Pawsitively Impactful: The Journey of BarkBox, the Billion-Dollar Empire for Dogs

Barkbox growth story

Welcome back to another captivating edition of our D2C stories, where we delve into the world of entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity that narrates a tale of triumph. In this edition, we shine a spotlight on the incredible journey of BarkBox, a visionary brand that has not only conquered the pet industry but also captured the heart of millions. Join us as we unravel their inspiring path to success and the profound impact they have made on our four-legged companions. Let’s dive straight in!

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Barkbox website

What do you get when you cross a dog lover with an entrepreneurial-spirited risk-taker? A billion-dollar empire…for dogs. That’s right, BarkBox, the thirteen-year-old startup, was founded with a simple yet powerful mission: to make our furry friends even happier. How do they do it? Through their monthly subscription box for dogs, where pet owners receive a meticulously curated selection of high-quality dog products. From toys and gadgets to gourmet treats, bones, hygiene essentials, and more – every box is designed around a unique theme and can be tailored to cater to each dog’s likes and dislikes.

How barkbox subscription works

Founded in 2011 by Henrik Werdelin, Matt Meeker, and Carly Strife, BarkBox has raised a total of $281.7 million in funding over 6 rounds and went public in 2021. 

Barkbox Snapshot
FoundersHenrik Werdelin, Matt Meeker, and Carly Strife
Funding$281.7 million in funding over 6 rounds 

By tapping into the unbreakable bond between humans and their dogs, BarkBox has not only created a successful company but has also redefined the pet industry. Wondering what made BarkBox a dynamic industry leader?

Before we begin, let’s explore the origin story that laid the foundation for BarkBox’s inspiring journey.

Where it all began

Having recently adopted a 130-pound Great Dane named Hugo, Meeker had an epiphany that would change his life forever. During a casual walk in his Brooklyn neighborhood, he couldn’t find suitable treats and toys for his furry companion, especially given Hugo’s size. Little did he know this idea would linger and eventually lead to an incredible tale of success!As fate has it, founders Henrik Werdelin and Matt Meeker’s brainchild was born on a heart-shaped bed on a cruise ship. No, not romantically at all. The duo enrolled in the same conference and made the decision to bunk with a stranger in order to secure a more affordable ticket.Some brainstorming, a shared adoration of dogs, and a few drinks later, BarkBox was born.  And the rest is history!

BarkBox’s triumph in the D2C world holds invaluable lessons for all of us. So, buckle up and get ready to uncover the most important insights from their extraordinary journey.

5 Lessons You Can Learn From Barkbox

Lesson 1: Personalization is Everything

BarkBox’s unwavering focus on personalization has been a key driver behind their success. Understanding that every dog is unique, BarkBox goes above and beyond to tailor their boxes to individual dogs’ needs. Each month, BarkBox sends customers 150,000 different variations of its treats and dog toys to over one million customers. Their commitment to personalization has created an unparalleled level of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

By gathering detailed information about each customer’s dog, including size, breed, and preferences, BarkBox ensures that every monthly subscription box is carefully curated with items that are customized based on each dog’s size, chewing intensity, and allergies.

barkbox uses personalization to grow

BarkBox has created a brand that resonates deeply with pet owners. Setting them apart from other players in the game, the personalized approach has helped them forge meaningful connections with customers and their furry companions, fostering a community of loyal brand advocates.

Lesson 2: Make Your Customers the Center of Everything 

In addition to personalization, thriving companies understand the value of prioritizing their customers, even when those customers have wagging tails. BarkBox’s dedication to putting customers and their four-legged friends first has fostered a strong, loyal customer base. The company has a specialized customer support team named ‘Happy Team’ that is dedicated to ensuring a seamless user experience. Every month, the Happy Team contacts about one-third of customers to understand in depth what problems they can solve for their customers. They also answer customer emails individually to expand their knowledge and nurture customer relationships. 

Barkbox provides great customer care

Tugging on heartstrings even further, the team created a No Dog Left Behind program. If a customer has a specific request, the team goes out of its way to make sure it happens. For example, upon numerous requests for more durable chew toys, BARK (BarkBox’s parent company) created a new line of products, ensuring these toys were included in the customers’ boxes.

Furthermore, BarkBox consistently conducts market research to uncover strategies for brand growth and improvement. They are constantly striving to enhance their offerings and make a lasting impact in the pet industry.

