How to Build a Subscription Box Store with WooCommerce

Subscription-based e-commerce is growing and changing, year after year. Shoppers around the world are becoming increasingly accustomed to the idea of subscribing to receive goods. Once dominated by content-streaming businesses, market growth is now fuelled by companies in a wide range of categories, including cosmetics, hygiene, food/beverages, vitamins/supplements, and even video games.

It’s been almost a decade since pioneers such as Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron, and Stitch Fix popularized the Subscription Box: A convenient, personalized, and often lower-cost way to buy products online. While venture capital activity in the space has recently slowed down, the growing presence of consumer brand manufacturers and retailers confirms that the subscription box business model has matured — and is here to stay.

Subscription box delivery services are a multi-billion dollar industry that’s expected to keep growing.

Subscription Boxes: Here to Stay

If you’ve been thinking about starting your own subscription box business, this is a good time to do it. As a new entrepreneur, you now have the opportunity to reach millions of customers with a very low startup cost: Nowadays all major e-commerce platforms allow you to offer products on subscription and manage recurring orders.

Starting your own subscription box business is easier than it has ever been. However, the path to success is not shorter: As major brands and retailers jump on the subscription box bandwagon, newcomers will need to work harder to identify undervalued niches. Consumers worldwide are no longer just buying into the new shopping trend. They are looking for great end-to-end experiences and are willing to subscribe only when automated purchases give them tangible benefits — lower prices, more convenience, or a touch of personalization.

Subscription Box Types

Subscription boxes generally fall into 2 categories:

  • Convenience boxes; and
  • Discovery boxes.

Convenience boxes make it easier for customers to stock up on essentials. In their simplest form, these boxes contain the same products in every delivery. However, in certain cases, giving customers the freedom to customize the contents of their box between deliveries could make your offering more appealing. Some businesses have already taken this concept one step further: They are giving shoppers the ability to subscribe to entire carts — and manage the contents of these recurring deliveries.

Discovery boxes tap into our thrill-seeking nature. The contents of these boxes are carefully curated to offer consumers a new, personalized experience with every delivery. Unsurprisingly, certain recurring needs can be fulfilled better when an element of surprise is thrown into the mix: Blue Apron’s meal kits are successful because they are convenient and thrilling.

Think you’ve got a great Subscription Box idea? Here’s a tip for you: People love products — not subscriptions. Depending on what you are planning to sell, a requirement to subscribe may make it harder to acquire customers. Churn rates can be high, too: If customers don’t like your product, they’ll cancel. If you have a solid product, a good strategy for acquiring more customers is to make it available for purchase both one-time and on subscription — just like Amazon.

Setting Up Shop with WooCommerce

Although it can seem overwhelming at first, building your own subscription box website with WooCommerce has some benefits over joining a platform/marketplace:

  1. Lower transaction fees and monthly charges.
  2. More control over taxes, inventory, shipping and payment methods.
  3. The freedom to give your brand a unique identity as it grows.
  4. A customizable checkout experience, tailored to the needs of your customers.
  5. The ability to add new features/functionality as your needs change/grow.
  6. Complete ownership of your data.

If you have the dedication to learn and experiment, a WooCommerce website will give your idea the potential to develop into something great. But here’s a word of warning: If you are just starting out, don’t put too much effort on making your website stand out. Instead, focus on your product, and pay attention to your customers’ feedback. Validate your idea, and then iterate. If your product isn’t solving a real problem, a website that stands out from the rest won’t help you sell it!

Pieces of the Puzzle

To sell subscription boxes with WooCommerce, you’ll need 3 extensions:

  1. WooCommerce Subscriptions.
  2. All Products for WooCommerce Subscriptions.
  3. WooCommerce Product Bundles (or Composite Products).

WooCommerce Subscriptions and WooCommerce Product Bundles were designed to individually excel at one thing: Selling products on subscription and selling product bundles, respectively. All Products for WooCommerce Subscriptions provides the missing link, and introduces some extra features that allow customers to create and manage subscriptions more flexibly. The 3 extensions make up a feature-rich, robust Subscription Box platform that sets you up for success. Here’s why:

  • Every piece of software is mature, well-maintained and expertly supported.
  • The platform is able to handle thousands of subscription renewals every month with low server requirements, for years to come.
  • You get loads of flexibility to customize the appearance and all pricing/shipping details of your Subscription Boxes.
  • Inventory management just works.
  • You can choose from countless payment/shipping options and a vast ecosystem of plugins and extensions.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a handy guide that shows you how to use these extensions to create a state-of-the-art Subscription Box store with WooCommerce.

Coffee beans on subscription: Building a pick-and-mix box with WooCommerce.

Final Words

If you plan to launch a Subscription Box store soon, choosing WooCommerce will not only shorten the path to your first sale — it will also provide a future-proof foundation for your business. Armed with knowledge, there’s little that you can’t do with WooCommerce!