Subscription boxes have been around since 2010 but have seen tremendous growth in popularity over the past few years.

Due to the pandemic and consumers moving to the more convenient e-commerce market, subscription boxes boomed in popularity by helping to make shopping even more accessible and frictionless.

But if you need proof of how profitable a subscription service is, the following statistics will prove this without a doubt.

In 2011, the subscription box industry was valued at around $57 million. This number jumped to $2.6 billion in 2016 before further ballooning to a whopping $22.7 billion industry in 2021 and is set to reach $1.5 trillion by 2025.

This rapid growth of subscription boxes shows the shift in consumer priorities to more convenient and personalized ways to get their products, and the subscription box is the perfect way to cater to this.

So if your business is thinking of starting a subscription service of your own, now is the perfect time to tap into this rapidly growing industry!

And to help get you started, we have curated a list of innovative custom subscription boxes and design ideas bound to attract customers.

After all, personalized experiences aren’t just limited to the products offered but also the box itself. In an e-commerce-centric industry, the box is the first impression and is just as important as the product.

However, before we get into that, let us first cover the basics. What exactly is a subscription box?

The Subscription Box Model

Subscription boxes is a recurring service where businesses ship specific products to the consumer, usually on a monthly basis.

But what goes inside of a subscription box?

This model type is very effective in many industries, such as wine, food, books, toys, coffee, pets and beauty products. The options are limitless!

However, keep in mind that subscription services need to offer consumers something that traditional retailers cannot.

The main factors contributing to the preference and success of subscription boxes over traditional retailers are either for personalized experiences from trusted brands or for creating value by saving time and money.

To that extent, there are three types of subscription boxes available on the market:

Replenishment subscription – These subscription boxes automatically replenish the goods purchased so customers can pay once and receive their products without worrying about running out.

This subscription type saves the consumer time and tends to have the longest retention rate. 

The products offered typically need constant replenishment, like hygiene, food, or health products. 

An example of this type of subscription is the Dollar Shave Club which delivers shaving razors to its customers monthly.

Curation subscription – This type of subscription is the most popular and shows the consumers’ preference for personalized experiences.

Curated boxes cater to the consumers’ specific interests and save the consumer time and money. An example of this type of subscription is Birchbox, which offers its consumers a curated selection of beauty products.

Custom Packaging Subscription Box Business

However, despite being the most popular option, a business should take caution as curation subscriptions exhibit a higher bounce rate if the service is deemed poor value for money.

Access subscription – The final subscription type is the access subscription. This service type focuses on giving consumers extra perks or access to lower prices than those available anywhere else.

The subscription is not for a monthly box but for VIP access to an online shop that offers additional perks like discounts.

Access subscription is the least common of the other types of subscription boxes, but it is suitable for products that are infrequently used or have a high price point, like wine, apparel and cosmetics.

And while this type of subscription has the lowest retention rate, consumer satisfaction is high due to the perceived value they receive.

But now that you know the three types of subscription models, it’s time to dive into the meat of this article, packaging ideas for your subscription box design!

Subscription Box Ideas to Make Your Box Stand Out

We briefly mentioned earlier how the subscription boxes are packaged is just as important as the product itself.

In the e-commerce industry, the unboxing experience plays a significant role in customer satisfaction and retention. The package should elicit excitement and anticipation for what’s inside, and subscription boxes are no different.

Consumers will be opening your packaging each month, so having a good box plays a significant role in retaining subscriptions from satisfied customers.

Premium packaging also helps your brand distinguish itself from competitors and allows you to make a positive first impression on new customers as well.

So to point you in the right direction, we’ve curated several effective options for you to consider!

Cost-Effective Subscription Box Packaging Ideas

Let us first consider some cost-effective ideas for your subscription box packaging. 

We mentioned premium packaging helps create a lasting first impression and can distinguish your brand from competitors, but that only works if you don’t exceed your budget!

As discussed earlier, one of the main points of success for subscription services is to add a sense of value.

Consumers utilize subscription boxes for the perceived value they get by saving money and time.

If your business cannot absorb the cost of packaging, it will ultimately be passed onto the customer and can turn them off your service.

It is essential to know your budget before designing any packaging for your subscription boxes and stick within those limits.

