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Shopify Recurring Payments: Guide, Tools, Best Practices



At Upscribe, we understand the importance of setting up and maintaining recurring payments for your Shopify store. In this article, we’ll show you how to secure recurring revenue for your Shopify store, and highlight the best app for processing recurring payments. Let’s begin.

What Are Shopify Subscription Payments?

Subscription-based services are more popular than ever. Between 2012 and 2021, the subscription economy grew a staggering 435%. According to this Zuora report, one in three young people aged sixteen to twenty-four have a paid subscription, indicating that the future of subscription-based services is bright.

Shopify subscription payments allow customers to pre-schedule their purchases of an item or service. Based on the payment plan they have signed up for, an automated process charges them via their preferred payment method on a set recurring basis. 

In most cases, merchants allow customers to set up monthly payments. However, many Shopify recurring payment apps allow merchants to offer payments on a weekly or yearly basis, and some even allow totally customizable plans.

Some of the benefits of offering subscription payments for your store include:

  • Steady and predictable flow of income
  • More flexibility for your customers 
  • More cost-effective advertising and social media campaigns

Upscribe helps merchants use their Shopify subscription page to create a more seamless customer experience. Good customer experiences result in more subscribers. Four Sigmatic, an ecommerce store using Upscribe software, can attest to this after they saw their active subscribers increase by 50%.

Types Of Shopify Subscriptions

Depending on what products and/or services you are offering, there are different types of Shopify subscription methods. Some Shopify subscription apps will allow you to use many or all of these methods, while others will not. This is why it is important to consider any limitations when choosing the right app for your subscription service.

Convertible Subscription

This is essentially a free trial approach. A convertible subscription allows potential customers to try out your products or services for free before deciding whether or not to sign up for a paid subscription. Free trials are often highly effective in attracting potential customers and converting them into long-term subscribers.

Example: Meal subscription company, Hello Fresh, offered customers 16 free meals simply for providing their contact information.

Replenishment Subscription

Simply put, the replenishment subscription model offers customers a chance to save money by subscribing. Replenishment subscriptions are most commonly used in the sale of commodity products, or items/services that are used regularly. 

By signing up for a replenishment subscription, customers are offered a financial incentive for the convenience of receiving their products on a recurring basis. To ensure this method pays dividends, you need to carefully consider how much of a discount customers will get by subscribing.

Example: Beekeeper’s Naturals, an online store selling natural health solutions, offers customers a 15% saving for subscribing.

Build-a-box Subscription

If you sell a range of products in your store, a build-a-box subscription is a great way to offer customers exactly what they want. In essence, this subscription enables customers to add several items of their choice to a monthly (or weekly/fortnightly/customized date) delivery. 

Build-a-box subscriptions are customizable, offering customers the convenience of selecting various products each month, as long as they equate to the value of the subscription fee they are paying for. 

Example: Goddess Provisions, a monthly box subscription of esoteric products

Monthly Boxes

Similar to a build-a-box subscription, monthly boxes are delivered on a monthly basis but are curated exclusively by you, the merchant. Monthly boxes can either feature different items from month to month or include the same items each time. A well-curated monthly subscription box can encourage subscription renewals and customer loyalty.

Example: Blue Apron, a meal delivery service, offers two meal deliveries a week of the chef’s favorites for just $11.99.

Traditional Subscription Service

This type of subscription provides customers with access to services or products that are not available outside of a subscription. Traditional subscription services work best for business models designed with this revenue stream in mind.

Example: The Buffalo Botanical Gardens sell memberships allowing annual access as well as member-only perks.

How To Set Up A Recurring Payment System On Shopify

Now that you know the various subscription models, and how to promote your Shopify store to get new subscribers, let’s look at how you can set up a recurring payment system on Shopify.

1. Add Upscribe to Shopify

First up, you need to add Upscribe to your Shopify store or schedule a demo before adding Upscribe to it. This part is straightforward.

2. Begin setting up a subscription plan

Once you’ve added Upscribe to Shopify, it’s time to go through our straightforward set up process. Firstly, you need to select Subscriptions in the app header before clicking on create a new plan.

3. Fill out relevant details

At this stage, you want to add a relevant name in the Monthly Subscription field before adding a plan description. These fields will only be visible in Upscribe administration so that you can tell the difference between various plans. Customers will not see this information.

4. Subscription options

You can now set your Monthly Subscription name that will appear from your customer’s point of view. If you include the words “monthly subscription” in the title, it will allow you to communicate with customers how often they’ll pay. 

You should include additional information in the description section, such as what a customer could save by using a subscription plan instead of paying for items individually. You can also consider SEO at this point to optimize your content.

