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 back in 2014, both got their start supporting subscription boxes, both have enjoyed a big growth spurt during the rise of subscription, and both even have their own training programs and subscription Facebook communities. But looking closer, it's clear that both chose very different paths.
One thing to make clear is that Subbly is a subscription-first platform while Cratejoy is a marketplace-first platform which also has platform capabilities. Read why this distinction is important here. It could even be a good idea to use both together!
Get the help you need from our excellent support staff.
Automate marketing, management and operations with no code using complex business models.
Collect information from your customers, and even allow them to pick their products and configure their subscription.
As a small and bootstrapped business, we know the struggle 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-oriented 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 platform.
Other advantages, including automations, 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.
Subbly - is a team of real people who have been with us from the very beginning [...]
The absence of a marketplace is the most common reason why people choose Cratejoy over Subbly. Although the marketing tools offered are pretty much identical, 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 (like printing shipping labels directly from the admin) may put off those who don't want to spend unnecessary time on getting third-party tools connected and would rather have everything ready to go out-the-box.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Subbly and Cratejoy is maybe what we love most about Cratejoy: their marketplace. 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 more than 30 million 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 is a great resource for anyone who has or is thinking about starting a subscription box business.
Unfortunately, as much as we love the Cratejoy marketplace, there are some major things to consider before getting started.
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. Lastly, the marketplace comes with some pretty steep fees on top of the monthly platform fees (11.25% + 0.10c 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 and therefore their tools are not as useful to the wider subscription industry. The technology itself is great, but leaves little room for customization.
Lastly, the biggest criticisms we've heard online and through our experience working with ex-Cratejoy merchants are about their customer service, regarding response times, availability, and the willingness to go the extra mile.
If you’re busy with entrepreneurial stuff and you didn’t have the time to read through all of this, we’ve compiled a short and actionable list to help you decide when you should opt for either of these two platforms - if you’re not considering using both alongside each other.
You don’t just have to take our word for it! Feel free to check what others had to say about Subbly HERE, or about Cratejoy HERE.