For a small business with a limited budget, it is alright to start with simple packaging designs and revisit them once your orders increase!

Custom Box Printing Best Subscription Boxes

So to begin, let’s look at some small custom subscription boxes, design ideas and tips to decrease the cost of your packaging while retaining that personalized feeling for your customers.

The first thing to always consider to reduce the cost of your packaging is to buy your packaging materials in bulk.

Buying your packaging materials and boxes in bulk is more cost effective than purchasing in small batches.

The machines that produce your boxes require setup each time an order is made, which costs money. So doing one large order is more efficient than multiple small orders.

In addition, many manufacturers sell boxes by the square foot and price breaks from one square foot to the next can be as significant as a 20% reduction, so always consult your supplier for a quote! 

But though buying in bulk saves you money, it’s not really a design idea for your subscription box.

How do you make your subscription box packaging stand out on a budget?

Well, you will be glad to know that there are several cost-effective subscription box packaging design ideas for you to consider!

Custom tape and labels are an excellent alternative to the significantly more expensive fully custom box.

Though they are less impactful than a custom box, custom tapes and labels are still a professional and affordable way to distinguish yourself from the competition and add value to the unboxing experience for your customers.

To that same degree, custom stickers and tissue paper are also a low-cost way to showcase your subscription box packaging while enhancing the unboxing experience and creating a more luxurious feel for your package without breaking the bank.

Follow the Eco-Friendly Packaging Trend

The next thing to consider for your subscription box packaging design is the environment. 

Like all industries, eco-friendly packaging has become a significant concern and focal point for consumers when considering which companies to do business with.

Issues such as plastic pollution, ethically sourced sustainable resources, and energy consumption during manufacturing have been spotlighted in recent years.

Currently, 61% of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if the current brand they purchase from is not environmentally conscious, so following this eco-trend benefits the environment and your business.

Taking steps like utilizing sustainable resources, ensuring less energy consumption during package manufacturing and sourcing eco-friendly packaging materials for your boxes will shine a positive light on your brand.

Blue Apron, for example, features packaging over 85% recyclable by weight and aims to increase this percentage to 100% by 2025.

Other eco-friendly options to consider when planning your subscription box packaging designs are to consider a reusable or multi-purpose design.

Resealable mailers are an option which allows the customer to reuse the packaging after receiving it, or if you are feeling extra creative, consider designing your subscription box packaging in a way that can serve as something else after its primary purpose is fulfilled.

Getting creative with your packaging and designing it to be repurposed after its initial use is a great way to extend your package’s life cycle and reduce the environmental footprint of your business.

For example, FabFitFun got creative with its reusable their subscription box business by designing it to be repurposed into various things.

FabFitFun’s box can be repurposed as a desk organizer, a picture frame for your photos or even a clipboard!

The creative ways to repurpose your box after usage is endless, and FabFitFun is an excellent example of how this can be done!

But moving on to the final eco-friendly idea: using recycled materials in your packaging.

Recycled cardboard, air pillows, kraft paper and recycled packing tape are great eco-friendly options.

But regardless of the environmentally friendly options you choose, customers will always appreciate a company doing their part in reducing their environmental footprint.

Being eco-conscious applies to subscription boxes and all other packaging methods, so never hesitate to choose eco-friendly alternatives; they benefit the planet and your business!

Functional Subscription Boxes for Your Packaging

But now that we have covered the budget-friendly and eco-friendly options, it’s time to dive into more functional and innovative options available for you to consider.

Customizable packaging inserts are an excellent choice to include in your custom boxes and design plan.

These packaging inserts can come in the form of samples, promotions or even non-promotional gift items and tokens like keychains or stickers.

Small gifts like keychains and stickers are a great way to show appreciation for your customers without them feeling like you are constantly trying to advertise products.

However, suppose you do decide to include promotional inserts like coupons or samples in your subscription box. In that case, it can still encourage your customer to share these items with friends and family, which is excellent for expanding the reach of your business!

Regardless of the inserts you decide to include in your subscription box, adding something extra and unexpected for the customer will significantly enhance the unboxing experience and increase the perceived value of your custom boxes with the customers.

Another functional subscription box idea to consider is the current innovative technology known as smart packaging.

What is smart packaging? 

Put simply, smart packaging combines a package with technology to provide enhanced functionality and improved customer experience.

