Box Buzz: Subscription Commerce

Subscription commerce websites have been sprouting up everywhere recently.  Everything from snacks, undies, and beauty products to tackle, razors, and baby products can conveniently arrive at your door for a flat monthly fee.  I’m equally intrigued by the marketing potential as I am by the psychology of it.  How excited would you be to receive your carefully wrapped box every month, in some cases curiously anticipating what the contents will be!  The subscription model offers customers either a curated collection, random assortment, or a convenient selection of regularly used items.  The possibility for gifting also has potential with sites offering various price options for subscriptions ranging from one month, three months, six months, to a full year.

One of the originals, Birchbox, has gained huge success by working with companies who supply sample size products cost-free in return for the guarantee of customer acquisition.  They’re monthly fee at only $10 per month (or $20 per month for men) is below most of the other websites, allowing them to pick up more volume and gain access to a wider audience.

Here are 15 different subscription websites and what they’re all about.


What they offer:  Treats and toys for dogs, customizable based on the size of your dog.  I love the branding and illustrations on this site!



What they offer:  “High-end beauty and lifestyle samples from top brands” for women and men.  The goal is that you fall in love with some of the samples, resulting in a full-size product purchase.



What they offer:  Luxury-sized samples of beauty products.



What they offer:  Beauty products selected by a panel of beauty industry experts.


Dollar Shave Club

What they offer:  Three different levels of razor blades for men. When their promo video went viral on YouTube, it crashed their site but resulted in over 12,000 new subscriptions within the first couple of days.  They are planning on expanding their product line to include other personal care items for men.  That video, brilliant.

dollar shave club


What they offer:  Trendy shoes selected for you based on results from a style survey.  Kim Kardashian is a co-founder, recently joined by Rachel Zoe as Chief Stylist.



What they offer:  Accessories and apparel curated into a “Boutique” based on your style preferences.  The subscription is an option but not required on their site.  Kimora Lee Simmons is President and Creative Director.



What they offer:  Designer-curated products from jewelry and fashion to home and beauty.  The company hosts an impressive list of celebrity ambassadors


Underwear Society

What they offer:  Quirky and youthful-style socks and underwear for men and socks, leggings, tights, and undies for women.

Underwear Society

Panty by Post

What they offer:  Frilly panties for women, including a bridal collection.  They also offer a classic-style boxer brief for men.

Panty by Post

Citrus Lane

What they offer:  Assorted goodies for parents with young children, including snacks, books, and toys.  You can customize your box based on your child’s age.

Citrus Lane


What they offer:  Gourmet groceries geared toward guys, the “modern man’s pantry.”  I. Love. This website.  The branding, typography, package design, the name.  Perfection.



What they offer:  Artisan foods, randomly assorted each month.


Craft Coffee

What they offer:  A variety of coffee from a select group of roasters, tasting notes, and brew tips.  Customize your subscription based on the type of grind.

Craft Coffee

Mystery Tackle Box

What they offer:  Fishing lures and tackle aimed at both beginner and advanced level fishing enthusiasts, including tips on how to use them.  Surprisingly, this wasn’t the only fishing subscription site I came across!

Mystery Tackle Box

SO once you’ve received your monthly deliveries, you can conveniently apply a face mask then snack in your undies and heels and give your dog a treat, all without having to leave the comfort of your own home! Ha!


Box It Up – The Rise of Subscription Commerce by KISSmetrics

The beauty of Birchbox: it’s not subscription commerce, it’s marketing that women actually pay for by Erin Griffith

Subscription commerce: thinking inside the box by George Henry

My Subscription Addiction: This website reviews a huge range of subscription websites, including daily updates and news. Time for a subscription intervention!


The Neiman Marcus + Target Holiday Collaboration

Neiman Marcus + Target Holiday Collaboration

Neiman Marcus + Target Holiday Collaboration Arrival

Neiman Marcus + Target Holiday Collaboration Designers

Neiman Marcus + Target Holiday Collaboration Designers

Yesterday, Neiman Marcus and Target launched a collaborative holiday collection that features great products from the minds of 24 Council of American Fashion Designers.  Most of the items are retailing for $20-$60.  The collection includes men’s, women’s, children’s apparel and accessories, as well as home, office, and pet accessories.  After hearing the announcement of the collab months ago, in addition to seeing bits of teasers on the show Revenge, I was excited to see what these top-tier designers would come up with!  Here are a few of my favorite gift ideas:

Neiman Marcus and Target gifts

Neiman Marcus + Target Holiday Collection Gifts Ideas

The holiday collection is available for a limited time through Neiman Marcus and Target.  Based on the clamor of Target’s past collaborations (like Missoni last September) and the appealing prices of these designer-created products, I have a feeling the collection will be a smashing success.

