With subscription box businesses literally booming all around the world, the battle of the platforms and solutions empowering those enterprises is also heating up.

And while some ecommerce solutions have been around for quite a long time (looking at Shopify), some of them like Subbly or Cratejoy have been around for no more than 4 years now, offering unique all-in-one solutions for those who wish to run their subscription businesses trouble-free.

Choosing a platform that will feel right for your business and that will provide everything needed for you to lift your business off the ground and to scale it at a later date is of utmost importance.

I’m planning on starting my very own subscription box, but I’m still undecided on the product I will sell. But you can thank me later, as I did the hard work for you by doing some research and took advantage of the free trials all three of these platforms offer to get familiar with all the pros and cons of each of them. It was a pleasant (and turbulent) ride. And this is what I found out:

cart abandonment or creating coupon giveaway campaigns.

Brace yourselves because here comes the tricky part here. In order to run your subscription box business on this platform, you will need to integrate with one of the recurring billing plugins. With Bold and ReCharge most widely used, this drives the cost of using Shopify platform to an additional $19 a month and 1% transaction fee taken on behalf of these plugins.

Adding that all up, entry price for running your subscription store on Shopify (either opting for Bold or ReCharge) would then be $49 fixed plus a 1% transaction fee.

VC-backed company based in Austin, Texas. They’ve been in business since 2013 and are perhaps most famous for their introduction of the Cratejoy marketplace – a quick and painless way of bringing traffic to your newly created store.

customers coming from the Cratejoy marketplace, which is something that is understandable in a way due to the subscription aspect but it really can’t be considered as fair-play.

Pros:

  • Get up and running fast
  • Fair amount of integrations and customizable themes
  • The Cratejoy marketplace can be looked at both as a strength and a weakness of the platform. It’s good for getting traffic to your store early on without any marketing effort or knowledge, but the pricing of using marketplace are nearly extorting, plus this hinders long-term growth and scaling of your business going further
  • There’s a large community around the platform and great knowledge base in the form of Subscription School

Cons:

  • Platform lock and the inability to easily move customers, especially those who have signed up through the marketplace makes it a pretty intimidating deal for long term focused merchants
  • Unacceptable customer support response times and hands-off support for a company of that size and following
  • Support for only monthly intervals
  • Whopping prices for using some built-in features like a referral tool (additional $99 a month)

Subbly

Youngest and perhaps the smallest competitor in the subscription business realm, Subbly is the brainchild of Stefan Pretty from Scotland. The company was founded in 2013 and has to date remained bootstrapped and very customer focused throughout, and they’re clearly proud of that.

Pricing

Three pricing tiers currently available on the platform. However, very unclear about what are the differences between those three in terms of features. Transaction fee difference is worth noting (which is very important for scaling of customer’s businesses), however the only feature that is worth noting that’s available on higher paying tiers and not on the basic one is the possibility of white labeling the product. I’m not entirely sure if it’s worth the extra cost for that though, but guess it’s good they have the option.

If we go for the lowest paying tier, it stands at $29 a month and 2% transaction fees (all features included, apart from white labeling). Pretty reasonable…

Ease of Use

Unlike Shopify, the onboarding campaign on Subbly is very pleasant experience and is indeed something that can be done by literally anyone, putting aside the age and level of computer literacy of an individual.

Everything you need to get up and running is there – shipping and payment processor integrations (Stripe is the preferred processor throughout all 3 subscription platforms), nice looking themes catered towards subscription box business owners and support that’s always online (and you’re able to chat or even jump on the phone call with their agent).

Subbly’s survey builder feature accompanied by different billing and shipping intervals supported makes their solution very versatile and flexible in the terms of creating business model that will work best for you and your business. Also, this makes upselling possibilities on the checkout a breeze and your customers can customize their box the way they like it.

Their App Store is in its infant stages really but the team at Subbly seem to be very proactive and willing to listen from their customers, even giving them the possibility to submit feature request for the others to vote on – I like that. They seem focused on building a community and growing their business along with their customers.

Pros:

  • Friendly scalable pricing options
  • Hands-on customer and theme support and lots of useful materials both on-site or in their emails
  • Great feature versatility when it comes to creating a business model that works best for your business
  • Rapidly growing community with equally determined and customer focused approach, seemingly constantly introducing new features and capabilities according to their changelog

Cons:

  • Still some integrations and capabilities lacking, like cart abandonment or native shipping label generation
  • Absence of marketplace can be dubbed as a drawback comparing to Cratejoy, by some, depending on knowledge of marketing
  • Some may perceive them being a smaller business as a draw back

Conclusion

Weighting all pros and cons of options discussed above, we can say that either one of the platforms in question may be the right for you depending on what you really need from your subscription platform.

For instance, Shopify might be burdensome and a bit pricey solution at the very start, but looking long-term, lots of integrations and scalability may result in your business exploding and reaching highs you won’t imagine were previously reachable if you sticked to the marketplace route.

As for Cratejoy, this is solid all-in-one solution with really all the features needed readily implemented to start off your business. However, a high cost of using their marketplace may hinder your growth possibilities to a great extent going forward. A really great starting point for those with low marketing knowledge or budget, but then migrating away later seems considerably hard when you get past those early stages.

Subbly enters the show via backdoor and walks up to the stage as a slight underdog at this moment. But, looking at what they have to offer and considering their appetite and hunger for growth, Subbly may easily become the No.1 solution for subscription businesses in a short period of time. Exceptional customer support and a hands-on approach to handling their customers problems and listening to their needs is what may help those who are currently on the fence decide. Plus, everything you need to run your business unobtrusively is already there on Subbly. You do need to perform your own marketing, however, don’t all businesses?