How to launch your subscription service

The rise of subscription services

Subscription services have boomed over the past few years, with eCommerce brands now including or moving to a subscription-based model, giving reliable recurring revenue to help scale their businesses.

A wide variety of industries are introducing subscription-based models including health and beauty such as makeup and supplements, pet care (which is showing significant growth within this area), as well as food and drink, fashion and many other sectors.

With the current COVID-19 epidemic, subscription-based services are sure to rise, due to the convenience of order and forget, where products are delivered to your door each month, or at a set time when the product(s) need to be replenished, or a subscription service is up for renewal. 

Within this guide, as part of our Marketer’s Survival Series, we will look at the key benefits of a subscription-based model and how you can implement this within your eCommerce strategy, as well highlighting some of the brands that are getting it right.

15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products on a recurring basis, frequently through monthly boxes. – Forbes


Advantages of a subscription model

A subscription model is not only hugely useful for the customer it also has advantages from a business perspective.  Brands can significantly reduce the cost of unnecessary re-marketing ad spend, whilst also guaranteeing customer repeat orders and a consistent revenue stream. This predictability allows for marketers to focus on other strategies including acquisition and nurturing customers.

The consumer benefits from a subscription model by only having to register once and then receiving the product(s) directly to their door at a relevant time. This adds usefulness/ convenience and increased brand loyalty. By allowing the customer to set a regular time for replenishment you also negate unnecessary shopping around, or potential basket abandonement.

1. Reliable revenue stream

At any time a reliable revenue stream is preferable for all businesses as well as ecommerce. Subscriptions models can provide a guaranteed and predictable revenue stream, where you either request a regular direct debit or a 12 month upfront payment from the customer. To avoid payment misses, ensure you remind the customer that the payment will be taken from their account in the next few days, to ensure they have the sufficient funds.

2. Increased Customer Retention

A subscription model also helps build long lasting relationships with the consumer, leading to increased retention over time. These loyal customers are then easy to model into new personas, the insight from these personas can help you identify look-a-likes in your current customer pool and for acquisition. To do this you need to be bringing your data points together to gain the relevant insights to build these personas.

3. More Customer Advocates

Because the regularity of a subscription model means you are in regular contact with your customer, this gives you more touchpoints to communicate with them. Hopefully, if the experience is great your customers will be willing to become your advocates. This can help you build testimonials, user reviews and brand advocacy.

4. Managing stock

Subscription models can help you manage the supply chain well. Being able to predict demand whilst navigating seasonal spikes such as Black Friday Sales or Christmas will help you achieve consistency in your business. This will lead to cost savings and reduce the need to hold extra stock where unnecessary.

Getting Started – Platforms and Payment Gateways

There are a wide range of platforms, plugins and payment gateways to help you get started in introducing a subscription model to your eCommerce store, here are just a few.



Shopify is a leading SaaS eCommerce platform that powers over 1,000,000 stores worldwide. It is a fully ‘out of the box’ platform that allows you to build your own eCommerce store to quickly and securely sell your products and services online.

Shopify has a wide range of plugins to help increase the functionality and features of your eCommerce store and below are just a few subscription-based plugins that will help you launch this business model.

Subscriptions by ReCharge


ReCharge is the only Shopify Plus-approved platform for recurring billing. They work with over 10,000 merchants and power some of the largest subscription stores on Shopify such as Soylent, Hubble Contacts, LOLA, Dr. Axe, and Death Wish Coffee.

Turnkey Solution

Offer subscriptions in less than 15 minutes.

  • Subscribe & Save: Merchants can easily transform existing one-time products into monthly subscriptions with configurable delivery and cut-off dates, inventory forecasting, and order management.
  • Customer Portal: Empower customers to manage their own subscription products out of the box. Each page allows for different actions like: add new, swap, or cancel existing subscriptions, view order history, update address and payment info, or change the delivery schedule.
  • Admin Portal: Control every aspect of your subscription product offering including administrator options for your subscribers’ accounts.
  • Mobile Friendly: The entire ReCharge platform is both desktop and mobile-friendly from product page all the way through the checkout experience.
  • Integrations: Supercharge your business with over 20 out-of-the-box integrations.

