Subscription boxes have been creating waves in the e-commerce world for quite some time now. Thousands of subscription box providers cater to niche markets today, from beauty products, chocolates, and lifestyle goodies to gourmet food, pet peeves, games, and toys!
While the concept itself is no longer new, the market has grown exponentially, with customized services cropping up for physical as well as digital goods.
However, before you start building castles in the air, there are a few things that you need to check off your list.
Before You Get Started
Even as you plan to set up your very own subscription box website, it is necessary to analyse the factors that make these mega-conglomerates like Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club, Ipsy, Loot Crate, and more tick.
Granted, each has its own business model and marketing strategies, however, all of them have a common growth process that becomes the foundation of their success.
Here is a brief overview of the best features of some popular subscription box websites:
- Focus on a niche market
- Flexible subscriptions, ranging from low-cost to high-range packages
- A beautiful Display
- Comprehensive product information
- Contact forms for customers to fill up their preferences and add User Profiles
- A specific target audience
- Fast and secure payment gateways
- No mandatory contracts or product purchases
- Distinct Subscription and Shop interfaces
- Attractive offers and discounts to encourage user engagement
These features give us several reference points we can use while designing our own subscription box website. In this article, we will primarily be discussing how to create a subscription box website using WordPress as the CMS platform, for physical products.
WordPress, as you may know, is an open source content management system that can be used to create practically any kind of website.
Creating a Subscription Box Website on WordPress
The plethora of plugins available for integrating various functionalities into your website make it relatively easy to create a subscription box website using WordPress.
Nevertheless, there are two distinct ways for the same:
#1 Opting for a Full-Fledged Subscription Box Setup Plugin
A complete solution for creating a subscription box website is offered by plugins like Subscription Boxer. Once installed, the plugin creates the basic setup for your boxes, content, subscriptions, payment gateways, and more. Subscription Boxer has additional, responsive themes that can be separately purchased.
The main features of the plugin include:
- Customizable Product Boxes
- Creation of Multiple Subscription Tiers
- Three Payment Gateways (PayPal, Authorize.net, and Chargify)
- Integrated Photo Gallery for Image Display
- Customizable Themes
The drawback of the plugin is that the theme is not purchased within the plugin package; it has to be purchased separately. Also, there are no Analytics and SEO options integrated, and have to be added externally to your WordPress installation.
With respect to the cost, there are three pricing plans for the plugin:
- Lite – $99.99 for a Lifetime license for 1 site (theme not included)
- Startup – $199.99 for a Lifetime license for 1 site (theme included)
- Full – $499.99 for a Lifetime license for 5 sites (theme included)
The plugin is rather expensive for the number of features it offers. It works well enough as a turnkey solution for a small subscription box website, you can check out their demo here; however, if you are looking for a more scalable approach, Subscription Boxer is not your answer.
#2 The WordPress + WooCommerce Approach
The WordPress and WooCommerce method gives you far more flexibility to design and build your subscription box website. Depending on the niche market you choose, you can create a separate shop for the products you plan to sell on your website and add a link to it on the subscriptions website.
With this in mind, we shall segment the website into two parts for convenience’s sake: the Subscriptions website and the Shop.
The Subscriptions website
This is the core of your subscription box enterprise. On this part of your website, the people can sign-up for monthly boxes of your product. For example, consider you are planning to start a confectionery subscription box service that will send out boxes on a fortnightly basis. Let us see how such a website can be built.
WordPress + WooCommerce
As we have seen previously, WordPress is the basic CMS platform we are using. As we are planning to sell subscription boxes with physical goods here, we opt for the most popular e-commerce platform, WooCommerce. A robust framework, plenty of extensible add-ons, and a number of options to set up an e-commerce shop make WooCommerce the best fit for our enterprise.
Adding a Theme
WordPress has a vast portfolio of WooCommerce-compatible themes to choose from, both free and paid. However, when you select a theme specifically from the point of view of a subscription box website, there as some specific angles you need to address.
Ask yourself these questions while choosing the theme:
- Is the theme responsive?
- Does it highlight my boxes in the best possible light?
- Is the display customizable?
- Can I incorporate additional elements, like a Slider bar, or a picture gallery here?
If the answer to all these questions is yes, you can go for the theme. Always remember, images are going to be your key selling point. The appeal of various, unique box designs, featured boxes, recommended combinations and more can be most successfully conveyed via images. Whichever theme you choose, an elegant display and the responsive feature are a must.
Adding a Subscription Plugin: WooCommerce Subscriptions
Then follows the most important part for this half of the website; adding a subscriptions plugin. A subscription plugin integrates all the features you require for managing recurring payments from subscribers and setting up flexible billing schemes for them to choose from.
