There's a subscription for everything and everyone, and the generational classes are no exception. The subscription model is by no means a new concept, however it has seen exponential growth in consumer trends across the generations over the last decade. From Baby Boomers to Gen Zers, reliance on subscription boxes for the broad spectrum of essentials and luxuries has become paramount in buyer habits and trends. But how do the generations differ, and which brands are delivering the most value in their lives? We sought to take a closer look at what's fitting the bill for every stage of life, and the best subscription boxes as determined by that need.
Currently, there are 5 primary generations of people who are living today which include Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z. According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Traditionalists were born in the year 1945 or earlier, Baby Boomers were born between 1946-1964, Generation X was born between 1965-1976, Millennials were born between 1977-1993, and Gen Z was born between 1996-2005. We realize that these years vary between organizations and that there are other generations (i.e. The Greatest Generation, Generation Alpha), but these birth cohorts appear to be the most popular among researchers and marketers, thus we decided to go off of these date ranges.
In general, people within each birth cohort tend to share similar interests and values and these factors heavily influence their lifestyles and decisions, especially when it comes to online shopping. So, what does each generation typically shop for online? Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer as individuals vary immensely with each birth group, however recent research and polls conducted have exhibited certain behaviors and shopping trends that are shared by the majority of people within each generation, providing brands and marketers with clues as to the main categories people shop for.
From what we've seen, both at MSA and in research and organizational reports, the following preferences for shopping are shared by the most recent 4 generations (we've excluded Traditionalists as in most cases either Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, or Millenials make online purchases on behalf of these individuals or these individuals rarely make online purchases, however, we do realize there are exceptions to this trend):
- Baby Boomers (ages 57-75): Within the last 2-5 years, Baby Boomers have been the leading consumers of online groceries and household items. Baby Boomers, despite typically having more wealth than later generations, prefer to stick to basic needs when it comes to making purchases, and prefer products and services that make life easier. Since these individuals are generally more set in their ways and have the most defined sense of self, they know exactly what they want and aren't looking to try out a bunch of new products. Thus, subscription services that are tailored to make shopping for basic goods more convenient tend to be the most popular option among this group.
- Gen X (ages 45-56): While very similar to Baby Boomers in some aspects, Gen Xers tend to be more open to trying new things, but will proceed with caution and tend to stick to purchases from well-known brands over new names. Individuals in this group are typically at the peak of their careers and are, on average, more willing to spend a little extra money on products as they have a few more years until retirement. Additionally, most people in this cohort have children, some with younger kids and others with older kids in college, so they're still seen as supportive figures. As such, this group's shopping preferences will be geared towards familial gatherings and they're generally the hosts or hostesses of major get-togethers. With this in mind, individuals of Gen X will most likely purchase subscriptions that are slightly more luxurious than those favored by Baby Boomers, but are easy to share among friends and family and allow them to enjoy hosting special occasions where people feel welcome.
- Millennials (ages 26-44): Millennials are quite an interesting generation, as there's a huge divide between life stages and personal interests. While some millennials are middle-aged adults with families, others are new parents with young children, or even young adults that are just getting settled into their careers and striving to establish themselves. Aside from these differences, Millennials may be regarded as one of the first generations to make more sustainable choices when it comes to shopping, and oftentimes prioritize clean and ethical products over cheaper ones. They also tend to purchase items that accentuate their self-image and improve their overall health. As such, Millennials of all ages typically purchase subscriptions and services that use higher-quality ingredients, enable more sustainable living, and lead to healthier living.
- Gen Z (ages 16-25): Just like Millennials, Gen Z also strives to make eco-conscious and healthy decisions, however many of these individuals are still in high school or college and have a limited budget. They're also still in the process of solidifying their self-image and interests, and as such, they'll be more likely to try out new products from different brands that are affordable and don't require major commitments. Popular subscriptions among Gen Zers include those that come with sample-size products, as well as those that support certain causes, social movements, and embody specific ideals while having a limited supply of cash.
You can read more about many of these generational consumer trends in Resonate's State of the Consumer Report 2019 here.
Taking into consideration the above information and other reports we've read along with our readers' reviews, we decided to compile a list of subscriptions that each generation would be most likely to purchase. We realize that some individuals within each generation may not favor these specific subscriptions and differ from the norm, but we've tried to include subscriptions that best fit general preferences and most recent data on purchasing trends.
