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Thinking Inside the Box: 10 Product Ideas for a Subscription Box Business

15 min read

What if you could get consistent sales month over month by adding just one new product to your online store?

We’re talking about a subscription box. But what are subscription boxes exactly? Simply put, they’re a recurring delivery of niche-oriented products. They’re often packaged as an experience and offer additional value on top of the actual products the box contains. That might be in the form of a surprise item, an additional savings, or the chance to experiment with brand new products.

Subscription boxes have been adopted across diverse industries, so it’s highly likely you’re either already offering something that can be sold as a subscription, or you can easily start to. Check out some of our ideas below to find a subscription box hit that can harmonize with your store.

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Unpacking Subscription Box Success

In a world where we’re all comfortable with the subscription model (think about incredibly popular cases like Netflix, Spotify, and online news subscriptions), it makes sense that online retailers are finding ways to make this recurring revenue stream work for their own operations. But this begs a deeper question: Why are subscription boxes a good idea? And how do subscription boxes make money?

Subscription boxes have a few unique benefits that explain the immense popularity behind them.

They Enable New Product Discovery Through Curation

When a retailer pulls together a curated collection of items, the new product discovery process becomes simpler. This is important because with so many options available to the modern shopper, this model allows shoppers to try a variety of different products without making a large upfront investment on any one in particular.

For example, rather than buying a whole box of a new type of granola bar, a subscription box service allows the shopper to try several different types of bars (along with other healthy snacks) before buying an entire box of the thing they like best.

They Use Element of Surprise to their Advantage

Most boxes include unexpected elements. This can create anticipation and allow for surprise and delight for the customer upon delivery. Who doesn’t want a mystery package arriving on their doorstep every month?

They Make for Easy Gift-Giving

The subscription model simplifies gift-giving by allowing shoppers to give subscriptions to others (typically 3-month, 6-month, or year-long) as gifts. Bonus: The gift keeps on giving. Rather than giving a one-and-done present, this option creates a unique experience where each month means a new collection of surprises.

They Are Great for Replenishment/Restocks

There are products we buy on a regular basis (say, pet food, socks, toiletries). Rather than constantly keeping track of items to replenish, many consumers prefer to receive those products bi-weekly, once a month, etc without having to actively re-order them each time.

It’s Guaranteed Recurring Revenue

For retailers, the subscription model is a way to boost repeat sales month over month. And while subscribers can opt-out of a subscription at any time, they have to complete a process to do so. Some shoppers would rather continue to pay the low cost of the subscription than take time out of their day to formally opt-out.

More: How to Sell Subscriptions: A Guide to Growing Recurring Revenue

Who Buys Subscription Boxes?

Subscription boxes are more common in the more developed markets. For example, 32% of consumers in the US and 27% of UK consumers are currently signed up to a subscription box service.

While the subscription box model works for a variety of different types of businesses and products, one thing to keep in mind with the subscription model is that there seems to be a clear target demographic.

According to this survey, subscription box buyers are more likely to be 25 to 44 years old, to have the above average income, and to live in urban environments. Subscription boxes particularly appeal to women — they account for 60% of subscriptions. However, men are more likely than women to have three or more active subscriptions.

Subscription box shoppers love a good deal, but believe that online/mobile shopping is much more convenient and enjoyable than buying the same products at a brick and mortar store.

10 Subscription Box Product Ideas

Now that we understand the why, the who, and the how, let’s explore some different subscription box product ideas that might help you create your new subscription offering (and revenue stream) for your online store.

The ideas below mostly reflect the most popular subscription box niches: food and beverages, personal grooming and hygiene, health and fitness, childcare, apparel, books, and pet care.

Monthly subscription box expenditure among subscribers in the US in 2020 (Source: Statista)

Beauty Products

Beauty subscription boxes are so popular that their overall sales remained elevated even throughout the 2020 pandemic.

Not only do beauty boxes replenish subscribers’ makeup stashes, but they also offer an extra perk: the excitement of getting to try out new products every month. They also make a great gift—make sure to point that out on your website.

There are lots of beauty boxes you can offer to your customers:

  • Skincare items
  • Makeup subscription boxes
  • Premium brands
  • Indie brands
  • New to the market products worth trying
  • Cruelty free beauty products

Margot Elena Discovery Boxes are delivered to subscribers every three months: in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Their boxes include full-sized products from luxury brands, as well as beautifully designed stationery, wearables, fragrances, and lifestyle gifts.

Cooking boxes

Cooking subscription boxes are pre-portioned ingredient kits designed for customers who want to explore new recipes and improve their cooking skills.

You can center your cooking subscription boxes around various niches, for example:

  • Healthy cooking
  • Cuisine from a specific region
  • Beginner-level cooking
  • Nutritious meals on a budget
  • Plant-based diets

Mix Box targets home bakers with monthly baking kits that include fresh pre-measured ingredients and video tutorials and instructions for all baking levels.

Books

With so many new books published each year, it can be difficult for readers to know where to begin their search for the next great book. However, with the help of a subscription box service, they can get curated selections based on different interests delivered right to their doorsteps month after month.

Book subscription boxes can be based on a variety of themes, such as:

  • Fiction/Non-fiction
  • Genre (Young Adult, Sci-fi, Bestsellers, etc.)
  • Emerging authors
  • Book theme (1960s politics, gender issues, etc.)
  • Curated reading lists from celebrities or influencers
  • Journals, zines, and indie publications
  • Hardback/limited edition books

For example, OwlCrate boxes include monthly book picks and have a creative theme that ties everything together. They also complement books with games, activities, stickers, and various items from book publishers.

