Edward Walker and his wife Romi were given some very specific advice when they were expecting their first child, and it was essentially the opposite of what has become Baby Box Canada.
Friends and family told the Walkers they should register in the baby department of Toys R’ Us for everything they could imagine they might need. They were told they would likely take most of these things back, but they would then have store credit they could use in those first few weeks and months.
“That’s actually what we did,” Walker, the co-founder of Baby Box Canada, admitted to the audience at this week’s Think Inside The Box conference hosted by Canada Post. “What does that teach us about shopping for a child? Most parents don’t really know what they need. There’s been no really clear-cut way when you’re standing in the store to reach a decision about what you want.”
Baby Box Canada is a response to that problem, offering Canadian parents a way to sign up to receive a free shipment of more than 15 essential items that can be valued up to $150. These include nutritional supplements, all-natural baby wipes and so on. While Baby Box Canada is a registered non-profit organization, it could offer a conduit for a variety of CPG brands to be introduced directly to future customers.
Walker said when the organization created a proof-of-concept, early CPG partners were most concerned about whether the public would engage with the idea. The launch included a simple Facebook post, which Walker said was quickly shared across the social network with people tagging friends who were expectant parents. There was also an initial press release, with low expectations for any pickup, but Walker said Baby Box Canada was besieged by requests and conducting multiple interviews for weeks.
Most importantly, the number of registrants has surged in the initial nine months since the organization launched to more than 100,000 people, far exceeding Baby Box Canada’s goal for its first year (the program is starting in Ontario with plans to expand nationally). A box could not only offer items for when a baby arrives, but for later stages such as when they take their first steps.
“Canada Post has programs like Smart Move, when you get a new house and need your mail forwarded – we wanted something similar that would let you go after all these milestones,” said Walker, adding that some registrants are signing up at four weeks’ gestation in their pregnancy. “They haven’t even told anyone else (that they’re having a baby).”
Brands participating in the program so far include Fisher Price, Burt’s Bees and Aleva Naturals. Walker believes the organization will go well beyond connecting with consumers than merely putting items on a shelf or sending out flyers. “All those things are great, but the product usage — that experience goes above all else,” he said.