Product Idea Series: Subscription Boxes
If you’re like me, you’ve seen countless ads on Facebook for Subscription Boxes. I see them all the time for kids products – educational toy boxes, for example. I also see them for bath and beauty products. There are coffee boxes. Basically, any niche you have, you can put together a monthly subscription box out of it.
How hard could it be to put Subscription Boxes together, I wondered?
I decided to try to find out. I thought that doing a Tudor box would be a fun thing, and my audience would dig it. The first thing I did was figure out what kinds of products I would include. My ideal client is an avid reader, so I knew that every box would include a book. They are also generally Americans who are Anglo-Philes, so I thought I would include things like teas, biscuits, and fun things like that. Also, because they’re women, I thought that they would like jewelry and bath products.
With my ideas in hand, I made a mockup box. I had a gorgeous box from a gift sitting around, and I filled it with sample products, and took some photos.
Now that I had my product idea, and some ideas for what I would include, I needed to figure out actually doing it.
There is a company called CrateJoy that specializes in being a platform for subscription boxes. They also provide a ton of great free resources if you’re starting a subscription business.
The thing was, my shop is on Shopify, and I really didn’t want to have two platforms for dealing with orders. So I found a few apps in Shopify that will handle recurring orders (linked to a Stripe account). I am currently using Recurring Orders from Bold. Most of these apps are for products that people want to Subscribe and Save with (ie you sell vitamins or coffee or something that people buy regularly, and you want to offer a subscription plan).
But with a little workaround using their instructions (and top notch customer service), I could work it to handle my box plan, and also make sure that I had an offer where if people paid for a year up front, they got three months free, which I wanted to do to encourage full year signups. It took me about ten hours total to figure out how to set up the Subscription Box app with the year discount. More than I had planned for, but it beat going to a new platform.
Next, I had to figure out fulfillment. I am based in Spain, and I can’t ship the boxes out from here. So I have a friend who does a lot of eBay and Amazon selling handling it for me. I’m paying him per box, and just sending the products for the boxes to him – he’ll wrap them up and send them out for me.
The final part was sourcing products for my Subscription Boxes. Because I knew that each box would include a book, I contacted some author friends of mine to see if they could give me a discount on their books. They were all agreeable, wanting to get their books out to more people. I also started contacting some publishers, telling them what I’m doing, so they can consider my boxes for galley copies of new books that come out.
Other ideas for sourcing products would be to find people on etsy who are doing products in your niche, and contact them to see if they can do a bulk order for you at a discount. Find other websites that sell products similar to what you want to include in your box, and then write to those products directly (not the website – they won’t be able to give you much of a discount – you want to work directly with the manufacturer). There are also all the normal places like AliExpress to find inexpensive products to include.
Next up: Packing materials and boxes. I don’t have a branded box yet, though I’m definitely going to check that out as I get bigger. I think in three months I’ll have a stable number of subscribers, and I can work on getting an order of branded boxes together. For now, I’m just using lovely gift boxes with stickers.
In terms of marketing, I’m announcing it on my podcast, and I put up Facebook ads. In the first two weeks I’ve sold nearly 40 boxes, which I’ll fulfill in late February. I’m speaking at an online event in my niche in a month, and have another affiliate marketing the boxes for me, so I think I should be able to get to 100 boxes soon enough. For the first two weeks, I’m very proud of where I’m at!
I’ll keep updating where I’m at, and the pitfalls I run into which I may not be expecting now! In the meantime, you can check out my box setup at www.TreasuresFromBess.com.