Everything You Need to Know About Subscription Box Packaging

February 5, 2019 by Erin Behan

Is there anything that can't be sold via subscription? That's the question being asked across industries as more businesses switch to a subscription model. According to Fuel X McKinsey, e-commerce subscription companies generated $5.6 billion in sales in 2017, up 36% from 4.1 billion in 2016. The consulting firm focused on startups estimates the total market size for subscription e-commerce sales to be about $10 billion. In short, the subscription business model is booming.

For some business such as Netflix or ClassPass, there's no recurring physical delivery involved in the subscription. But for others, companies such as Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron, StitchFix, and other smaller players, the subscription comes in regular intervals via a box or mailer, and the success of such subscription companies hinges on the physical experience of receiving the shipment.

Customized Subscription Boxes

For e-commerce subscription companies, it's all about the experience.
According to McKinsey, "For consumers, subscription products or boxes offer a convenient, personalized, and often lower-cost way to buy what they want and need. Companies in the space must develop great experiences (as opposed to great subscriptions) to avoid high churn rates and to accelerate both growth and profitability."

To deliver that experience, subscription services have to stand out and offer a good perceived value. The box itself turns out to be incredibly important in both of these regards. After all, it's the first and last physical interaction your customer has with your subscription service and the goods you offer. And with a more crowded than ever subscription market, the box is a prime way to stand out from the competition.

Providing the best possible experience starts and ends with your subscription box.

1. Your box needs to be a clear, visual representation of your brand. That means your logo, colors, and other identifying visuals should be easy to read and beautifully printed. Designer-approved tips include keeping your design minimalist and balanced, with care taken that fonts are sized appropriately and are legible. Look for a custom packaging company that offers a service that will design your box for you, in addition to the option to DIY.

Create Your Own Subscription Box

2. Your box needs to be the right size and durable enough to hold your products. Most subscription box services choose custom mailer boxes. These durable, lightweight mailers provide safe, secure transportation with the bonus of being easy to pack with tuckable sides. They also have a clean look. That said, if you're delivering larger, heavier products, then a shipping box might be right for you. Once you've chosen a box, you'll need to make a decision about materials: kraft, standard white, and premium white. Here are some tips on choosing the right material. And keep in mind that the right box can save you money too. Sometimes the best box is a custom one, so it's important to work with a custom packaging company that offers custom projects in addition to standard sizes.

3. The products you're shipping need to be displayed safely and neatly, potentially with inner packaging that increases the anticipation or surprise element of the package. That might mean using custom inserts to keep breakable objects protected or using inner branded gift boxes to keep everything nestled exactly as you intend.

4. The experience of opening your package should feel branded and special, like receiving a thoughtful gift. That includes touches such as printing on the inside flap of your custom mailer box or using custom tissue paper as a special wrapping to increase anticipation as your customers open up their packages.

5. The unboxing experience needs to be paramount. The eye-catching printed branding on the outside of your box, the way you treat your inner packaging, the experience of opening the box itself. Each of these elements are part of the unboxing experience, which can drive interest, serve as free advertising, create customer loyalty, increase the perceived value of your product, and perhaps get you some free traffic from social media, too. Here's how creating a successful unboxing experience can save you money too.

6. Special releases, timed with limited-edition custom packaging, can excite your customers. Another way to use a custom shipping box to boost your subscription company is to release special or limited edition offerings, complete special branded shipping boxes. Some companies, such as BirchBox regularly use limited edition boxes to reel in customers, while others create special boxes for events such as the holidays or Valentine's Day. Stoke interest in your brand and product by releasing new goods via custom boxes.

Whether you're just starting out with subscription packaging or you're a long-time player in the space, choose a packaging company that offers you flexibility in ordering and quick turnaround. After all, the seamless experience you're hoping to provide to your customers is the same experience you should expect from your custom packaging company. Distinct Packaging prioritizes customer service, has no minimum order for flexibility, and ships all orders within 10 business days of being placed.
Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


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