If you’re reading this you’re probably wondering how to start a subscription box business.

Or, maybe you’re looking to add a subscription box offering to your existing business model – or perhaps even to assess whether or not a subscription box business is the right choice for you and your business to begin with within the diverse array of subscription business models there are to choose from.

Now, it’s time to dive in and experience the benefits of the subscription-first model yourself. This guide contains links to tons of useful resources that will make sure that no matter what subscription box ideas you have or what other subscription business models you’re interested in pursuing, you’ll know everything you need to operate successfully. 

We’ve broken this guide up into several sections, starting with an overview of some key information regarding the subscription business industry as a whole (applicable even if you’re in a niche market), and then moving on to each of the main stages you’ll go through during your subscription business, from your first days planning to well past your launch. 

As you read through each article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about key topics for subscription models, including how to combat customer churn, how to master your marketing channels, how to optimize your shipping costs, and more.

Table of contents

Click the links on the right hand side to navigate quickly through the page.

  1. Educate yourself
  2. Start planning
  3. Set up your online store, fulfillment and shipping
  4. Market and promote your box
  5. Liftoff and beyond

Step 1: Educate yourself

Before you start your own subscription business, whether you want to start a subscription box service or any other kind of subscription business model for that matter, it’s good to make sure you’re brushed up on all the basics first. 

People have been making money from online subscription business models since at least 2004, but the industry didn’t really kick off until 2012, and a lot has happened since then. While subscription boxes are still one of the most popular models, the model has been applied to dozens of other types of business too, from online content to access to services. The most successful subscription services follow a set of principles which underpin a lot of the advice we’ve shared here, which are worth reviewing early on in the process.

Now you’ve got a handle on the principles, here’s a quick crash course on subscription businesses and some general context on the industry as a whole, a perfect way to make sure you start your subscription business journey with a solid education and a ton of inspiration.

Step 2: Start planning

Now you know what’s going on, it’s time to get to work. The planning phase is a key part of building a strong foundation for success, no matter what model you’re considering among all your subscription business ideas, box or otherwise.

While many subscription businesses launch without taking enough time to get a holistic understanding of everything they need to prepare for a successful launch, those that have taken the time to make sure they’re deciding on the right subscription business model as well as validate their business idea and subscription cost have a much better chance of securing recurring revenue and rapid growth. This is the perfect time to start focusing on customer type and product selection, two of the core principles behind every successful subscription-business.

The following section will make sure you have a full picture of all the major behind-the-scenes work you need to do before you start to bring your subscription offering to life.

Step 3: Set up your online store, fulfillment and shipping

Slowly but surely, your subscription business is starting to come to life. Now, it’s time for the fun stuff.  Keeping an operational focus and creating a framework for an integrated customer journey are key here, which entails everything from choosing a subscription box platform and setting up a website that’s optimized for customer acquisition to planning logistics around customer convenience. It’s all part of the game.

Don’t forget to order a prototype box just to make sure everything looks good in person when it arrives – aesthetics and product integrity are hugely important in the subscription box industry. The more thought you put into how you set all this up, the easier it’ll be to scale once your loyal customer base starts to grow.

Here’s the lowdown on the key aspects of this particularly important stage of entering the subscription market.

Step 4: Market and promote your box

It’s almost time for liftoff, but you’re not quite there yet. Now, it’s time to start thinking about customer acquisition. As a new subscription business, there’s so much you need to take into account before you launch, particularly when it comes to two of the other principles – demonstrating sales intent and building an integrated business model (for those also offering one-time products). A lot of questions should be going through your mind at this point: 

How do you attract new customers, or, in a similar sense, make potential customers excited to start a subscription? What’s your approach to marketing and promotion – social media marketing campaigns, a unique landing page to build up your email list, a fabulous unboxing experience, or something else?

Master your marketing and champion a top-notch customer experience that keeps the human touch intact, even if your customers are thousands of miles away, and watch your customer lifetime value skyrocket.

Step 5: Liftoff and beyond

T-minus 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Liftoff! The good news is, you’ve made it. The other good news is that it’s only uphill from here. Once you’ve launched your subscription box or other subscription model, tons of other factors come into play.

At this stage, customer retention and delighting your existing customers become just as important, if not more important than attracting new customers. Soliciting customer feedback throughout every stage of the customer journey should be a given too. Tracking your metrics, from the income each subscription cycle contributing to your recurring monthly revenue to the monthly fees you’re spending on third-party plugins is also critically important, while understanding how to forecast into the future doesn’t hurt either.

We’re as excited as you for the launch of your box. Here’s everything to expect from the minute your company goes live onwards – godspeed!

TL;DR

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of our blueprint for how to start a subscription business. At this point, there’s probably a lot going through your head, so make sure to bookmark this page to refer back to alongside your notes as you progress along your newly-found entrepreneurial project. Remember – the less platforms and plugins you achieve to build your company, the easier things will be on a long-term basis. Almost every part of this guide can be achieved with Subbly, as thousands of our merchants have found over the years. We invite you to see for yourself – the first 2 weeks are on us.

By Zaki Gulamani
Сontent creator at Subbly