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Start a Subscription Box Business: 15 Subscription Boxes to Create Today

a stack of subscription boxes

Convenience reigns kind in eCommerce. Consumers today are more eager than ever to have their favorite products delivered to their doorsteps. Subscription box businesses capitalize on this preference, combining the ease of online shopping with timely shipments.

Some Americans are now signed up for 10 or more subscriptions, while budgeting app Truebill reported a less conservative average of 17 per user. From wine clubs and clothing boxes to groceries and workout packages, consumers are fervently embracing ship-to-home offerings. Altogether, the subscription box market is worth an estimated $32.9 billion.

If you’re thinking about how to start a subscription box business, now is a prime time to take the plunge. This article will cover 15 types of subscription boxes you could sell, along with some tips on making your new endeavor a bestseller for your business.

Why subscription boxes are worth the investment

Retention and CLV

Subscription boxes are an excellent way to improve your customer retention and extend customer lifetime value (CLV) by offering buyers a hassle-free experience they can set and forget.

Items arrive every month or at whatever cadence you offer. This prevents buyers from going to your competitors due to greater ease or forgetting about your brand. Under this model, offerings like accessory packages for filters, hygiene products like toilet paper and toothpaste, meal boxes, protein powder kits, and many other consumables are viable options.

You’re guaranteed sales every month (and thus predictable revenue), and your customers enjoy the convenience without having to remember to order something they regularly need.

Introduce new products to your consumer base

Your subscription box buyers are likely to be some of your most loyal customers. Why not reward them with surprise freebies in every shipment? It’s a nice way to thank your followers, while also introducing new items they might like to purchase in the future (which then increases your average order value).

In fact, more than one-third of shoppers said they purchase subscription boxes to try new products they might not otherwise have chosen themselves. Take advantage of that curiosity and further endear yourself to them by including samples and other goodies in your consumers’ deliveries.

Deliver an experience

Subscription boxes are designed to delight buyers. Besides planning ahead to ensure on-time deliveries every time, you can also include surprise gifts, information about deals and coupons, and discounts, possibly in exchange for feedback so you collect valuable information in the process.

Starting a subscription box means crafting an enjoyable and memorable experience for your customers. That effort leads to higher retention rates, greater buyer loyalty, and a boost in brand recognition.

Start a subscription box business: 15 ideas to look into today

1. Snacks

In the last year, specially themed boxes like Bokksu — a Japanese snack, candy, and tea box — have boomed. Even big brands like Pepsi recently launched their own snack subscriptions, offering a variety of bundles and/or monthly themes to keep their offerings fresh.

If you’re interested in selling a snack box, choose a niche. Decide whether to curate snacks for kids, adults, or offices, for instance. Or, tailor your consumables to a specific flavor profile, such as spicy condiments, chocolate, an ethnic cuisine, or some other category.

2. Coffee

The coffee category is dominated by major players like Starbucks and Peet’s, which offer coffee straight from their roasteries. For this reason, it may only make sense for you to sell this type of subscription if you own a roastery or have a relationship with an independent coffee shop.

Alternatively, you could follow in the footsteps of Atlas Coffee Club or Trade Coffee, which offer a variety of coffees personalized to each consumer’s taste. Diversifying into partnerships with different brands and influencers (e.g., allowing influencers to curate a box for a month) is also an excellent way to promote your bundle in an organic way.

3. Tea

Due to its expansive variety, tea is a popular subscription box option. You send subscribers tea from around the world that match their personal palettes or are focused on particular needs (e.g., providing energy, inducing sleep, boosting immunity). Like the coffee category though, competition is stiff, so picking a niche and quality level is crucial. For instance, there’s a large difference between consumers interested in options for boxed tea and those looking for hand-picked, sun-dried loose leaf.

4. Art

Construct an art box that restocks supplies for professional artists, or sell project-based subscriptions for adults or kids looking to pass the time. You can segment this type of box by project type (portraits, abstract, scenery), age range, or medium (pencil, watercolor, acrylic paint).

Working with individual brands is also an effective method of promotion. For example, you can assemble sampler bundles for a well-known art subscription brand, ask popular artists (i.e., influencers) to curate boxes for you, or simply build a presence around your own brand.

5. Crafts

Like art, crafting is a shared hobby among kids and adults. Some of the most popular subscriptions today include knitting, jewelry making, embroidery, and stationery.

6. Pets

PetSmart, PETCO, and now Amazon with their white-labeled pet food rake in a majority of pet-related eCommerce sales. They have the luxury of lower margins and higher sales, but you can differentiate yourself by offering specialty pet treats, grain-free products, gear for puppies or kittens (versus full-grown pets), and other niche selections.

