With the increasing amount of companies taking their business away from traditional high-street stores, we’re seeing an upward trend of eCommerce being THE WAY TO SHOP. For this reason, people are looking for the perfect shopping experience. Sure, Amazon is great, and you should dive in and take your share of their $232.88 billion revenue.
But who wants to put their whole business in the hands of a big corporation? Instead, smart business owners are looking to form long-term relationships with stores that they can trust, and small businesses are getting rewarded for this shift in buyer preferences.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins-and-outs of subscription eCommerce and then delve into the 10 best eCommerce platforms for subscriptions and membership.
What is Subscription eCommerce?
eCommerce is one thing – selling your products online, but eCommerce subscription is a whole new business model. Businesses offer subscription-based eCommerce for consumers to regularly receive goods (either digital or physical). For example, consumables that are required regularly, like shampoo, wine or socks. Subscription services can also deliver digital goods, think of Netflix or Audible. There are a plethora of ways to offer subscription-based eCommerce products and services. Other examples of subscription-based eCommerce businesses are the Dollar Shave Club, Teabox and Ipsy.
With 79% of US customers stating that they would be more likely to buy if they were offered free shipping – you could offer FREE shipping as a perk of your online subscription platform. You must get creative and provide a subscription service that is both needed and useful and provides world-class products conveniently and at the best price.
What are the Benefits of Subscription eCommerce?
If you’re looking to get started in the world of eCommerce subscription then you need a robust eCommerce platform that supports your needs. One thing that’s amazing about starting a subscription-based eCommerce site is that you’ll be working with repeat custom (a lot) and this means that you can take advantage of the fact that customer retention (ie. Selling to repeat customers) is seven times more profitable than going out and attempting to acquire new customers.
You have the opportunity to build a relationship and talk to your customers regularly if they are members or subscribe to your website. You can then promote your other products to them, in a non-sleazy way of course. This equates to more sales and happier customers.
Cash-flow management is important in business and many businesses don’t know where their next income, lead or sale will come from. With the eCommerce subscription or membership model, you’ll be able to consistently know how much money will be coming in, allowing you to plan and make better business decisions.
1. Wix ($18 / month)
BEST FOR – Wix is a brilliant comprehensive web builder solution for complete beginners.
You can get up and running in a matter of hours with Wix because it is so easy. Wix also has a paid membership feature, that you can use to receive recurring monthly payments. This is a relatively new feature from Wix. You can make a custom membership section within Wix and show members pages that apply to their membership. This can be used for both digital and physical recurring subscription packages.
To get started you can sign up for a Wix account in seconds with your Facebook or Google ID. Then select the type of store you are starting, such as Electronics, Food & Drink or Beauty & Wellness. Setting up everything is easy with Wix. You get a free domain name, the hosting is all done on the site and they even throw in free logo design.
- Super easy to set up
- Free domain name
- £75 Ad vouchers
- Professional logo
- Not 100% customizable
2. WooCommerce (FREE)
BEST FOR – Free WordPress eCommerce plugin offering ultimate freedom and flexibility
If you’re a fan of WordPress, WooCommerce will be a strong contender for your eCommerce subscription website. You’ll get all of the benefits of WordPress, such as easy content management, plugins, and themes and also be able to take advantage of its eCommerce capabilities. Continually adding blog content is not only great to add value for your customers, but you can also attract new custom via SEO and inbound content marketing with a great blog attached to your store.
WooCommerce is a plugin that you can use with WordPress to make it into an online store. Most importantly, it allows you to take recurring subscription payments and manage your offering. WooCommerce, like WordPress, isn’t just cheap, it’s free, however, you’ll want to choose a nice theme or have someone create a custom web design for your website to make it stand out. Woocommerce has a lot of support and documentation online, making it a brilliant cost-effective solution for your eCommerce subscription website. You can also install additional plugins to boost your sites ranking on Google with great SEO plugins for WordPress.
One thing that I’d warn people who are new to WordPress is that because it is an open-source platform there are a lot of plugins that can leave your website open to hacking. So make sure to install some extra security to prevent your site from being hacked. WooCommerce can also be integrated with Shopify, Amazon, and Magento.
- Free Plugin
- Use with WordPress
- Integrate with Shopify, Amazon and Magento.
- Easily hacked
- Hard to navigate
- Tech experience needed
3. Shopify ($9 per month + $15.95 per month)
BEST FOR – All in one eCommerce solution with multiple apps and add-ons
Shopify is one of the leaders in the eCommerce space. They also offer a subscription app that you can use to take recurring subscription payments. The app costs $15.95 per month on top of your Shopify fee. The app is specifically designed for subscription boxes and includes a build-a-box feature for both digital and physical ordering. You can start setting up your Shopify store with a free trial and the app comes with a free 3-day trial so that you can test-drive everything.
- Easy add-on for Shopify
- 0% recurring fee
- Responsive themes
- Add on apps
- Can get expensive with all of the apps
4. Squarespace Commerce Advanced ($46/ Month)
Best for – Beginners who need an all-in-one hosting and website builder
If you are new to the eCommerce world, it’s a good idea to get an all in one solution until you become familiar with all of the moving pieces that are involved with your eCommerce subscription service. Squarespace does just that, you get everything that you need (apart from the payment gateway in one place). Most importantly, Squarespace supports subscription models. They also provide a tonne of nice themes for your eCommerce store.
Squarespace also allows you to install a blogging module so that you can also add a blog to your eCommerce store. Blogs can be an important source of traffic, so this component is great to add on to your eCommerce subscription site. They also offer comprehensive online tutorials, making Squarespace a great solution for the complete beginner. Squarespace can also be integrated with Amazon, WordPress, Spotify, and Magento.
