Subscription commerce has been growing rapidly, and there are now interesting subscription boxes for all sorts of products and lifestyles. As we’ve written before, successful subscription boxes tend to have at least 3 of the following 7 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 are 50 ideas in the most popular categories of subscription boxes – art & culture, food & drink, novelty/kitsch, pets, outdoors & fitness, home & living, beauty & fashion, and geek & gaming – to help get you started.
1. 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.
2. Book Boxes
A number of the most popular boxes sold through Cratejoy are book subscriptions (one has over 60,000 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 (e.g. 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!
3. Jewelry Making
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? There is definitely room for more great subscription boxes in this space.
4. 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. In 2016, vinyl sales hit a 28-year high – and there’s no slowing it down! Maybe it’s time to restart the business model.
6. 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.
8. 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), but anyone with the passion and knowledge of the materials can create a great box – take YarnYAY!, for example!
9. Instrument Strings
Stringjoy sends out quality guitar strings via subscription. Could there also be a market for banjo, violin, ukulele or cello strings?
10. 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. We Craft Box features activities to help children spend quality time creating with their families. Girls Can! Crate has inspiring projects for young girls. What other fun subscription box ideas for kids can you think of?
11. 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, featuring boxes like Cloth & Paper. With the popularity of bullet journaling on the rise, the planning and stationery niche is a great one to target.
12. 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.
13. Homebrewing Box
Unlike restrictions on mailing alcohol, all the ingredients for a homebrew kit can be sent through USPS. A great example of this is Shaker & Spoon or SaloonBox DIY Cocktail Kit. Write up the recipe. Pick out the hops, grains or malt, and yeast. Then send your box to some happy homebrewers! If you want to go even more specialty, go for homebrew niches like meads, ciders, or seasonal fruit wines.
14. 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 are good 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.
15. Pickling Box
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.
16. 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!
17. Pie Subscription
Pie of the month. Enough said.
I have a suspicion that no actually eats fruitcake; it just gets re-gifted around the holidays. But someone should start an annual subscription box and see how it works out.
19. Chocolate Subscription
If you have chocolate business, you should definitely offer a chocolate subscription. If you just love chocolate, well, get your chocolate on: see Jackie’s Chocolates, for example.
20. Baking Boxes
There are some really great baking subscriptions on Cratejoy, like Mix Box by Homemade Bakers. Can you think of other types of niche bake boxes that would do well? Specialty diets always do well, like vegan foods, gluten-free, French desserts, and so on.
There’s a lot of competition in coffee subscriptions, including big brands like Starbucks, Peet’s, 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 heard of brands like NatureBox, Conscious Box (now Urthbox), 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.
23. Jams, Preserves, and Honey
Actually, most anything that goes on toast would make a good subscription. Nutella? Marmite? Seasonal fruit jams? Sign me up.
24. 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.
Woohoo, you've made it halfway through the list! Already have a brilliant subscription idea ready? Sign up with Cratejoy and get it started.
25. Cigar Subscriptions
The United States imported over 315 million premium cigars last year. That’s a big market. Cigars are lightweight and easy to ship, and everyone from novices to aficionados love them.
26. Disguise Box
Do you know people hassled by paparazzi? On the run from the law? Or just going for a really different look each month (totally possible with FX Crate)? Not sure if there’s really a market for this, but it’s possible. Just make sure to collect the money up front.
27. Spy Box
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.
28. Professional Boxes
Could boxes be marketed for teachers, lawyers, dentists, auto mechanics and other people in a range of careers?
29. Fan Boxes
People get excited about television shows, sports teams, bands and movie stars. Tap into the enthusiasm with a subscription box specifically for that audience.
30. Pet Subscription Boxes
Check out the pet subscription boxes on Cratejoy. There are 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?
31. Birders Box
If there are 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 birdseed! If you have a passion for birding, this might be the perfect type of subscription box to start.
32. Sports Box
There’s a number of sports boxes on Cratejoy – everything from golf (like Swingers Box and Tee Up Box) to CrossFit. But there’s still plenty of sports niches to fill: tennis, soccer, basketball, water polo, climbing, or even volleyball. Start one that gets you moving!
Vitamins are one of the perfect replenishment subscriptions. They’re a great fit for online or retail shops that already sell vitamins, and niche brands that sell specialty vitamins.
34. Gardening Box
Grow your business while helping others grow their gardens, like what My Garden Box does. Focus on something specific – like seeds, indoor gardens, flowers, herbs, or organic pest control.
35. Cleaning Supplies
Cleaning supplies are in the class of 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 to your customers. Offices and workplaces in particular are great customers for weekly or monthly floral arrangements.
37. Car Detailing
Think quality cleaners, rags, and polishes to keep a car looking good.
38. Deodorant Subscription
Who would have thought one-dollar razor blades could turn into a billion-dollar subscription business? Surely there are 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 Schmidt’s Naturals has over 140k likes on Facebook and traditional brands like Old Spice have over 2 million.
39. Dental Care
Boka is an awesome seller 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.
40. Soap Subscription
Soap is a great subscription product, and our Cratejoy sellers 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.
42. Western Wear
If you’re the type of person that loves a good bolo tie and pearl snaps, perhaps a subscription box for Western gear is calling to you.
43. Luxury Bags
I don’t know of anyone doing this on Cratejoy, but why not mail out a product each month and then return it when your new box comes? This could work great for products like luxury bags and jewelry.
44. Baby Clothes
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, IBIS estimates that the kids clothing market is a $9 billion industry. Online sales of infant clothes alone were $937 million. 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 enthusiasts, police, etc.
46. 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.
47. 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. Escape the Crate sends you a monthly escape room game to solve in the comfort of your own home. Don your deerstalker cap and solve the puzzle of your next subscription box idea!
48. Magic Box
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.
49. Emoji Box
Some people would prefer to communicate through pure emoji. Let’s get them some IRL emojis for daily life.
50. Trading Cards and Accessories
Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh, 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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