E-Commerce Boxes, Subscription Boxes…What’s the Difference?

According to a report by McKinsey & Company, “E-commerce subscribers tend to be younger urbanites with money. Compared with the general US population, they are more likely to be 25 to 44 years old, to have incomes from $50,000 to $100,000, and to live in urban environments in the Northeastern United States. These subscriptions particularly appeal to women, who account for 60 percent of them.” But with a whole new vocabulary developing around the generic term “e-commerce” packaging, how do we keep it all straight?

First, let’s establish that the term e-commerce encompasses any sale of goods or services conducted electronically on the Internet and therefore is a very broad term that should be used in only the broadest sense. By association then, e-commerce packaging needs to be put in its proper taxonomic place as well. Some research has shown me that the generic category is being subdivided into specific segments and subscription box is one of a raft of new terms that marketers are inventing to give a more nuanced definition of what e-commerce packaging can do for clients. I hope that my collected list (which is by no means exhaustive) may be helpful to those in the digital printing and packaging business in dealing with e-commerce clients and customers.

Subscription Box – A recurring – physically delivered box – of niche-oriented products packaged as an experience & also designed to give additional value/delight on top of the actual retail products contained inside.

Discovery Kit – Kits designed to introduce e-consumers to one or several brands of products around a common theme or interest (makeup, science, kids toys, etc.).

 PR Mailer – A package that is primarily used to introduce a new product, service or event to a targeted demographic or the press.

Influencer Kit – A kit aimed at prominent people that have influence over potential buyers and that are designed to provide content relevant to these influencers in the hopes that they will endorse it to their followers through their social media outlets.

 Event Package – A package designed to provide introductory, promotional and educational content for a specific event and for an exclusive audience.

Pop-Up Shop (gift with purchase) Box – A giveaway package when another purchase is made at a pop-up shop or flash retail space used to incentivize consumer purchasing activity.

Experiential Marketing Event Kit – A takeaway package to accompany a branded experiential marketing event focused on engaging people offline, in the real world.

Loyalty Program Kit – A container used for presenting gifts, incentives or other rewards to a loyal, longstanding customer base of a specific product or service.

You may have heard other terminology as well because the market is developing its own vocabulary as it evolves. If you have, please be sure to send them to me and I will add them to the list.

Finally, it’s important to note that most clients and customers will not speak in the rarified language outlined here but forewarned is forearmed, as they say.