With smart packaging, your business can create an enhanced personal experience with your customer, improve communication channels, and improve your box’s overall experience.

Smart packaging comes in many different forms that can extend a product’s shelf life and prevent contaminants from entering susceptible food items, but for subscription boxes, we will be focusing on enhancing a customer’s unboxing experience.

Consider utilizing QR Codes or RFID Tags to enhance customers’ experience when opening your box.

QR codes are scannable barcodes that customers can interact with. 

By using their phone and scanning the image with their camera, they are taken to a designated website, further enhancing your box’s interactability and experience.

The website can be anything from a customer feedback survey, a promotional page or anything your business wishes.

QR codes are an excellent smart packaging option to connect with your customer and improve their unboxing experience.

Alternatively, including RFID tags on your subscription box design is also a good idea.

RFID tags offer real-time tracking for your packaging and allow the customer to always know where their package is.

This is an invaluable asset for subscription box services that need to send a package every month to their customer without fail.

If you want to know more about smart packaging, please visit this link.

But for now, let’s get back to subscription boxes.

Get Fun and Creative With Custom Subscription Box Packaging

The last set of subscription box design ideas we will cover are fun and creative!

With a box being mailed to your customer every month, it leaves you with a lot of room to get creative throughout the year.

In a similar vein to limited-edition packaging, themed boxes are another excellent idea for your subscription box service.

In limited-edition packaging, box designs can change based on seasons, holidays or other special occasions, and this can be applied to the subscription box model too!

The scarcity mentality is the idea that items that appear scarce or only available for a limited time generate more interest and value.

Custom Box Printing Best Subscription Boxes

Changing your box to match the changing seasons, or if your budget allows, changing it every month can significantly increase customer anticipation by keeping things fresh and unique while also tapping into this scarcity mentality.

By theming your boxes based on the month, season, or coming holiday, it will also create a similar effect as limited-edition packaging does, further increasing the value and interest of your subscription box!

As an added benefit to changing the packaging design regularly, it also encourages social media posts.

Having one box design throughout the year can get boring and stale. If you do this, customers may only post about your subscription box the first time they receive it and then refrain from posting again.

However, when you change the design of your box and theme it accordingly, it encourages more interaction and promotes regular social media posts!

And continuing off social media posting, the next fun and creative idea to consider for your subscription box design is creating a memorable unboxing experience.

We’ve already covered the importance of the unboxing experience, and themed boxes are a great start to improving this by keeping things fresh every month.

However, there are many other factors to improve a customer’s experience when unboxing your package.

Think about your box from the perspective of the customer. How does it feel to open your box? How do you want it to feel?

Compose your brand’s story. Keep your packaging cohesive and have a consistent brand image so customers get a smooth experience from beginning to end.

Consistency doesn’t mean making each of your boxes the same, but setting a solid foundation before branching off and experimenting is a great way to start building this consistency.

Experiment with different color palettes and find one that suits your brand and the emotions you want to elicit.

An example of great utilization of colors, brand consistency, and themed boxes is Birchbox with its consistently eye-catching exterior packaging.

Birchbox creates different, themed monthly boxes for both men’s and women’s packaging. Each package has different colors that cater to its audience but maintain consistency throughout the designs.

Each package displays Birchbox’s logo clearly and near the center of the box, but the color palette is different based on the intended audience.

For example, one of Birchbox’s grooming kits for men features a solid blue color and a simple white accented design. In contrast, another package targeted toward women features lighter colors and floral designs.

Birchbox is the perfect example of how businesses can innovatively utilize themed boxes and various colors while maintaining a consistent brand image.

Subscribe to Innovative Box Designs for Success

Now with all the innovative ideas and successful subscription boxes fresh in your mind, it’s time to get designing!

Subscription box services are on a meteoric ride, and if you are looking to hop onto this trend, now is a great time to begin.

With new technology and innovations being created for the packaging industry, subscription box services are also on a fast track of growth.

Subscription boxes and packaging are inseparable, so if you are looking for a successful business, you must invest as much time and effort in the packaging as the products you offer.

Thoroughly consider the unboxing experience when you design your subscription box and create something memorable for consumers to cherish.

If you manage to do this, you are already on track for a successful subscription box service!


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