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Industry Trends
December 10, 2021
min read
Daniel Conn

The self gifts that keep on giving

Close your eyes and think about eCommerce in the 2010s, what do you see? Razors delivered to your home? Dinner (un-cooked) arriving in a box? New clothes you didn’t pick arriving every month? Oh you saw Subscription boxes too?

Subscription boxes as a business model have exploded in the past few years and it makes perfect sense. Every thing you can put on a delivery cadence is one more thing you don’t forget to buy and run out of just when the stores are closed.

In this review we’re going to look around the business of subscription boxes for some fun facts and as usual if you have any questions about it don’t be a stranger we’re always here to help.

What is a Subscription Box?

You’re not all gonna agree with everything here, I’m not sure I fully agree with myself and as you can see its been a vigorous debate at ThoughtLeaders HQ in prep for this:

Having consulted many experts and looked at masses of content, much of which reviewed through the ThoughtLeaders platform (shameless plug) we’re gonna go with…….Wikipedia

Subscription box - Wikipedia › wiki › Subscription_box

Subscription boxes are a recurring delivery of niche products as part of a marketing strategy and a method of product distribution.

Ok so as long we’re niche and we’re recurring we’re good. There are no shortage of subscription boxes out there, here’s a great list of 200 of them

I’m not trying to get through them all though, a) because that would be an extraordinary amount of work and you guys are getting this for free :) and b) there’s a whole bunch of them that are so niche that im inclined to believe that they don’t actually have very many subscribers.

Still I haven’t cheaped out on you guys and have analyzed 58 subscription box brands over several years to being you some cool charts. Lets get it!

Some logos

Look at all these brands!

These brands cover everything from dinner for you and/or your dog, dresses and perfumes for special occasions, undergarments for luxury netflix and chill, shaving, drinking for waking up, drinking for getting drunk, snacking, eating healthy and random starwars goods. 

You may say well how can any data be useful across such a wide range of interests? Segmentation! 

Here’s our groups:


Make up/ Beauty


Meal kits





But before we use them let me contradict myself and show you some aggregates:

The Industry

In the past 3 years the number of ThoughtLeaders (creators) engaged by the 58 subscription box brands per quarter has almost doubled. The total unique creators engaged all time is 5118 but when we sum the unique count of the brands individually that rises to 10,575 highlighting the amount of crossover.

So the total’s have been rising steadily but what is the avg number of new tests undertaken by subscription brands per quarter. The following chart shows the number of first time sponsorships.

If you have seen one of my reports before you will recognise both the tests per quarter graph and the common pattern where industries go through a growth period of testing and then begin to level out. 

It makes sense to be consistent in sponsorship testing as a marketer gradually over time reducing the risk taken through long term partnerships.

By Category

When we start to break down brands by category (told you I promised segmentation) we get some really interesting splits.

Grooming is by far the biggest segment on avg dominated by brands like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s with enormous number of placements.

The next biggest segment is Tech but this is clearly dominated by LootCrate with 1111 ThoughtLeaders.

But where are the $’s going. In this next chart we’re looking at the % splits between Podcast and YouTube. Overall YouTube is the format of choice for subscription boxes but there are clear differences by segment with the Drinks segment the only category dominated by Podcast. Are there some opportunities in Podcast being missed by the Tech and Snack segments, they have barely experimented.

Some people love Subscription Boxes

There are creators out there that go wild for Subscription boxes. For example Designer Jen has repped (deep breath) HelloFresh, Munchpak, Loot Crate, Birchbox, Ipsy, Lip Monthly, FabFitFun and Dollar Shave Club.

On the Podcast side Joey Diaz is your man with his Church of What’s Happening now Podcast repping MeUndies, Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron, Winc, Harry’s and Butcherbox.

One Brand has spotted a niche

Overall there are only 403 instances of one of these brands sponsoring a newsletter but almost ¼ of those sponsorships is by Bright Cellars the subscription wine brand. What do they know that everyone else has missed?

Who got the most views?

It ain’t even close. Dollar Shave Club absolutely smashed it with their partnership with Matt Stonie. Of all the 1000s of sponsored videos the top 2 were this combo between brand and creator. This Epic Chili Cheese Fries video got EIGHTY MILLION VIEWS!

Despite this only Dollar Shave Club, who have been working with Matt since 2017 through to today, has worked with this hugely popular creator. What are you guys doing?!?!?

This has been a whistle stop tour aroung the world of Subscription boxes, hope you’ve enjoyed it!

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