Of course, PetSmart and Petco both also offer subscription boxes that cover food, treats, and toys so, like many other popular niches, competition is fierce.

7. Kids

Kids subscription boxes are a lifesaver for busy parents. You have many avenues available in this category: boxes for certain age groups, interests, skill sets, needs (like clothes or school supplies), and more. Today, popular services like KiwiCo aim to blend education and fun for an engrossing experience.

8. Baby products

This is great for the sleep-deprived parent who doesn’t have time to leave the house for infant supplies. Baby product subscription boxes typically include diapers, baby formula, toys, and clothes. Your box could even adjust to every month a baby grows bigger, more alert, and more mobile.

9. Books

Do you want to curate novels for adults or kids? Sci-fi, mystery, nonfiction, or some other genre? Award-winning authors or up-and-coming ones? Whichever path you take, a book subscription opens a wide avenue of opportunity and can garner significant customer loyalty. Some of the most popular boxes today offer a book of the month paired with literature-related activities and collectibles.

Capitalizing on TikTok trends here can also help a great deal, as social media will organically advertise your box for you; for example, a box with trending book titles for the month, trending covers, or a monthly book selection curated by #BookTok influencers.

10. Wine, beer, or cocktails

Due to the multitude of rules, alcohol licenses, and shipping requirements to be aware of, businesses that already sell alcohol are in the best position to sell this type of subscription. Wine, beer, or cocktail boxes are great for gaining recurring business from regular drinkers or capitalizing on events like office cocktail parties.

Conversely, alcohol-free lifestyles are gaining popularity, so jumping on the wagon with a 0.0% or “no-alcohol” version can also be a great option, especially if you don’t have an alcohol license.

11. Food

Food boxes are now the second-largest subscription category, behind beauty, and attract 150 million website visits per year. These boxes can include ready-made foods, meal kits, or even baking recipes. However, it’s a highly saturated space with multiple players in the field (think Blue Apron), so proceed with caution and focus on easy-to-transport, highly specialized kits.

12. Plants

Fresh flower deliveries, house plants, gardening supplies and seeds to fit regional climates — a plant subscription box can be a delightful surprise for plant lovers everywhere. Just keep in mind that this type of offering may incur extra shipping costs, so you’ll have to manage your margins carefully.

13. Makeup

Although highly competitive, cosmetics are a booming industry with enough market share to go around. As with many of the above suggestions, the key here is to “niche down.” Know the exact type of buyer you aim to target, be it teens, working women, people with sensitive skin, etc.

14. Cleaning supplies

The Covid-19 pandemic underscored the importance of a clean space, and that emphasis isn’t likely to fade any time soon. Both homeowners and on-site employees may jump at the chance to buy a subscription that offers safe, popular cleaning supplies.

15. Office supplies

Whether employees work at home or in a company building, offices frequently have to restock regular items like printer ink, pens, and paper — things you could easily supply on a monthly basis.

The lucrative value of bundles and subscriptions

A unique, well-crafted bundle or subscription service can secure recurring income from a loyal customer base. However, you’ll have to work to minimize costs and maintain profitability over time. The initial steps are to identify complementary products, make sure there’s a market for your offering, and then develop subscription tiers and exclusive pairings (e.g., “This bundle changes every month, so get it before it’s gone”). Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you can move on to the finer details like:

  • Kitting up front: When bundling multiple items, you’ll have to choose between kitting them up front and assembling as orders come in. For FBM, the latter is almost always the best option, as it prevents you from kitting items that you might sell out of elsewhere. However, you can reduce costs by bundling pre-orders up front. If you ship to FBA, you’ll also want to kit items together before shipping them to Amazon.
  • Cross-sells: Invest in proactive sales and marketing strategies with subscription bundles to promote your offering. For example, partnering with other brands to create a box of shared items means those brands will promote your products to their customers.
  • Add incentives: Entice customers to maintain their subscription. That could take the form of including new product samples in each box, giving a discount after so many consecutive months of orders, or offering cost savings on bundled items (versus buying them separately). You may be able to justify the lower price due to the reduced cost and resources spent on pick and pack, packaging, and fulfillment fees since everything is sold in a single order.

Wrapping up — Subscription boxes are booming for DTC eCommerce

Subscription boxes improve buyer retention, boost CLV and average order value, and deliver an experience that your buyers eagerly anticipate. However, you’ll need to stay on top of the associated costs by building in and offsetting the expenses.

To keep your box relevant and popular, conduct product and market research regularly. You should also consider leveraging brand and influencer partnerships to boost awareness for your offering. Start a subscription box business that both caters to your target audience and boosts your profit margins.

Published: August 17, 2021
Updated: April 3, 2024