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The idea of the subscription box is not new, but it has gained a surprising amount of popularity in recent years. A subscription box is part of a monthly plan whereby consumers receive certain items on a regular basis. For instance, monthly packages of shaving materials have become very popular due to their high convenience factor.

So, let’s say you are planning to start a business that involves the use of subscription boxes. You might think that presentation isn’t an issue since the customer has already bought the product. However, an appealing package can do a lot to ensure that those customers will continue to do business with you.

For today’s article, we will take a look at the ins and outs of subscription packaging. Before you try to get in on this kind of business, it is important to be well-informed. Therefore, we will consider all the relevant factors that influence this decision.

Choose The Right Packaging For The Right Products

Some products are well-suited to the use of subscription boxes, and others are not. For instance, it would be silly to do a subscription box for auto parts because most people don’t need to buy those on a constant basis. Auto parts are usually bought as needed (rightly so, due to their high cost!), so very few people would be interested in a box of this type. Your target audience would consist of auto shops and almost no one else.

The best products for a subscription box are the ones that people buy on a regular basis. For instance, we already mentioned shaving razors. Unless you use an old-fashioned straight razor, you will need to buy more razors on a semi-constant basis. Thus, the idea of a razor subscription box sounds like a good idea to many people. Since you have to buy these things anyway, why not get them all at once?

You just need to think about things from the perspective of a customer. Most people don’t want to spend money on things they cannot use, though there will always be those with more money than sense! When you are considering a particular product idea, you should ask yourself: “Would I want to buy that? Would anyone I know want to buy that?” If the answer to both questions is no, then you should probably discard that idea. You need to offer services and products that fit the needs and lifestyle of the modern consumer. As a part of that effort, you need to make sure that your packaging is tailored to your products.

Why Is The Package So Important?

You might be tempted to think that the package is the least important aspect of your subscription box. After all, they are interested in the contents of the box, right? Although this idea is partially true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure, the customer is primarily going to be interested in the products within the box, but that box is part of the overall presentation.

As anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant industry can attest, the presentation of a product is very important. When the customer lays down their money and receives a product, that first glance should make them feel good about their purchase. Otherwise, they are unlikely to come back. Sometimes, a person might fail to notice the good qualities of your product if their first impression is a bad one. This is not just a belief, but a proven scientific principle called the placebo effect.

There is no need to get into the specifics of the placebo effect, but it all comes down to this: Fake medicines can sometimes have the same effect as real medicines! This happens because the patient is convinced that the placebo is real. Thus, their mind and body react to the fake pill with a healing response. In some ways, this same effect can be seen in marketing. If a person gets a bad first impression of a product, they will basically convince themselves that the product is no good. That’s why you need to make sure that people want to like your product, and attractive packaging can do a lot in that department.

There is also the anticipation factor to be considered. One of the reasons that people pay for a subscription box is anticipation. That is to say; they get excited waiting for their monthly box. In some cases, the anticipation of a thing can be much better than the thing itself, and this should be reflected in your marketing and packaging. When that package comes in the mail, you want your customers to be excited about the contents. When it comes to mystery boxes (i.e., subscription boxes with random or semi-random products), this factor is especially important. When people see a bright, colorful, and attractive package, it sets off a reaction in their brains that is both subtle and effective.

Durability Concerns

In most cases, monthly subscription boxes are bought online. This means they might be shipping to any place in the world, and they might be in transit for days or weeks. Of course, this can be a problem when it comes to scheduling, but that is another topic. When you are sending products all over the world, the toughness of your packaging becomes very important.

A lot of packages get damaged in transit, and there is no denying that fact. It is tempting to blame the postal service, but accidents will always happen from time to time. With the huge number of packages that are sent all over the world on any given day, you can’t blame these people if they get behind once in a while! Likewise, we have to understand that packages can be dropped, dented, or otherwise subjected to damage. That’s why you should always take care to use appropriately tough packaging for your subscription boxes.

Of course, the degree of durability required will depend on the products you choose. Specialty food products (which are very popular types of boxes) are a good example of a product that requires special protection. First of all, the box needs to be well-padded enough to protect the items within from impact. Styrofoam is probably the most common material for this purpose, and it has the added effect of protecting items from temperature extremes.

