If you’re looking to add a new revenue stream to your product business, pivot your existing business, or launch a new business, let’s talk about about subscription boxes and whether one might be right for you.
First up, a few key points that you need to take into account no matter what you sell…
1. Meet your Customers where they’re at
What are they looking for from your type of product?
- Is it a regular treat?
- Is it an easy way to have what they need / want delivered?
- Is it a way to send some love / a thoughtful gift to someone else?
- A mixture of all of these?
Keep your customer’s desires in mind when you brainstorm what your box might be like.
2. Think about frequency
Also ask yourself, how frequently would they want that box?
Some products will suit a monthly subscription box, others might be better every 2nd month or quarterly (and you can always set up the technology to offer multiple options if you want.)
Start by thinking about what your key customers would like (and what you’d like to create) and take it from there.
3. Create a box of joy
The difference between a subscription box and an order from an online store should involve a bit of curation and a bit of theatre.
The appeal of a subscription box for your customers is often ease, surprise, and being treated (or treating someone else). You can offer to tell people what they’ll expect in their box, you can give them the option to know, or keep the exact contents a complete surprise.
Your guiding principal, whatever you put in your box and how it looks, should be to create the spark of joy and excitement when it arrives & they open it up.
4. You can collaborate
If you’re looking at what you currently offer and think it won’t sustain a subscription box, keep in mind you can always bring in additional products or collaborate. This could be sourcing a supplier you’ll use month after month, or you can work with different suppliers.
5. Remember your margins
This one goes both ways – remember your margins, i.e., stay profitable.
But also, if you have an existing business, remember the margins of direct-to-customer. If you currently sell wholesale, when you’re sell direct, you’ll have greater margins to play with. So your £35 value product could be in a £25 subscription box and it still make sense for you.
6. Maybe add in, maybe pivot
A subscription box could become a key earning part of your business; it could be something you decide to focus on entirely, it could be something you run alongside an existing business (I can show you how to do this in a lean & time efficient way).
It could also be something you decide to trial and review later.
7. There’s always gifting
If you look at this and decide a subscription box is not for you, do make sure you’re set up for gifting.
That might be creating gift boxes, offering gift wrap, the ability to add a card or gift vouchers… more people are looking for gifts to be sent directly from you to the recipient, so make it easy for them.
Alright, back to subscription boxes and let’s jump into some examples.
Here’s 14 Different Product Types That Work Well For Subscription Boxes (& 3 That Don’t)
– Skincare products
Think about how frequently your customer will use the products, how you could offer different products each box, or offer a ‘repeat buy’ subscription if they regularly buy the same items – with a little extra treat in the box.
If you sell or want to offer smaller homewares, could you curate a new box each month or quarter, with one key item and supporting elements? Think around the seasons, colour trends and how your customer will be spending their time…
This could be a key one for Nana’s wanting to treat their grandkids to a wee something regularly. Could you curate a box around the seasons, and offer handwritten notes from the gift buyer each time?
Those who love stationery, love stationery! Curate packages of cards, or other stationery – notebooks, pens, sticky pads…
Food’s an excellent one for subscription boxes – it’s something you consume, so your customers are always looking for more, and with many amazing smaller brands that people can’t find in their local supermarket, you can curate an experience for them month after month.
I’m a little biased here (I founded and ran a successful craft subscription box, before selling it in 2023), but crafts can be wonderful for subscription boxes. I’ve never met a crafter who doesn’t love starting new projects, and the happiness your customers will get from creating with the materials / kit you send them is a key way to spread creative joy.
Similarly, if you’re teaching workshops online, a subscription box might make sense to add to your workshop offer. Are there materials you would have provided in person that could be sent in a box? This could be for a recurring subscription model, or it could be a one-off postal purchase (with incentive if they sign up for a monthly workshop with you).
– Candles / Aromatherapy / Home scents
A little like food, for those that love their home scents, you always need more candles (that’s what I tell my husband!) A curated box of different candles/scents and home comfort treats can work very well with a subscription model.
– Pet / bird food
People love to treat their pets and feathered friends! If you already supply in these areas, you may find your customers are definitely ready for a monthly curated treat for the animals they care for too.
– Gardening supplies
We spend a lot more time in our gardens. For those developing – or who already have – green fingers, a subscription box can support them with seasonal tips, seeds, tools and ideas to make their little patch of green a haven.
Books are an excellent choice for subscription boxes too – easy to curate around a theme (the topic of the book informs other items in the box), or to introduce new authors to readers who love a certain genre.
If your price points work, jewellery is a beautiful way to gift or treat someone through a subscription box. Vary the box up so you offer different elements in each one, make it easy for people to gift on, and consider the frequency that makes sense with your range (e.g., bi-monthly or quarterly).
– Printed T-shirts, graphics, posters and gifts
There has been a recent increase in sales of motivational prints and printed clothing / giftware. For those that love motivational messages, how could you delight your customers each month, and offer a variety of items across the different boxes?
– Gifting / Self Care Shops
If you’re a bricks and mortar shop, you probably have access to stock / suppliers to create a box that involves a number of the different elements above. Think about what your shop is specifically known for, and how you can create a niche that will resonate with your customers. Check with your suppliers too, in case they have exclusivity with another subscription box.
Where subscription boxes don’t work…
– One-off purchases
If you only sell sofas, or wallpaper, or cars – things that people only buy rarely / once a decade – and have no intention to pivot to something else – subscription boxes are not for you.
– High value items
Similarly, most monthly subscription boxes in the UK are under £35. There are some that go higher than that, usually quarterly boxes, but it’s pretty rare.
Not to say it’s impossible, but always research what your audience want / will pay.
– You sell one thing
You’re amazing at creating designer backpacks / beeswax wraps / penguin-shaped vases, but that’s firmly your niche. In which case, subscriptions might be tricky to maintain, but you can always set up gifting, or look at collaborating on a box with an existing subscription box.
So… getting excited about how these could work for you? Got a tonne of questions?
If you’re still wondering if it’s right for you, I created a free masterclass for you, ‘Should you Start a Subscription Box?’. You can watch it right now.
Or, if you’re already keen to go ahead, you might prefer my other free masterclass, ‘8 Key Elements to Create a $100,000+ Subscription Box Business‘. In it, I talk about:
- What a £100,000 subscription box business looks like – both the subscriber numbers needed, and the logistics.
- The 8 Key Elements to create a successful subscription box business – we’ll dive into much more detail on these.
- PLUS – the one key shift in thinking that may totally change how you consider your growth strategy.