Subscription commerce has been growing rapidly and there’s now interesting subscription boxes for all sorts of products and lifestyles. As we’ve written before, successful subscription boxes tend to have at least three of the following seven properties:
- Existing community of enthusiasts
- Evergreen category
- Audience is looking for continuous discovery (books, music, diy)
- Recurring need
- Customer wants to make someone they love happy (kids boxes, dog boxes)
- Emotional connection
- It’s a way of life (think Crossfit, runners, etc.)
If you’re having trouble coming up with a subscription box idea of your own, here’s 50 ideas to get you started.
Art and Culture
Maker Crates and Technology Kits
The DIY movement is huge and there’s a ton of neat technology projects to build. Imagine getting parts and instructions in the mail every month? Rasberry Pi projects, Arduino challenges, or even bigger projects that take several months to complete, like building your own drone! A great example of this type of box is Creation Crate.
A number of the most popular boxes sold through Cratejoy are book subscriptions (one has over 60k subscribers!). Book of the month clubs have been around since at least 1926, but they’re seeing a big resurgence now with subscription boxes. Most book boxes operate in a niche (young adult, mystery, science fiction) and also send out signed copies, letters from the author, posters, or other materials related to the book. The best book subscription boxes are as much about building an engaged community as they are reading excellent books!
It’s exciting to have a great idea for a jewelry project, but often materials need to be bought in bulk (which can be expensive). What if an inspiring project landed on your doorstep each month with exactly the materials you needed? For the Makers has good thing going with their DIY projects, but there’s definitely room for more great subscription boxes in this space.
National Parks Subscription Box
People love National Parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion. Why not start a subscription box that helps people learn about the National Parks and their history?
Remember when CD clubs were huge in the 90s (looking at you BMG and Columbia House)? Well, guess what. Vinyl sales are now at 28 year high! Maybe it’s time to re-start the business model.
3D Printer Cartridges and Designs
The 3D printing industry is growing rapidly and there’s plenty of hobbyists that might enjoy a steady supply of neat designs to print and cartridges to refill their printers.
Send out an origami challenge each month with the paper supplies and instructions. Then fold up the dollar bills you earn each month and stick them in your wallet.
Knitting, Crochet, and Cross Stitch Boxes
People who knit, crochet, and cross stitch love finding new amazing materials or patterns to improve their craft. A subscription product in this field will do best if the founder is already well known in these communities (i.e., has a popular website or video series), and can be trusted to curate a great box.
Gear Supply Co sends out quality guitar strings via subscription. Could there also be a market for banjo, violin, ukulele or cello strings?
Kids Education and Craft Boxes
There are several fun subscription boxes on Cratejoy designed especially for kids. Spangler Science Club sends out hands-on science experiments for kids K-6. Marky Box does art projects. Girls Can! Crate has inspiring projects for young girls. What other fun subscription box ideas for kids can you think of?
Planning and Stationery Boxes
Calendars, notebooks, pens and stationery are all perfect replenishment goods. We have an entire category on Cratejoy for planning and stationery subscription boxes.
Kids Books and Toys
Kids love novel toys and books. Subscription boxes also easily allow relatives or friends to send gifts and stay connected to the child even if they don’t live nearby.
Food and Beverage
Unlike restrictions on mailing alcohol, all the ingredients for a home brew kit can be sent through USPS. Write up the recipe. Pick out the hops, grains or malt, and yeast. And then send your box to some happy home brewers. If you want to go even more speciality, go for homebrew niches, like meads, ciders, or seasonal fruit wines.
Cooking Subscription Box
There’s a lot of companies tackling the market for high-end, fresh and healthy meals: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated as examples. But are there other interesting niches in this market? Definitely. Try cuisine from a specific region: Thai, Caribbean or Moroccan. Or ingredients that can all be cooked in a microwave (hello college students!). Or even nutritious meals that can be made on the cheap.
Some people are seriously into pickling. Sauerkraut, kimchi, eggs, and, oh yeah, cucumbers! Is pickling your passion? Maybe it’s time to start a box for it.
Health Food Bars
If you’ve ever read the back of a ClifBar, you know the founder just got fed up with traditional bars and started making his own at home. Now the company makes an estimated $500 million in revenue. The size of the health food bar industry as a whole is expected to jump to 6.2 billion by 2018. Health bars would make an excellent subscription product, constant replenishment and easy to ship. Get in there!
Pie of the month. Enough said.
I have a suspicion that no actually eats fruit cake, it just gets re-gifted around the holidays. But someone should start an annual subscription box and see how it works out.
If you have chocolate business, you should definitely offer a chocolate subscription. If you just love chocolate, well, get your chocolate on: Chocolate of the Month.
There’s a lot of competition in coffee subscriptions, including big brands like Starbucks, Peets, and Blue Bottle. If you run a coffee brand or roastery it definitely makes sense to include subscriptions in your sales mix, but anyone looking to just resell other coffee brands with markup may want to think twice.
You may have hear of brands like Nature Box, Conscious Box, or Graze. On Cratejoy there’s also a whole category for snack boxes with over 50 listings. If you’re looking to start a snack subscription box for fruit leather, popcorn, or some other (probably better) idea- make sure you’re aware of the competition and entering an area you can do better than anyone else.
Jams, Preserves, and Honey
Actually, most anything that goes on toast would make a good subscription. Nutella? Marmite? Seasonal fruit jams? Sign me up.