Lesson 3: Use Social Media to Have Fun

Speaking of strategies for brand awareness, the brand has taken social media marketing by storm! BarkBox strives to foster stronger bonds between dogs and humans through the creation of joyful and memorable experiences. Here are some of the strategies they implemented to express this ethos across their social media channels:

Trending Hashtag

While unboxing videos are all the trend right now, it’s a special kind of unboxing when it involves a furry friend. Using the hashtag #BarkBoxDay, excited customers can take to their social channels to share their unboxing experiences when a new BarkBox has been delivered. But what makes it unique every month? A new theme each time! Barkfest in Bed, Lick or Treat, and Chewrassic Bark are past themes, to name a few.

Barkbox uses social media to connect with customers

Influencer Marketing

Recognizing the power of influencer marketing, BarkBox sent out free boxes to various YouTubers to expand their reach. The influencers would open the boxes and have their dogs test the product on video. With this strategy, the team noticed a direct correlation in garnering new customers.

Here’s a really cute example:

Influencer marketing has become increasingly important for D2C brands because of its ability to reach and engage with target audiences. Partnering with relevant influencers allows D2C brands to tap into their established audiences, expanding brand visibility and reaching potential customers who may not have been exposed to the brand otherwise.

Must Read: Your Guide To Building A Powerful Influencer Marketing Strategy

Entertainment Over Selling Approach

Who would’ve thought that driving efforts away from promoting your brand could be one of the most successful social media strategies? Well, BarkBox did. Allowing customers to forge an authentic connection with the brand instead of overwhelming them with sales-heavy messaging has been key to their success. It also alleviates the consumer’s pressure to purchase, fostering more customer loyalty.

Almost 80% of the brand’s content is completely unrelated to BarkBox, and the other 20% is about the product. The focus is largely on entertaining content, which includes images, dog narratives, and a lot of user-generated content. 

Barkbox uses social media to entertain

Blogs for the win

Entertainment seems to be a priority for this fun-loving brand. Churning out content that keeps your customers engaged is key, and that’s exactly what BarkBox did with their blog, BarkPost. All things dog-related, this blog is consistently updated with exciting, informative content to retain existing customers but also captivate new ones. Here are some of their titles:

Brakbox provides insightful blogs

Email Campaigns can change the game

Co-Founder Henrik firmly believes email should be a core driver in a company’s revenue growth. BarkBox’s email marketing is a key component of its overall marketing strategy, aimed at engaging and nurturing its customer base. Communicating with customers individually enables them to send targeted and relevant content to specific segments, eventually increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversions.

Not to mention how BarkBox uses email campaigns to deliver entertaining content to their subscribers. It provides interactive elements to keep subscribers entertained and informed. Here’s a peak into one of their humorous email campaigns:

The subject line: “Chew your vitamins, pup.

“The copy: We all have needs. That’s why we have just the right supplement treats.

…and then the customer profiles that describe a creature matched with hilariously human qualities!


Lesson 4: Make it Exciting

What makes BarkBox stand out? Most definitely, the fun and excitement they have built into their product. The monthly themes provide a fun-filled adventure that captivates both canines and their owners. To add to the funny aspect, BarkBox also hires comedy writers to make its content more engaging. Fun stuff (literally). 

Lesson 5: Start Small, then Scale

And on that adventurous note….It all started with a mock-up of an idea on Meeker’s phone. After observing a total of 50 sign-ups within two months, Meeker was convinced of the concept’s potential. One year after its launch, Bark had 15,000 subscribers, and within two years, 100,000 subscribers and $6.7 million in funding. Direct-to-consumer brands often grapple with the decision of whether to enter third-party marketplaces because they might lose access to customer data. As did BarkBox… but now you can find them at 23,000 plus retailers!

Taking it slow and steady for a few years, BarkBox launched on Amazon only in 2018, being one of the first brands to join their subscription service. So, why did they decide to do this? They realized that it was a successful acquisition channel, as they have a high volume of established, trusting customers searching for products.

The team spent a year developing their Amazon strategy to identify opportunities for product development within the pet category. Eventually, they began selling on the platform with just five products. It’s safe to say they saw success! Barkbox’s Amazon business grew at a yearly rate of 150%. Now, that’s scaling!

The BarkBox Phenomenon: Redefining the Bond Between Humans and Dogs

This story has us alluding to the fact that sometimes having fun really is the key to success. Injecting some fun into the mix is essential for growth; because who wants all work and no play? Definitely not BarkBox. The lessons from their story serve as a guiding light for D2C entrepreneurs in their quest to create impactful and successful ventures. By embracing these lessons, founders can pave their own path to greatness!

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