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The Ultimate Guide to WooCommerce Subscriptions

All you need to know about WooCommerce Subscriptions. How to set-up subscription products, best plugins, tools to manage subscriptions and grow sales.

Last updated on July 16, 2022

Money is on the list, they say. Right.

But the subscription business is a goldmine.

Why? You’ll know after reading this piece.

How to set-up WooCommerce subscription products? Which are the popular WooCommerce Subscriptions plugins? How to manage your subscription business effectively…we’ve got it covered.

So without the hullabaloo, let’s begin.

Why is everyone going for a recurring business (subscription) model?

The success or failure of any business is determined by how well they understand their customers and serve them. Of course, product quality also plays a significant role.

A changing customer behavior trend can drive changes in businesses models, and businesses that adapt early are more likely to survive.

The recurring subscription business model is one such successful trend today and this applies to WooCommerce as well.

Newspapers and magazines have pioneered this model long back and now it’s the preferred business model adopted by businesses and websites. This is why Amazon, Netflix, Dollar Shave Club, and other websites are so successful. You name the brand and they offer a subscription-based product or service.

It is not just for the digital products, but for products like milk, groceries and a few others are offered on a subscription basis also.

In simple terms, a subscription is an agreement where you will receive products or services from a company by paying on a regular basis until cancelled. For example, Amazon Prime Membership that costs you $119/year.

Why are subscriptions a win-win?

subscription is a win-win

Not just customers, but it benefits business owners as well.

For your customers:

  • Subscriptions are easy on the pocket
  • The automatic payment process gets rid of all the buying hassles
  • Flexibility – upgrade or downgrade plans, switch, cancel or re-subscribe easily
  • Customers receive the product on a regular basis

For business owners:

  • The model offers guaranteed revenue
  • More the customers, more the money…gets double, triple in the long run (provided churn is low).
  • Increase in customer lifetime value
  • Businesses can predict revenue, volume and demand in advance

But there are a few CONS

  • Customers are vary of contracts initially and are reluctant to trust the product initially (Though Free trial takes care of this).
  • It gets challenging to get people to commit into a long-term regular payment.
  • Maintaining the product value and service quality up to the subscriber satisfaction is difficult
  • It’s hard to retain customers or keep the churn rate low

However, despite a few drawbacks, the subscription model is worth the risk and money-making. It is evident, that the businesses who have opted for the recurring revenue model are experiencing tremendous success.

Let’s see how subscriptions can change the game for WooCommerce businesses.

WooCommerce & Subscriptions – The bread and butter

Now WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce platform on the web for small to large-sized online merchants using WordPress.

And with the official WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin, it’s even more powerful.

The extension allows you to set up various subscription products and services with recurring pricing models.

If you’re using WooCommerce but do not offer subscriptions, you’re leaving money on the table. My apologies, but that’s the case.

Most of WooCommerce store owners have multiplied their revenue exponentially with the use of this subscription plugin.

Features of the official WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin

  • Create subscriptions for physical and virtual products or services.
  • Integrates with over 25 payment gateways.
  • Includes options to set sign-up fees, free trial periods, expiration dates.
  • Provides manual and automated renewal options and email notifications
  • Supports variable pricing, so you can have multiple options for a product with different prices for each option.
  • Gives customers the ability to upgrade or downgrade their plans as needed
  • Summarizes subscription information and customer data in detailed reports
  • Performs rebilling for failed payments
  • Offer discounts to customers on their monthly payments or sign-up fee using coupons

Pricing: $199/year

Get WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin

How to set-up WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin and subscription products?

So now that you’re familiar with the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin, let’s discuss how to set it up on your site and how to manage it.

It is very simple and you don’t need any technical knowledge.

Purchase and install WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin

Once you purchase the extension, navigate to Plugins > Add new under your WordPress Admin panel and upload the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin zip file. Activate it and you are good to go.

Configuring WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin Settings

WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin settings

Navigate to WooCommerce > Settings > Subscriptions.