Children’s Products

Parents are always looking for the best new thing for their little ones: from clothing to educational tools and beyond. You can cater to this audience of ready-to-buy shoppers by offering subscription boxes that deliver a monthly surprise for kids.

Subscription boxes for kids can focus on elements such as:

  • STEM education
  • Arts and crafts
  • Clothing
  • Age-appropriate toys
  • Gaming
  • Cooking

For example, STEM Club is a monthly subscription box that includes hand-picked toys that focus on developing skills in science, technology, engineering, and math. Each month, they send subscribers a new, age-appropriate toy that encourages learning through play.

Stationery

Statista research indicates that just within the UK, consumer spending on stationery sits at around $939M per quarter. You can tap into this lucrative market by creating a subscription box that caters to these paper lovers on a recurring basis.

Think about how you can create a unique subscription box offering around:

  • Holiday cards
  • Postcards
  • Scrapbooking materials
  • Greeting cards
  • Journals and notebooks
  • Recipe boxes and cards
  • Personalized stationery

Erin Condren offers Seasonal Surprise Boxes filled with hand-picked assortment of sneak peeks, exclusives, and best-selling stationery items.

Health Foods & Drinks

The global health and wellness food market is set to grow by $1,3 billion by 2024. That’s a major opportunity–especially within the non-perishable food and drink category of subscription boxes.

Not only does this format allow consumers to try a greater variety of your product offerings, but it helps ensure you’re consistently delivering new, relevant suggestions to shoppers who are looking for products to integrate into their daily routines.

In this realm, you might consider offering food subscription boxes for:

  • Organic snacks
  • Paleo snacks
  • Gluten free snacks
  • Allergy-free foods (no nuts, wheat, soy, etc.)
  • Vegan foods
  • Complete meals
  • Healthy dressings, sauces, and marinades
  • Fresh juices
  • Gourmet treats
  • Small batch brews

The Remedy Kitchen caters to health conscious customers with their meal prep subscription — gluten, dairy, wheat and refined sugar free.

Coffee/Tea

Lots of people drink coffee or tea throughout the day–so it’s a product they’re constantly already re-purchasing. For shoppers looking to try out new flavors, brands, or varieties, a subscription service makes a lot of sense.

You could offer monthly boxes that include:

  • Coffee/teas from different parts of the world
  • Organic varieties
  • Various flavor themes
  • Best brews based on the season/time of year
  • Locally-sourced brands
  • Brands using sustainable farming methods

If you have an in-house coffee brand, a subscription box could just be a nice way to help your customers ensure they never run out of supply at home or at work.

Trade offers a supply of their roasted beans as a subscription service so that shoppers are consistently stocked each month. To personalize shopper’s experience, Trade offers customers to take the quiz and curates matches based on their answers.

Clothes

Clothing subscription boxes are an alternative to tiresome in-person shopping, allowing subscribers to renew their wardrobes without leaving their house.

You’ll probably want to skip evening gowns when creating your clothes subscription box, but there are plenty of niches within the clothing world to choose from. For example:

  • Underwear
  • Basic t-shirts
  • Lounge wear
  • Clothes for kids
  • Fitness/workout clothes

With clothing boxes, personalization is key: no one wants to receive boxes of exactly the same clothes as hundreds of other subscribers. Consider creating a survey for potential customers about their style preferences, sizes, and price range. Then use their answers to pick items personalized to their tastes.

ThreadBeast specializes in streetwear for men and offers tiered memberships, so customers can select the monthly plan that’s right for them (from 2-3 items to 9-11 items in a box.)

Accessories

Socks and scrunchies are just the types of things that get lost before you have a chance to wear them out. But we encourage you to think beyond the obvious when planning your accessory subscription box. If you’re stuck, here are some ideas:

  • Shoelaces
  • Hair accessories
  • Jewelry
  • Crystals and stones
  • Nail art kits
  • Face masks
  • Tote bags

Say it with a Sock sends subscribers a new pair of socks every month. Customers can choose sock quantity and style — graphic or pattern.

Pet Supplies

Ask any pet owner if they spoil their pets on a regular basis, and they’re likely to answer yes. With a little help from a subscription box, treats for your furry friends can be delivered without making a trip to the local pet store.

You could offer subscription boxes for pets that feature:

  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Clothing items
  • Accessories
  • Training tools
  • Age-appropriate items (puppy vs. older dog)
  • Pet care products

One example: PupPlanet specializes in treats for dogs and delivers differently themed monthly subscription boxes.

Also read: How To Find Trending Products To Sell Online

Start Selling Subscription Boxes

With this data and these ideas at your disposal, now is the time to think about how you can capitalize on the subscription box model to increase your sales in the year ahead.

This might mean partnering up with fellow retailers or launching some new products — think about what makes the most sense for your target audience.

When you’re ready to set up a subscription box online store, consider Ecwid for your ecommerce needs. You’ll be able to set the billing cycle to daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually. With Ecwid, you can sell both subscription-based products and one-time purchases which provides more options for your customers. Plus, you can collect recurring donations to let loyal customers support your business.

Do you want to know more about launching a subscription business?

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About the author

Anastasia Prokofieva is a content writer at Ecwid. She writes about online marketing and promotion to make entrepreneurs’ daily routine easier and more rewarding. She also has a soft spot for cats, chocolate, and making kombucha at home.

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