5 Tools to Start a Subscription Box

Last Updated
November 25, 2020

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A subscription box business model allows you to sell a wide variety of products to your customers each month, tailored around a specific niche or theme. Not only is it fun and exciting for people to receive different products on a consistent basis, but, when done right, a business endeavour based on subscription boxes can be quite profitable for business owners. 

If you want to learn how to start a subscription business and all the intricacies that are required to start a subscription box, just keep on reading.

What to Look for in an Ecommerce Platform to Sell Subscription Box Products?

One of the steps in learning how to start a subscription box is knowing what to look for in an ecommerce platform. Here are a few points to keep in mind before you decide what ecommerce platform you should invest in.

Integration. It’s incredibly useful to have an ecommerce platform that can be integrated with other apps and sites. Specifically, when it comes to subscription box platforms, apps like Bold can make the whole process easier because they allow you to make recurring revenue with subscriptions and boost conversion rates.

Shipping. Keeping in mind that you will likely have lots of international customers, so shipping is another important feature you should keep in mind. Ideally, you should choose a platform that can complete the shipping process for you, or alternatively, use a third-party app. Additional shipping costs should also be taken into account.

Multiple payment options. Whether you’re choosing an ecommerce platform for subscriptions or single products, it’s important that your customers have multiple payment options and processors like PayPal or Stripe. Few payment options can be a deal-breaker, so make sure you do your research so that all your customers around the world can be catered to.

Marketing tools. Digital marketing plays a big role in how many people you’ll be able to reach ultimately. A well-rounded ecommerce platform should ideally have SEO features and the ability to connect to various social media platforms where you could further promote your subscription box business.

Analytics. Having insight and data about how well your business performs is crucial for any business owner. Luckily, most ecommerce platforms come with plans that feature analytics in their package, so you can easily track your growth and sales. Another important factor you need to take into account is whether the platform allows for analytics integrations that can give you additional information.

Security. Lastly, ensure that the platform you choose is secure for both you and your customers. After all, people will be making recurring purchases every month, so it’s imperative that the platform’s security is your top priority.

5 Tools to Start a Subscription Box in 2020


Best Overall Ecommerce Platform to Sell Subscription Boxes

Cratejoy's landing page

Cratejoy is an all-in-one ecommerce platform that allows you to start your own subscription box business at a reasonable cost. 

There are plenty of features that come with Cratejoy which are important for starting a successful subscription box business. You get beautiful templates which you can easily customize, an analytics dashboard where you’ll get an inside view on how fast your subscription business is growing, multiple payment options which gives your customers plenty of freedom in terms of payment, data security, inventory management, return management, and more!

Cratejoy allows for integration with several apps. For instance, Pirate Ship will give you access to the lowest shipping rates – a feature that’s immensely important if you’re selling physical products, while Advanced Rebilling will help you set up alternative renewal plans for subscriptions. 

The shipping and postage is also covered. You can easily track orders and sales, all the while getting great traffic due to the number of people who visit Cratejoy on a regular basis. You can aid the site’s traffic by utilizing some of their built-in marketing features like email marketing and SEO. 

Additionally, your customers have the liberty to choose their own renewal dates, which is extremely important for the flexibility of any subscription box business. You’re also given a lot of freedom as to what kind of products you can sell in your subscription boxes.

As far as pricing is concerned, you can actually use the marketplace for free, just be aware of some of the transaction fees. If you’d like to use checkout only, you can choose the $19 plan that comes with many advanced features. The all-in-one plan costs $39 and it’s aimed towards larger subscription box businesses.

Pros of Cratejoy

  • Specifically created for subscription businesses;
  • Recurring billing;
  • Advanced analytics;                                      
  • Constantly improving as a platform and adding more features;
  • Easy to use, beginner-friendly.

Cons of Cratejoy

  • Sometimes, it can take a while for you to reach customer support.

Shopify and ReCharge

Most Versatile Ecommerce Platform to Sell Subscription Boxes

Shopify's landing page

Shopify and ReCharge make a powerful team that will make selling subscription boxes easier and simpler than ever. In fact, ReCharge is the most used Shopify subscription solution. 

This powerful duo is used by some of the most popular subscription businesses on Shopify like FIJI Water, Bulletproof Coffee, and Soylent. With ReCharge, you can easily manage your business and keep track of all your subscriptions and sales. On top of that, you also have the option of transforming existing one-time products into monthly subscriptions, which can be extremely useful because it gives you freedom to experiment with your product ideas. Shopify and ReCharge are completely mobile-friendly, which is important considering that m-commerce is expected to dominate online sales by 2021

By using Shopify and ReCharge, you will be able to build a strong relationship with your recurring customers and allow them to have a seamless experience while using your shop. You can customize your store to a certain extent and have access to incredible features that will make both you and your customers happy such as cart abandonment integration (did you know that seven out of ten shoppers don’t complete their transaction?), multiple payment getaways, one-click upsells, and digital marketing.

