It’s the perfect time to launch your subscription ecommerce business. After months of high inflation that caused consumers to reevaluate their discretionary spending, the economy is rebounding. Brands that can offer new, exciting products are likely to benefit now that shoppers have more spending money again.
Assuming you already have a subscription product in mind, your next step toward a successful launch should be choosing a subscription ecommerce platform. With so many options and so many features, it’s a big decision that can make it hard for a newcomer to know what to look for.
Our expert team has spent years working with subscription ecommerce merchants, so we know which features matter. Subscriptions are all about building relationships, which means you’ll need tools that support an outstanding customer experience. Plus, you’ll want a platform that simplifies the work of selling so you can spend more time making your buyers happy.
We’ve translated these goals into concrete features and evaluated multiple BigCommerce apps to see how well each one serves merchants like you.
Successful subscription offerings marry customer convenience with high levels of personalization. They must be easy for sellers to maintain and fulfill so scaling doesn’t take a disproportionate amount of resources. Here are the eight features subscription merchants need to make that goal a reality.
Maximize your revenue by tailoring your billing options to consumers’ wants. Subscription apps with strict billing logic lock your customers into a small range of preset billing cycles or your products into one subscription model. Each restriction further shrinks your target audience.
A platform with advanced billing logic capabilities will free you (and your customers) from such constraints. Look for a subscription management app that allows you to:
Even if you don’t have the resources to offer every type of subscription right now, you’ll want to expand your options as you grow. Look for a platform that’s continually developing new billing logic options, as tomorrow’s customers may prefer a subscription plan that doesn’t exist today.
Reduce your churn rates by allowing customers to tailor their subscriptions to meet their needs. Imagine this: A buyer who likes (but doesn’t love) your company has an excess of product after six months of subscribing. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence; in fact, it’s to blame for almost one in five subscription cancellations.
Faced with this situation, a customer’s first thought will probably be to unsubscribe. A good subscription self-management portal can prompt them to modify their subscription size or cadence instead, preventing churn.
The more options you offer your customer base — and the easier it is for them to modify their subscription — the higher subscriber satisfaction will be. Your subscription ecommerce platform should have the ability to:
Seventy-eight percent of consumers want the ability to manage their own subscriptions. Companies that don’t offer this capability may not notice the cost until they’ve lost buyers — at which point it’s already too late.
Customers love deals, especially when the economy gets tight. Keep your customers around and make them feel special with perks tied to membership or loyalty programs. And don’t doubt that they’re a worthy investment — a survey of over 2,000 subscription holders found that almost 30% would cancel a subscription over discontinued perks such as loyalty benefits.
Administering a loyalty program or otherwise rewarding top subscribers isn’t simple. You’ll want an app that makes it easy to set up common discount schemes.
One of the simplest loyalty discounts is a subscribe-and-save setup. You can add dynamic discounting to sweeten the deal and steer subscribers toward certain subscription plans.
Advanced membership programs allow you to give big spenders a VIP experience. Perks may include exclusive access to certain products, one-of-a-kind coupons or freebies like gifts or free shipping.
Sellers on BigCommerce can use Customer Groups to sort subscribers into members and non-members and then award the appropriate perks to the members group. Or, you can use this feature to personalize deals. Segment customers by subscription product or billing frequency and give discounts that are tailored to each group.
BigCommerce merchants, therefore, need a subscription management app that plays well with Customer Groups. Sellers who are undecided on a platform will want to look for a similar toolset.
Making the most of any subscription program means using your customer data to learn and grow. Ecommerce sellers have access to a wealth of information about how their buyers interact with their brand. Subscription merchants should track:
It takes time to gather the volume of data you’ll need to draw meaningful conclusions about what makes customers spend more and what makes them unsubscribe. If you’re even thinking about becoming a data-driven operation in the future, you’ll want to get started now.
There’s no such thing as a churn rate that’s “too low.” Each retained customer is more money in your pocket. However, you’ll need multiple tools to address the many reasons for churn. Look for a decline management suite that helps you understand why customers are leaving and keep them around.
It’s important to address both voluntary and involuntary churn: Up to half of your losses may be due to the latter if you don’t take any steps to combat it. Invest in tools that turn payment declines into successes to increase your retention rate.
Rebill Protection flags orders that are missing necessary information so you can fix the account before the transaction is declined. Your platform should also automate dunning emails and transaction retries. Together, these tools target the biggest drivers of involuntary churn.
The larger your potential audience, the more your subscription business can grow. Serve customers no matter where they are and what they’re buying with a subscription app that allows you to administer multiple storefronts and accept multiple currencies.
Multi-storefront capabilities are important for big brands, but it’s something any merchant looking to expand should consider. After all, this feature makes it easy to grow in multiple directions. Perhaps your artisanal, organic cat food subscription does so well that you decide to branch out into dog food. Rather than trying to build a site that caters to both cat lovers and dog parents, you can create separate, targeted storefronts for each audience. Or, if you want to expand your cat food subscription into Canada, you can build a new storefront that lists product volume in kilograms instead of pounds.
Those Canadians will also thank you for your store’s multi-currency support, which will allow them to pay in CAD or USD. Even sellers who don’t court specific international audiences can benefit from this feature. For example, a craftsperson who accepts USD, GBP and EUR can sell to international tastemakers along with those at home.
