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8 build-a-box subscription ideas and how to set one up

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Bold Editors


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Offering a personalized experience is more important than ever in ecommerce today. Today's consumers expect a seamless, tailored experience — and this is just as true for subscriptions as it is for one-time orders.

When subscribers have the power to easily adjust their next order — and even skip one all together — they might be less likely to churn. That's why build-a-box subscriptions can be great solution for many businesses, and not just meal boxes!

  • Introduction: How to pick the right subscription model for you business
  • Recurring replenishment models
    • Model 1: Recurring products
    • Model 2: Convertible subscriptions
    • Model 3: Build-a-box
  • Curation models
    • Model 4: Curated boxes
    • Model 5: Monthly clubs
  • Access models
    • Model 6: Exclusive
    • Model 7: Brick and mortar

Subscriptions can frustrate consumers if they feel like their "control of purchase decisions have been lost" and this can lead to higher unsubscribe rates. But if you up customer retention by just 5%, profits can increase by 25% to 95%! ( That’s a whole lot of dependable recurring revenue. 

It's one of the seven models you can mix and match to create your own unique subscription service that attracts and retains subscribers. A build-a-box style subscription lets customers choose exactly what they want in their box, helping you build a better relationship.


  • It provides a fun, interactive experience and the customization many shoppers want.
  • It gives subscribers full control over perceived quality and quantity.
  • It allows you to identify which products are the most popular (based on frequency of selection) and expand on those or promote them more heavily to new customers.

Things to look out for

  • When you’re putting customers in the driver’s seat, it can make inventory forecasting a challenge.
  • Not only will inventory be more challenging, fulfillment also becomes more complex, from picking orders to coordinating shipping costs.

Build-a-box subscriptions are most commonly associated with the meal kit industry, like HelloFresh or Blue Apron. But there are actually lots of versatile applications, from Wine subscriptions to beauty products. Check out some great real-life examples below.

1. Kathy's Table - Meal subscription

If you suffer from Celiac or Crohn's, it can be hard to find food that keeps you feeling good and healthy.

Luckily for people in the Jacksonville area, they can get gluten-free and dairy-free meals delivered to their door from Kathy's Table.

The fun branding of each meal plan, along with some key nutrition facts, gives customers the information they need to build a meal plan that's right for them.

With over 20 meals to choose from — plus drinks, deserts, and snack packs — subscribers have a lot of tasty options.

A simple layout and intuitive flow makes it easy for people to pick exactly what meals they want.

Subscribers also have the option to log into their account and edit their next order. Plus, every two weeks when they release change up their menu, subscribers can pick from new delicious options.

Key takeaway: Zero in on a nice and use a detailed but simple onboarding flow to engage those customers and make them feel like they're getting a premium experience.

2. Prairie Box - Meal subscription

This company gives busy people who want healthy meals that are "simple, satisfying and delicious" a way eat at home when they're too busy to do meal prep.

Their Everyday Meal subscription provides a simple flow for people to pick what meals they want delivered on a weekly basis.

They also give people the option to pause and edit their subscription from their online accounts.

Key takeaway: People are willing to support local and when you pair that with an easy-to-edit orders, you're way more likely to keep customers happy and subscribed.

3. The Foreign Affair Winery - Wine subscription

The Canadians behind this brand use Italian techniques to produce renowned wines. They also offer a monthly delivery of bottles through their Wine Club.

Subscribers can get a curated selection of three wines, or choose their own with a build-a-box style subscription.

Key takeaway: With their Wine Club, Foreign Affair has a better chance of converting customers who might be afraid they won’t like the wines from a pre-selected box. This gives those shoppers the option to select their own.

4. Click & Grow - Indoor gardening subscription

Giving a little bit of nature to city dwellers — and the joy that comes along with it — is the mission behind Click & Grow. They sell indoor smart gardens, plants, and accessories so customers can grow happy plants anywhere.

Part of their offering is a build-a-box style subscription for plant pods people can easily cultivate in their smart gardens.

The simple subscription flow and flexible options make it easy for people to get exactly what they want.

Key takeaway: Flexibility paired with a meaningful brand purpose can give customers a more memorable experience

5. Lashify - Beauty subscription

Lashify sell salon-quality DIY lash extensions in a customizable subscription box. They are easy to use, damage free, and offer the flexibility to create the look you want — from natural to springingly dramatic. 

Lashify offers two subscription ‘memberships.’ A basic curated subscription is available for a flat rate, but they heavily promote the benefits of their build-a-box by offering extra discounts, flexibility, and benefits. Customers can also add more to their box for a flexible pricing model.

After selecting the delivery frequency, scroll through the many eyelash options and accessories and customize your order.

Key takeaway: Offer a premium tier to server customers better and give them an incentive to spend a little more for a better experience.

6. Tree to Tub - Bath subscription

When founder Michael Koh was growing up in Taiwan, he would do anything to avoid a bath. Soaps burned his skin and spread itchy red bumps all over his body. Then his grandmother introduced him to the soapberry, a natural cleanser that lathered up like soap but without the pain.

Tree to Tub's bath and shower products are made from the soapberry, "natures healing soap." And if you really love them and know you are going to keep buying them, you can save 50% by subscribing to their build-a-box. 

You simply pick 6 products you want to receive and set the delivery frequency. They could arrive once a week, or every two months, it's up to you.

Key takeaway: An brand with a vision and core tenant plus a good selection of products is a prime opportunity for a great build-a-box.

7. Hemper - Cannabis supplies

Hemper has multiple subscription options, including a classic curated box and two build-a-box subscriptions. Their ‘Build-a-Box Core’ serves up six ‘essentials,’ while their ‘Build-a-Box Plus’ (at twice the price) offers six ‘essentials’ from upper tier brands plus a premium item.

With a simple onboarding flow and tons of interesting products to choose from, Hemper provide a great experience for their niche audience.

Key takeaway: Another great example of a brand serving up a premium tier to give subscribers a reason to spend a little more.

8. Chaeban - Ice cream club subscription

When Covid-19 forced Chaeban to close their doors to summer customers, they thought they were done for. They make the bulk of their revenue over the summer months by selling scoops of ice cream over the counter, but instead of giving up, they created a ice club unlike any other in Canada.

Their build-a-box subscription allows members to pick flavors of their choice for monthly delivery. This is a great example of how a brick-and-mortar business can serve their local customers and earn stable income from a traditionally seasonal business.

Key takeaway: Build-a-box can work for businesses you might not normally associate with subscriptions.

Tip: Keep your subscriptions fresh & give customers a heads up that they can add more

Depending on the market you're in, you might want to update your subscription product selection regularly. That way, every so often your subscribers can choose from new and exciting options, swapping out and trying other products.

You can even send out an email to subscribers a few days before you're planning to ship to remind them to adjust or add more to their order. This can be great for increasing customer retention and increasing average order value.

If you'd like to learn more about how to launch a build-a-box subscription, check out Bold Subscriptions for WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and commercetools.

Looking to build a truly custom subscription offering? Our Bold APIs and webhooks give brands the flexibility and control they need to build a unique subscription program that effectively retains customers.

Using Bold Subscription Builder to create any subscription program imaginable for your high-volume brand.

Launch your build-a-box business on BigCommerce, WooCommerce, or commercetools today.

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