How do I get started with subscription products on Shopify?

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A closer look at ReCharge

We’ve recently written about the subscription business model which gets us all hot and bothered. Subscriptions! A brilliant way to get people to spend more, be loyal to your brand for longer, and cost you less per item on advertising. But how do you get started with a subscription service on Shopify? Here’s the most straightforward way.

ReCharge, the app that makes subscription billing too easy

Shopify doesn’t have subscription billing as a native feature, so a third-party service, ReCharge, has taken the front seat for this type of billing. They provide custom integrations, so you can install their system, tell them what you want and get going.

What’s it like for you, as a merchant?

There are a few important features ReCharge has for merchants. Here are the main ones.

Create multiple types of subscriptions

Weekly, bi-weekly and monthly subscriptions

The classic recurring subscription. This is probably the most common type, and you can set delivery frequency to whatever time your business has the capacity for. Every time your customer’s card is charged, you send out a delivery.

Chunky-time subscriptions

So, no, that’s not the official terminology. But basically you can set up a subscription option where payment and dispatch are on different schedules. For example, your customer can pay for a three-month subscription at a discount, and you’ll send their products every month for three months. They’ve pre-paid for several months, rather than cancelling after a month. This lets you know what inventory you need a bit easier, and helps upsell your customers into longer-term ones.

Once-off gifts

One of the most sought-after features in the subscription world is the ability to offer gift subscriptions. Your customer can order a gift of a subscription for a chunk of time you specify - for example a six month subscription that you dispatch once a month. This feature lets your customer put in a different shipping address to their billing address, too.

There are a few important features ReCharge has for merchants. Here are the main ones.

Sell both subscription and non-subscription items

ReCharge lets your customers buy a combination of subscription and non-subscription products in the same shopping cart. This is a really important point for businesses that might have a few things they can put in a subscription box, but not necessarily all of your collection. Once you’re up and running with ReCharge, you’ll use Stripe and Paypal as your payment gateways, and accept all orders normally.

Know what you’re supposed to mail out at the right time

ReCharge works with Shopify or your inventory management system by telling you exactly what you should be sending to whom and by when. If someone buys a three month subscription, you shouldn’t have to write down on some note that you’ll need to send product numbers 2 and 3 to them in subsequent months - ReCharge pops up your order once their card is charged successfully, and tells you exactly what you need to send. It never tells you to send an order that hasn’t already been paid for.

You can also set up subscriptions to send out at the same time each month, and any new subscription after your cutoff date will receive it the following month. This can be helpful if you need to streamline your fulfilment process, or if you have products that make sense to get at a particular time of the month.

Set discounts to entice customers to switch to subscription

You can make it more attractive for people to buy a subscription when you put a discount on it, compared to a once-off purchase. Discounts can be set up as dollar amounts or percentages. For example, you can set up the option to buy your product once for $50, subscribe monthly and get each one for $45, or buy a three-month subscription that works out to $40 a pop.

You can also offer once-off discounts for subscription plans - essentially putting them on sale to promote your products, but not locking in a discount for all eternity. This means you can offer a sale of “50% off the first two months” without changing the price for the rest of the subscription.

Manually edit customer information

Sometimes you get calls from customers asking to change something -- and one common issue with using third party software is that it’s out of your hands. That’s not the case here -- you can go into any customer’s account and edit their subscription for them, refund orders or add new items.

Send automatic emails through ReCharge

ReCharge takes care of all automatic emails including:

  • When a customer joins a subscription plan
  • When a customer is billed and their order is processed
  • When a customer’s credit card doesn’t go through
  • When a customer changes their subscription plan

You can edit these emails to add your own branding and language.

What do your customers get?

Understanding how your customers experience your products is hugely important to seeing where your business can improve. Here are the main features ReCharge uses to make a subscription model as convenient as possible.

Subscription plans that are fully editable through an account

When a customer wants to buy from your store, they’ll be asked to make an account with an email address and password. This account is managed through ReCharge and lets them alter their type of subscription or cancel at any time. Once any billing and order changes have been made and confirmed, you’ll get the most updated version sent to your Shopify admin.

A “Skip This Month” feature

One of the trickier things with subscriptions is that customers may want to stay subscribed, but take a break. If they have the option to skip a month easily, they’re more likely to stay on in the future instead of choosing to cancel altogether.

Automatic information about billing

If a credit card doesn’t go through, ReCharge will automatically direct them to update their card info. They’ll also be notified each time their card is charged, so they never come to you with surprises about billing.

No need to re-enter credit card details

This is a hugely important part of increasing conversions. When a customer is logged into their account and adds a new product to their subscription or changes the amount, they won’t have to re-enter their details. This makes it particularly helpful to you when you’re promoting products that increase their order value.

Made for a phone

ReCharge is completely mobile-responsive, and works fully when your customers are browsing from their phones while in a queue or on the go. This is a must for any modern company, and ReCharge has got it down.

The big picture

Subscription models are becoming an increasingly popular way to sell more and grow loyalty among your customers. They are convenient and consistent for customers, and add a huge amount to average order value. For Shopify merchants, you can set up subscription options for all of your stock, or just some of it, through a pretty comprehensive service - ReCharge. They’re starter pricing is only $20 a month plus 1% per recurring subscription (no commission on once-off payments), and integrates directly with all of your existing Shopify process. Pretty nifty, right?

If you’re looking for more information about starting a subscription service for your customers, or want to look at other options you might have, get in touch with us today.