  • Button Text - Appears on the sales page. You can go with the default text or change it as per your requirements.
  • Roles - This option will let you change the default role of a new subscriber from those available in the drop-down. Similarly, you can also set the role of an inactive subscriber.
  • Renewals - Check the Allow manual renewals box to enable subscribers to pay manually for their renewals. Check the Turn off automatic payments box if you want to disable automatic payments for the subscriptions.
  • Switching - Allows users to upgrade or downgrade between subscriptions.
  • Miscellaneous - Includes multiple options like allowing the user to suspend their subscription, mixed checkout, free initial checkout, etc.

Refer this doc for more details

Create a new subscription product

After configuring the settings, you can create simple subscription products or variable subscription products, much like WooCommerce does for normal products.

We’ll see creating a simple subscription product.

Create a subscription product in WooCommerce
  • Go to: WooCommerce > Products > Add Product
  • Under Product Data, select Simple subscription. Customers can sign up for one subscription option at a set price.

Next, set the subscription terms.

Setting the subscription terms
  • Subscription price:
    • The cost of the subscription product
    • Billing interval: How frequently customers are charged (every one, two, three, four, five, or six periods).
    • Billing period: How often customers are charged (daily, weekly, monthly, or annually).
  • Expire after: How long the subscription will stay active before expiring.
  • Sign-up fee: Additional fee required at the time of signup.
  • Free trial: How long customers can use the subscription for free before signing up for paid plans.
  • Add other product details as required.

You can also do the following:

  • Set sale price
  • Apply coupon on sign-up fees
  • Limit subscription

and more...

Finally, publish it.

Congratulations! Your subscription product is now ready.

Refer this WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin in-depth docs

Choosing and configuring payment gateways

WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin supports both automatic and manual types of recurring payments.

But, due to additional security measures associated with storing customer payment information, not all payment gateways support it.

However, major WooCommerce payment gateways like Square, Stripe, PayPal, and Amazon Pay support subscriptions.

List of payment gateways that supports automatic recurring payments

Each has different features you may want to consider when choosing which to offer on your site.

Managing subscriptions

Managing WooCommerce subscriptions

WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin provides an administration page to view and manage subscriptions of your store.

The Manage Subscriptions page can be found at WooCommerce > Subscriptions.

When a subscriber subscribes to your products/services, they will appear here. You can even edit the subscriptions from here when the subscribers request changes.

Over time, you may decide to change your subscriptions in a variety of ways. Raise or lower the price, add new products or services, or adjust a variety of other options for your customers.

Well, you are now in a great position to create and manage subscription products on your WooCommerce store.

But the uphill task is managing these subscriptions in bulk. Just imagine how you would manage even twenty subscriptions. What about 100 or 1000?

So let’s now talk about some popular tools to better manage your WooCommerce subscriptions and grow sales.

Five must-have tools to better manage and grow WooCommerce subscriptions business

You need something quick and easy. There is much more to subscriptions than creating products. It’s about managing them, your customers, growing sales, and more.

Managing your subscriptions business properly requires the following:

Smart Manager

Smart Manager plugin helps you manage your WooCommerce store 10x faster. You can bulk edit, make inline edits, export CSV, apply advanced search filters, delete and duplicate…and do a lot more for any post type – products, orders, customers, coupons, etc.

It is compatible with WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin. This means you can manage all your WooCommerce subscriptions from one place.

Extending the trial of your fifty customers in one go, reducing the sign-up fee for selected products quickly, canceling subscriptions in bulk…you can do easily without entering into each subscription with Smart Manager.

Manage WooCommerce subscriptions using Smart Manager

What more you can do using Smart Manager for subscriptions:

  • Changing subscription statuses, re-activating or canceling subscriptions in bulk.
  • Edit subscriptions directly without moving to individual subscriptions.
  • Search through thousands of subscriptions and edit them right away.
  • View orders, users, refunds at a glance
  • Export subscriptions as CSV – all or based on filters

Get Smart Manager plugin

Putler

Putler is an awesome tool that generates subscription reports, analytics and insights for multiple WooCommerce stores…all at one place.

