For entrepreneurs looking to start their own subscription business, picking the right e-commerce platform can be one of the most important (and daunting) decisions.
Of the many choices available, Cratejoy and Shopify are two of the most popular options. Founded in 2006, Shopify is a broad e-commerce platform designed to help small businesses and shops get their products online, while Cratejoy, a newer platform, is an all-in-one solution designed specifically for subscription box entrepreneurs.
Although both Shopify and Cratejoy share a number of features, each excels at a different type of e-commerce, with the latter specializing in subscription box business.
When to Choose Shopify
Shopify is ideal if a business sells many different products and is interested in adding a subscription option. A vitamin shop, for example, may sell hundreds of different types of vitamins. The majority of sales are likely one-time purchases, but a subscription purchase option would be a smart addition to tap into customers that buy every few weeks or months.
For this use case, Shopify is likely the best platform – it has mature tools for handling one-time sales and a variety of third-party apps that can bolt on the subscription functionality.
When to Choose Cratejoy
Cratejoy is perfect for businesses that plan to primarily sell subscription boxes – and chances are, if you’re reading this article, that’s what you’re looking to do. For example, a business may want to launch a subscription box for weightlifters that includes vitamins, protein powers, and workout supplies. Although the business may have some one-time sales, the bulk of the business is with subscription sales.
For this use case, Cratejoy is likely the better platform choice. It’s designed entirely around subscription commerce and offers additional resources like the Marketplace which help drive sales. Cratejoy offers the ability to sell one-time products (or upsell), giving merchants an additional channel of revenue and way to offload excess inventory.
As the only subscription box marketplace, Cratejoy offers more than 3 million monthly page visits and 35,000+ monthly transactions. This allows small, up-and-coming merchants to gain invaluable exposure to a diverse group of subscription box fans.
Read what Cratejoy merchants have to say about the platform and the Marketplace.
“While debating between Cratejoy and other platforms, I took a chance and decided to use Cratejoy because they had everything I needed in terms of marketing, processing, and ease of shipping subscriptions. I am so glad I went with Cratejoy, because now about 50% of my subscribers come from the marketplace through the efforts of the marketing team! I am highly impressed by the marketing team and the support received from the Cratejoy platform thus far. Grateful for all that they do in making my life easier as I am a one woman show!” – Ting Ting from Therabox
“Cratejoy has made my dream of owning a subscription box a doable reality. From offering invaluable tools and information during my launch phase, then incredible support as we have grown. They are my tech team, my business mentors, and their Marketplace is my marketing team. I don’t know what it would cost to hire all those people, but I do know I couldn’t have done this without them. Being part of the Cratejoy family has made my box the success it is today!” – Rebecca from Rebecca Mail
“Cratejoy’s all-in-one platform for subscription boxes made a lot of sense for us when we wanted to build our own box. Having the platform made it so we didn’t have to worry about the technical aspect at all and were able to build our business with extremely light coding work and simple design so we could focus on other aspects of the subscription box business. The resources on subscription school and the marketing help from the Cratejoy team were essential to starting up and really getting the business going.” – Shaker & Spoon
“Cratejoy has been a great platform for us to launch and scale Sparkle Hustle Grow. I look at their team as an extension to ours – a software support team, a sales team through the Marketplace and even a public relations arm (where their team was able to score us some great press!)” – Julie from Sparkle Hustle Grow
“I switched to Cratejoy after working with another sub box platform that left me sorely disappointed in terms of customer service and support. Cratejoy is the polar opposite– the documentation is extensive, support questions are responded to quickly, and even more amazingly, Cratejoy helps me to *promote* my subscription box. Highly recommend — and I’ve already recommended it greatly among my ecommerce merchant circles.” – Adeline from Sabbatical Beauty
Unlike Cratejoy, Shopify does not support subscription commerce itself, but there are a number of third-party apps that enable subscription functionality on the platform.
|Third Party App||Monthly Cost||Trial|
|Paywhirl||Free – $249.00||14 days|
|Charge Rabbit||$75.00+ or %||None|
Although the subscription integrations work well in general, these are some potential issues to consider with third-party apps:
- Many require an offsite checkout
- Shopify itself can’t provide support for the app
- Extra monthly fees
- Third-party app screens don’t always integrate well with Shopify
- Verify that shipping integrations will work
To get a subscription product set up in Shopify, it should be created first as a one-time product. Next, the shop owner will install one of the subscription add-ons. Once the app is installed, additional settings screens will be enabled that allow recurring purchase options to be set for the product.
Cratejoy is built specifically with subscription commerce in mind. Once you sign up for the Cratejoy’s free 14 day trial, you can set up all your subscriptions and one-time products in one place. No additional apps are needed; Cratejoy supports everything you need to run your subscription box directly through the platform.
Shopify has different size plans depending on the features you need. Their most basic pricing level is $29/mo. The third-party subscription apps start at an additional $19.99/mo. All the subscription apps require an external payment processor, which is an additional 2%.
Shopify Basic with subscription app: $48.99/mo + 2% per transaction.
Cratejoy costs $39/mo and 1.25% + 10¢ per transaction.
Both platforms also have credit card transaction fees of 2.9% + 30¢ with a payment processor like Stripe.
Other Factors to Consider
Both platforms support international sales, sales tax collection, and provide tools for outsourced fulfillment. Each platform has free themes for launching a business site quickly, and a developer can further customize the look. Both also offer integrations for common third-party services like MailChimp and ShipStation.
If a business requires specialized integrations, it would be good to do more research to find out if it can be supported through each platform.
For businesses that have a large marketing bandwidth and budget, have a large product inventory, and want to add specific product subscription, Shopify is likely the better choice. For businesses that want to launch a subscription box or add a channel of revenue, Cratejoy is the way to go – the community, tools, analytics, platform, and marketplace can’t be beat.
Cratejoy is an all in one subscription commerce platform that includes everything you need to start your own subscription commerce business online. Try it free for 14 days.