Shopify Ecosystem

Choosing A Subscription Ecommerce Platform

choosing-a-subscription-ecommerce-platform

Launching a subscription business, but not sure where to start? Or maybe you’re not sure how to manage all subscriptions offered by your online store? Selecting the right subscription ecommerce platform is an essential part of creating a successful subscription business, laying the foundation for stores to support their subscribers throughout the customer journey. 

Subscription ecommerce platforms allow merchants to sell subscriptions with recurring billing, while also helping them manage the customer experience—encompassing all aspects of subscription management for both the customer and the merchant. 

This blog post will cover what a subscription ecommerce platform is, what ecommerce stores should consider when choosing their subscription management solution, and the different types of subscription ecommerce platforms.  

Key takeaways

  • Ecommerce subscription software platforms allow merchants to offer products or services with recurring payments.
  • Each software solution varies in its focus and specialty, which is why it’s crucial to research options before choosing the right one for your business.
  • Some solutions, like Recharge, focus on supporting merchants with subscription management—an essential component of the customer experience.

What is a subscription ecommerce platform?

Let’s start by defining what a subscription ecommerce platform is. This type of platform is a software solution that gives merchants the ability to sell subscriptions online—whether they offer products or services—by facilitating subscription billing and recurring payments for customers.  

Subscription ecommerce software allows merchants to create and manage subscription offerings while collecting these recurring payments from subscribers. They also enable customers to renew, cancel, or pause their subscription service. 

There is some variation between the different types of software offered by these subscription ecommerce platforms and their various subscription features—which is why it’s crucial to research their components and make an informed decision for your business. 

Within this category, subscription management solutions focus specifically on the ways that you handle your customers’ subscriptions—including the ways that you allow them to handle their own subscriptions. 

What to consider when choosing a subscription platform

As mentioned, subscription ecommerce platforms vary, which is why it’s so crucial to choose the right solution for your online store. With our interactive web experience, merchants can select the best subscription management solution for their unique needs. Exploring the different components of subscription management software and considering the various features provided can help you make this important business decision. 

1. Launch timeline

Of course, before you make any decisions for your subscription business, you’ll need to have an idea of your launch timeline. If you are planning a more complex launch, you may need more time and access to advanced settings within your subscription management platform. 

2. Product type

Your product type will help inform your subscription platform decision as well. The subscription business model tailors itself to both physical and digital subscriptions, but your subscription ecommerce platform will need to be specific to the type of subscription you’re planning to offer. 

Mary Ruth's Organic product page shows probiotic gummies and their subscription options.
An online store like Mary Ruth’s Organics, which offers supplements for kids and adults, will likely need a different ecommerce software solution than a store that only offers digital subscriptions. 

3. Ecommerce knowledge & business resources

If you’re new to ecommerce or even just new to the subscription business model, you may need more assistance when you launch your subscriptions. Selecting a subscription ecommerce platform with more support or ecommerce expertise could make a huge difference for your business. Those that are already established or have larger teams and more resources might not need that critical support. 

4. User interface

The best subscription ecommerce platform will have an easy-to-use interface, for both merchants and subscribers. One of the most important aspects of subscription management solutions is the user experience—so selecting a platform with great usability is crucial. 

5. Integrations

Since subscription management software doesn’t always cover every need of your ecommerce business, you may need to include integrations with tools like shipping and analytics solutions. For this reason, subscription platforms often offer integrations so online stores selling subscriptions can access the tools they need. 

There are a wide variety of ecommerce tools available that can help you create seamless customer experiences. Here are some examples of ecommerce tools:

  • Tax solutions 
  • Shipping solutions 
  • Fraud and intelligence solutions
  • Retention solutions 
  • Customer service solutions 
  • Acquisition solutions 
  • Analytics solutions 
  • Cross-sell and upsell solutions 
  • Payments solutions 

6. Value for money

Even though offering subscription services online can help you maximize revenue, online stores still have to think about the bottom line. Subscription platforms vary in capabilities and pricing, which is why businesses should compare their options and select the platform that offers the most value to them, with their unique subscription needs. 

Solutions that focus on subscription management

While the category of subscription ecommerce platforms is broad, there are some solutions that focus specifically on subscription management, like Recharge. Putting the customer experience first, these solutions offer a variety of tools that assist both the merchant and the customer in handling their subscriptions. Merchants looking to offer subscriptions have to consider customer relationship management, not just how they’re going to set up recurring online payments. 

Different types of subscription ecommerce platforms

Among those that focus on subscription management, there are five different types of subscription ecommerce platforms to explore, each with their own strengths and subscription capabilities. Before you start selling subscriptions, it’s critical to determine which platform will serve your business best. 

1. Out-of-the-box-only solutions

This type of solution is great for small businesses, or those looking to get their subscriptions up and running quickly. Merchants who want to start collecting recurring revenue immediately could consider this option. However, it’s not the best solution for brands looking to scale. Out-of-the-box-only solutions are often not built or tested at scale, meaning they may not be able to grow with your business. 

2. API-only solutions

Merchants looking for highly customizable software solutions might consider an API-only solution. It’s a proper choice for any online store that wants to be able to build their own subscriptions—as long as they have an ample budget and a strong development team. Merchants should consider that this type of solution has a high overhead cost and requires ongoing maintenance. 

3. Custom-built solutions

Like API-only solutions, custom-built apps are a highly customizable option but are built with the help of a development partner or agency. These experts can offer custom software solutions and a wealth of knowledge about the ecommerce space. The benefit of choosing a custom-built solution is that they’re highly flexible, and partners will work to create all the advanced features that merchants are looking for. However, this takes time, so merchants shouldn’t expect a quick launch if they choose this route. 

4. SaaS subscriptions–first solutions

SaaS subscriptions-first solutions are intended for B2B software companies. So while they’re not a subscription box platform, they do offer solutions for merchants who do not sell physical subscriptions. This solution type is best for digital products and is often more mature than other types of subscription management solutions. 

5. Holistic solutions

Merchants offering physical subscriptions should consider a holistic subscription management solution, like Recharge. This type of solution balances an out-of-the-box approach with an API-first foundation—making it a popular choice among many subscription box businesses. Merchants who choose this option can launch physical subscriptions quickly and have the ability to integrate with a variety of other solutions, giving them a holistic approach to managing subscriptions. 

Selecting the best ecommerce platform for your subscription business

Choosing the best subscription ecommerce platform is a personal choice depending on your business goals and the kind of subscriptions you’d like to offer. Subscription businesses can expect higher customer lifetime value (LTV) and better customer loyalty, making this business model an appealing option for merchants.

Learning more about what to consider when selecting a subscription management solution can help merchants make an informed decision when it comes time to launch their subscriptions. Having the right solution will offer you access to subscription revenue and give you the opportunity to form stronger relationships with your customers. 

Special thanks to our friends at ReCharge Payments for their insights on this topic.
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