No wonder subscription boxes are an increasingly popular holiday gift: They're carefully curated with items designed to wow the recipient, while nestled in custom packaging that takes away the hassle of wrapping presents.
Hundreds of subscription boxes now vie for consumers' attention, many with different approaches and niches. Fans of anything from comic books to socks can find a subscription service that fits their interests, although boxes that are geared to beauty products tend to be among the most popular on review site My Subscription Addiction.
Even though subscription boxes are thought to be recurring delivery service, many companies also offer one-off purchases for people who want to send a single gift box at the holidays.
The biggest question for consumers, though, boils down to value: Do the combined items represent a deal compared with the box's actual price? The most common reason for canceling a box is that consumers don't believe it's worth the money, according to a survey for Shorr Packaging, which creates packaging for subscription boxes.
As a result, many subscription boxes will provide a retail value for the items they've sent, as a way to demonstrate that the box offers a bargain. Many also include coupons, in case subscribers want to purchase another product from a manufacturer whose wares are included in the box.
"Having someone curate it for you and put it in a nice package and have a theme for it, that's something people are willing to pay for," said Kyle Olson, senior content manager of Digital Third Coast, which conducted the study. "It's uniqueness and attention to detail, as well the unboxing experience, which is really important for them."
"Unboxing" -- the act of unwrapping a box -- has become an art form in its own right, with subscribers taking videos and posting them to social media for their fans and friends to view. That's something many subscription boxes encourage, and many redesign their packaging each month to create a new experience for their customers.
Investors are also noticing the field, with popular subscription services such as Birchbox attracting millions in venture backing.