Subscription selling isn’t inherently present on Shopify, but there are a number of apps designed for that. Even if you don’t have subscription-based services on your store, you might consider creating subscriptions for certain products or curated subscription boxes. Why? Because it’s a great way to ensure recurring revenue and retain customers.
Let’s explore the advantages of selling subscriptions on Shopify and ways to do that.
Benefits of selling subscriptions
Here are the major reasons why subscriptions may help your business:
- It’s an easier way for customers to pay for products they regularly use. With products that are purchased regularly (coffee and tea, vitamins, toiletries, etc.), people can stock them up for months ahead, but it will take a significant lump sum. It’s much easier to pay a smaller amount every month (or a couple of weeks or two months) and stay free of any headache related to getting out of those products.
- It’s a great retention mechanism. When shoppers subscribe to your products, they already show trust in your store. It’s your green light to build long-lasting relationships with subscribers by analyzing their needs and creating personalized offers for them. Besides, even when a shopper decides to unsubscribe, they’ll still visit your site to do this, and who knows—maybe your product pages and other content will win them over again.
Tip: the audience of subscribers is perfect for upselling and cross-selling. Create a segment of customers who’ve been using a subscription for quite some time and consider offering them an upgrade on the typical order or additional products.
Plus, subscription is an upselling technique in itself. You can remind customers who’re making a one-time purchase about the option to save on subscriptions. If you communicate the perks of subscribing, chances are you’ll convert more visitors into subscribers.
- It increases loyalty and customer lifetime value. With thoughtfully created subscriptions, customers can feel that their needs are taken care of and therefore remain loyal to your brand, buy more from your store, and refer friends.
- It helps you predict future revenue. When shoppers subscribe to your products, you can calculate how much money you will definitely have at the end of a given subscription period. This, in turn, will help you allocate the resources without the risk of overestimating the income and adjusting your spending on the go.
Types of subscriptions
Depending on your product catalog and the goals you set, you can create a lot of different subscriptions. Let’s explore their major types.
Curated subscription boxes
E-commerce brands create subscription boxes that can be used
- as a gift (for example, a monthly selection of chocolates)
- to introduce customers to products (for example, a monthly box with new cosmetics samples)
- to cover a specific need with a variety of items (for example, a monthly selection of pet toys and treats)
Curated boxes work well because they add an element of excitement and anticipation to the shopping experience. Plus, they open up ways to cross-promote different products and categories. On the other hand, such subscriptions imply complicated logistics as you’ll need to pack different products (possibly ordered from different vendors on different terms, stored at different inventory locations, etc.). The more items you include in the box, the harder it is to keep track of your inventory.
Refills of essential products
If you’re selling items that are in regular use, refill subscriptions sound like an obvious conversion boost. Since subscriptions usually come with a discount, you’ll have thinner price margins on them, but they can bring you higher revenues thanks to recurring payments. Plus, predictable revenue streams will help you improve procurement planning.
You can even show subscriptions as the first possible option. For instance, a plant milk brand from the screenshot below starts the Bestsellers page with different subscriptions:
Product samples and “try before you buy” selections
This type of subscription can help convert those visitors who are not looking for anything specific or are not sure about what products will suit them better. This strategy might be for you if you’re selling any products that come with different flavors (coffee, wine, etc.) or other variations.
This is a great way to introduce your product catalog to customers and understand their preferences.
Digital product subscriptions
If you’re selling digital products along with physical ones (or digital products exclusively), you can also put them together as a subscription. It can work with products like photo editing templates, audio samples and plugins, printable handcraft patterns, etc.
Dealing with such subscriptions has no inventory hassle but brings the same benefits as physical subscriptions: they can increase loyalty and boost interest in your products.
Access to premium services
Another way to approach subscriptions is to provide additional services to customers. If they shop at your store regularly, they can benefit from getting quarterly or yearly access to free delivery, maintenance, priority order processing, or anything else that makes sense.
Tip: if you’re on the fence about this type of subscription, there’s also an option of cross-selling premium services. For instance, suggest an extended warranty right after a customer makes a purchase—it’s easy to do so with upsell apps like Candy Rack.
How to sell subscriptions on Shopify
To enable any type of subscription, you need to choose a Shopify subscription solution—you won’t be able to do this without an app or dedicated tool. Here are some Shopify subscription apps you can consider:
- Seal Subscriptions: lets you configure different subscriptions that can be self-managed and mixed in the same cart. There’s a totally free plan for up to 150 subscriptions, while paid plans cost $4.95, $7.95, or $20 per month, depending on the number of subscriptions you need. The Seal Subscriptions Shopify app doesn’t charge transaction or order fees.