Best Subscriptions for Baby Boomers
Price: Pricing varies depending on the number of meals and serving sizes. Plans start at $7.49 per serving and shipping costs $9.99 per box. Wine subscriptions are also available for $69.99/month, including shipping.
About the Box: Blue Apron is one of the best known and most highly rated meal kit subscription boxes available today. Offering bistro-inspired recipes for 2 or 4 people, each subscription box contains pre-portioned ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions. Although there aren't many choices for very strict diets, Blue Apron offers meals that are loved by many, and provide customers with a convenient and affordable way to enjoy new dishes without having to leave home. It also offers a wine subscription box that comes with 6 x 500 mL wines, where customers can select from reds, whites, or mix it up. Baby Boomers may not spend money on going out for dinner and drinks like they used to, but most are willing to continue cooking at home, especially when everything they need is sent directly to their doors.
Check out our Blue Apron details and reviews to learn more!
Price: Starts at $5/month for an annual plan, or pay $9.99 for a month-to-month basis. Shipping is free on orders over $49.
About the Box: Thrive Market provides its members with access to an expansive selection of organic groceries and staples that are at least 25% lower than most retail options. Customers can build their boxes by adding their favorite items and deciding how often they want groceries delivered. Thrive Market offers products including meat, seafood, wine, snacks, sweets, pantry staples, and more. It also has a variety of options that are catered to specific diets and lifestyles including those that are vegan, keto, paleo, and vegetarian, low-FODMAP, and organic. Once again, Baby Boomers are more favorable of subscription services that deliver essential items to their homes, and Thrive Market offers more options for people who may need to watch their diet due to specific health conditions.
Check out our Thrive Market details and reviews to learn more!
Price: Membership is $79 per year.
About the Box: Public Goods is a membership service for everyday essential items such as pet food, household cleaning supplies, personal care items, vitamins and supplements, and groceries. It also offers sets for candles, towels, dishes, and glassware. Public Goods seems to offer a bit of everything when it comes to online shopping for your home, and all of its products are made with clean ingredients and manufactured sustainably. While most subscriptions favored by Baby Boomers are related to groceries, some of the younger Baby Boomers are interested in purchasing other health products that are pre-made and reliable.
Check out our Public Goods details and reviews to learn more!
Best Subscriptions for Generation X
Harry & David
Price: Prices vary as there are multiple club subscriptions available. Prices start at $12.99/month and range upwards of $600/month for specialty items.
About the Box: Harry & David offers a wide range of gourmet gifts that range from handpicked fresh fruit to gift baskets and more. Its options subscriptions include fruit, dessert, gourmet food, wine, and bakery items of the month that range in price, but on average cost around $89.99-$129.99/month. Harry & David is best known for its gifts, however the versatility of its items make for an absolute hit at family gatherings, special events, and weekend get-togethers. This is definitely the ideal subscription for Gen X hosts and hostesses, and there are options available for everyone in respect to price range and tastes.
Check out our Harry & David details and reviews to learn more!
Shaker & Spoon
Price: Starts at $50 per month. Sign up here!
About the Box: Shaker & Spoon is a bartender's set of tools delivered in a monthly box. While plenty of Gen Xers know how to make a killer drink, there's always something new to learn and share among friends and family. Shaker & Spoon's subscription box contains the syrups, bitters, garnishes, mixers, and citrus accents along with a recipes card for 3 different drinks. All you need is to supply the alcohol, and Shaker & Spoon provides the rest. Your guests will be begging to come over on a regular basis after trying out your new concoctions.
Check out our Shaker & Spoon details and reviews to learn more!
Price: Starts at $16.50 per month.
About the Box: Bean Box is the perfect subscription for coffee lovers who are looking to change up blends on occasion or want to have extra coffee on hand for their guests and family members that visit. Bean Box sources its coffee from small-batch, independent roasters and offers both a coffee tasting subscription and a coffee bag subscription. Customers can select from whole bean or freshly ground coffee, and can choose from among the following roast preferences: light roast, medium roast, dark roast, espresso, decaf, or blends. Gen Xers are less likely than Millennials and Gen Zers to socialize at their local coffee shops, but they still appreciate a perfectly good cup of coffee within the comfort of their home, and most wouldn't mind having coffee on-demand, especially when their children and other family members visit for holidays and special occasions.
Check out our Bean Box details and reviews to learn more!
