8 build-a-box subscription examples and how to set one up

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Getting personal is more important than ever in commerce today. Consumers expect to have control and a great experience — this is just as true for subscriptions as it is for one-time orders.

When subscribers have the power to easily adjust their next order — and even skip one all together — they might be less likely to unsubscribe. That's where build-a-box style order building comes in.

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Subscriptions can frustrate consumers if they feel like their "control of purchase decisions has been lost"— and this can lead to higher unsubscribe rates. But if you up customer retention by just 5%, profits can increase by 25% to 95%! That’s a whole lot more money in your pocket.

It's one of the seven models you can mix and match to create your own unique subscription service that attracts and retains subscribers. A build-a-box style subscription lets customers choose exactly what they want in their box, helping you build a better relationship with them.

Benefits

  • It provides a fun, interactive experience and the customization many shoppers want.
  • It gives subscribers full control over perceived quality and quantity.
  • It allows you to identify which products are the most popular (based on frequency of selection) and expand on those or promote them more heavily to new customers.

Things to look out for

  • When you’re putting customers in the driver’s seat, it can make inventory forecasting a challenge.
  • Not only will inventory be more challenging, fulfillment also becomes more complex for build-a-box models.

Build-a-box subscriptions are most commonly associated with the meal kit industry, like HelloFresh or Blue Apron. But there are actually lots of versatile applications, from cannabis supplies to beauty products. Check out some great real-life examples below.

Build-a-box subscription examples

1. Kathy's Table - Meal subscription

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If you suffer from Celiac or Crohn's, it can be hard to find food that keeps you feeling good and healthy.

Luckily for people in the Jacksonville area, they can get gluten-free and dairy-free meals delivered to their door from Kathy's Table.

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The fun branding of each meal plan, along with some key nutrition facts, gives customers the information they need to build a meal plan that's right for them.

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With over 20 meals to choose from — plus drinks, deserts, and snack packs — subscribers have a lot of tasty options. 

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A simple layout and intuitive flow makes it easy for people to pick exactly what meals they want.

Subscribers also have the option to log into their account and edit their next order. Plus, every two weeks when they release change up their menu, subscribers can pick from new delicious options.

Key takeaway: Zero in on a nice and use a detailed but simple onboarding flow to engage those cusrtomers and make them feel like they're getting a premium experince.

2. Prairie Box - Meal subscription

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This company gives busy people who want healthy meals that are "simple, satisfying and delicious" a way eat at home when they're too busy to do meal prep.

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Their Everyday Meal subscription provides a simple flow for people to pick what meals they want delivered on a weekly basis.

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They also give people the option to pause and edit their subscription from their online accounts.

Key takeaway: People are willing to support local and when you pair that with an easy-to-edit orders, you're way more likely to keep customers happy and subscribed.

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3. The Foreign Affair Winery - Wine subscription

The Canadians behind this brand use Italian techniques to produce renowned wines. They also offer a monthly delivery of bottles through their Wine Club.

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Subscribers can get a curated selection of three wines, or choose their own with a build-a-box style subscription. 

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Key takeaway: With their Wine Club, Foreign Affair has a better chance of converting customers who might be afraid they won’t like the wines from a pre-selected box. This gives those shoppers the option to select their own.

4. Click & Grow - Indoor gardening subscription

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Giving a little bit of nature to city dwellers — and the joy that comes along with it — is the mission behind Click & Grow. They sell indoor smart gardens, plants, and accessories so customers can grow happy plants anywhere. 

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Part of their offering is a build-a-box style subscription for plant pods people can easily cultivate in their smart gardens.

The simple subscription flow and flexible options make it easy for people to get exactly what they want.

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Key takeaway: Flexibility paired with a meaningful brand purpose can give customers a more memorable experience

 

5. Lashify - Beauty subscription

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Lashify sell salon-quality DIY lash extensions in a customizable subscription box. They are easy to use, damage free, and offer the flexibility to create the look you want — from natural to springingly dramatic. 

Lashify offers two subscription ‘memberships.’ A basic curated subscription is available for a flat rate, but they heavily promote the benefits of their build-a-box by offering extra discounts, flexibility, and benefits. Customers can also add more to their box for a flexible pricing model.

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 9.06.47 AMAfter selecting the delivery frequency, scroll through the many eyelash options and accessories and customize your order.

