OceanX CEO & Founder, Georg Richter, explains how subscriptions can help satisy deeper human needs and provides 3 strategies for subscription success .  This article was originally posted as a LinkedIn article.

A plain, brown box arriving at someone’s door is an everyday occurrence in our economy. But have you ever experienced the feeling of appreciation and relief when your razor subscription arrives on your doorstep with no inconvenient trip to the pharmacy? How about the pleasure of a weekly wine club delivery, with its array of pinots and chardonnays carefully selected for you to sample, savor, and enjoy?

If you have, you are proof that new subscription programs are successfully and powerfully influencing consumer behavior through fulfilling some basic human needs, such as those described by well-known psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Some boxes deliver items needed for daily functioning, such as food and clothing, and the knowledge that a subscription means those items will continue to be shipped satisfies a higher-level need.

Subscription boxes curated and fulfilled with care and passion can satisfy some human needs beyond the basics. To be more specific, they can satisfy world-famous author and motivator Tony Robbins’ six basic needs: certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution.

Different Subscription Boxes Satisfy Higher Needs

How exactly do subscription boxes fill those needs, though? Some basic subscriptions and pure replenishment plays — think Gillette razors, Keurig coffee cartridges, and Amazon’s Subscribe & Save for paper towels or diapers — satisfy a basic need, but there are subscriptions that satisfy more sophisticated needs.

Take Dollar Shave Club, which uses a very different replenishment model from Gillette’s. It began with a quirky “anti-big company” and “macho” viral video performed by CEO Michael Dubin. The target audience, younger men, related to the novel approach. The brand has since maintained this theme in elements from customer service to provocative slogans on its packaging.

I call this business model “replenishment-plus” because it touches two basic human needs beyond certainty: the needs for significance and for connection with other people. Being a Dollar Shave Club member is special to many, and it’s no coincidence that the company has high long-term retention of its subscription members. It made the online experience of subscribing to razors an amazing consumer experience, and no store representative has to open up the razor cabinet — even if many claim Dollar Shave Club’s razors to be inferior.

Aside from the replenishment plus subscription boxes, three other box types each cover different combinations of needs: sampling subscriptions, curated boxes, and specialty boxes. Sampling subscriptions, such as Birchbox and Ipsy, offer subscribers access to new and exclusive products, fulfilling the needs for growth and variety.

Curated boxes, such as those delivered by FabFitFun or Stitch Fix, provide personalized content chosen by experts and covering needs for growth, variety, connection, and significance. Specialty boxes, such as Loot Crate or BarkBox, cater to such strong emotions as fandom or love for pets and meet at least five of Robbins’ six needs with varying intensity.

There is one need we have not yet touched on but that subscription boxes can fill: the need to contribute. Dozens of subscription boxes clearly advertise that they donate part of their proceeds to a charity or good cause. Doing good is certainly a human need, and integrating this idea into a subscription concept is something passionate entrepreneurs often want to do.


It’s clear that while memberships and subscriptions aren’t new — remember the old book clubs? — they have undergone a renaissance, which has a lot to do with how technology has changed the ways we communicate with each other. Online communication makes many of us feel lonely, when all we want is to feel connections.

Subscription boxes are part of the solution. Membership clubs provide a sense of “tribe” to the subscriber, a sense of belonging or being in “the club.” Seth Godin explores this notion in “We Are All Weird,” and he notes that the smallest niche markets have enough members to sustain and build a successful business.

If you want to start a subscription service or are unsure how to proceed with one you’ve already built, consider the following tips for success:

  1. Think of your customers first, not your product

For a subscription business to be successful, you must consider the customer above everything else. Most consumer packaged goods brands focus on product, advertising, and placement, but it’s becoming clear that consumers’ preferences and the user experience should now be front and center in a company’s plan.

  1. Cover your customers’ deepest basic needs

In the new membership economy, the need to feel a sense of belonging and being known is the most dominant driver of long-term subscription success. As noted above, technology can create a more disconnected experience, but it also enables businesses to truly know and connect with their customers. Technology allows businesses to collect myriad data on each subscriber, leading to a more customized experience.

  1. Make your product interesting

Changing up product offerings is essential to successful subscriptions. This meets the needs for variety and keeps subscribers stimulated.  FabFitFun, for example, relates its products with the seasons, and workout videos keep customers’ exercising and engaged until the next box of goodies arrives.

In the new membership economy, subscription businesses must integrate human psychology, social media, and the latest technology. Use the above strategies to ensure that your customers feel their needs are being met through your deliveries, and keep them engaged and excited to be part of your club.  Connect with an OceanX membership and customer service expert to learn more tips on subscriptions and the powers of membership at www.oceanx.com/request-demo.