Subscriptions for consumables are impossibly hard

I’ve been following the IPO and the performance of Blue Apron closely. Innately I don’t believe in subscription models for consumables. In my mind, there’s too much hassle in “managing” the subscription. Life is not predictable and small changes (“Sorry, I won’t be able to make dinner tonight”) ruin the rhythm of incoming products.

Amazon is pushing this for a long time as well. Many household items you’re offered to subscribe and you get a discount if you do. That always annoys me because I’m a loyal customer and I do buy certain items religiously on Amazon, but I digress.

I do wonder how successful these subscriptions are. With Blue Apron it’s pretty clear, it doesn’t. The churn and CAC are super high. Not a great recipe for success. But for others, it’s less clear since they’re private like HelloFresh or don’t get reported on like Amazon’s subscription service.

As a side note, I do believe the product of Blue Apron is great. The idea of packaged fresh food which you can easily prepare yourself is gold. It’s actually been in the supermarkets in The Netherlands for a long time. And that’s also where they belong in my opinion.

The only place I’ve seen this work is in the office. Offices are pretty predictable in how much coffee, paper, trash bags or other stock items they use. The individual dynamic behavior is absorbed by the group and hobbles around a mean. But for individuals or households, I see too many variances in behavior which break the norm.

When I buy my trash bags on Amazon and see the offer, I also just wonder how many bags I actually need in a month. I’ve honestly no idea. It’s probably one of the most stable staple items I use. It’s easier to just click the button I guess.