Subscription boxes are not just the hot new thing—they are your customers’ new favorite way to shop, and they are here to stay. People love the convenience of getting items delivered to their door, and subscription boxes can offer that with an added dash of customization, personalization, unique finds, or sometimes all three.
However, starting a subscription box company can be daunting, even for an experienced entrepreneur. If you want the full breakdown on how to get started, you can check out this step-by-step guide to starting a subscription box business, but if you’re just staring at the blank webpage wondering what to include, look no further. Let’s take a look at the 10 key things your subscription box business needs to have through the lens of 10 subscription box companies that are knocking it out of the park.
Subscription Box Business Tip #1: A Buy Button
I’m sure this seems obvious but stick with me because it’s a somewhat unique feature of subscription boxes.
Most ecommerce sites sell a variety of products, so the home page probably has different sections for the different types of items—maybe current sales and some sort of campaign—however with subscription boxes, you’re selling one thing: The box. Even if you offer a few different versions, it’s still just the box. So while other ecommerce sites have to get their visitors to the right products and then to the buy button, you can present it straight away.
Of course, the likelihood that a first-time visitor will click on that first buy button is pretty slim, but it’s a great opportunity to make it obvious and also include a simple summary of why they should click that button. In the photo above, Fab Fit Fun chose to highlight how much value is in the box, that it ships free, and that each box contains 8-10 full-sized products (in contrast to other boxes that only offer sample sizes). And that’s all you really need to know.
Subscription Box Business Tip # 2: How It Works Section
Each box is a little different. Some are hyper-personalized and feel completely custom to the orderer and some are convenience-based, like Dollar Shave Club, along with saving money. There are boxes that offer access to products that are rare and hard to find, samples of products to try before you buy the full size, and some are just for fun.
With all this variation, the boxes all work a bit differently too. Make sure to dedicate a portion of your website to quickly explaining what the customer needs to do and what you’ll do for them in return.
Subscription Box Business Tip #3: Sell the Experience
Part of the appeal of ordering a subscription box is the experience of it. Companies like Trunk Club know that their customers could just go shopping on their own and find things they like, online or in-person. Why would they pay someone else to do it?
To counter that question, Trunk Club is highlighting the thing that is harder to get on your own: The experience of a personal stylist but without ever having to leave your couch. It’s selling the experience of a tailored and customized wardrobe, but cheaper and easier than tracking down an actual personal stylist.
Whether it’s an assortment of snacks from different locations around the world, a shipment of unique types of beer they can’t get anywhere else, or, like Trunk Club, a personalized experience comparable to shopping with a personal stylist, your customer wants a unique experience. Make sure you’re communicating what that experience is and why they should get it through you.
Subscription Box Business Tip #4: Highlight the Value
In addition to an experience they can’t get anywhere else, your customers also want to feel like they are getting their money’s worth. They don’t want to look at the value of the products they get and think, “I could have gotten this myself for the same price or cheaper.” They want to be thrilled with the perceived value of the box—both the total price of the items and the extras.
Ipsy, for example, offers a valuable service: Try smaller versions of products to see if you like them before you buy the larger versions, which is especially useful in the pricey beauty industry. Not only that but it also offers a percentage of cash back if you do decide to buy the item, and it actually also packages each month’s products in a cute bag, which it doesn’t even mention on the page (and probably should). Make sure your customers are well aware of the value you are providing.
Subscription Box Business Tip #5: Sign up/Ask for Email
Every successful website knows that you need to ask your visitors to sign up for emails, whether or not they’re going to commit to buying on their first visit. It gives you the opportunity to keep the lines of communication open and hopefully reel them back in with a future product launch, great blog, or awesome sale. Offering an incentive, like a promo code for a free box, is a great way to encourage them to sign up.
Subscription Box Business Tip #6: What Sets You Apart?
The market is flooded with subscription boxes, and everyone knows it. The days of no longer being the only subscription box in your niche are fast approaching, but that doesn’t mean the market is saturated—it means you need to narrow and define your niche.
This involves classic advice: Researching your competitors. What are subscription box companies doing in your niche, or in similar niches? Frank and Oak has taken a look at the very crowded clothing subscription box space, and found a niche for itself in the eco-friendly category—and it’s made sure to make that very clear on its website. Instead of yet another clothing subscription box, it’s an eco-friendly option, and that already sets Frank and Oak apart.
Subscription Box Business Tip #7: A Blog
Blogs aren’t strictly necessary, but you’ll notice that a lot of successful subscription boxes have them, including Blue Apron (and many of the other boxes featured in this article). Where many ecommerce companies are fighting to develop long-term relationships with their customers, a subscription box already gets you halfway there. Your customers go in wanting to be impressed and excited every time they get a box, and they are already looking for that successful long-term relationship—now it’s your turn to hold up your end.
One of the ways you can do that is by producing consistent relevant content in your niche like Blue Apron does. It does everything from featuring cooking videos to recipes, and, of course, hyping up future boxes. This keeps its website fresh, its customers engaged, and builds loyalty. What more could you ask for?
Subscription Box Business Tip #8: Returns Policy
One major obstacle in getting customers to sign up is their fear of not liking what’s in the box. And, depending on the box, it may or may not be returnable. Each box has its own rules, so make sure you communicate yours clearly from the get-go.
No matter how personalized it is, customers will always worry about what happens if they don’t like the contents. This works against you as a subscription box because they often don’t get to pick what goes inside. BarkBox has done a great job of making it clear that it will work with you if you don’t like your box, and it has a section on its landing page devoted to explaining what can be done in that scenario.
Subscription Box Business Tip #9: Features from Customers
You’re trying to do a lot with your website, including touting the benefit of your subscription box. You also want to show your appreciation to your customers who take the time to give you feedback and positive reviews, and it would be great to have content to post that you don’t have to pay a dime for. Well, you’re in luck because featuring feedback from your customers does all three of these things.
In this section of Birchbox’s landing page, it has a slideshow of happy customers with the products they received and their glowing reviews, which all highlight the positive experience of the Birchbox. Who wouldn’t want to sign up after seeing those happy faces?
Subscription Box Business Tip #10: Contact Form
Finally, this is kind of basic, but it can be done really well and is worth highlighting. You want to make sure that your customers can get in touch with you for any reason, and every basic website has a contact page. However, Loot Crate’s contact form goes above and beyond the basic template; it separates each type of inquiry right from the beginning.
This benefits both you and the visitor; they can direct themselves to exactly where they need to go, getting their questions answered faster and you have a built-in sorting mechanism for inquiries. You may not have influencers reaching out to partner with you, but you can still differentiate between contact requests for shipping issues, general questions, and returns.
A subscription-based ecommerce company can feel kind of foreign, both to first-time and experienced entrepreneurs. However, by breaking down the components of successful existing subscription box websites, you can start to piece together what makes them so successful. By emulating these strategies, you’ll be one step closer to a successful subscription box company.