In terms of planning, you can opt for the free version that allows you to make up to $100K USD in revenue, or choose the pro plan that costs $300 a month and comes with more advanced features like enhanced analytics and one-time products.

Pros of Shopify and ReCharge

  • Intuitive to use;
  • Amazing customer service;
  • Your subscribers can choose between multiple payment getaways;
  • You can transform one-time products into monthly subscriptions;
  • Mobile-friendly.

Cons of Shopify and ReCharge

  • There is only one advanced plan to choose from.


Best Ecommerce Platforms for Small Businesses to Sell Subscription Boxes

Subbly's landing page

Subbly is a cloud-based subscription ecommerce platform that was founded in 2014. 

It comes with some great features that will help you sell subscription boxes at a faster rate. They offer amazing customer service, available pre orders, various subscription options, easy checkout, multiple payment gateways, and build-a-box features. 

When it comes to the website builder, you get a fine selection of templates to choose from that you can customize in any way you want with the drag and drop editor. You can upload images, videos, rearrange elements, change colors, and more! There’s even a logo making tool that anyone can use to create a beautiful logo for their brand.

You also get subscription billing that you can customize on a weekly or monthly basis, even annually and beyond. Moreover, you can offer your potential customers a trial period in which case they’ll get a sample subscription box at a lower price.

Subbly is really easy to use and quite intuitive, so even those who don’t have much experience with ecommerce platforms can get the hang of it pretty quickly. In terms of shipping, Subbly integrates with ShipStation to deliver fast shipping.

By connecting to Zapier, you can connect the platform to other apps and integrations such as Google Analytics. Even though Subbly doesn’t have its own marketplace, these tools will give you everything you need to make your ecommerce subscription box business flourish.

Luckily, you have the option of choosing a free trial prior to deciding on what plan to go for. The checkout only plan will cost you $14 a month and it comes with all the checkout features along with the option to embed the checkout on any website. The website and checkout plan costs $29 and comes with all Subbly features, a website builder, and more themes to choose from.

Pros of Subbly

  • Customers can manage their own subscription preferences;
  • Build-a-box features;
  • Flexible recurring billing;
  • Option to integrate apps, extensions, and add-ons;
  • Easy to set up;
  • Many templates and designs to choose from.

Cons of Subbly

  • There is no marketplace on this platform, so if that matters to you, it’d be best to choose another platform.


Most Beginner-friendly Ecommerce Platform for Subscription Boxes

ChargeBee's landing page

If you’re looking for a simple and straightforward platform where you can start a subscription box, then look no further than ChargeBee. Being one of the most used subscription-based platforms, ChargeBee will give you access to plenty of features that will make your ecommerce journey smoother.

ChargeBee is tailored towards beginners and those who are new to ecommerce, so if you’re an ecommerce newbie, you don’t have to worry about finding your way around the platform. Some attractive features include recurring billing, multiple payment methods and gateways, plenty of customization options, outstanding customer support, and you can keep track of your customer’s transactions easily.

You can enable or extend your inactive subscribers’ trial period, and you even have the option for one-time payments.

One of the best features of ChargeBee is that it integrates with many apps and platforms like Shopify and Salesforce that will make it easier for you to sell subscription boxes across many different sites. Another useful integration option that allows you to send newsletters and emails to your subscribers list is MailChimp.

You can use the free version if you have up to $50K in revenue, which makes ChargeBee an amazing option for beginners where they can test the waters and see how they like the platform without fully committing to it. Once you surpass that $50K mark, you will need to choose between the more expensive plans.The more advanced plans cost $299 and $599.

Pros of ChargeBee

  • Subscription lifecycle management;
  • Subscription order management;
  • Outstanding 24/7 customer support;
  • Great value for money;
  • Gift subscriptions;
  • Lots of site and app integration options.

Cons of ChargeBee

  • You must change your password every 90 days.


Best Budget-friendly Ecommerce Platform to Sell Subscription Boxes

WooCommerce's landing page

There’s a reason why WooCommerce is so widely used in the ecommerce world. It brings all the features needed for a successful ecommerce business in one place, all the while remaining budget-friendly. Some useful WooCommerce features include lots of marketing and SEO tools, order management, shipping options, unrestricted customization, customer support that’s available 24/7, and plenty of amazing designs and templates to choose from.

One of the best features of WooCommerce is the fact that it’s easy to integrate with other plugins and apps. When it comes to subscription boxes, there are plenty of plugins you can choose to add that will make running your subscription box business a whole lot easier. In this case, WooCommerce can be integrated with a couple of different efficient plugins such as WooCommerce Subscription, Yith WooCommerce Subscription Plugin, and SUMO Subscriptions. These subscription solutions will make it easier for you to execute your subscription boxes and keep track of all the payments. 

