The Executive’s Guide to Ecommerce Subscription Programs

If you run an ecommerce business, subscription programs present an interesting opportunity. There is an obvious benefit to the consumer, especially for products that require frequent re-ordering. And for the business, subscriptions provide monthly recurring revenue and can be a huge factor in increasing customer lifetime value. Both of these are critical metrics for growth.

Subscriptions aren’t right for every ecommerce business, so be sure to do some digging to make sure your product would make sense for it. If you find your product is a good fit, it’s important to set it up strategically so you have the best chance for success.

As you consider this, remember that many ecommerce platforms don’t have native subscription ability, so you’ll need to use an outside app such as Recharge or Bold subscriptions. Once you have your tool secured, it’s time to think strategically about the best way to set up your program.

In this article, we’ll talk about the top areas to consider when your business is setting up a subscription program so they actually produce results, rather than costing you time and money.

3 Elements of a Great Subscription Program

When it comes to setting up your ecommerce store’s subscription program, there are three main things to pay attention to:

1. It should be easy to integrate (for the front and backend of your store).
2. It needs to be easy to manage (for customers and for the business).
3. It must be easy for the customer to see, understand, and make their selection.

Let’s walk through each of these elements in detail so you’re aware of what to keep in mind:


There are two sides to a subscription’s integration. One is how it looks to the customer on the front end (meaning, their selections on the product detail page). The other is how it works on the backend (payment, fulfillment, and other processes). Both are very important, so here are a few tips:

1. Make sure it’s clear and easy for the customer to select “subscription” or “one-time purchase” on the product detail page.

2. Make sure subscription items and non-subscription (one-time) purchases play nicely together at checkout. Many platforms will handle subscription checkouts differently than non-subscription. This can cause issues for a customer trying to buy both at once if you don’t have a proper setup.

3. If separate checkouts are used, you will need to manage the two experiences. In this situation, shipping rate changes, customizations, discount codes, and other items will need to be handled on two checkouts.

4. Make sure the subscription platform integrates well with your customer service, email platform, fulfillment platform/team, etc.


When setting up subscriptions, many business owners don’t think about what happens after the sale is complete. In reality, with subscriptions, there will be ongoing management for both the customer and your team.

Here are a few tips to consider when it comes to managing your subscription program:

1. Will there be a customer portal where customers can manage their subscriptions? You’ll need a way for the customer to log in to the site or access a “My Account” section. This sounds simple, but it’s not always easy for your team to execute or for the customer to use.

2. Will you send an email or any notifications prior to monthly shipments? This is a best practice in case changes need to be made to their order or shipping date. This type of communication will require integration with an email platform like Klaviyo.

3. Will there be a place for customers to manage payment info if it needs to be changed or if it expires? All subscription apps should have a way to do this, but the key is making sure your fulfillment team is in the loop and can make quick adjustments.

4. What communication is needed if the product for the subscription is running low, out of stock, or becomes unavailable?

Ease of Use

When it comes to ease of use for the customer, the key is making sure the customer isn’t bogged down by choices. In fact, eliminating as many choices as possible for the customer is one of the key ways to improve your conversion rate. Adding the option for a subscription means another choice for the customer, so here are a few tips to keep it easy for them:

1. Make sure it’s clear how to subscribe vs. how to purchase one time (if both are an option).

2. Make sure the benefit of subscribing is clearly stated so they feel motivated to subscribe (for example, language like “subscribe and save”).

3. Make sure the buttons for each option are not too similar or easily confused (make them different colors). This can be a real issue if customers are moving fast.

4. Make it easy for customers to learn how to manage their subscriptions. If you don’t, customer service will be bogged down with people needing help.

5. Finally, be sure that the management of subscriptions and customer service is relatively simple and (more importantly) doable on your team’s side.

Could Subscriptions Be a Major Opportunity for Your Business?

Subscriptions can present a major opportunity for your company by growing customer lifetime value and monthly recurring revenue. However, it can also end up being a distraction if your product isn’t a good fit for it. Take the time to think through your customers’ needs and buying behavior as well as the logistics of putting this process in place. As always, if you need an expert team’s guidance, Metacake is only a message away!


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