Subscription boxes mean something different to each of us. They could be your healthy dinner on the table after a long day's work. A new book to get lost in and to temporarily forget about your worries. Perhaps even a self-care ritual that after too long of only thinking of others, you finally decided to take care of yourself. The fact of the matter is, they mean more to people than just products in a box. Yes, of course, that is the main gist of it, but if you take the time to look, you will start to see that the subscription community goes much deeper than that.
As many of our readers already know, subscription boxes help save endless amounts of time and money… which in today’s world are both seemingly harder to come by. Many support women-owned, minority, BIPOC and eco-conscious businesses both across the country and around the world. Numerous subscription companies also partner with small and local artisans, offering them exposure to a market that would have otherwise been out of reach.
But what happens when a subscription box suddenly and unexpectedly shutters its doors? Well unfortunately, it causes a ripple effect throughout the subscription community, not just with the customers, but with the vendors and employees as well. And depending on where you are standing, that ripple may feel more like a tidal wave.
A Little Backstory
Earlier this spring, the popular and beloved subscription box, Alltrue (formerly known as CAUSEBOX), ceased its operations suddenly and unexpectedly. Here at MSA, we were as stunned as all of you by its abrupt departure, and many of our readers turned to us for answers. Unfortunately, we didn’t have them. Recognizing the circumstance for the difficult and confusing situation that it was, we could understand that trust has been tested. With this in mind, we decided to reach out to a company that continually gets voted as one of the most popular boxes around: FabFitFun. We spoke to Daniel Broukhim, FFF's co-founder and co-CEO, in hopes of gaining insight about what goes on behind closed doors of the quarterly lifestyle box. We wanted to know about the gears that have to turn in order to keep it not just operating, but also thriving. And what (if any) similarities were there between Alltrue and FabFitFun? Could it be a good replacement option for our former Alltrue readers?
In case you haven’t heard about FabFitFun, it is a quarterly subscription box that delivers 6-8 full-size products with customization options. Everything from beauty and comfort products, to fitness and home decor pieces can be found in this seasonal box. Brands can include high-end designer names to small, indie boutiques that may be half a world away. Basically the Mary Poppins of subscription boxes, FabFitFun always seems to have what you need and want in one pretty box of splendor.
FabFitFun planted its roots back in 2010 as just a single blog and newsletter, but they did something right: by 2013, they were already launching a subscription box and now have over one million members. They aren’t stopping there though, and have even bigger plans for the future. “The outlook is incredibly bright - we have a very robust platform and we've just scratched the surface on the type of experiences we can deliver to members. We’ll be looking to expand upon those services in the future and are incredibly excited about what’s next,” says FabFitFun co-founder and co-CEO, Daniel Broukhim.
Outside the Box
Alltrue was a beloved subscription box for one very simple reason: people want to do good and they want to help bring change. For many of us, this is easier said than done. How do you help a village from great distances? How do you support the small artisan on the other side of the country if you’ve never even heard of them? How can you help clean up the environment when you barely have time to keep your own house tidy? In order to do their part, many consumers purchase products and sub boxes from companies like Alltrue, which prided itself on a sustainable and socially conscious mission statement. They wanted to know that their purchases would be part of the solution rather than the problem.
Unlike Alltrue, FabFitFun doesn’t market their sustainability and social efforts across their website. Rather, they take a subtler approach, doing much of the work in the background. But we wanted to know more about it, and were curious how they chose the products and brands they work with; essentially, what exactly is FabFitFun doing to give back? “Sustainability is something we are thinking about all the time. Our FFF Box is made of 100% recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. We also work hard to source products from as many clean and sustainable brands as possible. We recently launched the FFF Beauty Standard that includes a list of ingredients that will not be found on the ingredient lists for any skin care, makeup, and body products in our boxes. We are planning to evolve our lists to other categories such as fashion, home, and more in the future,” shares Daniel.