Here you can consider the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin for the job. An advantage of using a popular plugin like WooCommerce Subscriptions is that you can avail several setup plans offered to get your website ready in no time!
The WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin gives you access to a full-fledged set of features that let you create periodic billing schedules, add trial periods for customers, let users manage their subscriptions at the front-end and more. The plugin also incorporates built-in email notifications that can be sent to users reminding them if their payment is due, or informing them of special offers and discounts they are entitled to.
Customers can opt to upgrade their plans in the middle of a billing schedule and purchase subscriptions to different boxes in one transaction. This makes tracking of sales extremely easy, as does the detailed sales analysis you receive at the end of every month, informing you about the rise/decrease in your subscriptions. The plugin has 25 integrated payment gateways, so no external payment gateway incorporation is required.
WooCommerce Subscriptions is priced at $199 for 1 site, with support and updates for one year. The license can be renewed at a discounted price for consecutive years.
Adding Coupons and Discounts
WooCommerce has an inbuilt interface for adding coupons codes, so you need not install a different plugin for that functionality. To add a Coupon Code, all you have to do is go to WooCommerce -> Coupons -> Add Coupon. Here you can specify the discount type and amount (whether it is a percentage discount or a reduction in the price), make any other changes necessary and hit Publish.
Creating Marketing Campaigns
Marketing your subscription box store takes place in two stages (pre-launch and post-launch) and via two channels (on-website and off-website). It is a good idea to start creating a buzz about your product before the website is even launched. You know your target audience, you know how your product satisfies their need, start capitalizing on it. If your subscription box pushes all the right buttons, pre-launch marketing can even help you raise some capital before you ship your boxes.
Post-launch you can aggressively push your beta subscribers towards more permanent memberships, and of course, start targeting a wider audience.
Speaking of the channels for marketing, the on-website marketing methods include coupons and discounts which we have already discussed. Off-website marketing is more interesting. There are plenty of avenues that can be used today to capture customers’ interest. Social media, email marketing, newsletters, you name it.
To avail of these, you can integrate your website with social media platforms and regularly update posts with information about the developments on your website. For email marketing, consider anyone mass email sending and management plugins out of the many available.
Adding a Blog
One of the best ways of showing your expertise in the field to your subscribers is via a blog. Several biggies of the subscription box industry maintain their blogs as much as they do their website, and why not?
Your blog gives you an opportunity to expand on the various tips you might want to offer your subscribers, post user experiences, and publish notes about developments and updates. The blog is what adds a personal touch to the otherwise potentially sterile website, and blogs are WordPress’s specialty.
Integrating Contact Forms
No matter how self-explanatory your website is, your customers are going to have queries. To this end, it is necessary to incorporate a contact form into your website, which lets users get in touch with you easily and quickly. It is a good idea to embed these forms in easily accessible locations for ease of use of the customer.
WordPress has a multitude of contact form plugins, including Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms, WPForms, Pirate Forms, and more. Each of these has varying degrees of customization possible and requires varying degrees of technical expertise.
Adding Surveys and Profiles
Surveys and user profiles come in handy by helping you get to know your customer’s reactions after receiving the subscription boxes and can customize their next box accordingly so that they won’t ever be disappointed.
WordPress has some amazing integrations like BuddyPress, which lets you create social profiles of all your subscribers where they can entire their likes, dislikes, preferences, and more which can then be used to create semi-personalized boxes. To conduct surveys, you can consider survey plugins like FSQM Pro or Modal Surveys.
Adding Vendors and Associates
Networking is an integral part of running a subscription box website. You need to constantly interact with vendors, investors, and all related functionaries to keep procuring products for your subscription boxes. This is where a plugin like AffiliateWP is useful. The plugin lets you track all your contacts, referrals, and earning in real-time.
This completes the list of features that you require to build a comprehensive subscription box website. As you can see, building the website with WordPress gives you a significant amount of freedom in experimenting with the website.
Setting up Shop
The second part of the website, i.e. the Shop can be built like any other WooCommerce store, adding products and prices to your pages. This is where your subscribers will be coming to purchase full-sized products after they have sampled them in your subscription box. Similar to what we discussed for the subscription website, a few things you need to ensure that your e-store has are:
- A Responsive Display
- A Vibrant Picture Gallery
- Comprehensive Content about your Products
- Mobile App Integration
- Secure Payment Gateways
WordPress as a CMS platform is extremely flexible and can be used in a variety of ways to create various types of websites. Software options like Cratejoy or Subbly are great in their own right, they give you a working solution for a functioning subscription box website which you can use to hit the ground running.
A functional subscription box website is your primary requirement to build a successful business model. It is worth investing time and money in creating a website that gives your business a distinctive vibe and can be managed easily. And hey, there’s always professional help if you need it!
What are your suggestions for creating a kick-ass subscription box website? Let us know in the comments below!