When looking for the best possible solution for setting up and running a subscription business that involves physical product delivery (especially subscription boxes), we guarantee two names will come up over and over that appear to be head-to-head competitors: Subbly and Cratejoy.
It isn’t hard to see why: both came on the scene around the same time, both got their start supporting subscription boxes, both have enjoyed a big growth spurt during the rise of subscription business models, and both even have their own training programs and online communities.
Sometimes, the two are even used together. But looking closer, it's clear that both chose very different paths – especially when it comes to pricing and transparency for those looking to switch to the other side.
One thing to make clear is that Subbly is an all-in-one subscription-first platform while Cratejoy is a marketplace-first platform which also has some platform capabilities.
Customizable checkouts & subscriptions
Collect information from your customers, allow them to pick their products, and even to customize their subscriptions
Automate marketing, management and operations, and run complex business models with no code
support, available 24/7
Get the help you need from our excellent support team
As a small and bootstrapped business, we know the pain of being in the trenches trying to lift your idea off the ground. This is why we invested time and resources into our world-class customer service.
Being a merchant on Subbly, you not only get 24/7 chat support and the ability to talk to real people in real time who will answer your questions and help with setting up, but you will also be able to directly influence Subbly's development by suggesting and submitting new feature requests on the public board.
Subbly provides a turnkey solution for anyone with a vision who would rather take their own route than be constrained by the limitations of a barebones platform — that’s before you even take into account constantly increasing fees and difficulty in taking your data off the platform.
Other advantages, like
, truly take customization to the next level, giving Subbly a cutting edge, especially in the eyes of entrepreneurs who value more versatile, flexible, and scalable solutions. Implementation of the drag-and-drop website builder, instead of the usual WYSIWYG template options, also raises the bar in providing a completely flexible, yet very simple to use platform for literally anyone, regardless of coding skills.
We make it super easy to migrate your subscription business to Subbly.
Subbly’s lack of a marketplace, a fundamental difference between the two platforms, is the most common reason why people choose Cratejoy over Subbly.
Although both platforms offer similar marketing tools, no integration or built-in tool can truly replace a marketplace as a funnel, especially if you’re an entry-level merchant and just starting off.
At the same time, the lack of some built-in functionalities, especially given the price (like printing non-USPS shipping labels directly from the admin) may put off those who don't want to spend unnecessary time and money on getting third-party tools connected and would rather have everything ready to go out-the-box.
Cratejoy set out to build a marketplace from the very beginning and it helps many subscription boxes get a quick start at finding subscribers. With a large number of monthly visitors and tons of additional third-party exposure (i.e. through BuzzFeed), it’s no secret why new subscription boxes love it.
Regarding the platform itself, Cratejoy has a vast library of helpful articles about their platform and subscription businesses in general which indeed makes it easy for an absolute newbie to get started quickly.
For those same newbies, Cratejoy also has a small library of website templates to choose from, an intuitive product builder, and a variety of marketing tools and integrations in the app store.
Last but not least, the Cratejoy-run Facebook community and subscription entrepreneurs hangout Subscription School are great resources for anyone who has or is thinking about starting a subscription box business.
First, their marketplace is not large or diverse enough to be the sole marketing and customer acquisition channel for every business; it is only one of many.
Secondly, to be listed on the marketplace means that customers subscribe there directly, not through your website. This means you will have to give up control of your brand and marketing to participate.
Third, the criteria Cratejoy uses to rank your product in the marketplace are not totally clear. In addition, Cratejoy marketplace listings get the lion’s share of the traffic when they become a “featured listing”, but it is also unclear how to become featured.
This same lack of transparency is reflected in reports from former merchants of unspecified fees charged to merchants with different amounts of subscribers attempting to leave the platform.
Lastly, the marketplace comes with some pretty steep fees on top of the already increasing monthly platform fees (1.25% + 0.10¢ per transaction), which can add up fast.
As Cratejoy decided to be a marketplace rather than a dedicated technology innovator, their technology platform is only a small part of their business, bringing in less revenue than their marketplace. Additionally, Cratejoy is firmly committed to subscription boxes, meaning their tools are not as useful to the wider subscription industry.
Lastly, the biggest criticisms we've heard online and through our experience working with ex-Cratejoy merchants are about their customer service, not just regarding availability and the willingness to go the extra mile — but also the varying fees that merchants are charged when attempting to leave Cratejoy for another solution.
The most notable difference between Cratejoy and Subbly is Cratejoy’s marketplace, which provides a massive marketing boost — but as Cratejoy is specifically tailored towards physical subscription boxes, subscription-first entrepreneurs working with other business models won’t be able to take advantage of it
Add on Cratejoy’s increasing fees and difficult process for migrating your data away from their platform, and the decision becomes easier still.
For an all-in-one solution that can handle any context or business model, Subbly is definitely a stronger pick. You don’t just have to take our word for it! Feel free to check what others had to say about Subbly
, or about Cratejoy