Which Subscription Box Platform Should You Choose?Nov 07, 2021
What’s one of the first things you need to do when starting a subscription box business?
Here’s a hint. It’s not designing a custom box or planning the party you’ll throw when you reach 1000 subscribers.
Y’all, those things are fun to plan and think about. But when you’re just getting started, one of the most important decisions you need to make is which platform you’ll use to house your subscription boxes.
When you choose a platform, you need to think about what you need right now and what you’ll need long term. Starting on one platform and then switching to another is complicated. And messy. And sometimes expensive. It’s better to take the time to choose a platform that can grow with you.
Keep in mind the complexity of your subscription box business. Does your subscription have variables? Things like size or color. You need to make sure to choose a platform that allows for that.
Check to see if the platform you choose allows you to select the draft date. And if you offer - or want to offer - local pickup, make sure your platform allows for that.
There are so many add-ons, plugins, and specially designed platforms you can choose from. I’m going to walk you through what I consider the top four you should consider.
1 - Wordpress with WooCommerce Subscription
This is what I use to manage my subscriptions. It works well for all I need it to do and honestly, it meets all my business’s needs.
When new subscription box entrepreneurs are looking for a platform, the cost of WooCommerce often trips them up. There is a $199 annual fee. So yes, there is an upfront investment. However, there are no monthly fees or percentage of sales charges.
My favorite thing about WooCommerce Subscriptions is how many options it gives me. I am able to easily make changes for my customers. I have the ability to do more, have more options, and make changes than on any of the Shopify apps. When you need to capture sizes and monograms and when you offer various subscription levels like I do, having those options is a must!
WooCommerce makes it easy to update payment dates, upgrade subscriptions, and add-on products.
We talk a lot about providing subscribers with an experience when they receive their boxes. It’s also important to give them a great experience when it comes to managing their subscriptions. WooCommerce removes barriers for subscribers. It’s easy for my team to make changes for my subscribers. They don’t have to get into the back-end and try to make changes themselves.
We have a Wordpress WooCommerce Subscriptions guru inside Launch Your Box. Christine Jerry is a frequent guest on our monthly Tech Talk trainings. She has a Wordpress website building course that many Launch Your Box members have taken. If you decide WooCommerce Subscriptions is the right choice for your subscription business, check out Christine’s course. You’ll be glad you did!
2 - Shopify
A Shopify subscription app is a great option, especially if you already have a Shopify store. You simply need to add one of the subscription apps to your existing setup.
Shopify makes it very easy to integrate their subscription apps into existing Shopify stores.
The top three Shopify subscription apps are:
Make sure you do your research when choosing an app. Each has a different cost structure and different features. I talk about which Shopify App is right for your subscription box business in this blog post.
Some things to keep in mind. If you have or will have a lot of local subscribers, choose carefully. Some Shopify apps make it very difficult to process local pickups.
If you’re just getting started and don’t yet have a website, Shopify is a great option to consider. It is the easiest platform to build a website on.
And yet again, inside Launch Your Box, we have a resident expert to help! Nicole Jenney has a self-paced Shopify course that walks you through setting up your site step-by-step. Nicole is much loved and admired inside Launch Your Box for providing clear instructions and fantastic support.
3 - Subbly
Subbly is a stand-alone platform specifically designed for subscription box businesses. It allows you to build your shop right on the Subbly platform.
Because it is dedicated to serving subscription box business owners, Subbly is constantly upgrading and improving the platform.
Subbly offers true “one stop shopping.” If you want to use WooCommerce Subscriptions, you need to have a Wordpress site plus WooCommerce plus WooCommerce Subscriptions. If you want to use Shopify, you need a Shopify website plus one of the subscription apps. With Subbly, you only need Subbly.
Subbly also allows you to set up your website and sell other products. They are dedicated to making managing your subscription boxes easy which is why so many Launch Your Box members love it. They talk about how simple it is to use and how open the company is to feedback, constantly upgrading and improving the service they provide.
It’s important to know that choosing Subbly means paying monthly fees and transaction fees. Do your research and get a good understanding of what you’ll be paying and what makes the most sense for your subscription box business. Make sure you account for transaction fees as an expense when calculating your profit margin!
4 - Cratejoy
When I talk about Cratejoy, I always end up referring to it as “Etsy for subscription boxes.” That’s simply the best and easiest way to understand what Cratejoy offers you as a subscription box owner.
Much like Etsy, Cratejoy is a marketplace. Your subscription box will be offered on Cratejoy along with thousands of others. To me, that is the biggest drawback. If you have a subscription box on Cratejoy and you send a potential subscriber there, they may get distracted by all the other subscription boxes on Cratejoy. They may even become someone else’s new subscriber instead of yours.
There is a loss of identity for your brand and your box as well. Just like people most often say, “I got this on Etsy,” rather than naming the maker’s store, a subscriber will think, “I got this subscription on Cratejoy,” rather than identifying with your business name or brand.
Cratejoy does have advantages, especially if start-up costs are a big concern. There costs to set up a Cratejoy shop are very minimal and there are no costs until you sell.
Cratejoy, like Subbly, is made specifically for subscription boxes. It is very intuitive and allows you to set variables for your subscriptions.
Consider Cratejoy if you don’t have the time or money to build your own website or hire someone to do it for you. It’s a great place to start, but realize you may need to move to another platform as you grow.
I set up a Cratejoy shop with one of my subscriptions to get a feel for how it works. Find out my results in this blog post.
These four platforms are not the only choices you have. As you can see, when I asked a group of my Launch Your Box members what platform they’re using for their subscription box businesses, other options appeared. The results:
- Shopify - 101 votes
- Wordpress/WooCommerce - 38 votes
- Cratejoy -12 votes
- Squarespace - 11 votes
- Subbly - 8 votes
- Wix - 6 votes
- Squareup/Weebly - 4 votes
So why didn’t I recommend some of these other platforms? It’s simple really. They weren’t built for subscription box businesses. This means they’ll always be behind the game when it comes to subscriptions.
If Squarespace or Wix or Weebly is the platform you are on, it’s fine to figure out what plug-ins, apps, or add-ons you need to make it work.
My experience has shown me that subscription box owners who start out on one of these other platforms end up moving when they grow and find their platform no longer works.
That’s why, if you’re just getting started, I encourage you to choose a platform that not only works for you right now, but will continue to work for you and support your business as you grow.
Learn from me:
- Subscription Box Blueprint eBook: This $10 ebook covers logistics from product selection to packaging to shipping. Plus a 90-day launch plan and bonus ‘Instant Scripts’ for your social media.
- Launch Your Box: My complete training program walks you step by step through how to start, launch, and grow your subscription box business.
- Launch Your Box Podcast: I share tons of practical tips and strategies to help you start, launch, and grow your subscription box business. You’ll also hear from industry experts and current Launch Your Box members who are crushing it - get ready to get inspired!
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