Key takeaway: Offer a premium tier to server customers better and give them an incentive to spend a little more for a better experience.

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6. Tree to Tub - Bath subscription

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 9.19.39 AMWhen founder Michael Koh was growing up in Taiwan, he would do anything to avoid a bath. Soaps burned his skin and spread itchy red bumps all over his body. Then his grandmother introduced him to the soapberry, a natural cleanser that lathered up like soap but without the pain.

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Tree to Tub's bath and shower products are made from the soapberry, "natures healing soap." And if you really love them and know you are going to keep buying them, you can save 50% by subscribing to their build-a-box. 

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You simply pick 6 products you want to receive and set the delivery frequency. They could arrive once a week, or every two months, it's up to you. 

Key takeaway: An brand with a vision and core tenant plus a good selection of products is a prime opportunity for a great build-a-box.

7. Hemper - Cannabis supplies

Hemper has multiple subscription options, including a classic curated box and two build-a-box subscriptions. Their ‘Build-a-Box Core’ serves up six ‘essentials,’ while their ‘Build-a-Box Plus’ (at twice the price) offers six ‘essentials’ from upper tier brands plus a premium item.

With a simple onboarding flow and tons of interesting products to choose from, Hemper provide a great experience for their niche audience.

Key takeaway:  Another great example of a brand serving up a premium tier to give subscribers a reason to spend a little more.

8. Chaeban - Ice cream club subscription

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When Covid-19 forced Chaeban to close their doors to summer customers, they thought they were done for. They make the bulk of their revenue over the summer months by selling scoops of ice cream over the counter, but instead of giving up, they created a ice club unlike any other in Canada.

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Their build-a-box subscription allows members to pick flavors of their choice for monthly delivery. This is a great example of how a brick-and-mortar business can serve their local customers and earn stable income from a traditionally seasonal business.

Key takeaway: Build-a-box can work for businesses you might not normally associate with ubscriptions.


Tip: Keep your subscriptions fresh & give customers a heads up that they can add more

Depending on the market you're in, you might want to update your subscription product selection regularly. That way, every so often your subscribers can choose from new and exciting options, swapping out and trying other products.

You can even send out an email to subscribers a few days before you're planning to ship to remind them to adjust or add more to their order. This can be great for increasing customer retention and increasing average order value.

How do you set up a build-a-box subscription on your store?

If you have a store on platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce, there are some third party apps that can provide you with this build-a-box subscription functionality.

Of course, we're partial to our Bold Subscriptions app. But don't take our word for it! It has over 1,200 five-star reviews and great brands around the world use it. Take a look at our test store to see it live in action, or install it today.

On-demand webinar: Uncover winning techniques behind top subscriptions

Why do so many stores use Bold? Because giving customers more control makes them more satisfied. Why lose a subscriber because they can't edit their subscription? Give them the ability to change up their next delivery, or even skip an order all together.

First, you need Bold Subscriptions to start your recurring order business on Shopify or BigCommerce.

Try Bold Subscriptions
Once you’ve set up the app, or if you already have it installed,
learn how to set up Build-a-Box on your store.

Set up build-a-box

If you have any questions at all, send us an email or check out our release page for all the details.

Our industry-leading customer service specialists will help you get your subscription working exactly the way you want it to.

Automatic substitutions

A cool feature that our Subscriptions app has is automatic product substitutions. So if you change up your subscription box and customers forget to log in and make new selections, they’ll still get products that match their preferences.

Let’s go with meal boxes as an example. The first month, a customer selects grilled eggplant parmesan as an entree and vegan brownies as a desert.

If you change your menu for their second month, but the subscriber forgets to make a new selection, the app will use the labels to automatically substitute your new menu item in the next order.

So in this case, their first selections could have the labels ‘vegan entree’ and ‘vegan desert.' So in their delivery for the next month, they’ll automatically receive your new desert, like vegan oatmeal cookies.

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Bottom line: Build-a-box functionality will make you more money

We hope this gave you inspiration on how to set up a fully-customizable, build-a-box style subscription.

When you're ready to execute it, we'd love to help. Use Bold Subscriptions to unlock this functionality for your subscribers, providing them with a manageable subscription they'll hold onto.

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Let us know in the comments below how you’re using this new feature! 

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John Bruce

Written by John Bruce

John is a full-time copywriter, part-time boxing coach, and former cable-access host.


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