Netflix. Birchbox. (Insert your subscription eCommerce name here). To become one of the greatest eCommerce subscription services, you have to learn from the greatest eCommerce subscription services.

Here we’re going to run a fine-toothed comb over five of the most successful eCommerce subscription services to date. We’ll analyze what they’re doing right, and how your subscription-based eCommerce can emulate them to share their success.

We selected these five eCommerce subscription services based on their success, their popularity, their customers’ response, and the ingenuity of their model. What will you take away from their personal success stories?

1. Birchbox

When it comes to subscription boxes, Birchbox is a name amongst names. Raking in at least $70 million as of Sept. 2015, the company operates in 6 countries to more than a million subscribers. And considering that they started back in 2010, Birchbox didn’t just ride the subscription box wave, they set it in motion.

Birchbox Home
Source: Birchbox

The service itself is phenomenal, and is perfectly aligned with all the ideals of eCommerce subscription services we mentioned in our earlier article. It targets women 25-44 years old, its products are considered “pampering,” and the industry is flooded with products, making the subscription box a practical aid in deciding which brands to buy. Those same brands appreciate the exposure, so Birchbox is making and saving money on both ends.

Birchbox - Beauty On Your Own Terms
Source: Birchbox

Their model is traditional, but effective. Subscribers narrow down their skin types and style preferences, and then catered monthly boxes deliver five new products. It’s not necessarily about buying five beauty products as it is about discovering new products personalized to your taste. Pay attention to those two concepts — “discovering” and “personalization” — as all eCommerce subscription services should implement those core values into their strategy.

Source: Birchbox via Facebook

It’s also worth mentioning that Birchbox has exemplary social media. Their successful Facebook page is a good example. The company takes full advantage of Facebook Live by streaming “unboxings” from their subscribers. This demonstrates the thrill of receiving their product, and keeps subscribers excited while they’re waiting for their next box. It also entices new subscribers by showing them what they can expect.

Birchbox Facebook Customer Service
Source: Birchbox via Facebook

Their social media customer service is top notch, addressing complaints openly and helpfully, and responding positively to compliments by speaking the subscribers’ same style of conversation.

2. ShoeDazzle

Not every successful eCommerce subscription service is a subscription box. ShoeDazzle proves that the subscription model works for general eCommerce as well, as long as it’s done well.

ShoeDazzle Home
Source: ShoeDazzle

ShoeDazzle offers an optional subscription service as a “VIP membership.” For a flat monthly fee, the subscriber gets to choose a pair of shoes valued at that price each month. On top of that, they also receive additional benefits, including free shipping and access to exclusive sales, previews, and events.

ShoeDazzle VIP Membership
Source: ShoeDazzle

The VIP membership is entirely optional, however. Shoppers can still buy shoes online as with any other eCommerce store, with one-time purchases. ShoeDazzle is the perfect example of how any eCommerce store, no matter what industry, can implement eCommerce subscription services into their existing site.

ShoeDazzle - Subscription Optional

Source: ShoeDazzle

Furthermore, ShoeDazzle offers a similar personalization guide as the other sites on this list. After taking a fun quiz for a few minutes, the site records your “style profile” so that it can give hand-tailored recommendations in your customized “Showroom.”

ShoeDazzle - Style Quiz

Source: ShoeDazzle

As you’ll see again and again, personalization is a key ingredient to all successful eCommerce subscription services.

3. Loot Crate

As “geek” culture embeds itself more and more in the mainstream with shows like Game of Thrones and Marvel movies, businesses are more eager to latch on to the lucretive trend. The Loot Crate is the most successful of many contenders to capitalize on geek culture in the subscription box arena.

Loot Crate Home
Source: Loot Crate

Rather than personalization, Loot Crate focuses more on discoverability and surprise (although they do have specialized crates, such as Anime and Gaming). They send the same contents to each subscriber, organized by theme. February’s theme is “Build,” for example, while last October it was “Horror” to tie into Halloween.