Enterprise Solution

Own the customer journey and fully customize your subscription experience via our API with robust documentation and developer support from the ReCharge team. Take advantage of advanced features such as:

  • Enhanced Analytics: Split your data into cohorts to understand lifetime value, average order value, and churn rates
  • Theme Engine: Build a fully customized Customer Portal to enable subscribers to manage every aspect of their subscription
  • Upsells: Cross-sell or upsell with add-on products, shipped automatically with the next upcoming subscription order
  • Enterprise Integrations: To create your perfect ecommerce store
  • API: If you’re still looking for more, create any custom solution with the API

Developer Features

Scale your subscriber growth with the ReCharge API, webhooks and custom workflows to solve complex subscription needs. Plus get expert support from the ReCharge developer team.

  • API Slack channel
  • Expert documentation
  • Webhooks and workflows to connect all parts of your business in real-time
  • Data exports from ReCharge to other platforms
  • Automate marketing and fulfillment

Discover more about Subscriptions by ReCharge

Bold Subscriptions


Bold Subscriptions are an official Shopify PLUS solution for retailers selling Recurring Orders & Subscription Boxes.

Their app is an easy way to add a beautiful, powerful subscription program to your Shopify store. This is a great app for selling PHYSICAL products, and the ONLY app to allow subscriptions on individual products, a mixed cart (one-time and recurring) or an entire cart.

Customers can update, edit, swap, skip, pause and add-to existing orders. Offer specific subscription intervals or allow your customer to decide frequency.

Features and functionality

Customers can edit, add-to, update, change billing info, address, swap products, skip shipments and more! Their subscription will automatically recharge at whichever interval you choose, providing a steady source of recurring payment revenue.


  • Sell subscriptions on single products OR entire cart
  • Customers can add products to existing subscriptions
  • The Most Robust Manage Subscription Page for customers
  • Offer Subscribe only or One-time & Subscribe options
  • Inventory Forecasting – See how much inventory you need to fill orders in upcoming weeks/months
  • Update options for subscription prices & product changes globally
  • Full design and language control
  • Robust Analytics & Reports
  • Powerful exports. Need to email everyone with a subscription to a specific product? No problem!
  • Email notifications when you have low inventory for upcoming orders
  • Shipping date can be fixed or based on original order date
  • Recurring billing compatible with all major payment gateways

Subscription BUY button

Embed a button or use a link to sell your subscriptions anywhere, for example on another site, email, social media, blogs etc.

Dynamic discounts

Offer a unique discount on the 1st shipment and then switch to a regular price or a different discount amount after X shipments.

Convertible subscriptions

Automatically switch products on the 2nd shipment. Great for sample sizes or a kit and then ship full-size products.


Customers can build their box (great for meal plans) and then edit each month before a cut-off date.

Bulk discount codes

Create thousands of randomised or sequential coupon codes for special promotions and emails.

Cancellation flow

Retain customers during the cancellation flow by capturing cancellation reason codes and providing a corresponding offer to entice them to stay subscribed.

Full APIs and webhooks

They offer a comprehensive suite of APIs and webhooks fully documented on our developer portal

Discover more about Bold Subscriptions

Subscriptions: Recurring Orders, Invoices & Subscription Boxes


This is a Shopify subscription app perfect for monthly subscriptions, subscription boxes and any recurring billing products.

Their recurring orders app allows you to easily create and maintain subscriptions, payment plans and invoicing. No customer login/registration required, allowing a quick subscription process. If needed, customers can unsubscribe using a link in the email.

Customers will see a subscription option next to Add to cart button, at the specified product(s) page.

The app sends them recurrent emails with a payment link that can accept over 100 payment options, using Shopify billing system.

The app generates automatic invoices only, it doesn’t bill your subscribers automatically.

Main features

Allows single product, mixed cart & entire cart subscriptions

No more separate carts for different subscriptions. Mixed cart with and without subscription products works great.

Offer customer different subscription services.

The app perfect fits to:

  • digital subscription
  • recurring donations
  • magazine subscription
  • software subscription
  • coffee subscription
  • gift subscription
  • rental payments
  • other subscription products.

