Subscription ecommerce is no longer a niche. An increasing number of companies are jumping on the opportunity to create predictable income and offer more convenience and value to customers.
If this sounds like you, congratulations! Recurring revenue is the key to growth for many ecommerce companies. But you can’t just set up recurring payments and then sit back and wait for success to happen. You’ll only realize the benefits of subscription ecommerce if you take your time with planning before execution.
Subscriptions are all about consumer experience, and a good checkout process can be the difference between winning a new buyer and losing out to a competitor. The tools you choose and your shopping experience deserve as much thought as the recurring revenue model you plan to use. Follow these steps to set up recurring payments with a solution that will save your team and customers time.
Before you invest in a subscription payment platform, you need to know what features you’ll need. How often will you charge subscribers? What payment methods will they want to use? Consider the following points to pinpoint the features needed to best serve your customers.
Each industry has its own assumptions about what a recurring payment looks like. Your first step is to determine the type of recurring payments your customers will need to make, so you can get a tool with the right capabilities. You’ll likely offer two or more of the following options:
Most ecommerce subscription software is designed around offering automatic fixed and/or automatic variable recurring payments. Still, you should check a tool’s capabilities and customization options before implementing it to make sure it matches your recurring payment needs.
Ecommerce merchants can accept a variety of payment methods for their subscription products, including:
The payment gateway(s) you offer will determine which payment methods you can accept. The more ways people can pay, the broader your potential customer base will be.
Processing subscription payments is only one part of maintaining a successful subscription offering. Some subscription payment platforms also offer extra features to help you give shoppers flexibility and control over their orders, such as:
Services that improve the buyer experience help you retain customers longer. What that means for your target audience may vary — consider surveying potential subscribers or looking at your competitors to see which offerings are most popular.
The software you choose will determine ease of use for your subscribers and your team alike. Efficiency is vital for most ecommerce tools, so look for features that will save time, like:
Successful subscription businesses empower their staff to focus on serving customers rather than handling administrative tasks that could be automated. When evaluating backend features, the focus should be on efficiency rather than flair.
Now that you know what you want, it’s time to choose the tool you’ll use to manage subscription payments. Here are how some of the most popular recurring payment software options on the marketplace work for buyers and merchants.
Companies that already accept PayPal will find it easy to enable recurring payments. You can add this capability for a set monthly fee (on top of PayPal’s standard per-transaction fees). You’ll get features including multiple pricing models, the ability to offer discounts and free trials and a subscriptions dashboard.
The biggest downside of PayPal is that its ACH and card-on-file transactions are run through its Braintree payment gateway — which you’ll have to fill out a fresh application for. Nor does PayPal support truly flexible subscriptions. You can offer fixed-rate, quantity-based and tiered pricing models, but variable payments (where subscribers pay a different amount each billing period) are beyond its current capabilities.
Square has more features for recurring invoicing than automatic payments, but the service does accept subscription payments — and doesn’t charge any additional fees to set them up. This service accepts all major credit and debit cards plus Google Pay, Apple Pay and Cash App. Customers will receive an automated email with the details of their subscription plan and instructions on how to cancel.
It might make sense to use Square if the app is already your primary ecommerce checkout tool and you’re just dipping your toes into subscription sales, but don’t expect a lot of features. You’re locked into one of four billing periods (weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually) and flat subscription pricing. Your subscribers won’t have much flexibility, and no subscription self-management portal means your customer service team will spend more time doing simple admin.
sticky.io is a standalone subscription commerce platform built to give customers control. We offer nearly unlimited variety when it comes to pricing models, billing frequency and special promotions. Our subscription platform integrates with multiple payment gateways, so you can accept a variety of payment types and multiple currencies.
You’ll pay a monthly platform fee for access to sticky.io, which has everything you need to set up recurring payments. The 400+ integrations we offer (plus our native app for BigCommerce) make it easy for ecommerce merchants to add our platform to their tech stack and start selling. Many merchants also purchase additional, retention-focused tools like Smart Dunning and Account Updater.
Once you’ve chosen a subscription management tool, it’s time to configure it and set up recurring payments. Your process will vary depending on which subscription management platform you choose. However, every merchant should cover the same basics to ensure customers know what they’re signing up for.
Once you’ve completed these three steps, congratulations! You’re ready to start accepting recurring payments.
Even the best subscription management tools can’t provide an excellent experience without a reliable customer support team to help them along. Your team will likely need help setting up integrations for a smooth checkout flow and configuring enough subscription options that consumers can choose the products and billing frequency that best fit their lifestyle.
It’s also your responsibility to make subscription downgrades easy. No one wants to see a subscriber go, but complicating the cancelation process won’t change their mind. It will just increase their frustration with your company. Make it easy for subscribers to leave (and offer a pause feature or discount) to increase your chances of winning them back in the future.
The most successful subscription ecommerce companies invest in customer experience by choosing the right tools and being thoughtful in their implementation. Set yourself up for strong subscription growth with a customer-focused tool like sticky.io.