Starting a subscription box business? Congratulations! The subscription industry is booming, and consumers have a bigger appetite than ever for this alternative mode of consumption.

Packaging is hugely important in the world of subscription boxes, where the look and feel of the box matters just as much as its contents. So, it’s important to give a lot of thought to your subscription box packaging design, especially how different custom options can work for your brand.

Our subscription box packaging guide tells you everything you need to know about sourcing and designing your packaging, as well as practical considerations to keep in mind. Let’s get started!

The Growth of the Subscription Service Industry
Why is Subscription Box Packaging Important?
The Advantages of Custom Packaging
What to Consider When Choosing Subscription Box Packaging
Subscription Box Packaging Options For Your Business
How to Custom Design Packaging for a Subscription Service Box




The Growth of the Subscription Service Industry

It’s common knowledge that the subscription box market has exploded in the past few years. According to Forbes, subscription services have grown at a rate of over 890% since 2014!

This meteoric growth aligns with the rise of eCommerce. Annual revenue is forecast to reach $4.2 billion in 2020, up from just $1.3 billion six years earlier. The rapid expansion of online retail has led to an explosion of new businesses, most of which don’t have an in-store presence.


This disruption of traditional selling channels leaves consumers looking for different ways to connect with brands and products - in a space where personalization is king.

Subscription boxes offer a convenient and appealing way for consumers to do just that. A 2018 study by McKinsey found that ‘subscribe for curation’ (where consumers receive a specially-picked selection of products) is by far the most successful category, making up 55% of subscriptions.




Why is Subscription Box Packaging Important?

This niche has fast become one of the most saturated online retail channels, meaning that competition is extremely high. In fact, the index My Subscription Addition found that 13% of subscription boxes get discontinued, while around 40% of consumers will ultimately cancel their subscriptions.

Why? Because success in the subscription box business model requires a loyal customer base, and consumers have very high standards. McKinsey’s study found that ‘dissatisfaction with the product/experience’ and ‘a lack of value for money’ are the biggest reasons for consumers choosing to cancel their subscriptions.

In short, the appeal of subscription boxes is not the automated nature of the service, but the unique retail experience it offers. When surprise and delight are the main drivers of the market, brands need to pull out all the stops to impress their customers.

Premium subscription box packaging helps your brand to make that critical first impression a positive one. When the feeling that your box evokes matters just as much as what is inside, your packaging design is a matter for close attention.


The Advantages of Custom Packaging

It Creates a More Enjoyable Experience for the Consumer

The appeal of subscription boxes isn’t just the products they offer. In most cases, consumers can go and source these independently if they wish. What they can’t replicate is the excitement of receiving a curated box and exploring its contents.

In short, what a subscription box really delivers is the ultimate unboxing experience, one that customers want to repeat month after month.

This timeless ritual is made all the more special with the addition of high-quality subscription box packaging. It symbolizes to your customer that you have put special effort into the order fulfillment process, which makes for a much more memorable brand experience.



Building Brand Recall

There are thousands of subscription boxes out there, so you need to make sure that your box carries a unique brand image that won’t be confused with anyone else. Custom subscription box packaging ensures that every inch of your box is cohesive and reflects important brand information to your customer.



Social Media-friendly Content

What is the one thing that all successful subscription boxes have in common across categories? A strong visual appeal. The reason why is hardly surprising. Social media has emerged as one of the biggest channels for promoting subscription boxes - which means that Instagram-worthy content is a must.

If the arrival of a subscription box feels like any other delivery, you will seriously miss the mark with your customers. But putting in the effort to create a visual spectacle makes for some compelling online content for your brand.


As Birchbox shows, subscription box packaging is a major pitch for your brand in its own right - it showcases how special and unique it feels to have one of their boxes land on your doorstep!



What to Consider When Choosing Subscription Box Packaging



Budget

Cost can seem like a distant concern as you excitedly plan out your dream box. But don't get too carried away; every custom packaging element you add will increase its cost to assemble.

If your business can’t absorb this cost, you will have to pass it onto your customers - which carries the risk of putting off the more price-conscious.

It’s important from the outset to set a budget for your subscription box packaging. While you might only be able to afford branded stickers or tape for your box design at the beginning, this is something you can revisit as your order volumes increase.


Turnaround Times

To fulfill your subscription box orders on-time and prevent delays, you need to have your packaging materials on-hand. So, you need to think about how often you want to be placing orders.

Placing larger orders less often will usually work out cheaper, but this relies on having a considerable amount of storage space. Small and frequent orders do carry their own advantages: They allow you to ‘top-up’ your packaging supplies as you need them, which is immensely valuable for new businesses who haven’t yet worked out an average order amount.

The necessary turnaround time is also influenced by whether your subscription box is a bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly service (or offers multiple options). If your boxes are going out more frequently, for example, you may need a faster turnaround time to keep pace.

All noissue products have a turnaround time of just 3 weeks, including production and shipping, making it easy for businesses of every size to obtain the perfect subscription box packaging.



Packaging Suppliers

As a subscription box business, it’s vital to find a packaging supplier that fits your needs. This is one of your important ongoing relationships, so you need to find someone that you can trust to deliver a consistent, high-quality product.

As well as turnaround times, you also need to consider the MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities) on offer, and whether this is suitable for your average order volumes.