Multi-storefront and multi-currency options aren’t universally available. Don’t hamstring your future growth with a subscription commerce app that doesn’t support these features.
No subscription management platform can do everything you need to keep your business running smoothly. You’ll likely be relying on a number of other tools to provide services, including payment processing, customer service and logistics support. Choose a platform that integrates with multiple tools so you can shop around to find the best one for your needs.
Here are some of the main categories of integrations you’ll likely need to set up, along with excellent choices for BigCommerce merchants.
If it comes down to choosing between a beloved app integration and one of the features called out in this post, prioritize the foundation over the plugin. It’s not worth sacrificing a platform must-have just so you can use an app that’s a smidge better than the competition.
Unless you’re a developer, you need someone on your side when unexpected issues arise. Outages or recurring errors drive away would-be subscribers, and payment issues can decimate your subscriber base if they’re not solved promptly.
You should look for three things from a subscription ecommerce platform’s support promises:
You may also want to look at a platform’s reviews on a third-party site like the BigCommerce App Marketplace, Capterra or G2. Merchants who struggled to get adequate support will often share their experiences, and multiple one- or two-star ratings could be a red flag.
On the flip side, try to find green flags when talking to sales reps. Does a service offer white-glove onboarding or migration support? Will you be assigned an account representative to answer all your questions, or get whoever answers the helpline each time you call? The more personalized and available a support team is, the better for your store.
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to evaluate some of the subscription management options on the BigCommerce App Marketplace. All of these tools have four- or five-star customer ratings. But how do they do when it comes to the must-haves?
sticky.io offers the only native BigCommerce shopping experience with a good balance of features and affordability. It supports a variety of subscription experiences and is easy to set up — upon installation, the app automatically syncs your existing BigCommerce product catalog.
sticky.io covers the basics of subscription management features plus leaves you room to grow. The app makes it easy to:
The wealth of available options allows merchants to offer a top-tier customer experience without having to invest significant resources in complementary tools and integrations.
While the app offers a competitive feature set, it’s lacking a few capabilities other platforms have. And some users feel they don’t have enough tech knowledge to make the most of the platform. The biggest gaps in sticky.io’s offering are:
With these limitations, sticky.io works best for physical goods subscriptions and some digital subscription use-cases. New features are always on the way, but nontraditional subscription merchants may have fewer opportunities for growth until those updates are launched.
Rebillia promises an unparalleled subscription experience thanks to its unique subscription builder and customer self-service options. The app hits almost all of the must-haves, though, with varying levels of depth.
Rebillia’s merchant-centric features will save you time without skimping on capabilities. It’s known for its:
The app’s focus on unique subscription types makes it a good option for merchants whose recurring billing needs aren’t limited to traditional subscriptions.
Free trial aside, the quote Rebillia’s team gives you is likely to be less than your eventual outlay. The company layers on more fees than any other app reviewed here. Some sellers don’t like how:
Given its excessive fee structure, you might expect excellent retention and churn reduction features to help you make back some of the money you’re spending. However, Rebillia is solidly middle-of-the-pack in this area — and likely not worth it for most subscription sellers.
MiniBC promises a strong, streamlined customer experience if you can get it configured to your liking. However, it’s best for subscription sellers who don’t need much, as it’s by far the most feature-light tool on this list.
MiniBC was built to make the subscription ecommerce process easy and customizable. It helps new subscription sellers get started with its:
The basic nature of MiniBC makes it a good choice for merchants dipping their toe into the waters of subscription sales.
Along with paying a hefty setup fee, you may need to reach out to MiniBC’s customer support team to enable some capabilities. You should also plan to invest in multiple additional apps to cover basic features. Other downsides of the platform include:
MiniBC lacks too many features to make it a serious contender among merchants who envision their operation growing in the future. The platform is best left to sellers who are happy staying small.
Recharge is a popular choice for sellers who use BigCommerce and Shopify alike. It’s a strong option when it comes to customer experience but doesn’t quite hit every platform must-have.
Recharge includes most important subscription management features for SMBs. The app’s strengths are:
Merchants looking to grow their subscription business will appreciate the deep functionality of the Recharge app.
Just because Recharge can offer certain features doesn’t mean it will…unless you pay up. Some essential capabilities are only available with the expensive Pro plan, and others aren’t included in the app’s offerings. The drawbacks of working with Recharge include:
For full access to the features that will really help your store take off, you’ll have to pay a big fee — which SMBs may not be able to do in their pre-growth stages.
So, which app should you choose? Here’s how the options stack up for each of the must-haves.
Even the best subscription business plan requires solid technical backing to succeed. Unless you’re also a web developer, you’ll need to partner with a subscription ecommerce platform to support your vision. And the app you choose can be a deciding factor on whether your subscription takes off or flounders.
Now that you’re more informed on what to look for, it’s time to dig deep into each platform you’re considering. Ask yourself: Does this tool have the features I need now and give me room to grow? Am I in the target market it’s looking to serve, or will my needs be ignored as the developers build features that appeal to a different seller?
We know how difficult it can be to compare products with hundreds of features — but when you use this post as a framework, you’ll start to get an idea of who the top contenders are and be well-prepared to make an informed choice that’s best for your business