Flexography vs. Digital Print for Subscription Box Packaging

Posted on July 18, 2018 by Marketing Fantastapack
Flexography vs Digital Print

Flexography: A Traditional Packaging Solution

Flexography, sometimes called flexo, is a classic printing process that has long been used for box printing. The flexo method prints identical images at a rapid pace and is optimized to offer speed and fantastic scales of economy. The problem with flexo? Because this print method requires separate print plates and a press run for each color, the process encourages the use of one to two colors, and typically requires a large volume of boxes be ordered to be economically viable. Digital printing, on the other hand, offers full CMYK color, speed, and the ability to achieve very small (as small as one item) print runs.

Flexo printing is a common option for subscription box businesses to choose, especially when ordering in large volumes. However, the marketplace is rapidly maturing, and subscribers have more box choices than ever within their category of interest. This means that subscription box brands must do more to stand out, create a meaningful relationship with the individual consumer, and deliver a unique and memorable unboxing experience.


The Subscription Box Revolution

The subscription box economy is booming. Subscription boxes are available for books, snacks, clothing and even full menu meals that could replace weekly trips to the grocery store. Why are subscription box services growing so quickly? This model is rapidly becoming an important channel for brands of all sizes. 

Target Beauty Unboxing
Image Source: YouTube – AprilAthena7

Disruptive brands use the subscription box model as a way to build their business against larger competitors. Harry's, a company that specializes in razors, uses convenience and price as a way to compete with larger companies who own the brick and mortar retail space or deliver an entirely new product experience to online consumers.

Established businesses use subscription boxes as a marketing tool and a delivery platform. In the beauty product space alone, WalmartTarget, and Sephora are offering subscription boxes featuring samples of their product line. The subscription box offers a revenue stream, but also offers an inducement for a customer who likes a product to visit either a brick and mortar or online store to purchase more items. Birchbox built its business on the model of using a subscription service providing samples that up-sell customers to full-size products at full price.


Subscription Box Customers: Who’s Buying

Individual subscribers love the feeling of opening their latest box delivery and the surprise when they discover what the subscription has brought them. Andrea Garcia told the Kansas City Star, "They're really fun to open. I like the surprise of it and getting a product that I might not have known about, or tried, that ended up working really well." Subscription boxes offer a gift opening experience similar to that of Christmas morning, multiple times per year. Subscribers view their boxes as a gift they give themselves.


Customers also love subscription boxes as gifts for others. Many subscription boxes offer a product that serves as an individualized gift that the recipient receives for the life of the subscription. Because of the breadth of the subscription-based marketplace there are gifts appropriate for almost every person. Gift boxes are more personal than gift cards or certificates and offer a unique experience for the gift giver and receiver.


What’s Print Got to Do with It?

Subscription boxes are viewed as gifts weather a subscriber is purchasing for themselves or a loved one. With this understanding in mind, it’s easy to see that how you design your box (a.k.a. wrap your gift) has a big impact on subscriber excitement and how they view the quality of your product.

Full Color Subscription Boxes

Think about it: which would you rather receive? A boring brown gift with your name written on it in sharpie (the equivalent of a brown box with a logo), or a lovely wrapped package full of color and anticipation?


Flexography for Subscription Box Services

Flexography may be the best choice for subscription boxes if the subscriber base is large. If you are shipping to thousands of subscribers per month then the large-scale print jobs preferred for flexography may be the best choice. Flexo allows the shipper to place a one or two-color graphic design on a plain box at savings. Unfortunately, these boxes may be missing the sense of fun, adventure, personalization, and spontaneity that box subscribers see as a major feature of subscription box services.


Digital Printing for Subscription Box Services

Digital printing offers huge advantages for subscription businesses leveraging the gift aspect of their offering — graphic flexibility, full CMYK color, inside and outside print, and more.

Let’s take a look at these advantages in a little more depth.


Advantage 1: No Minimum Order Volume

Short print runs and low volume orders (as few as one box) offer a huge advantage for startup brands and subscription boxes still experimenting with their look. A short print run allows you to prototype and test various designs to see which work best for communicating the value and uniqueness of your subscription service. They also empower you to leverage just in time principles in your business. Rather than purchasing huge quantities of boxes and bearing the cost of storage on top of the cost of manufacturing, you can order only the boxes you need, when you need them. 


Advantage 2: True Full Color

Digital print captures the full CMYK color spectrum. Instead of limiting your design to one to two colors, why not access the full rainbow? With digital print, the number of colors does not impact the cost of the box – a revolution in the print industry!

The freedom to design in full color allows you to create graphics that communicate the value that your products deliver to the subscriber. Imagine a box of mountaineering gadgets in a box that features scenes from the most remote peaks, or a toy subscription in a box covered with the lively colors of childhood (or a coloring book pattern printed on the inside for the child to color themselves upon opening the box!). Digital print is an excellent method when using photographs in your design as well. Marketing and branding are major components of subscription boxes and full color allows full freedom to achieve your vision.


Advantage 3: Quick Turn Around

Because digital printing does not require print plates, there is no time lost to plate manufacturing and press setup time is reduced. This speed gets your boxes in-hand and subscriptions in the mail faster!


Which print method is best?

There is no single answer to the question of which method is best. For established subscription box services with large subscriber bases, flexo may be the best method. However, as the marketplace grows and becomes more competitive, the desire for established brands to keep their look fresh from month-to-month will drive more interest in the benefits that digital can deliver. 

For startups or small subscriber box services still developing best practices and methods, the flexibility of digital printing is probably the better choice. Digital provides the freedom to work with all the colors of the rainbow to build an end user experience that shines at an affordable cost.

No matter which print solution best fits your needs, Fantastapack is committed to providing the information that will help you make an educated choice.


Digital Print Delivers Fantastic Packaging

We invite you check out our subscription box mailers and see why Fantastapack is known for our beautifully printed digital packaging and expertise. Want to experience digital print first-hand? Order a Sample Kit today!

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