- Great for beginners
- Web builder and hosting included
- Easy to use
- Blogging module
5. BigCommerce ($29.95 / Month)
BEST FOR – Customizable eCommerce platform
BigCommerce is not as easy to use for complete beginners as say Wix is, but it does offer some really great features for your eCommerce store. You can also create content to attract inbound customers. Once you get the hang of it BIGCommerce can be a great eCommerce platform that is available at a decent price. They also offer 24/7 customer support if you get stuck with anything. If you are completely fresh when it comes to creating online spaces, then you might want to get some help if you decide to go with BIGCommerce
BigCommerce can be integrated with WordPress, Amazon, Shopify and Magento. If you’re looking for a feature-rich solution and you have some tech expertise then BigCommerce is well worth a look.
- Feature Rich
- Not for complete beginners
6. Recurly ($99 per month)
BEST FOR – Larger organizations looking to enhance subscription platform
Recurly is specifically designed for subscription management. They put a lot of emphasis on data analysis to improve the performance of your eCommerce subscription site. Recurly powers some of the biggest subscription sites out there and say they are “The Top Subscription Platform for Maximizing Revenue”. They offer a 30-day free trial so that you can test drive the entire platform. If you are looking for a top of the range eCommerce subscription platform then Recurly is well worth a look.
- Great analytics
- Coupon & discount tools
- Quickbooks Integration
7. POWr for Big Cartel ($10)
BEST FOR –Artist and makers running a Big Cartel Website
If you’re running an eCommerce site on Big Cartel, then you are most likely an artist, photographer or creator. To make your store into a subscription site you can use the POWr plugin for FREE. You don’t need to know any coding to integrate the POWr order form plugin . Best of all it’ll match your website branding. If you need more features, like discount codes or customization then POWr offers an advanced feature set that costs $8.09
- No coding required
- Great for creators
- Easy to deploy
- Only for Big Cartel
8. OsCommerce (FREE)
BEST FOR –Those with tech skill looking for a solution that is cheap to deploy
OsCommerce is an all in one open-source eCommerce platform. If you have your own hosting, or you are happy to set one up with a hosting provider then you can deploy OSCommerce free of charge. You’ll need some tech experience to get OsCommerce up and running. Older versions of OsCommerce don’t allow you to take subscription payments, so you’ll need to ensure that you have RC2.2 version or newer to set up your subscription store.
- Complicated to use
BEST FOR –Fast growing eCommerce owners with no technical skills, SEO-friendly
3dcart is a reliable and centralized platform that is gaining the confidence of users worldwide.
With 3dcart, you get an easy-to-use e-commerce platform that doesn’t require any software development skills. At the same time, they also offer you an optimized and advanced structure that’s capable of handling hundreds of products. This is great for businesses that are growing fast and need a suitable SEO friendly solution.
Finally, when it comes to subscriptions and recurring payments they offer an out of the box solution already included so, once again, no need for plugins or add-ons.
- Easy to use
- No Transaction fees
10. OpenCart Express ($100)
BEST FOR –Advanced web developers/ designers that can customize as required
OpenCart is an open-source eCommerce platform that allows a lot of flexibility as to how you would like your store to look and perform. You can get a lot of additional functionality by using some of the extensions available from OpenCart. A few things you need to take into consideration – OpenCart is not easy to deploy, you’ll most likely need the help of a computer programmer to get the site as you want it. You also won’t have support from the company as it is open-source, but you can ask the community in the online forum or help and support.
This platform can be modded up the way you want, but you’ll also need some web hosting to put the site on and a domain name. If you want something easier, then Wix or Shopify are great options.
- Open-source, so customizable
- Complicated to set up
How to take Subscription Payments?
To take subscription payments for your eCommerce subscription store, you’ll need to integrate your chosen platform with a Payment Gateway. Thankfully it is easier than ever to set up an account and get up and running with your eCommerce subscription site. Years ago we had to deal with banks and complex systems, but now you can get everything set up in minutes from the comfort of your own home. There are many payment gateways to choose from, but the following are two of our favorites:
Payment Gateways to Integrate with Your eCommerce Store
BEST FOR – Easy setup in minutes for UK, European and US businesses
Most platforms now have Stripe as one of the default settings. They have simple application program interfaces (APIs) that you can use to integrate with your online store. Stripe is an online payment processor that is primarily used in the UK, Europe, and the US. However, you can use Stripe Atlantas to set your eCommerce store up as a US company if you live in another location.
If you are in the UK, Europe or the US then you can set up your Stripe account and integrate it with your eCommerce store in minutes. Stripe can easily be integrated with most platforms such as – WordPress, Clickfunnels, Amazon, Shopify, and Magento.
- Easy setup
- Great API
- Transaction fee (2.9% + 30cents per sale)
- Waiting time for payments to arrive in bank
BEST FOR – Quick account setup, fast payments, popular and easy to use
Paypal is a really easy payment gateway to use. I’d say it’s simpler than Stripe to setup in most cases. So if you want something quick and easy, then Paypal is a great option. The only thing is that they limit the amount of money you withdraw until your account has been up and running for a while. You can still take payments, but that’s something to bear in mind, if you have to buy stock.
- Easy to set up
- Fast withdrawl time
- 5% transaction fee
- Limit on initial amounts you withdraw
The Bottom Line
Make sure that you are offering a subscription service that is needed and useful. Selecting the best platform will lay a good foundation, that is – if people require the solution that you are offering. Tailor your packages to your customer needs by speaking with them and optimizing your offering. Creating an eCommerce subscription can be a rewarding experience that brings recurring residual income, but it does need managed. Having a few payment methods can be a bonus – you could even allow people to pay in Bitcoin if that is something you are interested in.