They are also actively seeking ways to decrease their carbon footprint with each seasonal box, and partner with a different charity each season in order to bring awareness to its cause. Customers are able to select an "add-on" to donate a small amount to the chosen charity, and FabFitFun will match those donations up to $100,000. Additionally, they started a donation matching program for employees who want to donate towards racial injustice causes. “We believe consumers have changed. They are not just interested in the brand logo or the price tag. They care about the story behind the brand, how the product is made, and what it is made of. It’s why we are hyper-focused on brands innovating in their space, brands using clean effective ingredients, brands focused on sustainability and giving back, female founded brands, BIPOC-founded brands and small businesses. We truly believe that FabFitFun is for everyone. Additionally, each season we partner with a unique charity and use our incredibly powerful marketing platform to promote their cause and raise funds,” says Daniel.
A Word About Trust
As a consumer we put a lot of trust into a product. We assume that it has passed certain quality standards and has gone through rigorous testing. If it is a beauty product, we rely on the notion it is safe to use on our skin and won't cause irritation (or worse). If it is food and beverage, we should feel assured of its safety for consumption. So, what are the processes for a subscription box? How does FabFitFun, one of the largest subscription boxes in the US, Canada, and beyond, find trusted brands to work with, and source products that will work for all?
"Every season we start with a trend forecast focused on the ingredients, materials, styles and colors that we want to highlight. Our merchandising team then works with brands across the world to bring the vision to life. Brands committed to innovation, great ingredients, inclusivity, sustainability and quality in general. We look at thousands of products each season - evaluating them across a variety of factors. We test all the products to make sure they are effective, work on different skin, body and hair types, and will make members feel good. We are not and don't want to be the everything store. We only want to offer members the best of the best, and we place big bets on these products to create massive savings that we drive back to our members. But the discount is just one piece of the FabFitFun value. We do all the work to ensure that members love the products they discover through FabFitFun. We make sure they are effective, well made, and create true happiness and well-being in our members lives," says Daniel.
In the Spirit of Full Transparency
Okay, let’s be honest here. We (the customer) are obviously incredibly important to any subscription box’s success, but we are only one variable in the equation. There wouldn't even be a subscription box if it wasn’t for the vendors and brands they partner with. Finding them, and growing trusted relationships with them is another incredibly important part. So, what does that relationship look like with FabFitFun? Daniel let us take a peek into their process and explained how they have had 10 years of successful operations and brand relationships.
“In terms of how we work with brands, the first and probably most traditional way we work with partners is for our seasonal box. FabFitFun has built one of the world’s most powerful marketing platforms and we use that platform to put together a robust 360 marketing campaign for every in box partner.” Daniel goes on to say, “In addition to sampling in box, there is a ton of content that gets created: a magazine that goes into each box detailing inspiration behind the products, digital and social media content, influencer marketing and celeb seeding, events, etc. Box partnerships generate hundreds of millions of impressions for a brand.”
The seasonal box route is used when a brand has the capability to produce large amounts of product, however, that is an option that FFF acknowledges is not always possible for all. In an effort to not exclude the smaller artisan brands, they added a second option.
“As we scaled the business, many brands outside of beauty weren't used to the scale we needed to source our box (approximately 500k units for an in box partnership). For these oftentimes smaller brands, we have another option to participate in our themed e-commerce sales. The quantities for those sales are much lower, and brands are still getting access to our entire membership of incredibly engaged women. The e-commerce sales have become one of the most beloved perks of the FFF membership, and our members love to see both established and new/emerging brands in these sales.”
Additionally, Daniel told us that for the products that retail under $10, there is a paid sponsorship route which will include email blasts and influencer partnerships. This all sounded great to us here at MSA, but we wanted to dig deeper. What did the brands that FabFitFun work with actually think and feel about their relationship with them? Did they agree that they were valued and respected partners? We received a few quotes from brands that work directly with FFF to find out.
