July 27, 2017

How to Start a Subscription Business in 10 Easy Steps


How to Start a Subscription Business in 10 Easy Steps

Subscription boxes can be a great way for ecommerce and retail businesses to gain regular customers and expand offerings to fit customers’ changing shopping habits. It can also help businesses that are simply looking to boost sales or move excess stock. If your business is one that’s considering starting a subscription box, check out the tips below.

How to Start a Subscription Business

Come Up with a Unique Niche

There are already tons of subscription boxes out there, including those for snacks, makeup, clothing, sporting goods and more. So if you’re starting a subscription service, you need to have something that makes yours stand out.

That doesn’t mean you can’t sell food or makeup. But you should stick with whatever niche helps you differentiate the rest of your products. For example, maybe you could launch a subscription box that’s just for all natural skincare products, instead of one that’s just for beauty products in general.

Source Products

From there, you need to source the actual products to include in your boxes. If you already source products for an ecommerce or retail store, then you can explore using those same suppliers. But you’ll want to make sure you can find products that are going to be both cost and space effective so you can easily include them in a monthly box with an assortment of products. For example, you might consider sourcing sample sized products of the full sized ones you carry in your stores.

Source Shipping Materials

For a subscription box, you also need to carefully consider the actual box and shipping materials. Consider the box, packing supplies and labels. And you’ll also want to make sure that you’ll be able to get those supplies in bulk to fulfill all of your orders each month.



Set Your Price

Each subscription box should also have a set price for each month. And you should establish that price point early in the process so you’ll have a budget for your products and shipping materials. Just make sure that the price is reasonable enough so your customers won’t have a problem paying it regularly, but high enough to cover your expenses and bring in enough extra to make the process worthwhile.

Design Your Boxes

When you’ve got the general idea about your products and shipping materials, you need to actually design the box. This doesn’t just mean decorating the outside of the box, though having a unique look to your shipments can be a nice touch. You’ll also want to consider the actual unboxing experience. So create a prototype using your sample products and shipping materials to ensure that everything fits, ships safely and creates a great experience for your customers when they receive their order.

Find the Best Shipping Rate

Shipping costs can also be a major factor for subscription businesses. So take it seriously and shop around to get the best rate. In some cases, you may be able to get a bulk discount if you’re shipping all of these packages regularly. But make sure your choice makes the most sense based on the size and weight of packages and on how quickly your customers expect to receive their orders.

Plan Your Fulfillment Process

The actual process for fulfillment is another important step. Consider whether it makes the most sense for you to pack and ship orders in house or if you should hire a fulfillment service to do some of the work for you. If you have just a few subscribers, for instance, it might be possible just to put together all of the boxes yourself. But if you are growing quickly and want to ensure a seamless experience for all your subscribers, then shop around for a fulfillment service that can help you.

Find Places to Sell Your Boxes

Of course, no subscription box can succeed if customers don’t have an easy way to sign up. Of course, you can do this on your own website. But to expand your customer base and get your subscription box in front of more eyes, you can also list it on marketplace sites like Cratejoy.

Build Buzz

Then, you need to build some buzz around your new offering to get people excited about signing up. Collect email addresses, post on social media and maybe even invest in some online advertising. You can also do a pre-launch where you offer an early version of your box to loyal customers and influencers to get even more people talking about your new offering.

Launch Your Subscription

Once you’ve done all of that, it’s time to officially launch your new subscription box. Of course, you’ll need to continue marketing and building buzz even after you launch. And consistently providing great products and a memorable customer experience can go a long way toward ensuring long relationships with subscribers.

Subscription Box Photo via Shutterstock

6 Comments ▼
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Annie Pilon - Staff Writer


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found on her personal blog Wattlebird, and exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

6 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    I have seen this around. It is very popular among people who love to review products on a regular basis.

  2. So you are talking about subscription boxes and not online subscriptions. I was misled somehow.

  3. I think that the niche is important. It should be something where people are buying on a continuous basis.

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