The subscription app doesn’t charge any fees on recurring items. All recurring charges go through Shopify billing system and there is no customer login/registration required.

Automatic invoices better than billing

The app generates automatic Invoices, it doesn’t bill your subscribers. Unlike automated billing, invoicing offers payment flexibility, which is convenient for customers as they can pay any time they want using any payment method and the appropriate taxes and shipping charges are automatically applied.

When an order is placed, the appropriate taxes and shipping rates are automatically applied. All shipping and tax fees are applied based on your Shopify store settings and are up to date.

Reminder emails for subscribers

If a customer doesn’t pay the invoice, you can optionally send them a reminder, before they receive their next invoice.

Fully customisable subscription app

You can customise the invoice and notifications email content. Subscription widget design can be adjusted for any theme with an excellent insightful editor with an online preview feature.

Discover more about Subscriptions: Recurring Orders, Invoices & Subscription Boxes



WooCommerce allows you to create your own online store using their plugins integrated with your WordPress website. WooCommerce has a range of powerful features. Their core plugin to create your online store is free and has a wide range of additional plugins to add further functionality, including a subscriptions plugin.

WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin

There are a wide range of features and functionality within the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin to help you launch and manage your subscription services when using the WordPress platform, these include:

  • Multiple billing schedules available to suit your store’s needs
  • Integration with over 25 payment gateways for automatic recurring payments
  • Supports manual renewal payments through any WooCommerce payment gateway, along with automatic email invoices and receipts
  • Supports automatic rebilling on failed subscription payments, so you never lose revenue
  • Give subscribers the ability to manage their own plan, including upgrading or downgrading, without needing to wait on you for help
  • Built-in renewal notifications and automatic emails let you — and your customers — know when subscription payments have been processed, so there are never any surprises
  • Detailed reports allow you to keep track of recurring revenue, number of active subscribers, and more

This WooCommerce Subscription plugin makes it quick and easy to launch your subscription services in no time. Discover more about this plugin.

Finding the right payment gateways for your subscriptions services

Ensuring you have a secure, reliable and scalable way to take payments through your eCommerce secure is essential, as making sure the recurring payment process is smooth both for your customer and yourself is of the utmost importance, as this builds the foundations of a successful subscription service. Subscription-based services are all about scalability, and you could potentially be processing thousands of automated payments daily, therefore you need a reliable, secure and automated way to process these payments.

We have chosen two popular payment gateways in which you can build the foundations of your subscription services on, however there are a wide range of other payment gateways available.



Recurley’s payment gateway is built with subscription services in mind, their solution uses machine learning based on hundreds of millions of successful transactions to improve billing continuity. Their exclusive technology is the key to their decline management capabilities which can increase monthly revenue by an average of 12%.

They process recurring transactions totaling billions of dollars which provides a tremendous insight into what makes a successful transaction and why some transactions fail. Therefore they have identified patterns that they use to optimise their retry logic and repair transaction failures. The results are more successful transactions and improved subscriber retention.

This means you can focus on growing your subscriber base while Recurley works to maximise your revenue.

Discover more about Recurley.



Stripe combines a payment platform with applications that put revenue data at the heart of business operations. Stripe is on a cloud-based infrastructure that provides reliability, scalability, and security.

Their end-to-end billing system requires no code, so it is simple to get started. Once you’re set-up, you can create and manage subscriptions and invoices and view detailed financial reports, directly from their dashboard. Stripe doesn’t limit the number of team members you can add and supports granular roles and permissions to help manage access. Used by brands such as Deliveroo, Slack, Shopify, OpenTable and many other leading brands.

Stripe can process payments based on:

  • One-time payments
  • Recurring
  • Usage-based
  • Tiered-pricing
  • Promotions and trial periods
  • Billing Frequency

Stripe is an ideal payment gateway to start and scale your subscription services. Find out more about Stripe today.

Here are a few other eCommerce platforms you can build your subscription-based services on:

Squarespace Commerce Advanced

There are a wide range of other platforms and solutions and a number of them have free trials, so it is worth checking out which one suits your requirements before purchasing.

