In my previous blog post, I discussed the steps we took to launching our coffee and chocolate subscription box company. In this post, I'm going to explain the steps we took to get the website up and running, and why we decided to change it 6 months in. Besides from your actual product, the website is the most important part of your company and it needs to be both professional and interesting.
Unless you are a very good coder I wouldn’t recommend developing your own website. It takes considerable time and effort getting a website up to scratch as well as the need for extensive testing. Your time is probably better spent driving customer acquisition and marketing.
However, I would recommend having some knowledge of HTML and CSS at your disposal as it will allow you to personalise and make incremental changes to your website as you see fit.
There are several companies offering a full website platform designed especially for subscription companies. Although there are two big names (Cratejoy and Subbly), there are numerous smaller providers offering similar services.
We chose to go for Cratejoy to host our site as they had a range of features that, at the time, were missing from their competitors. However, it is worth noting that the cost for Cratejoy is quite high.
There is a monthly overhead and a commission from Stripe (their payment integrator) as well as a payment to Cratejoy per sale, so you will need to add this as a direct cost to make sure you calculate your Gross Margin % correctly.
The main companies involved offer free trial periods to entice you into committing. Before we committed to any free trial, we spent a bit of time doing some wireframe designs of our ideal website. We then created text and collated images. It’s worth getting all of this done before you sign up as the trial periods don’t last long. By the end of the trial, you want to be able to go live with your business, so that you can cover your costs of the monthly payments as quickly as possible.
The reality is you won’t get a true reflection of the positives and negatives of the software until you are fully immersed and operating, so have a click around for a few days on your shortlisted providers, see which product you like, and go for it.
We selected a template and started building. It took us about 3 days to get about 75% of the way there, however we wanted to add a bit of extra functionality into the design. Jade, my co-founder knows HTML and CSS and as mentioned it is very useful to be able to personalise your template.
After we were happy with the design, we tested the site for a few days to make sure all the links/ payment processor were working (they have a test feature on the designer) and once we were happy we launched!
Our original website looked like this…
Useful analytics are given on the homepage which provide useful metrics for company performance. Customer subscription packages can be easily managed and you can set up your subscription products and online shop within minutes.
Like anything, providers such as Cratejoy are not perfect. There are some features that are only set up for the US market, which I can understand considering the market is well established out there and the UK market is considerably smaller in comparison. As our volume increases we are becoming increasingly aware that sorting out shipping is taking longer.
Cratejoy has integrated with ship station but the only service provider available in the UK is UPS. Not so great if you are using another courier, as we are. Similarly, Cratejoy offer a marketplace showcasing subscription companies that use their platform, but this has not been set up to give UK subscription companies that much exposure.
When you notice that something is working well or isn’t performing optimally (through the use of Google Analytics ), you can update and tweak the website.Not only does this keep the site fresh and interesting, it’ll also help with your SEO ratings.
After 6 months we decided that we were not happy with the original website design and made significant changes. We moved to a new template that was cleaner and more representative of our brand. We also added more images and made the website feel more professional. Our new website now looks like this
One key element that was missing was a blog which is great for building traffic and SEO ratings. Unfortunately, Cratejoy does not have the functionality to add blogs within the site, which although sounds like a small downside, it’s actually quite a big deal and something we’ve flagged to them. As a work-around, we created a free account on WordPress, added a new link within our website and it redirects to our WordPress blog page. It’s not perfect but it’s still a way of adding fresh content with backlinks into your website so it’s worth doing.
The blog is an extremely valuable tool to help drive acquisition and even better…its free! Of course, you can pay for the premium WordPress package which allows you to capture emails on your blog page etc. However, all I can say is that writing blogs is time consuming! And it always takes more time that you think it will…but maybes that’s just me.
In summary, when looking at building your website, you need to consider 3 main things. Firstly, who you want to provide your website (Cratejoy/Subbly/Other). Secondly, you need to get an idea of how you’d like your website to look & feel before picking a template. Lastly, you need to make sure your website is reflective of your brand and that the customer journey to purchasing is clear, simple and effective.
Good luck with your own sites!
Thanks for reading, Paul - The Cocoa and Roast Club
A big thank you to Paul for taking the time yet again to post a 4th post. As a follow up we intend to launch a full review on the various web platforms that Paul has introduced and to dive deeper into the options and pricing.
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