Once upon a time, brick and mortar was how to shop for an upcoming night out or event.  Traveling from store to store, eventually the perfect outfit appeared and was carried home and hung directly in the closet.  While there was a little bit of comparison between prices and styles, once something fit and could do the job, the searching ended there.

Then, Amazon arrived and launched this entire online store where you could have anything and everything on your doorstep in what felt like minutes!  Fashion brands quickly tried to compete to stay relevant and upped their online presence, even making certain items ‘online only.’ This allowed for comparisons across brands that may never have been considered and provided a direct price match between items.

rent-the-runwayNow, you can rent an outfit for a special day with Rent the Runway, have new wardrobes sent to you based on your Pinterest board for purchase with Stitchfix or you can even try a few things for a month or so, then return them for a new wardrobe with Le Tote.

Subscription services have given brands the opportunity to create positive experiences with a product that someone may never have encountered otherwise, as well as provided certain companies the power to dictate and draw consumers to specific brands.  Seeing something on a virtual shelf is not the same as touching it, trying it on, or having a feel good moment in it.  When a product arrives on the doorstep, it takes the barrier of ‘should I’ or ‘shouldn’t I’ totally out of the equation and allows for a pure experience with the item with no strings attached.  It’s true, not everyone is going to have a positive experience with every item they receive in this way, but the excitement about waiting for the next box to arrive and the positive experience with the whole process spills over even to those items that are not chosen in the end.

Some brands are using this as a research opportunity, testing new fits or cuts with a select number of subscribers and eliciting feedback from them when the trial period is over.  They receive feedback from consumers who may have never even heard of their brand, which allows for a true read on the product and allows for updates before releasing a new offer to the marketplace.

birchboxFrom a cosmetics standpoint, these subscription services are giving consumers the ultimate choice.  Try this ‘curated’ box of trial size goodies and then choose if you want to purchase a larger size of something you loved.  The products contained in many of those boxes are from smaller, start-up companies or are products that won’t be found on the shelf at Target or even Ulta or Sephora.  Brands that would never have a fighting chance are thriving!

Because these services are not brand loyal and allow for swaps, people end up keeping those things that they really feel are the best.  If that’s your brand, it’s a huge win since it has now been compared to multiple others in a similar fashion.  It’s already apparent that Millennials in particular are not brand loyal across the board, but when they find something they love, they tell all their friends about it and stick with it.  Partnering with a service that reaches a large audience could bring people to your site, into your store, or even into your category that would otherwise never have been reached.

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