Here are some more items being offered:

Neiman Marcus + Target Holiday Collaboration

Neiman Marcus + Target Holiday Collaboration

eBay the New Way

eBay new

Welcome to the new eBay

“Technology is revolutionizing the way people shop, and eBay is shaping the future of commerce.”  — Devin Wenig, President of eBay

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Connie Birdsall of Lippincott, Brand Strategy and Design Agency.  As the creative director, she has been involved in many high-profile branding projects including the recent re-design of the eBay marketplace.  The initial launch of the re-design took place about a month ago and has proven to freshen up the eBay brand through many different avenues.  Admittedly, I have not been much of an eBay shopper in the past, but I’m excited about the shopping possibilities as a result of a new and improved website!

The Goal

eBay was looking to freshen up their image in order to signify an evolving brand.  The website not only offers auction-style selling, but has a range of “buy it now” goods and a growing mobile presence.  Some of the website changes are a reflection of younger, mobile-savvy users.

An Overview of Changes

Arguably the most noticeable change is the new logo.  Designating a new chapter, “The design is inspired by today’s vibrant marketplace and sleeker experiences, but carries forward the iconic color arrangement and approachable form to reflect eBay’s heritage.” (

eBay new and old logos

Comparison of eBay’s new (left) and old (right) logos

Website Updates:

  • Pinterest-like feed with larger images
  • Cleaner, more contemporary look, and more white space
  • Fewer clicks of the mouse to buy item for usability
  • Stronger search and recommendations through homepage feed  to help give consumers insight and a more personal experience
  • Same-day delivery of products from local stores through eBay Now for mobile app to stay abreast trends with competitors like Amazon and Wal-Mart
  • Daily deal offers in select cities
  • Autocomplete feature added to search bar
eBay feed Feed Feature

eBay autocomplete search Autocomplete Search Feature

eBay product landing page Product Landing Page: Shoes

eBay product page Product Page: Shoes

Some of the launch features also included a letter from the president of eBay Marketplaces, a look book, an info-graphic, a social feed and Frequently Asked Questions.

Despite many changes in form and function, some favorites are here to stay.  The search feature that helps shoppers who already know what they are looking for is not going away.  The company says it wants online shopping to feel more like window-shopping or browsing in a brick-and-mortar store.

The Future

eBay President, Devin Wenig, hinted that more is to come. “We will continue to make shopping more intuitive, more convenient and more relevant,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

Some useful links:

Welcome to the New eBay (note from the President)

Lippincott’s eBay Case Study

USA Today “EBay launches site redesign”

CBS News “EBay unveils big redesign with a nod to Pinterest”

Check it Out: Technology Advancing Retail Point-of-Sale Systems

iPad point of sale system

iPad POS (using ERPLY)

The dynamics of the shopping experience continue to change and evolve, seemingly due to the commanding presence of technology.  In addition to the internet serving as a vital catalyst, there are soon to be other players changing up the game.

According to a Yahoo! Finance article, Urban Outfitters has made the decision to convert their point-of-sale systems to Apple devices (like iPod Touches and iPads) in lieu of cash registers.  While this is something that Apple has been implementing for some time already in their own retail stores, it’s interesting to see it take off with other retailers.  CIO Calvin Hollinger of Urban Outfitters states, “iPads cost about 1/5th as much as a cash register, and can be used for so much.”  Another benefit is their space efficiency and the ability to swivel the screen towards the customer so they can view the screen and enter information, as needed.

iPod point of sale

iPod Touch POS (using Omniexpress)

Another retailer looking to advance their POS system is JCPenney.  TIME Moneyland outlines some of Ron Johnson’s new strategies for JCPenney, including doing away with checkout counters, cashiers, and cash registers.  According to the article, “Johnson explained that physical retailers should be able to do everything an online-only retailer like Amazon does and more—including face-to-face customer service and options such as in-store pickup.”  The new strategy would involve various self-checkout possibilities, Wi-Fi networks, and mobile checkout.  The strategy is already in effect in select locations, and all of the JCPenney stores are expected to offer mobile checkout by the end of the year.

