One of the biggest values provided by subscription is the delivery of daily wants or necessities to your doorstep. While people enjoy the convenience of receiving boxes regularly, brands and retailers that include delightful surprises in their boxes can build even stronger relationships with their customers.

Everyone likes getting something extra or having an unexpected gift show up at the door. It’s those little surprises that can set your subscription program apart from your competition. Most first-generation subscription programs focus on value, convenience, and replenishment, but the most successful ones use higher-level psychological elements such as the surprise factor to help extend the life of the relationship.

The best part is that adding the element of surprise does not have to be difficult. Just throw in a thoughtful or personalized product that your customer is not expecting, and the anticipation of it can keep customers looking forward to the next delivery.


While it might seem obvious, it’s important to note that customers feel appreciated when a brand goes out of its way to do something special for them — even if it’s as simple as including an unexpected gift. Those surprises can form deeper bonds between customer and brand.

For example, Try The World is a subscription service that provides food samples from around the globe. One customer posted on Instagram when Try The World sent her a surprise box in the mail, saying she loved that the items were all from Portugal. “My girlfriends and I celebrated my 40th birthday in Portugal a few years back,” she said, “so this box reminded me of some great memories today.” A surprise gift with a personal touch, like this one, creates a positive connection between customer and brand.

It is more than just food brands that are surprising customers. A subscription box exists for nearly every product imaginable, from clothes (Stitch Fix) to beauty and makeup (Birchbox) to health and fitness (FabFitFun) and more. Sneaking an unexpected product into boxes for any of these industries can delight customers and keep them coming back for more.


Surprising customers does not have to be a difficult task, but there are a few things to consider:

1. Keep financials in mind: This may seem obvious, but while every brand would love to give away a free and possibly expensive gift for every customer in every box, it’s simply not feasible. All companies need to factor in their business models and price points. Think about the margin potentially gained in lifetime value (LTV) as a result of the extra gift or surprise, then consider whether it will be financially worth the cost of the surprise. If the surprise can help keep a customer subscribed longer, it might be beneficial; however, if you cannot find any evidence that points to improving your bottom line or extending LTV, you will end up losing more money than you are earning.

2. Stagger your bonus items: If you cannot afford to sneak a gift into each box, keep customers guessing by including a surprise only occasionally. They will never know when to expect something, and that alone can be enough to keep them interested in the next box. It could be on an anniversary or as a gift for subscribing for a certain length of time or even on a random interval.

3. Personalize each gift: A free gift is useful only if it is suited for the individual receiving it. Fortunately, data makes it easy to study each customer and determine what he or she likes and does not like. When the surprise gift is something a customer truly loves, the bond is much stronger than it would be if the product was not useful or if there was no gift at all.

4. Vary your deliverable: You don’t necessarily need to include a product as the surprise. Instead, you could send customers a well-timed personal email thanking them for their business or even pick up the phone just to thank them and ask about their last box. A proactive customer service engagement could also be the surprise that keeps people coming back for more. Plus, you may get the added value of direct customer feedback, which can help across multiple levels.

The subscription box industry is becoming more competitive by the day, so it is important that brands find ways to stand out among the competition. One of the easiest ways is to include small surprises, because sometimes even the simplest gestures help create the strongest bonds. Connect with an OceanX membership expert to learn more tips on subscriptions and the powers of membership at www.oceanx.com/request-demo.