BarkBox, the subscription-based service that sends pet owners a box of goodies on a monthly basis, has launched a companion mobile application. The app isn’t merely a mini version of the online service, but is meant to complement Barbox.com by offering unique features like the ability to buy individual items, rate and revise the items in your current box, buy gift subscriptions, read BarkBox news, and more.
BarkBox was originally a side project created by Matt Meeker, who previously co-founded Meetup.com and Wee Web, and served as EIR at Polaris Ventures running Dogpatch Labs. Alongside Meeker is Henrik Werdelin, partner at Prehype, and previously EIR at Index Ventures, as well as Carly Strife (CEO) who came over to the company from Uber’s NYC operations.
The service is designed for those who are – as Meeker says of himself – a little bit “obsessed” with their dogs. These customers tend to be women (80 percent are), either 25-35 and single without kids, or 45-55 whose kids have flown the coop. Although Meeker isn’t the target demographic, apparently, he says he was inspired to start BarkBox out of his own needs: He couldn’t find any good toys for his 100 pound “puppy,” a Great Dane.
“Finding things that were interesting or appropriate for him were really difficult,” he says, “even though I would stop into the pet stores every other day.” Researching this, he found a lot of manufacturers and suppliers who had no distribution, but a lot of great products that so-called “dog parents” like himself would love, including toys, dog treats, and dog bones. One thing led to another, and BarkBox was formed in early 2012.
To date, more than 20,000 customers are now receiving their monthly boxes, which are currently available in “small,” “medium” and “large,” based on the size of the dog. (Prices range from $17-$29/month, with annual subscriptions in the works). In the new year, the company plans on introducing even more personalized options, like “big dog” + “heavy chewer” or even “big dog” + “heavy chewer” + “lives in the city,” in order to further customize boxes to very specific dog types. By March, the plan is to have some 15 of these box types available.
The new BarkBox app is actually something of a unique take on how mobile can work for subscription services like this. Instead of simply duplicating online functionality, the mobile app is adding value on top of users’ subscriptions. For example, the option to purchase your favorite goodies isn’t available online – only within the app itself. It’s a mobile-first mindset, where items can be bought with just a couple of taps, using the account information already on file.
Meeker says that the app will soon be updated with more options, too, including push notifications that will alert customers to order status – telling them when their box has shipped and when it has arrived at their doorstep, for example. Further down the road, the app will slowly evolve into a more full-featured experience, which both subscribers and non-subscribers can take advantage of. It will later include things like photo contests, as well as a social photo-sharing component to connect users by allowing them to post pictures of their dogs.
The app will also eventually support a full m-commerce storefront where you can buy items featured in any of the monthly boxes. At launch, however, users will only be able to see items that have been sent to them, not others. The app itself is free, but will require a BarkBox account in order to use. You can grab the app here in iTunes.