Shopify subscription apps: a guide to choosing the best app for your subscription business
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With so many subscription apps available on Shopify app store, it can be challenging to determine which one is the best fit for your business.
In this article, we'll explore the basics of the subscription business model, guide you through the process of selecting a subscription app, and provide an overview of some of the best Shopify subscription apps.
We will also discuss additional platforms and apps that are available to offer subscriptions for merchants who are seeking alternative options
What is the subscriptions business model?
eCommerce subscriptions refer to a business model in which customers pay a recurring fee in exchange for access to a product or service. This model is commonly used for products that are delivered regularly, such as monthly boxes, groceries, or beauty products. Subscriptions can also be relevant to provide access to premium content or experiences.
With eCommerce subscriptions, customers can choose to subscribe to a product on a recurring basis, such as weekly, monthly, or annually.
This model offers convenience for customers, as they do not have to manually place an order for the product each time they need it. This business model is particularly popular among brands that sell products that are consumed or used on a regular basis, as it provides a predictable and stable source of revenue and increases customer loyalty.
How to choose a subscription app?
Here are some key considerations to help you choose the right Shopify subscription app for your business.
Features: Determine which features are most important to your business, such as automation of recurring payments, discounts and promotions support, customisable checkout pages, integrations with popular payment gateways, email notifications, and more. Choose an app that offers the features you need to effectively manage your subscription business.
Pricing: Compare the pricing of different apps, including any setup fees, monthly or annual fees, and transaction fees. Choose an app that offers the best value for your budget.
Integrations: Check whether the app integrates with your existing tools and systems, such as your payment gateways and email marketing tools.
User reviews: Read user reviews and ratings from other eCommerce store owners to get a sense of the app's performance and customer support.
Customer support: Look for an app that offers robust customer support, such as live chat, email, and phone support, to ensure you have the help you need when you need it.
Scalability: Consider whether the app can grow and evolve with your business, as your number of subscribers and revenue increases over time.
Ease of use: Choose an app that is easy to use and intuitive, so you can quickly and effectively manage your subscription business.
Shopify subscription apps
The main features offered by Shopify subscription apps include:
Recurring billing with different periodicity (weekly / monthly / yearly)
Merchant tools, such as an admin portal to manage customers and subscriptions
Shopper tools, such as a custom portal to manage their subscription
Support for payment methods, including credit cards
Skio is a great subscription app, very well adapted for brands that are looking for a robust subscription platform and benefit from the advantages of modern tech.
Skio subscriptions include the following features:
Hosted subscription portal built with modern tech (React / Next.js / GraphQL)
Support for Shopify payments and Shop Pay
"Magic" or passwordless login
Built using modern tech
Easy subscriptions management
Group subscription discounts
Integration with Klaviyo for notifications
SkioSMS allows subscribers to manage their subscription via text messages
Dog plan - $299/month (annually) or $399/month (month-to-month) and 1% + 20¢ transaction fee
Cat plan - Custom pricing
We recently had an excellent experience migrating one of our clients from another app to Skio. Their app is definitely adapted to modern DTC brands and works well with headless storefronts.
Recharge is ideal for merchants who prefer using one of the first apps that enabled merchants to offer subscriptions on Shopify.
It does have some scalability issues and limitations due to being based on legacy technology though.
Founded in 2014, Recharge used to be the main option for merchants to offer subscriptions on Shopify. The original Recharge experience had a separate checkout which was not ideal but it was the only option to offer subscriptions on Shopify at the time.
Some merchants are still using the legacy Recharge app but our review covers only the new Recharge app using Shopify checkout.
Recharge subscriptions include the following features:
Customer portal hosted by Recharge with limited customisations, or embedded in Shopify storefront for more flexibility on styling
RechargeSMS allows subscribers to manage their subscription via text messages
Integration with Klaviyo for notifications
Payment methods supported: Shopify Payments, PayPal Express, Shop Pay, Stripe
Standard - $99/mo and 1.25% + 19¢ per transaction
Pro - $499/mo - 1% + 19¢ per transaction
Custom - Custom pricing
In our experience, Recharge is a great solution to start offering subscriptions on Shopify. However, it can sometimes be challenging to use for merchants and customers:
Duplicate products need to be created for subscriptions - which can be hard to manage
The admin interface is sometimes slow and navigating between subscriptions can be time consuming
Some quirks in their API make it challenging to use for customizations that require custom developments
Some merchants experience scalability issues with the app
The Recharge app is also available on BigCommerce for merchants using the platform.
3. Other popular Shopify apps
These apps are also popular for subscriptions on the Shopify app store:
Subscription eCommerce platform
Swell is a modern and powerful eCommerce platform that supports subscriptions natively.
It is a great option for brands that would like to support subscriptions from the ground up. It offers full flexibility in customising subscription plans and the customer portal.
It is the solution with the most flexibility but it requires experienced developers to be used to its full capabilities.
Chargebee solutions are not limited to eCommerce and also include use cases such as B2B SAAS. They also have a BigCommerce integration for merchants using the platform.
For SAAS vendors, other apps are more appropriate, such as Stripe billing.
We have seen that there are great options for subscription apps on Shopify and alternative options on other eCommerce platforms. Due to the nature and complexity of subscription businesses, there is no one size fits all solution and many factors come into consideration to choose the best subscription app that will suit your business needs.
As part of our Shopify development services, we have experience working with Skio and Recharge. We are also experienced with Swell development for brands that require more flexibility and customization; and are looking for a solution that supports subscriptions natively.