Millennials are thinking inside the box when it comes to shopping.

Subscription boxes, which are packages of goods sent in a recurring subscription, present a new way to shop and are mostly popular with millennials, or people from 18 to 31 years old, said marketing associate professor Zhiyong Yang. Yang said their popularity with the generation can be mostly attributed to four components: convenience, surprise, personalization and cost.

“Millennials are very busy, have lots of work and are developing themselves,” Yang said.

These boxes save millennials time with their busy lifestyles, Yang said.

The “gift factor”

“I’m a sucker for nice packaging, it makes me happy,” architecture sophomore Afnan Dahduli said. “The excitement of receiving a new box each month and trying new things each time is what really is appealing.”

Many millennials, college students in particular, have recently left their homes and are not the center of attention like they once were, Yang said. The subscription puts these consumers back in the center of attention, both catering and surprising them, Yang said.

Even though consumers are paying for subscriptions, the way these boxes are packaged and the surprise element causes consumers to conceive them as more of a gift, Yang said.

The aspect of personalization, or “curation” as some of these business put it, also makes these subscriptions feel exclusive.

Dudwali said she likes when her items are curated at the beginning when she’s new to the box, but she prefers to chose her items later on.

It may perplex some that customers are willing to make personal profiles that offer a lot of information about themselves. Yang said that in a recent study, only 20 percent of people do not mind providing information to marketers, yet consumers are willing to provide information to these subscription box companies.

It may have to do with the fact that consumers volunteer this information. Filling out quizzes that help companies curate boxes is often as easy as a Buzzfeed quiz.

Bang for your box

Yang said the cost is also what maintains longevity in the relationship between consumers and their subscriptions.

Consumers receive goods for relatively low prices, and millennials will often see this as a win. There is a great range with subscription boxes - some can be as low as $10 monthly to over $200 monthly.

Despite the range, it is often still cheaper than buying the goods separately and definitely reduces the opportunity cost of looking for the goods.

Dudwali said subscription boxes are a good deal for the most part. The snack box she tried got a little pricey, but canceling it was simple.

Not all millennials are interested in being subscribers. Education senior Amanda Savells anticipates that these subscription box companies would sell or give her information to other companies and spam her email. She said she also prefers to know what she’s getting.

“I’m not going to spend money on a little lip gloss when I have gas to worry about,” she said while browsing through Amazon. “I mean, I’m looking at sinks online right now, for my new house.”

Though not everyone likes them, these boxes are likely here to stay, Yang said. He he views this new way of shopping as a positive change in the way consumers shop.

“I think in general it will give us an alternative way to enjoy life and better organize life,” Yang said.

However, Yang said that consumers should be wary because many of these subscription brands are start-ups and could be here one day and not the next, just like the money the consumers give them.


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