The Email Practices of Subscription Box Retail Companies

“Subscription” is not just an email marketing term – it is also the foundation of a growing commerce business model. 

Online traffic to subscription box companies like Blue Apron, BarkBox, and Fabletics skyrocketed by nearly 3,000% between 2013 and 2016, according to a recent Hitwise study, and the $1 billion acquisition of Dollar Shave Club by Unilever in 2016 points to the high market value of subscription box companies.

Subscription box companies do not have traditional retail storefronts, so they rely on digital marketing to a great extent to raise awareness. A study of 100 subscription box companies by Iterable details how these retail companies are utilizing multichannel marketing campaigns to engage with their customers.

The growth marketing company tracked the email and mobile messages sent by the top subscription box businesses in the United States over a three-week period to evaluate how these companies leverage email marketing tactics such as welcome campaigns, blast campaigns, and re-engagement campaigns.



The majority of subscription box companies sent an email welcoming new customers as soon as they registered, according to Iterable.  Out of the 68% of companies that sent a welcome email, however, only 28% sent more than one email. Twenty-one percent of companies studied sent a series of two emails, and just 7% sent three emails or more, even though multiple welcome emails have been shown to be more effective than a single message attempt.

Three out of four retail box companies studied by Iterable sent out a blast campaign during the three-week study -- mass emails sent to subscribers with little segmentation or personalization. The average number of blast emails sent to active subscribers was 3.8 emails in one week, although the fashion and beauty brands sent an above-average number of blast emails a week.

Consumers are more likely to get annoyed with blast email campaigns due to their lack of relevance, meaning that consumers are more likely to unsubscribe or identify incoming mail as spam.

This likely influences the deliverability rates of email campaigns sent by subscription box companies, and a fifth of retailers had at least one of their emails sent to the spam folder. Of those businesses, 89% suffered deliverability issues with Microsoft Outlook, according to Iterable.

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