Best Subscriptions for Millennials (aka Gen Y)
Rent The Runway
Price: Rent one-off pieces starting at $30 per item, or rent month-to-month with membership plans that start at $89 per month.
About the Box: Millennial women have sought out clothing rental services to try out new styles in the most affordable way possible. Rent the Runway is one of the most versatile clothing rental subscription services available today and offers clothing and accessories from well-known brands. Customers can choose apparel for all occasions from casual loungewear to cocktail dresses. Considering that Millennials stay active and socialize more than other groups as a whole, it's important for them to dress right for any occasion.
Check out our Rent the Runway details and reviews to learn more!
Price: $49 per box, plus shipping.
About the Box: Bespoke Post offers themed subscription boxes for men that include assortments of clothing, lifestyle and grooming products, cigars, and more. Boxes vary month to month, so there's always something new for men to enjoy with each subscription. Bespoke Post offers high-quality items, with some being more practical and others fashionable. While one subscription box may contain an outfit, others may include outdoor tools or cooking supplies. Millennial men include young to middle-aged professionals that almost always need clothing for work, and men in this age range aren't shy about acquiring new tools to have on hand for outdoor trips and DIY home projects.
Check out our Bespoke details and reviews to learn more!
Price: Prices vary depending on the vitamin pack chosen (custom or curated). Starts at $21.99 per month.
About the Box: Millennials seem to be the biggest consumer of vitamins and supplements, and are typically looking for products that will enhance all areas of their health. As such, personalized vitamins like Persona are a great subscription for both women and men in this generation who are looking to use health products that are geared towards their specific health needs. Customers can create a fully customized vitamin and supplement subscription by completing an online assessment, or they can choose from among several curated vitamin packs if they only want to use a few ingredients to focus on a single health area.
Check out our Persona details and reviews to learn more!
Ipsy Glam Bag Plus
Price: $28 per month.
About the Box: Ipsy Glam Bag Plus comes packed with a whopping 5 full-size products that are a mix of skincare and makeup. The Ipsy Glam Bag Plus makes sure to mix up new beauty brands with well-known ones to help women try out new looks while also enjoying the classics. Thankfully, Ipsy allows you to have some customization over your box, and lets customers choose three of the products they’ll receive from a monthly rotating assortment of 10 products. This subscription is an extremely affordable way for Millennials to enjoy high-end makeup minus the bank-breaking prices.
Check out our Ipsy Glam Bag Plus details and reviews to learn more!
Best Subscriptions for Gen Z (aka iGen or Centennial)
Price: $15 per month.
About the Box: Birchbox is one of the best starter subscriptions for beauty products and comes with a mix of 5 beauty samples including makeup, skincare, haircare, and fragrance items. Customers can receive a curated box or decide to tailor their box more to their interests by picking out 1 specific item. Birchbox comes at a very accessible price-point compared to many other beauty and skincare subscriptions, making it a natural choice for high school and college-aged women.
Check out our Birchbox details and reviews to learn more!
Dollar Shave Club
Price: Starts at $5 per month.
About the Box: While generally most popular among Gen Z men, Dollar Shave Club provides a unique variety of shaving and grooming products for both men and women. This is another great subscription for newbies who are looking for an affordable subscription that's useful on a daily basis, and helps them look and feel their best. Customers can also purchase other grooming items including body wash, beard oil, and shampoo and conditioner bundles.
Check out our Dollar Shave Club details and reviews to learn more!
Price: $39.95 bi-monthly.
ACTIVE DEAL: 10% off of your first quarterly box
About the Box: greenUP supports people in reducing their plastic waste and each box provides customers with 6-9 artfully crafted, eco-friendly, reusable products so that they can live more sustainably and reduce their carbon footprint. greenUP gives back 3% to its partner organization that cleans up the plastic that’s already in our oceans, making this a wonderful subscription for Gen Zers who are looking to improve their lives while supporting a great cause. Boxes may include items like organic mesh bags, natural skincare, reusable straws and cutlery, and cleaning products.
Check out our greenUP details and reviews to learn more!
Looking for more interesting subscriptions by subtype? Don't miss out on these articles:
- The OG Subscription Box: Past, Present, and Future
- The 13 Best TV Show Subscription Boxes
- The 10 Best and Most Famous Celebrity Curated Subscription Boxes
Do you subscribe to your generation's trends? Which boxes speak to you? Let us know in the comments!
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