For example, by installing WooCommerce Subscriptions you can accept recurring payments, send renewal notifications and automated emails to your subscribers after they’ve made their payments, create multiple billing schedules, receive detailed analytics so you keep track on your revenue and subscribers, and more! 

WooCommerce is free to use on its own, without any plugin or integration. That being said, for your subscription box business you will need a plugin like WooCommerce Subscriptions, so there will be a fee to pay. 

Pros of WooCommerce

  • More than 400 integration options to choose from;
  • Unlimited products;
  • Free to use on its own, so it’s extremely budget-friendly;
  • SEO and digital marketing tools like built-in blogging.

Cons of WooCommerce

  • Adding extra plugins and extensions can get a bit time-consuming.

Hopefully, you’ve found this subscription box platforms guide helpful and informative. Once you learn all the small details about how to start a subscription box, the actual process of setting up your own store will be a piece of cake. Which ecommerce platform will you choose to start your subscription box business? Let us know!


How Do I Start a Subscription Box Service?

If you’re asking yourself how to start a subscription box, there are a few steps you need to follow in order to do it successfully.

Firstly, you need a well thought out idea about what your subscription box business will centre around. It could be anything from food and drinks to perfume and hygienic products. Secondly, you will need to choose a great ecommerce platform (hopefully this article has helped you with that) where you can take the overall budget into account and make the payment. Once you know what you want to sell and on what platform, you can move onto the third step which includes setting up your store and researching the market in order to learn about all the intricacies. 

Finally, after all that’s taken care of, you can start taking orders and selling your subscription boxes!

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Subscription Box Business?

It’s hard to estimate exactly how much it costs to start a subscription business because there are a lot of variables to take into account, but it’s safe to assume that you can start your own business for as little as $10,000, assuming the products you choose aren’t too costly to produce.

Are Subscription Boxes Profitable?

Subscription box businesses are currently worth a couple billion dollars, so it’s clearly a worthwhile investment. If you’re passionate about pursuing your own subscription box business, you will be happy to know that you can be extremely profitable, especially if you choose a subscription box that’s in a niche category.

What Can You Sell Through a Subscription Box Business?

In case you’re only now learning how to sell a subscription box business and you’re still not sure what exactly can be included in a subscription box, here are some ideas.

Perfume subscription box. Everyone loves a good perfume, so why not create a subscription box that’s filled with a couple of samples of lovely perfumes that your customers can try out without having to commit to a full-size product? You can theme your boxes, include random perfume that you deem light and balmy, or base the perfumes you choose around the seasons.

Beauty subscription box. The beauty industry is worth billions of dollars, and you can utilize this fact to your advantage by creating a beauty box that will attract makeup lovers from around the world. You need to make sure that the products you choose are versatile, as well as find a way to cater to your customer’s needs and personalize their products so that they are a perfect match.

Food or drinks subscription box. Many subscription boxes centre around food and drinks. If cuisine is your passion, you can easily translate that into a subscription box that will please people’s taste buds. Some examples of popular subscription boxes based on food and drinks include Misfit Market (fresh produce), Winc Wine (tasty wine), and Cheesecake of the Month Club (you guessed it – it sells cheesecakes).

Treats subscription box. Speaking of food, our pets need to eat too, so why not spoil them with a treat box on a monthly basis? One of the most well-known subscription boxes out there is Barkbox. You have the option of collaborating with various brands and making different boxes for different pets, just make sure you do your research prior to choosing the treats.

Quirky subscription box. Plenty of subscription boxes that are on the quirkier side come to mind, so if you have an idea about selling some niche products, but you’re too afraid to go through with it, take this as a sign to do so. For instance, The Introvert’s Retreat is a monthly subscription box that includes candles, books, and even socks.

Stationary subscription box. If you’re passionate about all things stationery, then consider making that passion a business. You could include fun pens, post its, journals, and planners – basically everything that makes organizing our lives seem like fun instead of a chore.

Accessories and clothing. Another popular option for subscription boxes is selling accessories and clothes. You can include a specific style each month, or dedicate the whole subscription box business to a certain look.

Jewellery. A few great jewellery pieces can really make an outfit stand out, so it’s no surprise why people love adding jewellery to their outfits. Regardless if you make jewellery yourself, or you would like to collaborate with a brand that does, jewellery subscription boxes are an amazing idea altogether.

PlatformStarts atFree trialSEO featuresMobile-friendly
CratejoyFree/ $1914-dayYes
Shopify/ReChargeFree/ $30014-dayYes
WooCommerceFree 30-dayYes