Arielle Pardes | Pandora’s box, delivered to your doorstep
The Screwtinizer | Does the subscription commerce model work for erotic products?
September 25, 2013, 6:35 pm · Updated September 25, 2013, 11:55 pm·
Forget waiting for birthdays or Hanukkah — you can have a present delivered to your door every month, for one low monthly rate.
There’s a subscription service for everything: Whether you’re hooked on beauty products (Birchbox), snack foods (Graze) or coffee (Craft Coffee Box), you can have boxes brimming with specially selected products without the fuss and muss of buying them yourself.
But will the subscription commerce model work for sex?
With the popularity of other services, many companies are trying to think inside the box for erotic products. There’s Bedroom Chemist, which delivers monthly kits with couple-centric items for $50. For $65 per box, Unbound sends packages full of high-end products with themes (this month, it’s the “power trip box”). Fantasy Box, $59, includes detailed instructions that promise “whatever the fantasy, we guarantee your date night will be unforgettable.”
Subscription commerce can follow one of two models: “Convenience boxes” deliver something a customer needs in a way that’s cheaper, easier or more convenient. Alternatively, “curated boxes” encompass something a customer desires, but has been carefully selected with the professional expertise of the company.
Services like Dollar Shave Club, which delivers a monthly supply of razors (something most men need) or Rubber of the Month, which delivers a monthly wad of condoms (something most men want to need) fall into the first category. Sex subscription boxes belong in the latter.
Do “curated boxes” work as a business model? There’s plenty of evidence that they do. Take Birchbox, which boasts 400,000 subscribers and earns a quarter of their revenue from e-commerce sales, in addition to the money subscribers spend on the box itself. There’s also Graze, a box full of healthy snacks, which has tripled its subscriber base in less than two years.
College senior Russell Abdo has been subscribed to Graze for a little over a month — and he’s hooked.
“I just got my third box two days ago, and I’m totally into it,” Abdo, who describes himself as a “total snacker,” raves.
“It’s such a nice surprise to come home to,” he said of his Graze craze. “It’s incredibly cheap and totally worth it, but there’s also an exclusivity to it.”
Beyond the enchantment of receiving a present every few weeks, Abdo trusts that each box will contain the creme de la creme of snack foods, since each package is carefully curated by the team at Graze.
“The subscription model seems to work really well, because there’s nothing better than getting something in the mail to surprise and delight you,” Emily Hoffman, the co-founder of Bedroom Chemist, told me over the phone. Life is like a box of sex toys — you never know what you’re going to get.
Hoffman explained that with erotic products, a carefully curated box has an extra edge since “a lot of customers really don’t know where to start, so we wanted to help customers find and explore new products.”
While a Birchbox subscriber might enjoy having handpicked beauty items delivered to her door, she could easily get product recommendations by visiting Sephora. Most people are not disposed to do the same with a sex toy retailer — sex is something we love to do, but not something we like talking about (unless you write a weekly column on the subject).
Now, some companies hope to expand their subscriptions to a younger market.
“We launched Fantasy Box Essentials so that college relationships could try us out,” said Chris Darrell, co-founder of Fantasy Box. At $34 per box, it’s a manageable entry fee — if you subscribed bimonthly, it would total just over 50 cents per day.
But would Penn students buy into it? Abdo shrugged at the suggestion.
“I’m not interested in that, personally. But I could see there being a type of person — not only at Penn, but in general — who would be into that, especially if it was the right cost and right kind of package behind it.”
While it’s unclear whether younger couples will subscribe, Darell assured me that services like Fantasy Box aren’t just successful from a business perspective — they stoke better sex.
As he mused enticingly, “You never know what is in store for you when you open the box.”
Arielle Pardes is a College senior from San Diego. Her email address is email@example.com. You can follow her @pardesoteric. “The Screwtinizer” appears every Thursday.