When an item must be kept cold, the box should be completely lined with thick foam. In this way, the box will remain isolated from the temperature outside the box. Add a few cold packs, and you should be able to ship these items wherever they need to go. Items that have to be isolated from the cold can also benefit from a lining of foam or other insulation. Like a warm winter coat, the insulation layer will keep the product at the right temperature.

Durability isn’t just about thickness. You also need to make sure that the items within the box cannot move too much in transit. When boxes are picked up and moved, the items will often rattle around and knock against one another. Unless the items in question are very durable, this creates a risk of breakage. You can deal with this risk by making sure that the items in the box are unable to move. You can use a socketed foam liner to achieve this, or you can use a filler material to remove the space within the box.

Of the two, we would recommend the use of some kind of liner. Alternatively, you might use a cardboard insert that is designed to hold the items in place. Not only does this keep them from moving, but it also makes for a better presentation. When the customer opens the box, they don’t want to see a bunch of items haphazardly thrown in a pile. Most customers will be glad to see that someone took the time to display and protect these items correctly.

Water-resistance is another factor that should be considered. It may not matter for some products, but many products can be damaged or even ruined by a little bit of water. Electronics are particularly sensitive to moisture, so make sure your packaging reflects your products’ sensitivity to moisture.

You have several ways to deal with moisture issues. For one thing, you can choose to make the package from a cardboard with a wax coating. This won’t make it waterproof, but it will make moisture far less likely to reach the product. If that’s not enough, you should also consider enclosing each product in a small plastic bag. These bags are quite cheap, so it shouldn’t set your budget back. Silica gel can also be helpful, especially when you are trying to guard against humidity.

Silica gel is one example of a hygroscopic substance. That’s a fancy way of saying that it absorbs water from the air. Sugar and powdered charcoal will also do this. Because of their properties, hygroscopic substances can be used to pull moisture from the inside of the package. This ensures that humid air cannot condense and form water droplets. Silica gel is the most popular choice for water-resistant packaging, but there are many other options out there.

Price Concerns

While you do need to make a package that will impress your customers, there are limits to the cost-effectiveness of this idea. To a certain degree, it is worth spending a little bit more money to create something that will get your customers’ attention and set you apart from the rest. However, you don’t want to go too far with that plan!

You should always remember that most of these boxes are going to end up in the garbage. For most people, there is no reason to keep the package, so it doesn’t warrant a huge expense. That’s where you need to employ experienced people who can design your package in a cost-efficient way.

Better choices of materials and sourcing are two of the things that a competent professional can do in order to achieve the same results at a lower cost. For instance, you might find a type of plastic that is perfectly sufficient for your packaging needs, but which is slightly cheaper. Or, you might stick with the same kind of plastic, but purchase it from a wholesale source that offers you a lower price.

Packaging costs will vary a lot, depending on the product. As a general rule, packaging costs will usually be 9-10% of the products’ retail cost. In some cases, packaging costs might go as high as 30-40%, but this is kind of rare. You should try to keep your costs in the 10-15% range whenever possible.

Choosing The Right Style

There are many different styles of boxes out there, and it is important to choose one that suits your product, your aesthetic, and your practical needs. Let’s look at a few of the more common styles.

Roll-End Front Tuck (REFT)

The roll-end front tuck box is one of the most common styles, and scores high in most areas. The walls of the box are usually made of double-folded cardboard, and that provides a lot of protection for the products within. The lid is attached at one end so that it can swing like a hinge.

On the other side of the lid, there are two rounded tabs that can be inserted into small gaps in the cardboard. These boxes are very convenient because the rounded ends are very easy to insert and remove. At the same time, the tabs will hold the lid firmly in place. Thus, we have a good mix of security and convenience. As you will see, this is the standard by which many other boxes are judged.

Roll-End Front Tuck With Dust Flaps (REFTDF)

These boxes are very similar to the standard REFT boxes, offering all the same advantages. However, they have an extra feature that offers slightly better protection. These boxes have dust flaps on either side of the lid, which address the biggest flaw of REFT packaging.

