No wonder subscription boxes are an increasingly popular holiday gift: They're carefully curated with items designed to wow the recipient, while nestled in custom packaging that takes away the hassle of wrapping presents.
Hundreds of subscription boxes now vie for consumers' attention, many with different approaches and niches. Fans of anything from comic books to socks can find a subscription service that fits their interests, although boxes that are geared to beauty products tend to be among the most popular on review site My Subscription Addiction.
Even though subscription boxes are thought to be recurring delivery service, many companies also offer one-off purchases for people who want to send a single gift box at the holidays.
The biggest question for consumers, though, boils down to value: Do the combined items represent a deal compared with the box's actual price? The most common reason for canceling a box is that consumers don't believe it's worth the money, according to a survey for Shorr Packaging, which creates packaging for subscription boxes.
As a result, many subscription boxes will provide a retail value for the items they've sent, as a way to demonstrate that the box offers a bargain. Many also include coupons, in case subscribers want to purchase another product from a manufacturer whose wares are included in the box.
"Having someone curate it for you and put it in a nice package and have a theme for it, that's something people are willing to pay for," said Kyle Olson, senior content manager of Digital Third Coast, which conducted the study. "It's uniqueness and attention to detail, as well the unboxing experience, which is really important for them."
"Unboxing" -- the act of unwrapping a box -- has become an art form in its own right, with subscribers taking videos and posting them to social media for their fans and friends to view. That's something many subscription boxes encourage, and many redesign their packaging each month to create a new experience for their customers.
Investors are also noticing the field, with popular subscription services such as Birchbox attracting millions in venture backing.
Read on to learn about six top women's subscription boxes, based on My Subscription Addiction reviews and subscription boxes provided by the companies and tested by CBS MoneyWatch.
FabFitFun: $49.99 per box
On the luxury end, FabFitFun has gained fans for its eclectic mix of beauty, fashion and fitness products, which are full-size items instead of the samples that some lower-price subscription boxes include.
While FabFitFun is on the higher end of the price range, the box is sent out quarterly rather than monthly, and the company says each box has items worth more than $200.
Its current offering, the Fall Box, included 11 items, with six of the brands created by women. The products ranged from a $35 ModCloth scarf -- a large plaid scarf billed as perfect for cold weather or keeping warm while traveling over the holidays -- to a $50 eye shadow palette from Pure Cosmetics.
The packaging also includes tips on how to use the products, such as four suggestions for how to wear the ModCloth scarf.
Shipping for FabFitFun is free, and annual subscriptions are available for $179.99. Or customers can buy a single box at a time.
Wantable: $40 per month
The monthly subscription service Wantable has a slightly different angle than other subscription boxes. It offers three types of boxes -- makeup, accessories or intimates -- and asks customers to choose the styles and products they prefer.
Cosmetics box subscribers, for instance, are asked whether they like neutral shades or brighter pigments, while accessories subscribers can choose whether they like silver or gold tones.
The personalization may increase the likelihood that customers will enjoy most of the items that are included in the box, which can be an issue for some beauty boxes.
Wantable also allows customers to return items they don't like, but if a customer likes all the included products, the company will provide a $4 discount toward their next order.
Glossybox: $21 per month
Glossybox is a monthly subscription box that shares some similarities with FabFitFun and Wantable, such as delivering full-size or deluxe-size beauty products instead of samples.
Glossybox includes five beauty products each month, including both well known and niche brands, such as the Spanish organic cosmetics company Unani. The subscription box positions itself as a luxury service that nevertheless provides a value for the sticker price.
With the products wrapped inside tissue paper and a ribbon and seal, the packaging is fun to open. The box also includes a primer on how to use the products as well as discount codes in case customers want to order more of a specific brand.
Customers can either sign up for a recurring subscription, ranging from month-to-month or a 12-month subscription. Glossybox also sells a $40 limited edition holiday box, which this year includes six products with a value of more than $180. The products range from Truffle Therapy Cleaning Oil to a shimmer lipstick from Bad Medina Cosmetics.
BoxyCharm: $21 per month
Like GlossyBox, BoxyCharm carries a monthly price of $21 and includes full-size products, ranging from skin care to lipstick. While Glossybox aims for glamour, BoxyCharm focuses on edgy, up-and-coming brands.
Its recent box included five products with a retail value of more than $127, ranging from a $36 pack of eye shadow brushes from Luxie Beauty to a $19 trio of eyeshadows from Iby Beauty. The packaging also includes tips on how to use the products.
Birchbox: $10 per month
One of the subscription box industry's pioneers, Birchbox has won legions of fans for its affordable price and premium products. One difference, though, is that it sends samples rather than full-size beauty products.
The smaller sizes are a draw for some customers, who like the chance to try a product before buying a full-size version. Recent boxes included products from well-regarded brands such as Clinique and Moroccanoil.
The boxes include information about the products, such as usage tips and prices for full-size versions, as well as attractive packaging.
Walmart: $5 per box
Walmart (WMT) may be best known for its massive supercenters, but the retailing giant is also gaining a following for its beauty subscription boxes. At $5 each, they provide bang for their buck, although they tend to deliver the mass-market brands lining Walmart shelves, such as Dove, Vaseline, and Eucerin, rather than the higher-end products included in more expensive boxes.
Walmart delivers its boxes on a quarterly basis, and the products tend to be sample-size. While many of the items are from large packaged-goods makers such Unilever (UL), the boxes sometimes include smaller brands such as Burt's Bees and Village Naturals.