Best Innovative Subscription Models for E-Commerce Businesses

The Best Innovative Subscription Models for E-Commerce Businesses

If you’re still on the fence about offering subscription services, learning about some examples of innovative subscription models could give you the confidence you need to take the plunge! Including everything from cloud storage and hotels to nappies and cars, these creative subscription businesses have found a way to secure their customer base and a growing monthly recurring revenue.

Bare Necessities

Remember the days when you’d head to the corner store for everything from bubble gum to milk? Now, customers will pay to have these basic items delivered automatically on a schedule.

Known as a replenishment subscription model, this innovative idea can be used for everything from ink for your printer (such as HP’s Instant Ink) to razor blades and shaving cream (Dollar Shave Club) and toilet paper (SubPlace). If you’re looking for a recession-proof online business idea, this is it!

Do-It-Yourself Kits

A step up from the previous examples, do-it-yourself boxes like the meal kits from HelloFresh provide everything customers need to complete a task or project at home. The difference between a DIY kit and a replenishment box is that with a DIY kit, each delivery is slightly different from the last.

A DIY subscription model can be used for things like:

  • Meals
  • Baking
  • Crafting
  • Sewing
  • Diamond art
  • LEGO
  • Figurines
  • Model trains
  • Herb gardens
  • Mushroom-growing
  • …pretty much any hobby or project you can imagine!

Just for Fun

Similar but different, curation subscription boxes provide customers with a selection of products on a theme with the promise that the same product won’t be shipped twice. Curation subscription offerings are wide and varied, covering everything from beauty products to retro video games and pickles!

This innovative subscription model can work for businesses that specialise in an in-demand niche and have a wide variety of products (or a never-ending stream of new content) to offer within that niche. Think:

  • Collectibles (e.g. Loot Crate™)
  • Eco-friendly beauty products (e.g. Birchbox)
  • Personalised clothing items (e.g. StitchFix)

For maximum customer satisfaction, many curation companies allow the customer to choose at least one of the items they are going to receive in their box. Then, add revenue streams by selling the curated subscription box items on-demand on your e-commerce site!


In recent years, luxury car manufacturers that started out with a traditional business model have jumped on the subscription bandwagon. Today, there are now at least five brands that have added a subscription business model to their modus operandi, including Volvo, Porsche, Audi, BMW, and Cadillac.

For a monthly fee, subscribers have a choice of vehicles that they can have delivered to their homes. After concierge delivery, the subscription includes insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance, saving subscribers many of the hassles of car ownership while ensuring full access to luxury vehicles.

Cloud Storage

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) was created with the subscription service model in mind. Now, even businesses that started out selling hardware are taking on subscription business models in the form of cloud storage.

To give an example, GoPro started out selling an all-weather camera for taking photos and videos outdoors. After creating the GoPro app, which users can use to edit their photos, they launched a premium subscription option that gives users unlimited cloud storage for their photographic creations.

Global Access

To take the subscription idea even further afield, creative-thinking businesses are now offering subscriptions for hotels, flights, fitness classes and more. The subscription-based models we’re talking about here are access-focused rather than delivery-focused and range from unlimited access or part-time access to co-payments and member-only specials.

For example, Inspirato luxury travel group gives its members a pre-specified number of trips for an annual payment of €25,000 (three tips) or €45,000 (eight trips), which covers hotel and resort accommodation. For those with a smaller budget, there’s ClassPass. This subscription business has more than 30,000 participating fitness studios worldwide, which members can access for a monthly payment of €12 to €109, depending on how many credits they would like to buy.

Doing Good

Many businesses and individuals make monthly donations to charity, either to various charities on a one-time basis or as long-term supporters of a specific organisation. In an innovative twist, the nonprofit organisation Good Today has turned philanthropy into a subscription business.

Rather than charge members €22 every month to sponsor a child, parrot or tiger in need, Good Today has gone for an economy-of-scale approach—charging a minimum of €0.26 per day and allowing its members to direct their donations to one of that day’s featured charities. As a testament to its creativity, Good Today now raises money for 730 different charities each year and has featured nearly 3,000 charities since it began.

With Excellent Subscription Management, You Too Can Succeed!

A subscription business model can be applied to any e-commerce endeavour, but to make this approach work long-term, you will need a payment processing partner that offers specialised merchant services such as recurring billing, convenient auto-renewals and efficient service with a versatile global payment gateway.

For those who can perfect their concept and give customers excellent value for money, subscription models offer up to six times as much growth over time compared to non-subscription businesses. For customers, subscriptions offer convenience, easier budget planning and a sense of community and belonging. The innovative subscription models that we’ve shared here are only a few of dozens of examples. Your business could be next!