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9 Steps to Launch a Subscription Box Service in 2019

A subscription box service is an expanding trend that caters to that love, and has the potential to capitalize on it.  It is no secret that people love getting packages, right?

A subscription box is a recurring delivery of a niche product, packaged in a way that offers subscribers a unique experience. Boxes tend to be themed, and are often packaged in a way so that the unboxing experience is as much a part of the product as the curated items themselves. The subscription box is a popular ecommerce model, and can be a lot of fun to put together. 

Thinking about starting a subscription box of your own? Here’s how to get started:

1.) Start with a Great Idea

We shouldn’t have to say it, but a great idea is key to a successful subscription box service business. When brainstorming for your idea, you will need to think about your niche, your competition, and your customers. Narrow, highly specific niches work really well for subscription boxes. 

Not quite sure what direction to go? Here are some popular ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • International snacks
  • A date night in a box
  • Book themed boxes (even better if you pick a specific genre)
  • Wine and chocolate
  • Makeup and/or skincare
You get the picture.

Chances are, if you can think it, there is probably a subscription box service for it. And that’s okay! You don’t need to think up a brand-new idea, for it to be great. All you need to do is put a unique spin on an old idea. Consider the niches that interest you, and ask yourself: 

  • “What hole within this niche isn’t being filled?” 
  • “What are my competitors selling, and how can I do it differently?” 
  • “If I were buying a box, what would I want? What would I be interested in?” 

2) Figure Out Where/How You Will Sell Your Box

There are a lot of options for how you will put your box on the market. You could sell from your own website or from an ecommerce platform like Shopify. You can also sell from a subscription box marketplace like CrateJoy.

CrateJoy is like Etsy for subscription box services. It is a great option for selling subscription boxes because of its built-in audience, which makes it easier to market and sell your boxes. The main downside to CrateJoy is its transaction fees. CrateJoy takes a 10% cut of each sale on top of a payment processing fee for using Stripe or PayPal. 

3) Decide How You Will Source Your Products

Once you’ve chosen a great idea and defined what it will look like, you will need to decide how you will source the products in your box. There are a lot of different options for this, and some work better for particular niches.

For example, some subscription box service sellers purchase items for their boxes. This is a fairly common route, and will often be your best bet starting out, since scoring free samples can be difficult for brand-new boxes. If you decide to purchase items, you will need to work this into your pricing to make sure you are still making a profit.

Many other subscription box service sellers get free samples (or even full size products) from brands to include in their boxes. This is great for you because it means that your upfront costs will be significantly less, and it is great for brands because it can be a good avenue for marketing their products. Taking this route works best if you already have a large number of people subscribed before you launch your box, but it is still possible to use this method without a large subscriber base. The trick is that you need to be able to convince brands that you can provide them with value.

The third option is filling your boxes with your own products. This works best if you already have a business (or side hustle), that is selling products, but even if you don’t you can still make it work with some creativity.

4) Price Your Box 

There are several things you need to consider when pricing your subscription box service. First, you will want to think about how you’ve decided to source your items, and know the associated costs. You will also want to factor in the boxes themselves, shipping, packaging materials, any inserts or other “extras” you may want to include, and transaction/platform fees. Only when you have accounted for all of these factors will you be able to accurately price your box. You need to make sure that your subscription box costs enough that you are making a profit, but not so much that your prices are turning potential customers away.

5) Design a Logo and Other Branding Materials

Logos are a great way to inexpensively brand your subscription box service e. Logo stickers, for example, can be placed on each box itself. Logos can also go on inserts, business cards, and be used online. You can design a logo yourself using design software like Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, or free online software like Gimp or Canva. You can also search on Fiverr to find an affordable designer to create a logo for you. Other things that can help define your brand include consistent color and font choices across all your promo materials, a consistent voice on your social media channels and/or website, and a cohesive, well-thought out “feel” to your box’s packaging.

6) Create a Prototype Box

Creating a prototype subscription box is extremely important because it will help you get your marketing rolling and help you determine how much your boxes will generally cost. It is also great practice for when you launch your subscription box. Prototypes can even help you to bring in subscribers during your pre-launch phase.

You will want to take pictures of your prototype to use with your promo materials. Make sure you get pictures of the closed box, as well as photos of it in various stages of unboxing, since this experience will be very important to potential subscribers. 

CrateJoy provides free sample boxes, and a low-cost box program that can be helpful when creating your prototype(s).

7) Set-up and Execute a Pre-launch Campaign

The goal of a pre-launch campaign is to help you gather subscribers before you’ve even shipped your first subscription box. A good pre-launch campaign is critical to success in the subscription box business because it helps offset start up costs. It will also help you test drive your idea and  see if it is something that people would actually be interested in buying. 

If you’ve decided to go with CrateJoy as a platform to sell your boxes, setting up and executing a prelaunch campaign is simple. CrateJoy has a prelaunch option that allows you to set up a prelaunch website for the purpose of building an email list. The idea is that your email list will be full of people who you will eventually be able to convert into paying subscribers.

8) Create a Website

If you are using a platform like CrateJoy, your website will already, for the most part, be figured out. Regardless of whether you choose to use a pre-provided website, or one of your own (WordPress is great for this), however, you will still need to customize it, and populate it with content. Setting up your website is an important part of branding because it is the first impression that many customers will have of you. Use the logo, colors, and fonts you selected earlier, as well as photos of your prototype box. Your website should include an About section and a Contact section, as well as a section describing your box and stating pricing details. Having a blog on your website can also be great for marketing. Don’t be afraid to be personable and tell potential customers your story (both yours and your brand’s). Authenticity is incredibly important, and will help win you more subscribers.

9) Market Your Box

Even if you use a platform with a built-in audience, marketing will still be an important factor in the success of your business.

When working out a marketing plan, the first thing you will need to decide on is budget. Can you afford to spend money on marketing materials and paid ads? How much? What are your priorities. Spend time researching what others have done in your niche, and try mimicking their process.

Some marketing ideas to consider include:

  • Your social media presence (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.)
  • Paid ads (on Google, niche blogs, or social media)
  • Setting up an affiliate program
  • Leveraging Influencers
  • Paper marketing tools (flyers, business cards, brochures, etc.)
  • Email marketing

Marketing yourself and your subscription box service business may not be your favorite activity, but it will be incredibly important. After all, just because you’ve built it, doesn’t mean they’ll come. People have to hear about your product (sometimes several times) to want it.

Conclusion

Starting a subscription box side hustle may not be the easiest way to bring in extra income, but it can certainly be a fun way to spend your time. Putting together subscription boxes is a creative process, and involves creating a unique experience for your subscribers. If you enjoy shopping, searching for new products, thinking up fun themes and packaging ideas, then starting up a subscription box service may be a great choice for you.

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