How to Start a Subscription Box Service in 2018

Whether you are an SMB owner, who is willing to expand products and/or services into subscription services or an entrepreneurial-minded person who is thinking about starting your very own monthly subscription box and doing business out of it – you need to know and understand the industry trends.

Investing without clear understanding may lead to massive loss of time and money and that is why we are here to assist and won’t let your valuable assets drain like this.

Here’s the blueprint to build a profitable Subscription Box Business model.

1. What to offer?

There are a lot of subscription box ideas available on the internet. However, picking up any random category won’t take you far!
Select your model by your interest (that is what you will love to do if money-making is not the motive).

For example: If you are passionate about being fit and have in-depth knowledge of all the workout plans, exercises, protein products, and special meals, etc., you can certainly think of creating a subscription business box around it.

On the other hand, if you are an SMB owner, either it is about customizing your existing product(s) or service(s) so that they best fit for subscription services, or it is about thinking of the right product or service idea for your subscription business?

It is always about AB testing – whether A works better or B Think logically and experiments as much you can. Only picking up the right product will result in better returns and long-term customer commitments.

2. Select a Niche

So you have decided your product/service category. Now it’s the right time to narrow it down to a subcategory or a specific niche.
You might be thinking why? If we search for fitness subscription boxes on Google, we will find tons of websites offering a similar product. You certainly don’t want to be like one of them and rather, start something which is unique and out of the box, right?

So the point to find out and know is, “What makes your product different from others, and how do that uniqueness and those features define the value of your subscription box service?”

Find out whether there’s still a chance to stand out in the crowd – taking the example of the fitness box itself, what if you be with your subscriber throughout the fitness journey?

Meaning, you send more personalized boxes – if a particular subscriber has started with you on weight 200 lbs and by the second month, has reached to 180 lbs, congratulate and change the diet, supplements, shakes, regime, etc. in the box that you send in the second month.

Takeaway: Personalization is one of the biggest keys to be unique and endearing to your subscribers

3. Define Buyer Personas

From the above two steps, you will get a rough idea as to what type of people would subscribe your box. That brings us to the next phase – defining the exact target audience. Give as much importance to choosing your perfect potential customer as you did to selecting your product. If you are an enterprise owner, then you might have an existing customer base. That means you have already a predefined target audience.

It’s time to conduct a one on one interaction with your customers. Figure out, what type of people are using your product? What are their goals? What are their challenges? Is your product fully capable of adding value to their life? Take their feedbacks.

Create an overall buyer persona (customer profile) by writing down all the similar patterns (most of the people may face common challenges and that’s why they bought or will buy your product.).

Now have a well-defined customer data.

To develop a profitable subscription-based business, you first need to figure out all the problems your existing customers are experiencing. Then determine whether your product can solve them and encourage them for a monthly, quarterly or a yearly subscription. Look for what is the specific need of subscribers that is still missing in the industry?

Ask friends and family, and consider using online services to host surveys. Jot down all the essential factors and create a precise profile of potential customers.

4. Competitive Analysis (Be like James Bond)

The presence of competitors isn’t necessarily a disappointment. It may be illustrating that you’ve found a profitable niche. A competitor analysis is an essential phase of creating a robust subscription business model. With this evaluation, you can determine what makes your subscription service unique.

Run an in-depth Analysis: Who are your competitors? What makes their subscription box services unique? What potential opportunities do they create that are also available for you?

Identify your exact competitors and evaluate their strategies to determine their pros and cons relative to those of your product or service.

5. Your Product (Think inside the box)

After understanding your potential customers and existing competitors, you need to make a difference by adding more value to your product.  From box design, no. of products, combinations, personalization to packing – zero in on everything.

Takeaway: Keep it simple, but impressive – do not overdo still, think it that way – how would you have liked it if you would have opened a box like that? Surprising and overwhelming enough? Yes? Then bang-on! You’ve done it right!

Also, the pricing of your subscription box is a critical factor: If you set the rate too low, it might get underrated. If you set the price higher than the market price, then your potential customer may not purchase. What if we overcome this issue?

Let’s do it!

Do you know why customers like to buy premium stuff from Apple and Starbucks?
What makes them so much more profitable than their competitors?

The answer is “experience.”
We have become a society of consumers, who will love to pay extra if we are made to feel special. Well, again, personalization is the key! Remember your name simply handwritten on your favorite Starbucks coffee cup?

Personalize, assemble and customize your subscription box service in such a way that each of your subscribers feels that you’ve taken all this pain particularly for them and that’s just the perfect fit for them.

