If you're a geek on the Internet, you've probably heard of Loot Crate. The company, which was started in 2012, mails out geek-themed subscription boxes that contain exclusive figures, collectibles, apparel, and other nerdy miscellany. The company ships out over 20 kinds of themed boxes monthly, from Star Trek to Halo to Harry Potter to their general pop culture crates.
But with this many moving parts and boxes to send out, how does Loot Crate pick what goes into its monthly shipments? What goes into making these decisions? We sat down with Loot Crate's Brand Director, Ellen Deng, to get the scoop on how these boxes are made.
Deng opened with a pretty incredible statistic. "We send out over 600,000 crates a month," she said. "I mean a lot of them are monthly crates, so we are shipping them monthly. A lot of them are bi-monthly, so we're shipping them every other month. It all nets out to be a lot, basically."
How does the company decide what goes into those boxes, though? After all, while they strive to make their boxes a good value, a monthly or bi-monthly subscription service adds up. "At the end of the day what drives our service is that we are for fans by fans," Deng explained. "It's always about the customer, and we are ourselves the customer in many ways, so we keep that in mind every time we put together a product. We deliver a certain experience. All of that plays into our consideration when it comes to curation."
Thinking of the boxes as an "experience" is a crucial part of the company's philosophy. It’s not just a box to Loot Crate. Instead, it's making sure people feel like they are a part of something larger; it goes to the very heart of what the company has always been about. "The vision behind Loot Crate was we wanted to bring the Comic-Con experience directly to your doorstep," said Deng. "Comic-Con isn't just the consumer products that you're buying. It's about being here and feeling that excitement. There's so many... things that we try to do to infuse that experience within the community."
The process for actually picking out themes for a box is two-pronged. First, Loot Crate keeps an eye out internally for what's gaining steam in pop culture. Because members of the team self-identify as geeks, they can pay close attention to geek media and curate internally based on what’s happening out in the world. But there's a second, crucial part of Loot Crate: the company's regular devoted customers, called "Looters."
"We call our community Looters because that's what they call themselves, to be honest," Deng explains. "That's what they branded themselves." The company is constantly polling their customer base to determine what to be on the look out for. Which franchises are currently popular? What's more, Loot Crate pays attention to the places that Looters interact with one another: on Twitter, Facebook, and even on the company's Reddit channel. "[Our community is] a really big part of our consideration set when we think about what franchises, what kind of product to put in a crate."
There's a bit of conflict here, though, between working as much in advance as possible versus recognizing that trends change very quickly. Generally, the Loot Crate team works six to eight months in advance on boxes. But Deng cites the TV show Rick and Morty as an example of a property that absolutely exploded in short order. "[Rick and Morty] gained crazy popularity, and we were just kind of watching it become this keyword that kept showing up in our surveys, and just based off of that, we wanted to be very reactive. Sometimes we have to be very nimble about our timelines as well so that we can make sure we're delivering something at the time right time."
Once a theme has been decided upon, it's time to decide what to put into the box. The Loot Crate team can fall back on over 200 licenses to deliver brands and products their Looters are interested in. Often, they work with partners to develop and secure products for their boxes. "But if we feel like there's an opportunity for us to create something new on our own — and that's what our fans are looking for, something new and innovative in a different kind of way — then we can also have the flexibility of doing that," Deng clarifies. That’s when they turn to their in-house designers for one-of-a-kind products you can only find in their boxes.
Even the packaging is meticulously designed. The company has a "new initiative of turning the crate inside out into something and transforming it so that it's not just a box anymore," Deng explains. The community has gotten very involved with this, as they are in all aspects of their crates. "In fact, our Looters have started #CrateCraft as a hashtag because we've been providing them so many opportunities to transform their crate into something bigger, and that's a really big piece of it from an internal creative standpoint."
It's this attention to detail and appreciation of its community that has led Loot Crate to have such impressive success. "[It's] just amazing that we've been around for five years, and this is something that people want, and we love engaging with our passionate fans, and that's why we're here because we are fans first," Deng concludes.