When looking for the best possible solution for setting up and running a subscription business that involves physical product delivery (especially subscription boxes), we guarantee you’ll find two names come up over and over that appear to be head to head competitors: Subbly and Cratejoy.
It isn’t hard to see why: both Subbly and Cratejoy came on the scene around the same time back in 2014; both platforms got their start supporting subscription boxes; both companies have enjoyed a big growth spurt during the rise of subscription; both even have their own subscription training programs and subscription Facebook communities. But a closer look at these two companies chose very different paths.
One thing to make clear straight off the bat, is that Subbly is a subscription-first platform and Cratejoy is a marketplace-first platform which has platform capabilities as well. Read why this distinction is important here. In fact we recommend you use Cratejoy’s excellent marketplace with Subbly.
This article breaks down the pros and cons of each platform. We will not say which is better or worse simply because it truly depends what you’re looking for. Keep reading so that you can make an informed decision.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Subbly and Cratejoy is maybe what we love most about Cratejoy: their marketplace. Cratejoy set out to build a marketplace from the very beginning and it helps many subscription boxes get a quick start at finding subscribers. With more than 30 million visitors per month, it’s no secret why subscription boxes want to be listed there. And that’s not all! Cratejoy also gets their listings a ton of additional exposure through third party traffic sources like BuzzFeed.
Regarding the platform itself, Cratejoy has a vast library of helpful articles about their platform and subscription more broadly which indeed makes it possible for an absolute newbie to get started quickly. And for those just starting their business, Cratejoy has around 10 website templates to choose from, an intuitive product builder, and a variety of marketing tools and integrations in the app store.
Last but not least, the Cratejoy-administered Facebook community and subscription entrepreneurs hangout Subscription School definitely needs a shout. Their content is a great resource or anyone who has or is thinking about starting a subscription box business.
Unfortunately, as much as we love the Cratejoy marketplace, there are some major things to consider before getting started. First, their marketplace is not large or diverse enough to provide all the marketing and customer acquisition for any business; it is only one channel of many. Secondly, to be listed on the marketplace means that customers subscribe there and not through your website. This means that you will have to give up control of your brand and marketing to participate. Third, the criteria Cratejoy uses to rank your product in the marketplace is not totally clear. In addition, Cratejoy marketplace listings get the lion’s share of the traffic when they become a “featured listing” but it is also unclear how to become featured. Lastly, the marketplace comes with some pretty steep fees on top of the monthly platform fees. Cratejoy charges 11.25% + 0.10c per transaction for customers acquired through the marketplace which adds up fast.
Because Cratejoy decided to be a marketplace, they are not fully dedicated to building innovative technology. Simply put, their technology platform is only a small part of their business and brings in less revenue than their marketplace. Additionally, Cratejoy is firmly committed to subscription boxes and therefore their tools are not as useful to the subscription industry at large. The technology itself is great, but leaves little room for customization.
Lastly, their biggest criticisms online and through our experience working with ex-Cratejoy merchants is about their customer service. There are complaints regarding customer support response times, availability, and the willingness to go the extra mile for a customer.
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Automate marketing, management and operations with no code using complex business models
Collect information from your customers, and even allow them to pick their products and configure their subscription.
Being a small and bootstrapped business of only a handful of passionate people behind Subbly, we know the struggle of being in the trenches trying to lift your idea off the ground. This is probably why we positioned ourselves as highly customer-oriented service. Being a merchant on Subbly, you not only get 24/7 chat support and the ability to talk to real people in real time who will answer your questions and help with setting up, you will also be able to directly influence the future roadmap by suggesting and submitting new feature requests to the public board.
Subbly tends to provide a turnkey solution for anyone who has a vision and would rather to take his/her own route than to be strained by the limitations of the platform. That said, features like survey builder that allows a merchant to build a completely customizable checkout flow for his/her products.
Another feature automations that truly take customizability of running a business to the next level indeed give Subbly a cutting edge, especially in the eyes of those who value more versatile, flexible, and scalable solution.
Implementation of the drag-and-drop website builder, instead of usual WYSIWYG template options goes another step beyond in providing a completely flexible, yet very simple to use platform for literally anyone and with absolutely no coding required whatsoever.
Subbly – is a Team of Real passionate people who have been with us from the very beginning
Absence of the marketplace is the most common reason why people choose Cratejoy over Subbly. Although marketing tools offered are pretty much the same, no integration or built-in tool can truly substitute for a marketplace as a funnel, especially if you’re an entry level merchant and just starting off.
At the same time, lack of some built-in functionalities (like printing shipping labels directly from inside the admin) and the necessity of 3rd party integrations for these may put off those who wouldn’t want to spend unnecessary time on getting everything connected and who’d want to have everything readily available and working at a glance. Fairly lower amount of helpful blog materials and articles in the knowledge base that Subbly currently has compared to Cratejoy is not making the situation any better as well.
If you’re busy with entrepreneurial stuff and you didn’t have the time to read through all of these, we’ve compiled a short and actionable list of when you should ideally opt for either of these two platforms and you can find it below.
Also, you don’t have to take our word for granted at all! Feel free to check what others had to say about Cratejoy HERE, or about Subbly on the link HERE.
Subbly really is built subscription-first. While you'd need a lot of plugins and connectors to start off on other platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce, here, it's all built right in.
Before I found Subbly I never had the ability or finances to have a subscription business platform which could meet my needs and expectations. Subbly has been there for me every step of the way!
Everything was so straightforward, the support team are AMAZING, I would not have been able to launch without Subbly.
We’ve used the software for over 3 years and it keeps getting better. It has everything you need to easily run a successful subscription box business!
Subbly is straightforward and easy to use. Designing your site is simple and allows you to control your entire business from one place.