- PayWhirl: supports several Shopify subscription payment options and allows creating subscriptions manageable by customers. The app’s fee defines the transaction fee you’ll pay for each sold subscription (from 3% in the free plan to 0.5% in the Ultimate plan that costs $249 per month).
- Appstle Subscriptions: offers different subscription models that can be customized and managed both from the app’s dashboard and Shopify admin. The app has a free plan for up to $500 in monthly subscription sales, while its paid plans cost $10, $30, and $100 per month (the price is comparatively high because the app includes many other features such as bundling and custom widgets).
- Recharge Subscriptions: besides building and managing subscriptions, allows creating custom workflows and adding third-party integrations via the Recharge Subscriptions API. The free plan will charge you 1% + 10¢ per transaction, while the Pro plan costs $499 per month plus the 1% + 19¢ transaction fee.
For more details on apps' features and prices, check out our list of the best Shopify subscription apps.
Once you set subscriptions, you’ll be able to track their performance either within an app (if it offers analytics) or in native Shopify reports. Note that the latter will include subscription data only if you’re on the Shopify plan or higher.
As for the payment gateways, Shopify accepts different ones for recurring payments, but it’s recommended to go with Shopify Payments.
How to choose the best Shopify monthly subscription app?
When choosing a Shopify subscription app, analyze how customizable its capabilities are. Think about where and how you want to display your subscriptions (only on product pages or on collection pages as well), whether you need a dedicated page for subscriptions, and what customers will be able to personalize (besides choosing the subscription period, they might choose among different product sizes and types or create their own product selection).
Also, explore how easy it will be to set different fonts, colors, and other design elements to match your theme. Most apps allow for custom CSS to adjust the look of subscription widgets. Some of them even offer you a subscription API to control more customizations and third-party integrations.
How to build successful product subscriptions: 7 tips
Now that you know what your options are in creating subscriptions and implementing them on Shopify, let’s get through the proven industry practices. We hope they’ll inspire you to craft killer subscription offers that will fuel your store’s growth.
1. Show subscriptions as a default payment option
Make the one-time purchase option a secondary choice. Until people click on it, they will already see the benefits of subscribing.
2. Add a subscription page and feature it in your site’s menu
You can create a dedicated page to show the benefits of subscribing in full color. Occasional shoppers might get intrigued by the subscription option on the menu—and this page is your chance to show them why it’s cool to become a subscriber.
3. Show subscription options on collection pages
Besides product pages, you can include subscription options right on your collection pages. This is an additional opportunity to inform about potential savings or other benefits.
In the example below, a supplement store mixes individual products with subscription options with bundles on its collection pages.
4. Clearly describe the benefits of subscribing
While a price discount is the most obvious benefit to a customer, it might not be the most important one. Highlight what makes your product subscriptions special and why it’s better than an individual purchase.
You can add the information about subscription’s benefits on different pages: next to product description, on a dedicated page, in the subscription personalization quiz, etc.
You can also remind customers about the benefits that come with your brand in general, not only with a subscription. For example, a deodorant store from the screenshot below lists typical subscription advantages along with a perk that makes their products special:
5. Offer possibilities to edit, pause, or cancel a subscription (and indicate that it’s easy)
The clarity of subscription options might make you more conversions. When customers see that you don’t hide the cancellation option and provide flexibility with managing a subscription, they are more likely to trust you.
6. Offer a discount for new subscribers
Once you get a subscriber, the hardest part is done—customer acquisition is truly the biggest challenge in e-commerce. To get more people subscribed, consider offering a discount for the first month (or another period).
7. Analyze churn
After each subscription period, calculate your churn rate (the percentage of subscribers lost over this time). Analyze if there is any involuntary churn—for instance, failed payments—and try resolving the issue. With voluntary churn (customers canceling their subscriptions), monitor this rate to compare different periods and cross-reference your insights with marketing campaigns, seasonality, and other factors.
8. Partner with influencers
Curated subscription boxes are a trend on social media so don’t lose an opportunity to partner with influencers. It might work with other subscription types, too—it all depends on your goals and creativity.
Grow your business on Shopify with recurring subscriptions
Subscriptions can open new ways to grow your store: get more customers and increase their loyalty. Even though Shopify doesn’t let you add subscriptions with no additional tool, there are a variety of Shopify subscription apps that will automate the process for you. Check out how your competitors present subscriptions (or other stores that you feel inspired by) and follow the industry best practices to make your subscription offers irresistible.