Ensuring your subscription service is a success

As we’ve seen there is a huge variety of platforms and solutions to help you launch and manage your subscription services, but that is just your first step in making your subscription service a success. There are a range of tactics you can use to help increase conversions, keep your subscribers engaged and ensure customer retention strategy is optimised.

1. Your Welcome email series

With a subscription-based model you want your customers to be with you for the long run, therefore it is vital that you create an engaging welcome series of emails, to gain trust and loyalty from day one. It has never been more important to tell your brand story, your ‘Why’, signpost useful resources such as user guides and highlight how they can get in touch with you if needed.

Watch our webinar on how to build loyalty and drive revenue with effective welcome journeys for more tips on how to build an effective welcome email strategy.

2. Reminder emails

Reminder emails when an upcoming subscription is due are a vital part of the continued success of a subscription-based model. You need to automate these emails, for example a few days before the next payment is due remind your customers that this payment is about to be taken. By automating these emails you will reduce a lot of the manual work, allow you to scale your proposition, offer your customer peace of mind and keep your brand at the top of their mind.

3. Upselling and Cross-Selling

Your reminder emails combined with your normal customer marketing emails are an ideal way to up and cross-sell your customers other products or services, adding to your ongoing revenue streams. To help with cash flow, it is also a great opportunity to sell a longer subscription with a payment upfront, for example a 12 month subscription with a 10% discount. This will ensure the longevity of your customers and also give you the full payment in advance, rather than month by month, where the customer could cancel. This can also help reduce payment charges through your payment gateway.

Overall combining up and cross-sell opportunities and giving incentives to longer paid in advanced subscriptions can really help scale your business and increase cash flow to help grow your business.

4. Reviews and Social Proof

Subscription-based companies have some of the most loyal customers, as they will be potentially purchasing your products and services over a long period of time. Having such loyal customers is an ideal way to build your portfolio of positive testimonials and reviews.

Social proof can prove to be an extremely valuable asset to your marketing strategy According to Forbes, online reviews have been shown to impact 67.7% of purchasing decisions and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Brands that are doing subscription renewal campaigns well

We’ve taken a look at the benefits of introducing a subscription-based model, the types of platforms and solutions you can utilise and also some handy tips to increase customer retention and conversions. Now we’ll take a look at how businesses can do better with renewal email campaigns. Learn how you can increase renewal, subscription, and upgrade rates with great emails that get customers to commit again.

Experian – Start early

Generally, the sooner you send a renewal reminder the better. If you ask customers to renew once a year we recommend starting your renewal campaign at about eight months.

This gives you another four months to check they’re happy and fix things if they’re not. Most importantly it gives you time to warm them up before you ask them to pay again.

And if they’re happy then there’s nothing wrong with asking them to renew early. An early renewal is cash in the bank, without having to wait until the last minute! Some people will happily resubscribe early if the email lands at a convenient time.

We like this email by Experian because it gets us thinking about the year ahead. It starts the ball rolling and might trigger us to sign up when we’re off during the Christmas break.

Start early renewal email example

Bloomberg – Build a campaign not an email

Don’t just send one reminder shortly before their subscription expires. No one likes pressure or an immediate deadline. Especially a long-standing customer.

Instead, keep the relationship going with an ongoing conversation about renewal.

Creating a drip campaign is a great way of doing this. A drip campaign is several emails spread out over time.

Each message gently nudges the recipient towards renewing. A complete series of emails like this can be automatically targeted, sent, and managed as the time to renew approaches.

BusinessWeek’s drip campaign shows how to encourage people to renew with some eye-catching emails that build a campaign.

The publisher sends these four distinctive messages during the run-up to the end of a customer’s subscription. The messages alternate between reminding them when it expires, how simple it is to renew and incentivising them with offers.

Bloomberg renewal email campaign example

IndieGoGo – Make sure they’re using you now

People are unlikely to renew a membership or subscription they haven’t used recently. So, make sure they’re getting full value from their existing contract now.

Send them useful tips on how they can make the most of your service or product. Share case studies, ideas, and prompt them to try something they haven’t before.