“Absolutely LOVE working with every single FFF team member. My buyer is super communicative and clear about expectations and milestones, and setting EACH up for success throughout every step of our partnership. Sourcing is beyond impressive. She pulled off miracles with our Flower Clips, and really listened to our aesthetics and brand requirements. The quality is absolutely INCREDIBLE. The clips are almost sold out on our site.” - EACH
“What we love about FabFitFun is that they create amazing brand exposure. They help build new engagement with your consumers. They also provide excellent support. I think very highly of the entire FFF team.” - Baublebar
“What we loved most about FabFitFun is that everything went smoothly from initial PO placement to shipment.” - Rae Dunn by Magenta
“We saw an unbelievable amount of buzz around the brand as FFF members started to receive their boxes. It felt like a party on Instagram! Working with the FFF team, especially our buyer, was fantastic. She came to us with opportunities that she knew were right for a small brand like our's. Plus, she was so organized, it was easy to manage.” - SAIE
For the brands that had partnered with Alltrue, FabFitFun is encouraging them to reach out to discuss partnership opportunities.
Behind the Box
Who makes all this magic happen? What are the working gears behind a subscription box? Well, that would be the hard-working employees and the capital to tie it all together. And while we don’t know the matters of what happened with Alltrue (nor are we here to guess or judge), we do know that they filed for an alternative to bankruptcy and laid off their entire staff. As subscribers to a socially-conscious box, it should come as no surprise that this was concerning for many. Many people now intentionally support companies and brands who go out of their way to make their employees' lives better and have a decent work/life balance. So, of course, we asked FabFitFun to divulge into these two areas, since we knew it was a concern for many of our readers.
“We’re a well-backed and well funded company with a substantial amount of capital raised relative to AllTrue, which was a smaller enterprise. Our brand partners have always been paid on time and we have no outstanding liabilities. We pride ourselves on having enriched our brand partners by having a substantial impact on their businesses and are excited to continue to do so.”
As for the employees? “Our #1 goal is to deliver the most value for our members. As such, our company culture is oriented around that mission. We have a substantial employee base with several hundred employees who we value dearly and enable us to deliver on that mission. We commit to our employees in the same way we commit to our members and our brand partners, and that is to always be honest, transparent, and work our hardest to deliver an incredible employer experience. It's an honor and privilege to come to work every day with such a diverse, loyal, and passionate team.”
So, should you trust another subscription box again?
Personally, here at MSA, we do believe it's safe to do so again. But make sure they are the right ones for you. Find ones that bring you joy, that make your life easier, that save you time and money, or heck… just because! Your reasons are yours alone, and what it means to you is the only thing that is important. We found the most similarities between Alltrue and FabFitFun in relation to their products, price point, sustainability and socially-conscious vendors, and therefore feel it might be an easy switch for anyone looking to keep their lifestyle subscription box without sacrificing quality and value.
Daniel also had a similar sentiment: “While the closing of Alltrue’s business does not have a direct impact on ours, we certainly realize the challenges they must have faced and we have an incredible amount of empathy for the company, its employees, and their customers and brand partners who have been impacted. We encourage anyone who was affected by this to not lose trust in an entire industry because of one bad experience. There are so many great options out there and when you find the right subscription or membership service it really can bring so much happiness to your life. That is why we created FabFitFun and we constantly hear from our members about how being a member of our community has had the most amazing impact on their lives.”
But what about that annual subscription? Well, honestly? We still recommend signing up for an annual for its perks and savings, but obviously you need to do what makes you comfortable and works with your budget. We know that most annual memberships with subscription boxes save you money and give the subscriber added benefits such as early-bird customizations, sneak peeks, and first dibs on sales. What happened with Alltrue is not the norm, but we understand that it's only human nature to be skittish after being burned (who wouldn't be!). At MSA, we have a lot of trust in the subscription box world and have seen the evolution over time with them. There will always be growing pains within the industry, but overall, we believe it has proven itself that the subscription box industry is here to stay.
FabFitFun is offering a 25% discount for any new subscribers coming from Alltrue (or for anyone who is interested in trying the box). Be sure to use promo code MSA25 for 25% off your first box.
This article was not sponsored by FabFitFun, nor was MSA compensated for its participation in this interview.