Even if you are only interested in buying one product right now i.e. custom tissue paper, it’s always a good idea to check what other packaging products are on offer - buying multiple products from the same supplier can secure you a more favorable deal!


Your Items

The last thing you want is to be replacing damaged products - it’s virtually guaranteed to damage your brand’s reputation. To avoid this, you need to choose your subscription box packaging accordingly.

The kind of goods you are shipping as a subscription service will dictate what kind of packaging you need. If you are an apparel brand, for example, protection will be less of a concern than it is for a brand that ships more fragile items.



Shipping costs

The cost of shipping is one of your biggest outlays as a subscription box business, and your packaging design plays a key role. But postal services don’t just charge on weight, but also box size - meaning that packaging can add considerably to your shipping costs.



Sustainability

Sustainability has become a much bigger concern for consumers in recent years, especially where packaging is concerned.

Issues such as plastic pollution are receiving mainstream coverage, and many consumers are making purchasing decisions accordingly; 61% now say that they are likely to switch to buying from brands that are more environmentally-friendly, if current brands they currently support are not up to scratch.

This means that using subscription box packaging which is excessive and/or uses materials that can’t be disposed of responsibly could negatively impact your brand. So, it’s worth thinking about ‘future-proofing' your business by considering packaging materials that are eco-friendly and provide credible reuse options.

To a conscious consumer, steps like this will actually increase brand loyalty by demonstrating tangible steps to take better care of the planet.



Subscription Box Packaging Options For Your Business

Whether you plan to use a mailer, boxes or envelopes to send your items, it's important to look at the packaging options available to your business:


Custom Boxes

External packaging the first thing that your customers will see when they receive their delivery. So, it’s no secret that this the most important part of subscription box packaging. We all know that first impressions matter the most, so you need to make sure that it surprises and delights your customers.

Custom printed boxes provide a great canvas to show off your personality and brand identity, as shown above by Choulala Box. When customers are buying into your idea of what is most desirable, they will expect to see this expressed end-to-end in their interactions with you - especially the box style!


Mailers

Although ‘box’ might be in the name, they might not always fit your needs. Custom box manufacturing is a relatively expensive packaging option when you are starting out, as they require high MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities). If you are a brand that generally deals with smaller items, such as stationery, mailer envelopes can work perfectly well and accrue a much lower cost than shipping boxes.


Custom Tissue Paper

If you want your subscription box packaging to have a more luxurious vibe, adding tissue paper will make your customers feel as though they are receiving a long-anticipated gift. You can use it to wrap up items, or to line the inside of your box for a deluxe touch.

Custom tissue paper also provides a great opportunity to continue your brand narrative on the inside of your package. Depending on the mood you are trying to channel with your box materials, tissue paper can be minimalist, decedent, or cheerful - it’s really up to you!


Custom Stickers

Custom stickers are a great focal point in packaging design, meaning that they create high brand awareness for a low cost. They are easily one of the most versatile custom packaging items because you can use them pretty much everywhere - including as a freebie gift for your customers! Because stickers are easy to apply, they are a great asset if you have limited time to spend on order fulfillment.


Custom Tape

Custom packing tape is a great option for external branding if custom boxes stretch your budget a bit too far, especially when tape will likely feature in your order fulfillment anyway. You can use it to seal up your boxes, but also as decoration for plain packaging.



How to Custom Design Packaging for a Subscription Service Box

Now onto the fun part! Here are a few things to bear in mind as you design your subscription box packaging:



Creating a Memorable Unboxing Experience

As we’ve already mentioned, the unboxing experience is central to the appeal of subscription boxes - it’s the excitement of receiving the box on a monthly basis that makes it distinct from any other kind of purchase. So, it’s important to play up this anticipation as much as you can through your packaging.

Think about your subscription box from the perspective of your customer; how does it feel to open the package? What process do you have to go through to unveil/unpack the products inside? Putting yourself in the position of someone receiving your box will help to identify areas where you can improve on the experience. Including a layer of tissue paper, for example, adds a little extra drama to the unboxing, making it more engaging for your customers.


Composing Your Brand Story

As a subscription box, it’s vital that your packaging is cohesive with the rest of your branding so that customers get that end-to-end experience. If you are a new business, you need to give some serious thought to the best way to visually portray your brand story:


Color

There is a huge amount of psychology behind color - different hues can be cheerful, calming or dramatic. For this reason, color has a huge effect on how your brand is received, so it’s important to think carefully about the mood you are trying to create.

For example, if you are a subscription box which stocks eco-friendly goods, a more minimalist color palette helps to reflect the ‘clean’ nature of your products, while using metallic accents on your packaging will create a more high-end, luxury theme.

The combination of colors you are using is also important. While opposing colors can be very eye-catching, using too many colors at once can look chaotic and overwhelming for your customer. It’s a good idea to try out multiple colour palettes to find the one which channels your brand best.


Logos/icons

It’s a great idea to include brand collateral on your subscription box packaging to improve recall in your customers. Since they are receiving a curated experience, customers will expect to see that the goods within the box have your stamp of approval.

While including your logo is a good bet, there are also more creative ways to communicate your personality. Grey House Productions, for example, use a series of icons in their custom tissue paper design of objects that have some kind of significance to the business and its journey. This helps your customers to feel a closer connection with your brand.