The best way to overcome pricing issues – “Sell Experiences, not Products.”

At last but not the least, don’t forget about the product safety. If someone receives a faulty product, it crashes down your market value and brand reputation. Make sure you solve customer issues on priority.

6. Building a Subscription Box Website

Your business is unique so it requires a unique presence on the web – a service page or landing page where you can list your box details, services (product and offers). After all, this is going to be your storefront. Just like you would have thought about the architecture and interiors of your physical store, think the same way for your website too.

The ultimate goal to build a subscription-based website is to define an online place where your potential customer may visit, browse the catalog and then shop.

Now, you know might be wondering – where to set up your webpage. Here is the list of best eCommerce platforms for a subscription-based business:

  • Cratejoy Development service
  • Shopify Subscription
  • Magento
  • WordPress Subscription Box
  • Subbly

For a general idea: Some choose CrateJoy over others while some set up their subscription box service website on WordPress. There is no need to follow anyone blindly. Choose the appropriate platform as per your need and pocket size, or you can also consult an expert.

There are a few proactive Subscription Box website design and development Companies, who are making it easy for anyone to launch your own subscription business.

7. Be an Early Bird (Pre-Launch Marketing)

Now that you have a crystal clear idea of how to and where to start, it’s now the right time to be active on the social media platforms that your target audience uses in their everyday life.

Start portraying your skills by highlighting what makes your box special – about 2 months before you hard-launch.

Setup your social media channels for your subscription brand and start engaging with your target users, collect their feedback and work on that feedback to give the last finishing touch to your box. Once you’ve gained the interest of your target audience, the next phase to convert some of them into leads by gathering their contact information. At the very least, you’ll need their email IDs.

For your visitors to offer up that email addresses, willingly, you’ll need to present them something valuable in return.

Conduct surveys, run contests, declare and pamper winners, offer free limited edition small box or gift cards, take early subscribers by taking your users to your website for subscriptions, offer early bird discounts, and so on. These will encourage the users and keep them excited about your upcoming launch. And will also help you grow your email list, your social accounts followers.

Quick Tips:

Pay attention to those social media sites that your target audience use the most in their everyday life. The objective is to create a strong presence at the right location and right moment.

Grow an active list of email Ids, subscribers before starting the launch or pre-sales process.

The open rate of mail campaign is less than 10%. If you email-market your product to 1000 people – only 100 of them will open your mail and just a few of them will be interested in subscribing your package. Be patient and focus on growing the email list and social media subscribers.

Once you acquire a decent database of email ids and build up your social media presence, start pushing your product through email campaigns.

In case you struggle with getting the attention of users, in the beginning, there are some market experts – some specialized subscription box marketing companies that can boost your early subscriber numbers. From spreading the quick word-of-mouth, running converting social media campaigns to actively influencing subscribers for your product, make sure you choose the right marketing partner.

8. Shipping

Shipping can create or crash your business reputation in many ways. If you select an inappropriate shipping partner, your customers may suffer from a miserable experience. So if you do not organize your shipping system, then you could end up in an unprofitable situation.

From the beginning, customer experience is in your control. For initiating a better user experience beforehand, you can adjust the online ads, modify images, optimize the landing page(s), and end customized emails.

However, once your subscription box leaves your side to be sent to the customer, you have now handed over your brand image to the hands of a stranger.

That concludes you should to choose a verified and trusted shipping company. Offer your customers full transparency by giving proper product tracking options, return policies, etc.

These days, offering your buyers free shipping is becoming an increasingly popular choice and has shown a lot of potential in improving the product sales. However, as you might feel, shipping is never free.

Someone always has to pay the price.

In this case, you can either consider including the shipping cost in the box cost or altogether, understanding your audience, analyze whether you should separately charge shipping or not. Additionally, you can also try offering free shipping on a minimum order amount.


Starting a subscription box service is a marathon run and not a 100m race. It is not a one-day effort. You have to work on it every single day despite of not seeing results instantly. But once it makes progress up to a certain phase, you can just sit back and watch your business grow.

Infographic – Start a Subscription box Service

The Ultimate Guide to Start a Subscription Box Service

Need help with the idea, brand image, technology or marketing consulting of your subscription or eCommerce business? Just drop us a line at and we will get back to you in no time. We, at MySubscriptionBusiness are your go to subscription business experts that have helped more than 70 subscription businesses gain popularity and run profitably.

Share on:

Umang Suneja is Co-founder of My Subscription Business. He is best subscription-business consultant. He is also tech enthusiast, design lover, creative thinker, full-stack developer.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your details, and tell
us a little about your project
in the form below.