Nordstrom is planning to follow suit (USA Today) with numerous other retailers trailing closing behind.  How will customers react to these new changes?  While some customers may be confused or annoyed, the convenience factor could prove to be huge benefit.  It’s kind of like an odd marriage of shopping on your mobile or tablet device WHILE shopping in the actual store.  Those who already shop online may not be bothered too much by the change, and I’m sure everyone would revel in skipping the check-out line.

Using the iPad as a POS system could be an advantage for small, independent retailers as well, providing a money-saving alternative to a traditional cash register and the option of portability for those on-the-go businesses.

I’m curious to see what this fervor for the iPod and iPad — and other mobile touch technologies — will impact next!

Online Shopping Experience: Quality Photos Boost Sales

I love shopping online!  There’s something about sitting at home in my pj’s browsing through pages and pages of products that’s compellingly addictive.  And getting the best deal online feels oh-so-sweet!  According to Internet Retailer, I’m among the many at-home pj shoppers contributing to the steady increase in online retail traffic and sales in the billions.  But what makes internet shopping so appealing?  And what promotes repeat visits and sales?

Admittedly, the one product I browse most online is shoes.  I think it’s because I don’t have to worry too much about how they’ll fit, and I can comparison shop different sites to find the best price.  And better YET, most of the shoe websites I purchase from have free shipping (and sometimes free overnight or two-day shipping!  drool…).  When I think about it a little more, I realize that I probably wouldn’t buy as much online if the product information (including photos, description, and reviews) wasn’t as thorough.  In an article by Internet Retailing, they site usability experts, Yuseo‘s, findings that reveal the one most important aspect of online fashion shopping to users is the quality of the images.  Now, most of us have seen those horrible garage-sale looking photos on e-Bay, so we can totally understand why this is true, right?  Some of the other top reasons for return customers and sales are trustworthiness and good value.  Appealing pricing and promotions, brand reputation, and customer service also contribute to brand loyalty.

The study done by Yuseo included brands such as Boohoo, River Island, Topshop, Next, Very, Zara, John Lewis, Asos and H&M, so I decided to take a closer look at one of these brands to see how they are using product images to promote sales of their products online.  H&M was my site of choice, considering their rapid growth this side of the pond.

Here are their women’s and men’s editorial-style “inspiration” photos.  Beautiful photos, attractive models, and on-location shooting gives a seasonal and luxurious feel.

H&M women's fashion

H&M Women’s Inspiration

H&M men's fashion

H&M Men’s Inspiration

Now some screen shots of the product home pages.  One feature image, then gridded product shots showing a variety of images including on-model with a background and without, and off-model.  The variety adds some interest without looking disjointed.

H&M women's fashion

H&M Women’s Products > Dresses

H&M Men's fashion

H&M Men’s Products > Tops

Looks like you can’t order online from the U.S. at this point , but we can still nose around a little.  🙂  The detailed product pages are clean with options to view various images of the product, zoom, and view full screen.  Fairly standard.  The added bonus is the option to try on!  We’ll get to that shortly.

H&M women's fashion

H&M Women’s Product Detail

H&M Men's fashion

H&M Men’s Product Detail

Once you click on “try on” from the product page, you are swept away to try your look on a model in the Dressing Room!  I always think this feature is cool, although I’m not sure how many people use it as a determining factor for a purchase.  The Dressing Room has a gamer feel to it, allowing you to change out your model and apply different products to make a complete head-to-toe look.  If nothing else, it’s fun to play with and might keep a customer on your site longer.

H&M women's fashion

H&M Women’s Dressing Room

H&M men's fashion

H&M Men’s Dressing Room

There’s no doubt good quality photos can help sell products.  What makes a photo work well online?  I would have to say, first and foremost, good lighting and proper exposure to show details and color accurately, use of clean background, and consistency.  Showing on-model shots always help get a feel for the overall fit and size (which can help with accessories too).  Plus, on-model shots can always help add interest, variety, and lifestyle appeal.  Lastly, showing different views and being able to zoom in closely is the next best thing to seeing the product in person.