Putler WooCommerce Subscriptions dashboard

You need real-time data such as MRR, churn, and upgrades to know where your company is heading and Putler provides you with that much needed KPIs.

Get Putler

Smart Offers

Smart Offers is a powerful plugin to create sales funnel and targeted offers.

Being compatible with the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin, you can easily upsell, cross-sell offers on subscription products and earn more revenue.

Upsell subscription product using Smart Offers in WooCommerce
Upsell subscription product using Smart Offers

As per the above example, you can use Smart Offers to upsell a higher plan subscription license and pocket more revenue.

With Smart Offers, you can specify who you want to show offers to and increase conversions by using targeting rules, one-click upsells, and direct checkout using Buy Now links.

Get Smart Offers plugin

Affiliate for WooCommerce

Affiliate for WooCommerce dashboard for Admin

Affiliate for WooCommerce is one of the hot-selling plugins on WooCommerce.com. Being compatible with WooCommerce Subscriptions, your affiliates can easily earn recurring revenue from subscription products.

The plugin provides you the option to allow commission on each renewal. The commission is calculated from the product’s recurring / subscription price.

Get Affiliate for WooCommerce plugin

Smart Coupons

Smart Coupons is the official and all-in-one WooCommerce coupons plugin. It offers discount vouchers, gift cards, bulk generation, advanced restrictions and other powerful features.

In addition, it is compatible with WooCommerce Subscriptions. So all the necessary coupon features are accessible while selling subscription products, including:

  • Restrict coupons on products based on payment methods, location, shipping, etc.
  • Bulk generate coupons to redeem on subscription products
  • Give a recurring flat or percentage discount with subscriptions or use gift cards/store credits towards renewal payments.

and a lot more…

Get Smart Coupons plugin

How to sell membership as a subscription product?

I decided to simplify memberships and subscriptions since there’s a huge difference between them.

In simple terms, membership is about Access. You restrict things/products/services to members only. Other people don’t have access to it. For example, club membership of WordPress themes.

As with subscriptions, it is to accept recurring payments, at a fixed interval for products.

However, you can sell memberships as a subscription product.

For example, you have resorts across the USA. You offer three membership plans – Silver, Gold, Platinum based on features. John pays $1000 every year for your Gold membership. So, John has subscribed to your Gold Membership on a yearly basis.

The best part is that you can set up memberships on your store using a very popular WooCommerce Memberships plugin, which is compatible with WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin.

Popular WooCommerce Subscriptions alternatives

In addition to the official subscriptions plugin, there are a variety of other popular and feature-rich subscriptions plugins.

YITH WooCommerce Subscription

YITH WooCommerce Subscription is also a popular WooCommerce subscriptions plugin with an average rating of 4.5/5. A good choice for creating various recurring-based products or services.

It comes with many of the same features as the WooCommerce subscriptions plugin. It offers both a free and premium version but the free version is quite restricted like limited payment gateways support, no trial period, manual subscription creation, etc.

Top features:

  • Create a subscription plan for simple, virtual or downloadable products
  • Choose the recurring payment type as daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.
  • Create subscriptions from the backend manually
  • Dedicated dashboard with sales reports – MRR, ARR, net sales, trials, renewals…
  • Export all subscriptions to a CSV file
  • Automatic emails based on subscription status
  • Limit users to only one subscription per product
  • Choose if a user can add only one or more subscription products to the cart

Pricing: $200/year, Free version on WordPress.org

Get YITH WooCommerce Subscription plugin

Subscriptio – WooCommerce Subscriptions

Another popular WooCommerce Subscriptions alternative, Subscriptio, developed by RigthPress is available to purchase on CodeCanyon. It has a user base of 7k+ customers with an average rating of 4.2/5.

