or wholesalers and then spend a small amount on packaging and distribution for the [fill-in-the-blank] box of goods. In exchange, their customers offer to pay a recurring fee, typically starting at $10/month and up.
It’s a powerful model, which is why we’re seeing so many companies doing it. As a personal subscriber to at least a handful of these types of services, I can also testify that I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth as a customer. Even better, I’ve found that gifting a subscription is one of the easiest and longest-lasting gifts I could give to a friend. In fact, I’ve already purchased nearly a dozen subscriptions for friends and family this Christmas. There’s no wrapping involved, and you can buy at the very last-minute -- that’s my kind of gift.
If you are searching for your very own last-minute holiday gift, why not try a subscription?
Below is a round-up of my personal favorites, along with some of the most interesting options out there.
FOOD & DRINK Craft Coffee – $20/month – Three 5-cup samples of coffee from various artisan roasters around the country. Steepster Select – $17/month – The Craft Coffee of the tea world, get three samples of hand-selected teas each month. Foodzie – $30/month – A quality tasting box full of small batch, artisanal food products. Healthy Surprise – $49/month – An assortment of 18+ healthy treats – a package big enough to last as your “snack cabinet” for the entire month. Lollihop – $68/3-month – Similar to Healthy Surprise, Lollihop offers at least 8 healthy, organic snacks delivered each month. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – $ Varies – Just plug in your zip code to see which nearby farms offer monthly or weekly food subscriptions. A popular way to get fresh food while also giving back to your local farmers. Culture Kitchen – $98/3-month – All of the hard-to-find ingredients and instructions for preparing a different authentic ethnic cuisine each month. Bacon of the Month Club – $99/6-month – As featured in one of our Brit Gift Guides, the title says it all on this one.
BEAUTY & FASHION Birchbox – $10/month – A collection of 4-6 monthly beauty samples, with options to buy full-sized versions on the site. BeautyFix – $50/season – Full-sized beauty products selected to match your personal beauty profile, delivered every 3-months. Joliebox – €13/month – The Birchbox of Europe. Panty by Post – $55/3-month – Marketed as “a pretty panty, mailed monthly,” this is one that all dads should NOT think to get their daughters. Manpacks – $ Varies – A subscription to all the things that men often seem to forget to buy themselves, including undershirts, boxers, and socks. UmbaBox – $26/month – A monthly variety of accessories, jewelry and homegoods. Put This On – $45/bi-monthly- A subscription to hand-selected pocket squares for the bespoke gentlemen. TrunkClub – $ Varies – Your own virtual personal stylist will shop and send you men’s apparel. Try it all on and send back whatever you don’t want to purchase. Sorry gals, this one is for the boys only.
ENTERTAINMENT & ONLINE Netflix – $8/month – Give them the gift of unlimited streaming video (especially great if they own devices like Google TV or Roku). Spotify Premium – $10/month – No ads, higher bit rates, and offline services are just a few of the pro features of Spotify’s premium subscription service. Pandora – $36/year – The world’s most popular Internet radio service; with their innovative Music Genome technology, Pandora helps you discover new music you will love by creating personalized radio streams for you from the artists and songs you already love. Hulu Plus – $10/month – A much more affordable TV solution, Hulu Plus gives you monthly access to some of the most popular TV and movies, watchable online or via many other streaming devices, with limited advertising. MoviePass – $50/month – Unlimited movies in theaters nationwide. The service was banned earlier this year but re-launched a few months ago, much to consumer delight. Amazon Prime – $79/year – This service has changed my life. With free 2-day shipping or $4 overnight delivery on most items, I hardly ever have to go shopping in real life anymore. Dropbox – $10/month – Dropbox is by far the easiest and best way to back-up and store all of your data in the cloud. This invite link will get you 250MB for free (and, full disclosure, will also up my own storage). Digital News – $15+/month – Gift subscriptions to digital access for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Or, if you read other news sites, I’m sure you can Google yourself the subscription link to their own purchase page.
OTHERS Kiwi Crate – $20/month – A monthly craft kit for kids 3-6 years old. The Quarterly – $25/quarter – Curated gifts from influencers you care about, every 3-months. TaskRabbit – $ Varies – Give the gift of a helping hand. Your giftee can set up their own recurring subscription to the service. I personally use TaskRabbit for bi-weekly grocery delivery services. Flowers of the Month – $ Varies – Not nearly as innovative as some of the others, but an obvious choice for any woman in your life. Tattly – $60/6-months – Great for kids (or those who will always be kids at heart), Tattly’s subscription service offers eight high quality, non-permanent tattoos each month. Barkbox – $25/month – As a new puppy owner, this is the one service I’m most excited about. Each month, my dog, Pixel, will receive his own box of treats and goodies to play with, making for much less boredom (and therefore, less furniture destruction) around the house.
Whether you get them a beauty fix, news fix, or puppy fix – know that you’re getting them a gift that (literally) keeps on giving.
Am I missing any subscription services that you think should be on the list? Tweet me or leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to check it out.
This post was originally posted at TechCrunch.
Photo credit: Culture Kitchen About the guest blogger: Brit Morin is the Founder and CEO of Brit. She designs and builds software applications, the first of which is Weduary for brides and grooms. Prior to starting her own company, Brit spent a number of years working in companies like Google, Apple, and Tiny Pictures (sold to Shutterfly in 2007). She is now an advisor to a number of technology startups and together with her husband, Dave, invests in and mentors many early-stage companies. Brit, Dave and their dog, Pixel, are living happily ever after in the great city of San Francisco.