#Kickstagram Marketing Campaign

Foot Locker announced on May 31 that they are launching a new marketing campaign.  Foot Locker customers are encouraged to use Instagram to take photos of themselves in their favorite kicks and tag themselves with #kickstagram and @footlocker.  The incentive is the possibility of the photo being showcased on, the Foot Locker facebook page, or in store display windows.  Foot Locker is hoping to be able to initiate a new outlet to connect with customers and create a platform for sneaker lovers to share their footwear passion.  The process has been made foolproof with a simple “click-to-follow” banner ad and a two-step process, encouraging ease of use.

Foot Locker #Kickstagram Press Release

Kickstagram Marketing Campaign Announcement

PRNewsFoto/Foot Locker

Another trend-setting footwear company has a similar feature on their website.  The increasingly popular TOMS shoe and accessory brand has a section in each category of their website where they showcase user-submitted TOM-wearing photos.

Women/How We Wear Them

Men/How We Wear Them

Youth/How We Wear Them

TOMS shoes on customers

I love the idea of these approaches to marketing because it brings a personal tone to the product and brand.  The method gives the company a chance to connect with their end user and the end users with each other.  One reason I applaud the idea is because I love shoes (naturally!).  The other reason is that I think it’s important to see how customers interact with a product and make it their own.  In my several years of designing it’s been rare that I actually get the opportunity to see my items on the customer in their natural element.  Also, for the end user the idea of having their photo chosen and posted online could make them feel special and celebrated.  And those just browsing the photos may enjoy seeing how other people wear their shoes, which could spark new ideas (and promote additional purchases!).  It’s a win-win, really.

Within Reach: Touch Screen Technology

We’ve gotten very personal with our technology.  With recent advances in social media, I think it’s clear that technology is taking on a more personal approach.  At any given time, many people are within reaching distance of their computer, tablet, and/or smart phone.  There has also been an increasing access to who and when people are on the web and interacting with their personal technologies.  The advancement of touch screens supports this tech-intimacy by bringing us one step closer – relieving the duties of the trusty mouse and keyboard.  The added convenience factor of needing fewer components combined with the fact that it brings you screen-to-finger close piqued my curiosity about touch screens and how they actually work.

boy using touch screen


There are three different types of touch screen technologies: resistive, capacitive, and infrared.  Resistive works with two layers, the top layer absorbs the movement of the finger or stylus and transmits the location to the bottom layer.  Capacitive only works with a bare finger touch and functions by currents in the corners tracking the position of the finger on the screen.  Infrared is heat-sensitive and requires the sensation of a warm object (like your finger) to apply its grid system to determine the location on the screen.  To see an infographic that shows the similarities and differences among the touch screen technologies as it applies to phones, check out Touch Screen Infographic.

Once I started really thinking about it, I realized how often we come in contact with touch screens on a daily basis.  Other than the obvious touch screen phones, tablets, iPods, e-book readers, etc., we also use them at the ATM, payment terminals at the store, thermostats, movie theater kiosks, airport kiosks, copiers, and RedBox to name a few.  They started appearing in cars in recent years, and there’s an increasing trend of adding touch screens to home appliances, creating a modern-edge appeal to consumers.

Advanced Kiosks Touch Screen

Advanced Kiosks Touch Screen

Dell ST2220T LCD Touchscreen

Dell ST2220T LCD Touch Screen

Electrolux Linux Refrigerator

Electrolux Linux Refrigerator

With the increasing popularity  and adoption of touch screens, it makes me wonder what other consumer product categories will capitalize on this technology or how the ones in existence will advance.  Another technology that seems to be gaining headway is the motion sensor control.  Microsoft’s Xbox 360 created some buzz when they released their motion sensor game console.  The new Samsung Smart TV with “gesture control,” voice control, and face recognition seems likely to start a trend with their innovative features.  Is it possible for this technology to translate to other products?

Samsung smart TV

Samsung Smart TV

Some useful links:

Touch Screen Solution: How a Touch Screen Works

Wonderopolis:  How Do Touch Screens Work?

How Stuff Works:  How Do Touch Screens Know Where You’re Touching