What brands can learn from BarkBox about pet subscription boxes

Chris Powers
October 6th, 2021

In the world of subscription-based eCommerce businesses, BARK is something of a superstar. Launched in 2012, the pet brand offers monthly BarkBoxes complete with fun dog toys and treats. With fun, engaging products packaged into creative, personalized boxes, BARK has taken the pet industry by storm. 

When the brand first started, BarkBox subscriber boxes were made up of toys and treats purchased from multiple different vendors. After reviewing customer buying behavior and getting direct feedback from subscribers, BarkBox branched out into designing its own products. 

Today, BARK designs more than 90% of its products and has partnered with a manufacturer to produce them. This means that BarkBoxes are exclusive—customers can’t shop around and locate their box’s component products on other websites. This creates immense brand loyalty, a big reason why BARK saw its sales grow 70% from 2016 to 2017.

“Most people who buy the box, they want to make their dog even happier,” says BARK founder Henrik Werdelin. “What we provide is the products that go into the box, the toys, but really what they are getting is an experience when they open the box together with the dog.”

This “experience” is what has made BarkBox so successful. It’s not just about satisfying customers’ wants and desires. It’s about helping them foster healthier and happier relationships with their pets. 

It’s not enough to just compile great products and ship them directly to customers every month. Your brand also needs to live and breathe this experience—through marketing, customer service, packaging, and more—and empower people to create healthier and more fulfilling connections with their dogs. 

What brands can learn from BarkBox about pet subscription boxes

In this blog post, we’ll examine what pet subscription brands can learn from BARK’s success. Read on to discover some tips for offering fun, engaging subscription boxes that inspire customer loyalty and generate serious revenue.

Embrace personalization

For most subscription box brands, personalization is the key to long-term success. By offering boxes that not only include quality products, but also cater to consumers’ unique wants, needs, and desires, brands can show customers that they’re willing to go the extra mile. 

BARK has mastered the art of personalization for its BarkBoxes. Customers get customized boxes based on the size and breed of their dogs, as well as other factors like age, sex, allergies, and more. In fact, of the one million boxes it ships each month, BarkBox distributes about 120,000 different varieties based on customer preferences. BARK understands that no two dogs are alike, and therefore a “one size fits all” subscription box won’t do for dog owners. Offering a variety of boxes means customers derive more value from a box because it’s personalized to their needs. This means a lot of happy dogs—and human owners, too.

The takeaway: BARK can attribute its highly loyal customer base to its personalization efforts. Putting in the effort to truly understand your customers’ needs and make them feel cared for can make a world of difference for pet subscription box brands.

Don’t be afraid to be social

For eCommerce subscription box brands, implementing a solid marketing strategy is crucial for long-term success. One of the reasons BARK has achieved success is its ability to deploy intelligent marketing strategies that connect with potential customers and help the company stand out in a crowded marketplace. Specifically, it has used social media as an effective marketing channel for new customer acquisition.

In 2020, BARK partnered with Warner Brothers on a campaign around the release of Scoob!, an animated feature film starring Scooby-Doo. As part of the partnership, BARK released a special Scooby-Doo-themed BarkBox with plush toys and snacks. To promote the box and draw in new subscribers, BARK launched a social media advertising campaign on Facebook.

BARK launched ads across all Facebook apps and services, taking advantage of the social platform’s ability to automatically place ads where they were most likely to drive results at the lowest cost at any given time. Drawing on its subscriber data, BARK was able to push ads to a targeted audience that was likely to interact with the brand.

BARK also ran related marketing campaigns via email and search channels simultaneously, using Facebook’s pixel technology to understand which channels were driving traffic to its website.

The campaign was wildly successful. Over the course of about a month, BARK saw a 7% increase in traffic referred by email, a 46% increase in organic traffic, and a 27% increase in branded search site traffic. Pretty compelling stats, huh?

The takeaway: Paid social ad campaigns can be a valuable tool for promoting your subscription box. It makes it easy to drill down to find a targeted audience that is highly likely to engage with your brand,

Go all-in on customer service

This commitment to personalization extends to BARK’s customer service efforts as well. BARK’s customer support team is dedicated to communicating directly with customers to understand their needs and ensure that the service they are receiving is living up to their expectations.

BARK’s customer support staff reaches out directly to about a third of its customers each month. Based on these interactions and conversations, the company’s customer experience experts—known as the “Happy Team”—look for ways to continuously refine and improve its service to meet the unique needs of all customers. The Happy Team came up with the No Dog Left Behind program, an effort to ensure that BARK will go out of its way to meet all product requests and requirements from customers.

For example, multiple customers requested more durable chew toys for their sharp-toothed canines, so BARK created a new product line and included those toys in those customers’ boxes.

The takeaway: Good customer service can go a long way towards driving long-term customer loyalty and ensuring your brand stays competitive.

Get creative with themes

Each monthly BarkBox is designed around a specific theme—think the aforementioned Scooby-Doo box, or boxes that use holidays like Christmas or Halloween as jumping-off points. These themed boxes often include custom graphics, branded elements, seasonal gift elements, and more to create a memorable unboxing experience for recipients. Plus, interesting themes and engaging packaging are likely to be shared on social media by loyal customers, expanding BARK’s reach and helping to attract new customers.

The takeaway: Unboxing is a key component of the subscription box experience. By shipping out boxes based on clever and creative themes, you can make your offerings stand out from your competitors and get great results from grassroots marketing via social media.

Launching a successful pet subscription box business

Here at Codal, we’re experts at helping brands launch transformative eCommerce experiences that help turn one-time customers into long-term brand ambassadors. We can bring your pet subscription box idea to life by helping your company create a roadmap for success. 

Interested in learning more about launching a pet subscription box service? Reach out to us today!

Chris Powers

Chris Powers

Chris is a Content Marketing Specialist at Codal. With a background in journalism and marketing, Chris has written about a variety of tech topics, including open source, fintech, and cybersecurity. Chris loves taking on new challenges with just a pen, paper, and his brain.


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