Wine, Beer, Cider or Cocktail Subscription
There are stringent rules about shipping alcohol, so it’s ideal to partner with an existing distributor if you’re offering alcohol in your subscription box. However, wine clubs have been around since the early 70s and the business model is great for beer, cider and drinks. If you’re interested in pursuing this type of subscription business, we wrote a piece specifically about it.
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The United States imported over 315 million premium cigars last year. That’s a big market. Cigars are lightweight and easy to ship. Cigar aficionados love them.
Do you know people hassled by paparazzi? On the run from the law? Or just going for a really different look each month? Not sure if there’s really a market for this, but it’s possible. Just make sure to collect the money up front.
James Bond always had to trudge over to Q’s lab in order to pick up the latest gear. What if it was delivered to his door monthly? How convenient.
This idea occurred to me when “I Love Scrubs”, a subscription box especially for nurses showed up on the Cratejoy marketplace. Could boxes be marketed for teachers, lawyers, dentists, auto mechanics and other people in other careers?
People get excited television shows, sports teams, bands and movies stars. Tap into the enthusiasm with a subscription box specifically for that audience.
Pet Subscription Boxes
Check out the pet subscription boxes on Cratejoy. There’s lots of dog and cat boxes, but only a few boxes for other sorts of pets (birds and horses). Guess what? All animals matter: turtles, lizards, fish, hamsters and ferrets. Don’t they deserve a box too?
Fitness, Health and Outdoors
If there’s any birders in your life, you know they’re fanatics. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, birders spent an estimated $15 billion on their trips and $26 billion on equipment. That’s more than a little bird seed. If you have a passion for birding, this might be the perfect type of subscription box to start.
There’s a number of sports boxes on Cratejoy. Everything from Golf (The Swingers Box and Tee Club) to Cross Fit. But there’s still plenty of sports niches to fill: tennis, soccer, basketball, water polo, climbing, volleyball, etc. Start one that gets you moving!
Vitamins are one of the perfect replenishment subscriptions. Great fit for online or retail shops that already sell vitamins, and niche brands that sell speciality vitamins.
Home and Living
Grow your business while helping other grow their gardens. Focus on something specific, seeds, indoor gardens, flowers, herbs, organic pest control, etc.
Cleaning supplies are one of the class replenishment goods, but remember, you’re up against Amazon and Target which now also offer subscriptions for common household goods. You need to have a product that people love and that can’t be found elsewhere: think chemical free soaps, baby-safe products, sustainably sourced ingredients, etc.
If you run a floral business, definitely consider offering a flower subscription offering to your customers. Offices and workplaces in particular are great customers for weekly or monthly floral arrangements.
Think quality cleaners, rags, and polishes to keep a car looking good.
Fashion, Beauty and Grooming
Who would have thought one dollar razor blades could turn into a billion dollar subscription business? Surely there’s other personal care products that would make a great subscription! You wouldn’t think people would be enthusiastic about deodorant, but the Portland based natural deodorant brand Schmit’s Pits has over 140k likes on Facebook and traditional brands like Old Spice have over 2 million.
Boka is an awesome merchant on Cratejoy already doing an oral care subscription box. Is there room in the market for more? Americans currently spend around $2 billion annually on mouthwash, toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss. Over 3.5 billion toothbrushes are sold worldwide. That’s a lot of subscriptions.
Soap is a great subscription product and our Cratejoy merchants have found lots of great niches: soap bars, goat soap, shampoos, natural soaps, bath bombs and more. Artisan soap makers can find a great source of recurring revenue by selling their products as a subscription.
Jewelry subscriptions are very popular on the Cratejoy marketplace. What’s neat is that any number of boxes can compete in this market, as customers tend to look for curators that have the same style as themselves or specific artisans they like. Just produce good, interesting, and unique boxes and your customers will find you.
If you’re the type of person that loves a good bolo tie and pearl snaps, perhaps a subscription box for Western Wear box is calling to you.
I don’t know of anyone doing this on Cratejoy, but why not mail out a product each month and then return it when you new box comes? This could work great for products like luxury bags and jewelry.
Baby clothes might be trickier than some of the other subscription ideas listed here because babies grow at all different rates and parents have particular style and clothing preferences. However, Ibsis estimates the kids clothing market is a $9B industry. Online sales of infant clothes alone was $937m. There’s definitely potential for infant subscription boxes that do it right.
T-shirt subscriptions work well for customers that are passionate about a specific topic or community: gamers, gardeners, crossfit, police, etc.
Socks and Underwear
Who says there isn’t innovation in the sock or underwear category? High quality materials, good fit, and great prints can all make a subscription box people are excited to get each month.
Geek and Gaming
Mystery and Puzzle Subscriptions
This is one of the most intriguing category of subscription boxes I’ve run across. Hunt a Killer is a subscription where you follow clues from a fictitious serial killer to solve the case. The Mystery Experiences Company also sends you a monthly mystery to solve. So don your deerstalker cap and solve the puzzle of your next subscription box idea.
Everyone wants to learn magic at some point in their life. Why not start a subscription box to teach the secrets of the trade? This could be paired nicely with a YouTube video series where the tricks are explained.
Some people would prefer to communicate through pure emoji. Let’s get them some IRL emojis for daily life.
Trading Cards and Accessories
Pokemon, Yugioh, Baseball, Magic the Gathering – the list of trading cards and games goes on and on. Why not cater to trading card fans with monthly decks and apparel representing their favorite collections?
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