Since the lid of a REFT box is only fastened in the front, there is open space on both sides. That can allow dirt and other debris to get into the box and makes it more vulnerable to crush damage. The REFTDF box is the most popular choice for monthly subscription boxes, and it is easy to see why that’s the case. They are only slightly more expensive than the REFT boxes but offer much better security.

Econo Roll-End Front Tuck (EREFT)

Because of the way in which they are folded, standard REFT boxes are not the most economical in terms of material usage. EREFT boxes solve this problem by creating a design that achieves the same results with about 30% less material. Of course, every advantage comes at a cost, and this is no exception. EREFT boxes are not quite as durable as most others, but they can be a great option for products that don’t need a thick box.

They are also a great option for people and companies that are on a tight budget. Even if your company is doing well, cheaper boxes can be a way to lower your bottom line. In turn, this will give you the chance to lower your prices if you are so inclined. By doing this, you make yourself more competitive in the market. People tend to go with the best price, and so you can make up in quantity what you lose on individual sales.

Roll-End Tuck Top (RETT)

RETT boxes aren’t quite as secure as REFT boxes, but they are a cheap and convenient option nevertheless. The basic design of these boxes is similar to that of the standard REFT models, except that they have only one tab. This tab is inserted into the top-front of the package. Usually, the corners are rounded to prevent snagging as the box is opened and closed.

These are very cheap boxes, and they can be packed very quickly because of their simple design. However, their lids do not lock in place. When you tuck the tab into the front, there is nothing but gravity and a little bit of friction holding it in place. However, 1-3 pieces of tape can solve this problem with minimal trouble. If you need to save money, and you don’t mind doing a little bit of extra taping, this might be a good option for you.

Types Of Cardboard For Your Package

Types Of Cardboard For Your Package

Since most subscription boxes are shipped in cardboard boxes, that is the container that is most relevant to our discussion. However, there are several different types of cardboard. Let’s look at three of the most common ones.


This is the normal brown cardboard that most people would recognize. It is made from multiple layers of a thick brown paper called Kraft paper. Named after the man who invented it, Kraft paper has many different uses. It isn’t very attractive to look at, but it offers a high level of durability and strength. Because it is so important to maintain a low cost for your packaging, Kraft paper is a great choice.

However, there are two problems with this material. First, its brown color makes it harder to use for printing. You can’t really print anything onto the surface of the box, as the colors will be distorted. You can opt for colored labels, but that will add more expense. The second problem with Kraft paper is the fact that it doesn’t resist moisture very well. Unless it is very thick, water will make this paper fall apart under stress.

Standard White Cardstock

Cardstock is appropriately named, as it is similar to the material of which playing cards are made. Of course, your package might be a little thicker than a playing card, but that is a matter of necessity. The standard white cardstock is very attractive and is perfect for printing any kind of graphics or lettering that you might want to include. It isn’t as durable as Kraft paper in terms of strength and load capacity, but it does resist water a little better. Cardstock usually has a waxy coating, which can help it to shed more water. Still, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s waterproof.

Premium White Cardstock

This is a slightly more expensive version of cardstock. In spite of its higher price, some people recommend it highly. The main difference is that this cardstock is much whiter than the standard version. This extra-bright finish means that any colors printed on its surface will be much more vibrant and visible. For those who want their product to have just a little bit of extra color, this is a good thing to consider.


The subscription box is certainly one of the hottest online business trends at present. People love being surprised, and people like the convenience of having their consumable products delivered right to their door. For this reason, we predict that this kind of business will continue to grow. We hope that we have given you a good idea of the factors that must be considered when packaging a subscription box. To recap the basic concepts:

  • Choose packaging that suits your products
  • Think about shipping needs
  • Good presentation makes a good first impression
  • Provide a good value
  • Make the box look as unique as possible
  • Make sure the box is tough enough
  • Use insulation or waterproofing where necessary
  • Don’t let the items rattle around
  • Don’t spend more than 15% of your products’ final value
  • Employ competent and proven designers
  • Balance cost against convenience and beauty

With these basic principles in mind, we think that you will not fail to achieve good results from your subscription box business. If you have found this guide to be helpful, we hope that you will fill out the contact form below.