5. Set your discount settings

You can use this section to decide how much customers will save through subscribing or to create a general discount on your products. You can only input numbers in the Discount Amount field.

6. Shipping frequency settings

You can set your shipping frequency to occur every X amount of days, weeks, or months. On the left-hand field, you can then choose a figure to go with the shipping frequency. 

As you change the settings to Subscription Order 1, a preview pane on the right side of the screen will show you what customers would see, reflecting the differences between a one-time payment and a subscription plan.

7. Add more options

Should you wish to add more subscription options, you can click on Add Another Option which will appear beneath shipping frequency.

8. Select subscription products

Once you’re satisfied, scroll down to the Select Products For Your Subscription section. Click on it and it will expand. You’ll then see a table of all active products on your Shopify store.

Simply click on the checkboxes on the left-hand side to determine what products you’d like to include in your subscription plan.

Should a product have a range of variants, all will automatically be included in your plan by default if the product is elected. However, by clicking on the Group Product Variant checkbox, you can see its individual variants and select or unselect as you desire.

9. Save your subscription plan

Simply hit save (which can be found in the bottom right corner), once you are done. Now, it’s time to test out your subscription.

10. Test transactions

We recommend performing test transactions before going live. This will give you the opportunity to determine whether your subscription plan is working correctly and how the customer will experience their journey on your online store.

To perform a test transaction, you need to:

  1. Enable test mode on Shopify.
  2. Go to your storefront to create an order. Ensure you are previewing an published theme. Add a subscription for a product or products and complete the checkout with a test credit card.
  3. View the new order in Shopify orders to confirm it worked.
  4. Now you can view the new subscription via the Upscribe customer panel.

Do not fulfill the test order as you will then be charged for any shipping label purchases. Simply cancel it once you are happy.

11. Go live and analyze

If test transactions run smoothly and you’re happy with everything else, it’s time to publish your Shopify recurring payment system. We recommend letting your social media followers and email subscribers know about your launch in advance (if applicable). This will help you to reach more people on launch day. Once your payment plan is live, you should share links to your store through your social media channels, again, if applicable.

Our analytics can give you information such as your net value, new subscriptions, active subscriptions, cancellations, paused subscriptions, and average subscription value. By analyzing this data, you can see how successful your store is and figure out ways to increase your revenue.

We also offer visual graphs, allowing you to make instant sense of your data. Moreover, you can export your data into a solution of your choice for further analysis.

Our customer base encompasses ecommerce stores in the food and beverage, health and wellness, and home care sectors.

Keen to get started customizing and streamlining your subscription offering? Schedule a demo today. If you are happy with your experience, you can sign up with one of two payment options. Alternatively, you can easily sign up for a paid plan through Shopify.

To learn more about Upscribe and how it can benefit your online store, check out our features page or use cases page. Whether you are new to subscriptions or want to grow your existing subscription offering, you have come to the right place.

How to secure recurring revenue on Shopify

After you’ve designed, developed, and launched your Shopify store, the next big step is to secure, maintain, and, where possible, increase recurring revenue. 

Let’s take a look at how to grow your Shopify store’s subscriber base so you can secure more recurring revenue.


Search engine optimization (SEO) is the key to your site successfully ranking on Google and other search engines. After all, what better way to secure recurring revenue than to be found by people regularly looking for your products? To attract these potential subscribers, you need your store to appear at the top of the search results when web users are looking for the products and/or services that you sell.

Global SeaFoods saw their efforts pay dividends when they used SEO to optimize the reach and CTR of their Shopify store. By using SEO you can create more online impressions and increase your CTR. These steps in the right direction can increase your store’s revenue including in relation to recurring payments.

One of the first way in optimizing your Shopify store for search engines is to include relevant, targeted keywords in your site content. If you are struggling to find opportunities for including keywords in your core domain pages, you can consider:

  • Adding a blog to your site: A blog is not only a great way to incorporate targeted keywords into your site content, but it is also an opportunity to publish content that will position you as an authority in your niche. To further amplify your SEO efforts, include links to your store and its products throughout each blog post, so that readers have the option to purchase products from your store while they are reading about them.
  • Build out your product pages: The content on your product pages offers more than just an opportunity for keyword placement. You can also use your product descriptions to carry through your brand story, and entice new subscribers or upsell existing ones.

It is important that you only incorporate relevant, targeted keywords into your site’s content. The keywords and phrases need to be relevant to your products and/or services, and the data should be pulled from people with the right search intent. 

