Shopify is a cloud commerce platform that has transformed ecommerce. Currently (although this is expected to change) subscription functionality is not available out-of-the-box with Shopify and you will need an app to transform existing one-time products into subscription options easily and facilitate regular payments.
The two main apps for physical products sold on Shopify are ReCharge and Bold. This post will cover the best Shopify subscription apps available at the moment and what you need to consider for a subscription business model.
Not all subscription ecommerce propositions are the same. The way a customer needs to manage their subscriptions varies depending on if it’s a subscription box of contact lenses or shampoo, compared to that of a subscription meal-kit or pet food. Regardless of the product, you also need to know exactly what you want to achieve before selecting a recurring payment app. If your proposition goes even slightly beyond the most basic functionality (to be honest, we have yet to work with a business that is completely satisfied with the out-the-box recurring orders solution) it will require custom web development to get the features to work.
You need to consider:
The following diagram illustrates the lifecycle of a subscription, based on the actions of the merchant, customer, Shopify, and a subscription app:
It’s important to understand the complexity of subscription data and which party manages which elements of the journey. By understanding this, you can be more informed to select the best app for your business.
Subscriptions by ReCharge is designed to be used both as a “subscribe & save” type feature (similar to Amazon) or as the engine for subscription products. It is an organisation developed solely for providing subscription services – it only does this and does it very well.
ReCharge is $60 / month + 1% & $0.05 per transaction as standard and the Pro plan starts at ¢300/month. The first two months are free.
Bold offers a variety of apps for Shopify. Until recently, it did not specialise heavily in subscriptions, unlike ReCharge which has always owned this area of the Shopify app ecosystem. While it is slightly less customisable, Bold now offers a much deeper subscription solution and more features out-of-the-box.
Bold Subscriptions is $39.99/month + 1% per transaction and the Pro plan starts at $199/month.
Both Bold and ReCharge allow you to add subscription functionality to new products pretty quickly and easily. This shows up on your product page, and you can give customers the options you want in terms of discounts for subscribing, delivery frequency, etc.
A few years ago, we would always recommend ReCharge as being best for those who have a subscription specific business, where repeat billing is an integral part of the business strategy. However, Bold Commerce has seriously upped its game. It really depends on the complexity of your subscription model.
For a subscription box that stays the same each cycle, we prefer ReCharge slightly more because of the key feature that is the ReCharge Theme Engine that lets you completely customize your portal rather than rely solely on CSS for changes to the customer portal. You can also access the API without needing to pay for Pro whereas you do need to commit to Bold Subscription Pro if you want access to their API.
However, if you have a more complicated subscription model, with upsells, combinations of single purchases and subscription, dynamic discounting or changes in products available for delivery, we would advise using Bold Commerce.