Behind the Box

The Complete Guide To Subscription Box Packaging

19 Sep 2018

Hopebox custom mailer box

Beautifully designed subscription box packaging can take your brand or products to the next level.

Subscription box packaging should make your subscribers feel like they’re getting something special.

Its size should fit all of your products comfortably. But it shouldn’t be so big that products are swimming around or so small that it’s bursting at the seams.

It should look clean and organized, with attention to detail on everything from product placement to box design.

Put simply, the look and feel of a subscription box matters almost as much as what’s inside. It’s your brand’s first impression with new subscribers and one of the main ways to retain existing subscribers.

Creating an Instagram-worthy subscription box ultimately comes down to packaging

If you’re not considering packaging as a key element, then you’re missing out on the most effective marketing tactics for subscription boxes. The better they look, the more free marketing on social media your product or brand can get.

We’ll share some important tips on how to improve your subscription box packaging design as well as some practical advice for packing materials and box types to balance size with shipping costs.

If you already run a subscription box service or are thinking about starting one, consider these factors when thinking about your products, their design, and the feasibility of packing and shipping them.

Subscription Box Packaging Guidelines

The first thing you need to think about is materials. This will not only depend on what kinds of products your subscription box contains but the size and weight of them.

When you choose your subscription box packaging, consider these common packaging materials and the products they’re used for.

Mailer Boxes – Your best option for subscription boxes. Mailers are heavier and more rigid than paperboard boxes. They are sturdy enough to protect your products through the shipping process, and are recommended for retail gift boxes, subscription boxes, and packaging for e-commerce companies.

Packlane can help you create a custom mailer box for your subscription service with wide-ranging options on size, quantity and design elements. You can have a beautiful mailer box, with custom design elements inside and out.

Shipping Boxes – These are a good option for subscription boxes if your focus is on product protection. They’re corrugated for extra protection and have more heft than mailer boxes. They can also be styled to match your branding with options on design, size, and quantity. For example, check out this shipping box made by Packlane for Koyah:

Koyah custom shipping box

Other options

Paperboard boxes – Paperboard is lightweight paper-based material. It’s good for general product packaging (think about a cereal box or beauty products like makeup). While paperboard folding carton boxes are great for these materials, they are not recommended for subscription boxes.

The material is strong and displays well, but it’s not ideal for a package that is going to go through the shipping process. You should definitely go with something stronger.

Padded bubble mailers – Unless your offerings are very tiny, these aren’t great for subscription products. These are usually heavy envelopes or bags lined with bubble padding.

Because products can move inside of bubble mailers, they’re more susceptible to damage. However, they help save on shipping costs but also take away from the overall design and unboxing experience.

Choosing a printing method

There are three primary types of packaging printing methods. However, if you’re not creating your boxes yourself, this should not be a huge consideration.

Whatever packing provider you use will have its preferred method and can give you quotes based on your order.

Flexographic printing – This is the most common method used for custom box printing. A printing plate with your box’s design acts as a large ink pad that spins on a rotary drum, picking up ink and then stamping it onto your box. Flexographic printing typically requires a minimum of 1,000 boxes per order.

Digital printing – This method is common for small orders but some providers have the capacity to do this for large orders at higher prices. A machine applies the design and color directly to the box by mixing the ink.

Packlane uses digital printing in creating its boxes and can customize orders to include either full color or partial color design on the box.

Lithographic label printing – This method provides cleaner and higher resolution printing that functions like wallpaper. Lithographic label printing is printed onto a paper sheet, processed, cut, and attached to the box using adhesive.

It has its benefits, but make sure you’re using a quality provider if you go this route. Low-quality label printing can go badly.

Choosing subscription box sizes and shipping methods

This is the biggest hurdle for most subscription box providers.

Box size is not only about what fits inside, but also about shipping costs. If you’re running a subscription service, make sure you’re paying attention to your bottom line: Is your packaging efficient for shipping costs?

The first thing to do is to create shipping requirements for your boxes

Choose a box size, give it realistic weight limits and keep them consistent. This will help you know, or at least ballpark shipping costs. You should also pay attention to where you are shipping. Set limits by area if it makes sense.

Always ship from a central location. Calculate a cost-per-subscription budget and stick to it across all orders.

Having this under your control will allow you to choose the appropriate size of your subscription box.

Think about USPS cubic pricing

One factor to consider is how you can take advantage of cubic pricing from USPS, (aka Commercial Plus Pricing). It bases price on the volume of a box, not the weight. This is huge for subscription services that want to standardize shipping costs to scale their business.

This pricing tier allows weight up to 20 pounds per box, which is on the heavier side for subscription boxes. Unless your box is under one pound, shipping this way is probably more efficient from a pricing perspective. This article can provide more clarity.

It’s important to note that these pricing methods require a high volume of packages, so if you’re a smaller operation, pay attention to this next section.

Outsource fulfillment

You may think you can do it all on your own, but shipping can be a huge pain point for most smaller subscription services.

Pricing is difficult to standardize and shipping is time-consuming. Using a reliable partner for order fulfillment can actually save you time, money and stress, and allow you to scale more efficiently if your service takes off.

Creating subscription box designs

Now we’re on to the fun part. With everything else planned out, you can design what you want your box to look like and Packlane can help you bring this style to reality.

Integrate your logo or design layout seamlessly while still paying attention to colors and graphics. You can even use your own photos, patterns or drawings. Packlane uses full CMYK color printing to bring products to life.

Custom subscription mailer boxes
Like we said: what the box looks like is almost as important as what’s inside. Focusing on an eye-catching, original design will grow more interest in your product and keep your subscribers coming back for more.

Additional subscription box packaging considerations

You also need to consider the additional materials needed for packaging.

Depending on your product, this will be a factor in your final packaging costs. Products that require additional protection (ex. glass bottles, fragile items) will require additional materials like inserts.

If you’re using colored tissue paper or crinkle cut shred filler, align your materials with the actual design of your packaging.

Whatever you choose for additional packing materials, it needs to be in line with your existing design. This may even be something that your order fulfillment partner can assist with, or at least, give options for. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Choose Packlane for subscription box packaging

At Packlane, we’re happy to help you create perfect subscription box packaging, tailored to your needs and requirements.

Here’s how it works when you partner with us for your subscription box packaging design:

  • You choose the packaging style – this will typically be a mailer box or shipping box, depending on your needs.
  • Choose your packaging size or enter custom dimensions.
  • Customize your package by adding colors, design elements, graphics, and your subscription box logo.
  • Get a real-time quote for your order.

It’s that simple. If you’re serious about starting your own subscription box or taking your packaging to the next level, we’re here for you. For more information, visit our FAQs page or get in touch through our contact page.