For instance, if your Shopify store sells fresh produce in Jacksonville, Florida, you want keywords such as:

  • Fresh produce delivered weekly
  • Vegetable delivery Jacksonville
  • Fresh fruit and veg Jacksonville 

Comprehensive research into your potential customers and their key search terms is vital if your SEO efforts are to be successful. 

Here are some useful keyword research tools:

Social media ad campaigns

Paid ads on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can help you reach potential customers. Paid social media ads are highly customizable, allowing you to target specific audiences, keywords, and even people with interests related to your offering. 

For example, if your store sells contemporary men’s clothing, your target audience would be men aged 18-35. If possible, you can further customize your ad reach to target men who have shown an interest in fashion, or who like other brands in your industry.

Social Shepherd successfully scaled an ecommerce brand using Facebook ads and achieved a 4.64x ROAS for their client as a result. Social media ad campaigns can attract new faces to your Shopify store, which in turn can lead to increased revenue.

Influencer marketing

Depending on the current reach and standing of your Shopify store, you could hire influencers to promote your content. This is essentially another form of social media advertising. As many as four out of five marketers believe that influencer marketing works, and 7 in 10 believe that influencer marketing is more effective than other forms of online advertising.

An important consideration is that influencer marketing can be costly since a) you would need to send them free samples and b) you may have to pay a certain advertising fee to the influencer to work with your brand. 

However, depending on your product offering, influencer marketing can be highly effective, particularly if the influencer is well-known in your area of business. If, for example, your Shopify store sells cookware and you find an influencer who has made a name for themselves cooking meals and sharing their recipes online, it could pay off.

Jewelry brand Nominal would grow to a $1 million + business in a short timeframe with the use of influencer marketing. By giving away their jewelry to influencers for free in exchange for online posts and therefore reach, the brand saw rapid growth. Successful influencer marketing can improve your store’s cash flow since you can reach more potential customers.

Organic social media engagement

Paid social media advertising is just one way of using social media to reach new customers and secure more revenue. Social media platforms can be used as a relatively free and easy way to increase your store’s reach. Organic social media management is an effective way to improve your relationship with existing customers and attract new ones, while simultaneously keeping your store top of mind and encouraging conversation. 

Regularly update your social media pages with information about your products, news of sales, discounts, and subscriptions. Engage with your customers by responding to queries and complaints, and entice new ones by promoting your products organically. 

This can lead to higher recurring payments on Shopify, particularly if you reach potential customers who are most likely to sign up for a Shopify subscription plan. It’s also important to encourage customer loyalty through effective engagement.

Email marketing newsletters

Email marketing involves sending templatized email newsletters out to both existing and potential customers. It is important to ensure that whoever you are sending the email out to has opted in to receiving emails from your business. 

The three types of email marketing newsletters are transactional, promotional, and lifecycle.

  • Transactional emails are sent after a customer has made a purchase. Examples of transactional emails include order confirmations and emails confirming that an order has been shipped and is out for delivery. 
  • Promotional emails inform customers of upcoming sales or discounts. 
  • Lifecycle emails are sent out automatically, based on where the customer is in their buying journey. For example, if a prospective customer left items in their basket but never purchased them, you can send them an email reminding them of their basket and explaining the easy checkout process. 

Email marketing is also a great opportunity to retain and reward existing customers. If you have a customer who buys from you regularly, you can send them an email thanking them, and even giving them rewards such as subscription deals (e.g. discounts).

Multiplatform entertainment company, Skybound Entertainment, increased their newsletter open rates by 80%. They achieved this by more effectively targeting audience segments with different emails. With more newsletter openings, you can expect increased revenue and hopefully higher recurring payments on Shopify.

More on what Upscribe has to offer

Upscribe helps you streamline the Shopify membership subscription process. Developed to get you up and running in minutes, our merchant-centric software enables you to:

  • Easily customize your Shopify theme 
  • Create subscription plans through a simple 3-step process
  • Leverage Shopify checkout to seamlessly convert one-time buyers into long-term subscribers

Schedule a demo with Upscribe today. We provide a wide range of features such as advanced analytics and a super-charged merchant portal. Our service enables merchants to maintain existing subscribers and attract new ones.

If you’d like to learn more about ecommerce subscriptions, take a look at the Upscribe blog. Some of the topics we explore include how to start a subscription box on Shopify and how you can prepare your subscription business for recession.

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What you should do now

  1. Schedule a Demo and see how Upscribe can provide a superior subscription experience for your customers.
  2. Read more free material about subscription ecommerce topics in our blog.
  3. If you know someone who’d enjoy this page, share it with them via email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

This originally appeared on Upscribe and is made available here to cast a wider net.
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