Packaging and Design

Your Step-By-Step Guide to Subscription Box Packaging for E-Commerce Success: Part One

Are you interested in launching a subscription box business and capitalizing on one of the strongest trends in e-commerce today? Businesses like Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron have created stable customer bases by delivering monthly boxes of niche products. And much of the success of these brands is linked to the packaging experience they create.

After all, when you’re selling online, the package your products arrive in are the only physical touchpoint between you and the customer. It’s important to nail that packaging—and that’s exactly what this two-part series will help you to do!

The idea is to help you create packaging that will inspire those increasingly essential “unboxing experiences” that customers love to document and share online. An unboxing video or picture can drive major awareness of and sales for your e-commerce business.

In this series, we’ll walk you, step by step, through the important decisions you’ll need to make regarding your subscription box packaging. But before we get to that, these statistics are worth knowing:

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, the growth of the worldwide e-commerce industry continues to be robust. In fact, a growth rate of 8.95% is expected between 2024 and 2028. And within this market, the subscription box business is expected to perform phenomenally well, with a growth rate of 18% for the 2022-2027 period.

According to a survey by Clutch, 54% of online shoppers say they subscribe to a subscription box service; it satisfies their desire for novelty and convenience.

If you have a niche product that will appeal to your target demographic’s natural interest in novelty and convenience, a subscription box business makes all the sense in the world. So, let’s explore how to amp up that customer experience by creating the perfecting packaging!

In this post, we’ll cover the critical decisions you need to make as you create your box. In our next post, we’ll cover what happens after you create your box and begin growing your business.

#1: Choose your box style

Knowing that your mission is to deliver your niche product safely while maximizing on that feeling of novelty and overall wow factor, what box style should you choose?

Here are the options:

Roll-End Tuck Front (RETF) with Dustflaps

 The RETF with Dustflaps provides all the features of the RETF box with an extra benefit: side flaps that keep all unwanted particles out.

Roll-End Tuck Front (RETF)

 The RETF box is an extremely popular choice for a few reasons:

  • It’s a simple design that looks effortlessly attractive
  • The rounded flaps tuck in elegantly to secure the box

Roll-End Tuck Top (RETT)

The RETT has a front flap but it doesn’t have any side flaps for fully securing the box—to do that, you need an additional seal. Depending on your branding, that seal might be an added touch that adds major value!

Roll-End Tuck Top (RETT) with Dustflaps

The RETT with Dustflaps has all the features of the RETT, but also includes flaps to keep dust and dirt at bay.

illustration of 4 different Roll-End Tuck Top (RETT) with Dustflaps boxes

#2: Choose your box material

First, know that when you’re choosing your box material, corrugated cardboard is the just tip of the iceberg! This decision can be an opportunity to not only provide a functional and attractive unboxing experience but also express deep brand values. For example, many of our clients do this by opting for sustainable materials.

Here are some of the options when it comes to “look”:

Kraft – Kraft is the classic natural brown cardboard look. Choose it to express branding that’s earthier.

Standard White – Standard White is exactly what it sounds like: that common white cardboard box. Choose it when you want to print colours that won’t look quite right on Kraft.

Premium White –  When you choose premium white, you get a more pure, elegant-looking white. This is a great choice when your design is minimal and there’s a lot of exposed white space on your box.

In terms of sustainability, here are some other considerations:

We’ve written a post about ways e-commerce businesses can practice greater sustainability through their packaging choices; you can read about that here. But in essence, know that with your boxes, you can choose:

  • Customized boxes and inserts that are designed to use less material
  • Up to 100% post-consumer recycled material
  • Compostable protective packaging (like plant-based “peanuts”) to go inside your box

Finally, know that you can make choices that will lower your shipping costs.

For example, depending on the products it’s storing, you could choose a thinner, more compressed cardboard that weighs less.

Subscription box with different products inside
According to GLBC client Simple Fishing, “[This is] a box that allowed me to stay under 500 grams, lowering my shipping costs.” To read more about Simple Fishing, click here.
#3: Choose your packaging design

Obviously choosing your box type and material impact greatly on your design parameters. So, should design lead the choices you make for #1 and #2, or should design follow determining matters like shipping safety or sustainability? It’s totally up to you.

But what’s not up for debate is just how critically important design is for your unboxing experience. Quite simply, is your customer going to gasp with excitement when they get your special delivery? Design will determine this.

At GLBC, we have in-house structural designers who can help you to knock this aspect of your packaging out of the park.

#4: Choose your printing method

When it comes to printing methods, you have two choices: analog or digital. Here’s what you have to consider when you’re deciding what method is best for your business:

Why analog printing?

Analog uses plates to transfer ink onto your packaging. If your box is flexographically printed, you can choose up to three colours, but if it’s litho-lamination, you can use up to 6 colours. Many brands choose analog methods like these because they guarantee that each box will look identical on large orders. However, many new brands can’t use analog because the up-front cost of creating the plates and setting up the machines.

Why digital printing?

Digital printing, which doesn’t require the up-front investment of analog, can be a great choice for new subscription box businesses. You can do shorter runs with digital and you have more flexibility overall.

#5: Choose your packaging supplier

In all honesty, depending on how much “box savvy” you have as a company, choosing your packaging supplier should probably be the first decision you make. A good packaging supplier will be able to help you to create packaging that builds your brand and saves you money. But regardless of when you actually reach out to potential suppliers, here’s what you should consider:

Ordering – When do you need your boxes fulfilled? How fast does the turnaround time need to be?

Budget –  Determine how much you can spend on boxes and still generate a good bottom line. Of course, a good packaging supplier should be able to help you navigate this critically important decision.

Inventory –  Of course, storing your boxes will cost you. And it can be truly difficult to forecast exactly how many orders you will ship out in what timeframe. That’s why, for new companies, choosing the more flexible digital printing method may make sense. And opting for just-in-time inventory, which means ordering what you need, when you need it, is another great solution. Finally, a supplier that can warehouse your boxes is an undeniable advantage—and we do happen to offer that!

photo of Dan the Sausageman and two subscription boxes
In the words of GLBC client Dan the Sausageman, “I appreciate the fact that GLBC warehouses the shipping materials for us. Space is always limited, so that’s a huge cost saving for us.” To read more about Dan the Sausageman, click here.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this series, where we’ll explore the decisions you make after you create your subscription box.




Links to the Entire Blog Series

Your Step-By-Step Guide to Subscription Box Packaging for E-Commerce Success: Part One

Your Step-By-Step Guide to Subscription Box Packaging for E-Commerce Success: Part Two









Blog Categories