In the world of online retail, a new trend is emerging—and it centers around the theme of curation.
Look around the internet right now and you’ll find more and more offerings of curated collections of products packaged into box-style offerings—from snacks and drinks, to cosmetics, to geographically-themed gifts and beyond.
Data from McKinsey reinforces this: Their research found that “curation subscribers”, or subscribers who prioritize personalized, curated product selections, make up as much as 55% of all box-style subscriptions.
If you ask Andrea Hernández, creator of the food and beverage trend newsletter Snaxshot, this trend is emerging as a reaction to market saturation and the constant influx of new brands, as well as experiences like “one-stop online shops” that can be overwhelming for shoppers with their massive product catalogs.
“To me, the curation approach is about removing friction around the discovery process,” Hernández said.
“It’s also why you see brands like Pepsi trying their hand at direct-to-consumer retail by bundling their products into kits based on utility, like they’ve done with Pantry Shop.”
Overwhelm is indeed a problem when it comes to shopping online: Consider that a search query for a single product can generate more than 200,000 results. With so many near identical products to choose from, how is a shopper supposed to decide what to buy?
Enter curation: A buzzword that’s cropping up more and more as of late.
Within the online shopping landscape, we see the curation approach evidenced with the introduction of offerings like Tiny Bodega’s curated “discovery boxes”, which are selections of culinary items organized by themes like dinner, snacks, and brunch.
Similarly, PopUp Grocer recently launched a Nordstrom collaboration wherein founder Emily Schildt spotlights a curated selection of her favorite 150 food and beverage brands.
Influencers are coming into the fold as well (and bringing their engaged, loyal followings with them.) Curated health food site BubbleGoods, for example, promotes a collection of wellness experts who share their favorite products available for purchase on the site.
Then there’s the gifting category, where curated collections of goods make for easy, done-for-you gifts by mail (which has seen a surge of demand in recent months during COVID-19.)
In fact, of more than 1,100 consumers surveyed about their shopping habits over the holiday season in January 2021, 45% said they bought most of their gifts online.
My Trove Box is one example of the curated gift box approach, founded by interior designer and marketer Karin Srisilpanand.
The curated selection of home decor items is focused on supporting women and minority-owned artisans and items with an interesting backstory, often with ties to the makers and the sustainable practices behind their creation.
“There are existing lifestyle or home decor subscription boxes that often include a lot of filler items that either find their way to some dark drawer or get tossed out,” Srisilpanand said.
“We wanted to diverge from that model where value equates to more ‘stuff.’ It isn’t just about filling our home with decor either, but to do it in such a way where we are being socially responsible, and mindful of its form and multiple functions.”
Another is Bestowal Gifts, which offers a variety of curated collections based on various themes, but also has a custom-made option wherein curated products can be selected and then outsourced for fulfillment.
It’s become a popular marketing tactic for product discovery and building brand awareness, used by publicist and public relations teams alike. Teams doing pro-bono work like PR4Good leverage curated Bestowal Gift boxes to promote female and BIPOC-owned startups.
“We all would look at these large corporate mailers and think: there has to be a better way,” said Morgan Bellock, publicist and member of PR4Good.
“We wanted to create a mailer with less waste and less filler that would spotlight these smaller brands we’re passionate about, but that would also be relevant.”
As the online shopping environment becomes more crowded every day as new brands launch, will curation be the key for brands working to get in front of new buyers, building brand awareness, and ultimately driving sales?
Only time will tell—but if nothing else, it certainly seems to help new brands gain a competitive foothold.