How To Start A Subscription Box Business: 5 Steps to Success

Looking for a novel side hustle idea that could easily turn into a full time, sustainable business?

A subscription box business could be just what you’re looking for.

Here’s how to get started:

Why subscription boxes?

Subscription boxes have really boomed in recent years. 

In the age of self care, people love having an affordable treat to look forward to each month that’s tailored specifically to their interests. 

And the best thing about subscription boxes as a business model is that they are a source of ongoing, recurring revenue.

Instead of chasing new customers every month in an endless cycle just to meet your bottom line, ideally, with a subscription box model, your customer base should grow every month as your new customers join existing customers.

It’s much easier to keep existing customers happy than recruit new customers. And if you keep them happy, they should stay customers month after month, giving you an almost-guaranteed source of income.

The recurring revenue model also means that your business is less susceptible to market ups and downs. You are less likely to lose all your income if something happens that affects new customer recruitment, such as your website going down, because your existing customers won’t be affected.

So, how to get in on this lucrative side hustle?

Step 1: Market research

First of all, you have to decide what kind of box you’re going to sell. 

Perhaps you already have some idea – after all, it makes sense to base your business around a niche that you already know and enjoy, so that you have some idea of what products are attractive.

Still, you need to do your research and don’t just go totally off your own instincts!

Look at what boxes are currently selling and what customers are searching for. Here are a couple of tips:

Keywords Everywhere

Download the Keywords Everywhere browser extension. 

When you search a term in Google, the extension will show you how many searches there are for that term each month. It will also tell suggest other related keywords. 

This can help you understand the customer demand for various types of boxes, and will also help you pick the best keywords to use in your box title and description so that customers can easily find you.

Competitor research 

Research on websites that sell subscription boxes such as Cratejoy and Not On The HighStreet. See what categories they have, how many boxes in each category and what kind of reviews they have. 

Cratejoy has even published a report on their top areas of demand, which is an interesting read.

Step 2: Prototype box

Once you’ve decided on your box, you’ll need to put together your prototype! This isn’t the first box you’ll actually sell, but more like a sample so that you can take pictures for your marketing materials, and also give you some practise in putting a box together so you can check things like box size, packaging materials and sourcing products.

The prototype box does not need to include the actual products you will include in your first ‘real’ box, but it should be an accurate representation so that your customers know what to expect and don’t feel cheated when they get their first box! 

Don’t be tempted to put in extra or more valuable products to make your prototype look more attractive. you’ll only end up with disappointed customers.

Once you’ve put together your box, take lots of high quality, well lit pictures. Use different angles such as flat lays and make sure the background is clear. 

You’ll need these pictures to sell you box!

Step 3: Set up your website and get your first customers

Now it’s time to start selling! You can set up your own website to sell your box, or you can sell it through a platform such as Cratejoy, or both. 

I would recommend starting out on a platform such as Cratejoy because they have templates and structures you can use that will save you a lot of time putting together a website in the beginning. You can also take advantage of their existing customer base and marketing efforts. 

However, in the long term it may be worth having your own, independent site so that you can sell directly to customers and avoid the fees of going through a third-party platform.

Step 4: Ongoing sourcing

Once you have some customers, you’ll need to start planning and sourcing your future boxes. You can save a lot of stress if you work several months ahead. 

When sourcing products for your boxes, always try to contact the original supplier and inquire about discounts for buying in bulk. You want to go to the original supplier rather than through any third parties, to save money. 

The suppliers you approach will of course depend on your box theme and contents. For example, if you are creating a subscription box based around regional, artisanal snacks and drinks, you’ll have to research and contact local producers. 

For mass produced products, you can often find great deals if you are willing to import from China or other countries. You can contact suppliers on the websites Alibaba and Aliexpress.

Don’t forget your packaging materials, and of course, the box itself! Companies such as XXXX can supply custom branded cardboard boxes for you.

Step 5: Market your box

Congratulations, you’ve launched your first box and lined up some supplies! Nwo you need to find some new customers.

There are endless ways to market your box, but here are some ideas to start with:

  • Set up social media accounts for your box (Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter)
  • Pinterest (this is a visual search engine and also considered by some to be a form of social media. Can be very powerful to get lots of eyes on your images fast)
  • Send sample boxes to bloggers, influencers and journalists and request a review or mention
  • Set up an affiliate and/or referral program to reward other people for promoting your box
  • Write guest posts for blogs and publications related to your niche. Promote your box in your author bio.
  • Promote in niche forums, Facebook groups and subreddits (only if appropriate and allowed by admin – careful not to spam!)
  • Print physical flyers and/or business cards to hand out
  • Create a website and blog, and work on SEO (search engine optimisation) to get found in search results

There you have it – your first subscription box in five steps! Of course, like any business this can take a lot of work and research upfront, but the recurring commission makes this a very attractive business model. And it can be a lot of fun sourcing and reseraching fun products in your niche, too!

Good luck with your subscription box or your side hustles of choice!


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