By inspiring to make the most of their subscription, the experience and benefits you offer will be fresh in their mind. The more positive and inspirational the experience the more chance they have of renewing.

Indiegogo isn’t shy when it comes to telling people how great it is. The brands uses social proof to demonstrate their popularity and encourage people to re-engage.

Reengage before renewal email

Birchbox – Celebrate your relationship

Renewals don’t just mark the end of a relationship: they’re also likely to be an anniversary. When it comes to relationships, anniversaries are always something to celebrate. So get out the party poppers, say thank you, and mark that milestone!

Show your subscribers you value their custom by giving them some appreciation. A little love goes a long way when it comes to considering the future of a relationship!

If you’ve got some data on their usage, use it to demonstrate how useful you’ve been. It’s time to celebrate every login, visit, delivery, or download they’ve made.

We really like the way Birchbox asks subscribers to renew by combining an anniversary message with a renewal request. The email even gives the subscriber a sneak preview of what they’ve got to look forward to (it would certainly tempt us!).

Birchbox renewal email

Allure – Offer an incentive

It’s often the annual cost of a subscription that makes customers balk. They tot it up in their heads then stop and think twice about renewing.

You can allay these fears by offering them a discount or added extra. It will feel like an offer that’s too good to miss and demonstrates the value you’re offering. (And you can afford to. Just think of time and money you’ll save on remarketing if you can secure their renewal quickly.)

These types of bonuses are also a nice way of saying thank you for their custom in the past year. Remember brands that value their customers always reward loyalty.

We like the way this publisher offers its subscribers an additional subscription if they renew. It’s a smart way to secure the renewal and encourages them to engage others with the brand.

Incentive renewal email – Add a sense of urgency

As you approach the deadline for renewal, it’s time to get serious. Send subscribers an email that tells them exactly when their subscription or membership expires. Make them feel a sense of urgency by delivering a countdown.

At this point don’t be afraid of being upfront and to-the-point when it comes to getting them to renew. This is especially the case when it’s less than 24 hours until the expiry of their membership or subscription.

Just remember, people may feel a sense of panic when they receive this alert. So, when they click through make sure the online renewal process is quick and simple to complete.

There is a good chance they’ll be reading the message on their smartphone so make sure it’s super slick on all devices. You don’t want them to get frustrated and give up!

Quote Me Happy really made us sit up and pay attention when we received this email. It provides all the essential information and a clear and urgent deadline.

Renewal email countdown

Squarespace – Give them more time

If you can’t convince them to renew before the expiry date, offer them more time. Life is busy and people appreciate a brand that’s flexible. It might be that they just forgot or got distracted.

If they still don’t renew then ask them why. It could be a problem you could easily fix.

For example, if they’re price sensitive you might want to send them a promotion. If they felt they didn’t use the subscription enough, you offer them a lower value plan. If they weren’t impressed the first-time round, recommend an alternative product or service.

Failure to renew is a common problem after a free trial. Website provider SquareSpace tackles this by giving people a bit of flexibility when it comes to using their free trial. The series of three emails does a good job of capturing both late sign-ups and feedback.

Give more time renewal email

The Skimm – Create brand ambassadors

Once they’ve renewed, you know you’ve got a happy customer: someone who likes your brand and gets value from its products.

But the work doesn’t stop there. Once someone renews, you have a great opportunity to gain referrals by asking them to promote you to their friends, family, and colleagues.

You can incentivise them or just ask them to share the good news. This way, you can use your renewals to attract new subscribers and memberships too!

Brand ambassadors renewal email


We hope this guide has inspired you to launch your subscription service and has given you tips on how to implement a  renewal campaign that makes sure people are engaged and ready to sign up again. You can use all of these suggestions to create a series of emails that entice people to renew.

There’s no reason launching your subscription service has to be complicated. With such a variety of solutions available as well as automations in which you can trigger the messages without having to manually manage each email. There has never been a more opportune time to launch your subscription-based model.

Our platform offers a wide range of email and website personalisation and automation solutions to help your subscription-based model excel, book a demonstration and learn from our experts how you can launch your subscription service in no time.


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