Small stores can consider this plugin as it is not heavy on the pocket. A good choice if you accept only PayPal or Stripe.

Top features:

  • Turn simple and variable products into subscriptions
  • Automatic handling of all subscription-related actions
  • Set any billing cycle length and a maximum subscription length
  • Configure subscription trial period of any length
  • Possibility to purchase subscription and non-subscription products during a single checkout
  • Sell any tangible or intangible products
  • Sell online memberships with recurring changes (requires additional extension)
  • Lots of hooks and filters for developers

Pricing: $69 – $299

Get Subscriptio plugin

SUMO Subscriptions – WooCommerce Subscription System

Another subscriptions plugin on CodeCanyon, SUMO Subscriptions is developed by FantasticPlugins and has a user base of 3k+ customers with 4.5/5 average rating.

This plugin includes automatic renewals with PayPal and Stripe only. For other payment gateways, you will need to perform manual subscription renewals.

Top features:

  • Simple, variable and grouped product subscriptions
  • Order subscription for non-subscription and non-membership products
  • Allow users to select the subscription duration and number of renewals
  • Charge prorated amount for synchronized subscription
  • Provision to purchase subscription and non-subscription products in a single checkout
  • Support for both free trial and paid trial
  • Subscribers can switch between automatic and manual subscription renewal
  • Highly customizable, WPML compatible, translation ready

Pricing: $49 – $490

Get SUMO Subscriptions plugin

MemberPress

This is for those who want to create subscriptions for membership plans and do not really need a WooCommerce store.

MemberPress offers quite noteworthy features compared to other membership plugins.

There’s no complex setup. The plugin gives your members the flexibility to create, update and upgrade or cancel their subscriptions directly.

MemberPress will automatically grant or revoke access to your members based on those payments. The plugin works with PayPal and Stripe.

Pricing: Starts at $179/year

Get MemberPress plugin

All Products for WooCommerce Subscriptions

Developed by the WooCommerce team, the plugin allows you to add subscription plans to your existing products – simple and variable.

This plugin requires you to have the official WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin installed on your store. Or use the subscriptions functionality built into WooCommerce Payments.

Top features:

  • Give customers the freedom to add products to their subscriptions
  • Offer personalized subscription boxes (compatible with Product Bundles and Composite Products)
  • Offer discounts to users as an extra incentive for subscribing.
  • Add entire cart to existing subscriptions, instead of checking out as usual

Pricing: $79/year

Get All Products for WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin

Best subscription business applications

Quite a few. We picked the popular ones.

Membership plans

There are several subscription-based businesses that you may be familiar with – Amazon, Netflix, marketing magazines, etc. It can be monthly or annual. These tools are often referred to as SaaS or Subscription as a Service.

Plugin licenses

Offering plugin licenses as a subscription product can help you sell more digital goods. You may offer single-site, multi-site or developer licenses. You may also consider price anchoring to help you sell more digital goods.

Subscription boxes

Now, this is some innovative concept. You get a box consisting of items on a fixed schedule. Food packets, beer, beauty products, health supplements, etc.

This method allows customers to check out new products and become familiar with new brands. As an entrepreneur, you can build a solid business with a predictable amount of revenue by using this model.

Recurring services

This includes offering physical services like spa, servicing of electric appliances, pet care, etc. The physical services sector is poised to become yet another dominant market.

However, in the digital world, it’s quite dominating. Web hosting, maintenance, designing…all these are offered as a package based on features with varied pricing.

Final thoughts

You can earn a lot of money by selling subscriptions on your WooCommerce store if you play your cards right. Guaranteed!

And the best part is that you do not need to go elsewhere hunting for things. You have a powerful plugin WooCommerce Subscriptions and all the tips listed in this article to manage your business.

It’s extremely easy and quick. So get started now. We wish you a thriving business.

Any questions or suggestions? Share your thoughts in the box below.

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