Bringing Subscription Commerce To Real World Retail

The opportunities for subscription boxes in online retail have been well-documented. Subscriptions boxes provide a regular stream of revenue, build a loyal and recurring consumer base and offer a springboard from which to upsell and cross-sell other goods and services that bring consumers delight and satisfaction.

There are challenges, of course — getting the components of the subscription box right is primary, since the monthly offering must be different enough to thrill but familiar enough to keep the particular user engaged.

Market saturation has also been an issue for those in the box business, as customers can now have almost any imaginable good curated for them monthly, boxed up and shipped to their front doors. Consumers may love any number of those boxes, but, generally speaking, most do not have an infinite budget set aside for them. Standing out above the crowd is key — and not always easy to do.

But Pop Box — which is ending its limited first run engagement in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood — thinks that perhaps the world of brick-and-mortar retail might give subscription services the leg up they need to really reach their audience.

Billed as “the first and only store to exclusively feature subscription box companies,” Pop Up Box’s motivating concept is to be a one-stop showroom and discovery center for an entire host of online brands available in subscription form.


Subscriptions in the New Retail Reality

“Pop Box is a solution for how people want to shop in today’s new retail reality,” Pop Box Co-Founder Anne-Marie Kovacs said in a statement. “When we first started Pop Box, we knew we needed to shake up the traditional shopping experience. This innovative retail concept will engage the shopper in a new way and will fully immerse them in the brand experience.”

That immersive experience doesn’t just include exposure to the brands, but a chance to build a community around them. Pup Joy, a subscription service for dog lovers, used the Pop Box location to host a like a Pup Joy “Cocktails & Canines” party. RunnerBox, another subscription service featured within the temporary shop’s walls, hosted a fun run. Cooper and Kid (a subscription service that sends monthly activities for fathers to do with their kids) hosted a “Become A Superhero Hologram” party.

The goal for the holiday season is to offer consumers a 360-degree view of pop-up commerce and let customers get a hands-on feel for what they’re signing up for when they choose to subscribe. The Pop Box installation also features GrandBox for senior citizens and grandparents, Home Chef for meal delivery, Moustache Coffee Club for ethical coffee and Mystery Tackle Box for fishermen and women everywhere.


The Right Push 

Subscription boxes have become a crowded field — with players big and small — but building to scale and profitability have been twin hurdles brands have faced, particularly as the market has filled out.

But physical retail — with its more focused, one-on-one consumer relationship — could be fertile ground, particularly in pop-up concept shops like Pop Box’s.

“It’s a much more entrepreneurial component of retail,” Jerry Hoffman, president of real estate services firm Hoffman Strategy Group, told Retail Dive. “It’s a living, breathing focus group, and it tests your mettle in terms of how you get your brand into the market, tracking where your customers live, what kind of lifestyle profiles that kind of customer might have and how you do the outreach.”

But, perhaps more important, the concept is getting consumers excited — both about the brands on offer and the companies that helped them find them.

Joe P., who was the first Yelper out with a review of Pop Box, said: “What a great store … never knew this stuff existed. My experience with subscription boxes had been steaks and seafood boxes I used to buy for clients. This opens up a world of other options.”