Loot Crate Monthly Theme
Source: Loot Crate

While this uniform-box-for-everyone model wouldn’t work for more diverse industries like fashion, as a niche market like geek culture, it’s a safe assumption that most of their subscribers have the same taste. Add to that the top-name brands for that niche market — Lego, comic book publishers, video game designers — and you have subscription box that the target customer will happily pay for.

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Loot Crate Featured Franchises
Source: Loot Crate

It’s also worth mentioning Loot Crate’s marketing strategy. To get their name out there and garner an edge over their competition, Loot Crate sponsors free giveaways on popular geek vblog’s, like Mr Sunday Movies on YouTube. Viewers enter for a drawing in the comments section, and a winner is chosen for every episode.

Mr Sunday Movies Promotion
Source: Mr Sunday Movies via YouTube

This is a smart marketing plan, because it spreads brand awareness to the exact target shopper, and also offers the social media influencer incentive for partnering.

4. Graze

Along with fashion and beauty, another ideal market for eCommerce subscription services is food. It’s true that the grocery industry on a whole doesn’t perform too well in eCommerce; people tend to prefer shopping for food in person for its freshness and immediacy, plus they can choose which selections to buy. However, the subscription model opens up the door for a plethora of niche markets like organic, specialty foods, delicacies, and — as with Graze — health foods.

Graze Home
Source: Graze

Graze delivers monthly boxes of healthy snacks to their subscribers, again personalized to their own preferences. Their business model takes advantage of all the subscription eCommerce staples: discoverability, personalization, and surprise.

Graze Types of Food
Source: Graze

One additional benefit that sets Graze apart is their promise of “perfect portion-controlled snack packs.” Playing heavily on the “healthy” angle, each subscription box comes with the optimized amount of each food to help subscribers stay on track. One of the most common pitfalls to dieting is accidentally over-serving portions to yourself, so subscribing to Graze’s service puts that in their hands.

Graze Portions
Source: Graze

Moreover, Graze makes a show of how delicious its products are. It plays on the marketing ploy that healthy foods can also taste great, and enhances this with a wide selection of snacks that the subscriber simply hasn’t heard about yet. The discoverability of new foods and snacks plays a large role in their strategy, and based on the positive customer feedback, they deliver.

Graze Healthy Lifestyle
Source: Graze

In a nutshell, the success of Graze’s business model can be boiled down to taking an unpleasant necessity like dieting or eating healthy, and turning into a positive, enjoyable experience as in eating snacks you’ll actually enjoy.

5. Netflix

Last but certainly not least, we have what is arguably the most successful of the eCommerce subscriptions services of all time, Netflix.

Netflix Home
Source: Netflix

You probably don’t need us to explain the service they offer, and chances are you’re already one of their subscribers. By streaming an enormous library of movies, TV shows, and specials, Netflix’s service rivals that of television in general. While Netflix can’t offer the “first airing” of conventional TV, they compensate with on-demand viewings of any number of shows and movies at their disposal. This is not to mention their own original programming, with which they always have “first airing” rights.

Netflix Original Programming
Source: Netflix via Apple App Store

But an unsung hero in Netflix’s business strategy is their personalization options, a crucial part of all eCommerce subscription services through and through. Using a complex algorithm that matches the subscriber’s rating with the preferences of other subscribers who have similar ratings, Netflix gives personalized recommendations on what to watch. This also fulfills the discoverability factor in eCommerce subscription.

Netflix Recommendations
Source: Netflix via Apple App Store

Netflix subscribers feel like appreciated individuals, and they’re able to discover new movies and shows based on what they like.


If you want to read more of our reviews about eCommerce subscription services, check out our 6 Inspirational Gift and Subscription Boxes That We’re OBSESSED With.  If you feel like there’s any that we missed — or any features we didn’t mention — please add them in the comments section now.