8 Best Subscription Platforms For eCommerce In 2022
These eCommerce subscription management software services offer reasonable pricing, good recurring payment options, and a variety of customizable features.
With eCommerce subscription sales projected to top $38 billion by 2023, the question is not whether you should look into starting an online subscription business — it’s what’s the best subscription platform?
Whether you’re interested in tapping into this rapidly growing market or expanding the reach of your already successful subscription business, this post will highlight eight of the best subscription platforms.
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
Table of Contents
Finding The Best Subscription eCommerce Platform
The best subscription platforms include the tools you need to succeed in selling your online subscriptions. Whether you sell physical or digital products, including educational aids and knowledge sharing, you need support for ongoing payments, customer relationship management, and more.
Here are some of the best platforms for running an online subscription business. Read on for details on what you can expect from each, including pricing, special features, and more.
1. Square Online Checkout: Best For Selling Services
Square Online Checkout
- Simple to use
- Can be added to any webpage or shared via text or email
- Available only in the US
- Requires a free Square account
Square Online Features
Not every subscription business needs a full website. Or perhaps you already have a website that you like, and you just want an easy way to bill customers for recurring sales. In that case, Square Online Checkout might be just what you need. Here’s what you can do:
- Sell via buy buttons everywhere, including by email, text message, social media, or any web page
- Allow customers to pay with any credit card
- Easily set up subscription checkout
- Customize checkout button style and text to fit your brand
- Create marketing campaign with checkout links from your Square dashboard
- Accept weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual payments
- Send payment links to individuals or a full mailing list
- Sell physical or digital products and services, or solicit regular donations
Note: If you already have a Square account, you may need to use Square Invoices in order to set up recurring payments.
Square Online Checkout Pricing
It’s free to use Square Online Checkout to set up subscription sales, even if you end up having to use Square Invoices to process recurring payments. Square will charge you its standard payment processing fees of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. That is well within the normal range of payment processing fees.
If you use Square Online Checkout, you’ll need to use Square as your payment processor. Customers can pay using any credit or debit card, and they won’t need a Square account to do so.
Where Square Online Checkout Really Shines
Although you can use Square Online Checkout to sell any type of physical or digital product, we think it really shines for selling recurring services. You won’t need a full online store to allow customers to pay for weekly, monthly, or annual service from your business.
2. Stripe Connect: Best For B2B Subscriptions
- No monthly fees
- Appropriate for all business sizes
- Works with your eCommerce apps and markets
- Support for international sales
- Does not include online store
- Requires technical skills
Stripe Connect Features
We rate Stripe highly as a credit card payment processor. The fact that you can use Stripe Connect to process recurring payments makes this a good option for a subscription business. Here’s how Stripe Connect support subscriptions:
- Set up subscriptions for connected accounts
- Accept payments on your own website or marketplace
- Add fees to subscription pricing
- Automate recurring subscriptions
- Calculate and collect sales tax, VAT, and GST automatically
- Accept payments online or in-person
- Track your sales with custom reports
Be aware that you will need to take on some light coding duties to set up subscriptions with Stripe. Visit Stripe’s subscription page to get a feel for how much coding is required and how well you’ll perform.
Stripe Connect Pricing
Stripe is a pay-as-you-go processor that does not charge any setup, monthly, or hidden fees. When you use Stripe, you’ll pay only standard payment processing fees.
Stripe is a well-known payment processor with a good reputation in the industry. When you use Stripe Connect to power your subscription business, you’ll pay an industry-standard payment processing fee of 2.9% + $0.30 for each transaction processed with Stripe.
Where Stripe Connect Really Shines
Stripe Connect is designed to support recurring subscriptions. But it only works with connected accounts. For that reason, we think Stripe works best for business-to-business subscriptions. It’s especially well suited for international businesses, with 135+ supported currencies and local payment options through a single integration.
3. Shopify: Best Features
- Choice of many subscription integrations
- Multiple payment integrations
- Work with Shopify Checkout & Shopify POS
- Paid Shopify plan required
- Addons required
- Additional costs
To sell subscriptions on a Shopify store, you’ll need to add an app, with 32 options to choose from in the Shopify App Store, including 21 free apps. Apps are rated by users, so you can get a feel for how well they’ll meet your business’s needs. Here are some of the features you should look for in a Shopify subscription addon:
- Recurring payments
- Adjustable intervals for shipments
- Recurring orders or build-your-own box options
- Customizable themes
- Mobile friendly
- Dynamic discounts
- Payment options
- Memberships and donations
- Smooth integration with Shopify stores
- Promo codes
- Mixed cart (subscription and one-time purchases)
- Personalized/automated emails
- Custom shipping rates
- Cancellation management
- App integrations
- Performance trackers
- Cut-off window or specific date for subscription changes
Shopify plans cost between $9-$299/month. To sell subscriptions on a Shopify store, you will need to add on a third-party integration. In the Shopify App Store, you’ll find 21 free apps that enable subscriptions as well as 11 paid options. Paid options run from about $5/month all the way up to $299/month, with plenty of price points in between to fit nearly any budget.
To sell subscriptions on a Shopify store, you’ll need to use one of these payment gateways: Shopify Payments, PayPal Express, Authorize.net, or Stripe. Not all of these will be available to all sellers. Some customers may be able to use Shop Pay and Apple Pay as well. Payments processed with gateways other than Shopify Payments may be subject to Shopify transaction fees of 0.5% to 2%.
Where Shopify Really Shines
What makes Shopify one of the best subscription platforms is the number of integrations available. We often favor native integrations over third-party apps, because they tend to work more seamlessly. In this case, given the range of possibilities within the subscription business model, we like that Shopify offers nearly three dozen integrations, so you can choose the one with the right features and price point for your unique needs.
4. WooCommerce: Best For High-Risk Industries
- Works with physical and digital products & services
- Suitable for high-risk business subscriptions
- Self-help options for customers
- Marketing tools
- Annual fees
- Developer knowledge required
WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin that works exclusively with WordPress websites. And although WooCommerce doesn’t support subscriptions out of the box, you can purchase a WooCommerce extension that lets you jump into the subscription business. Here’s what you’ll get with WooCommerce Subscriptions:
- Free trials
- Variable subscriptions
- Personalized billing schedules
- Subscription management tools
- Subscriber account management tools
- Synchronized payments
- Customer upgrade/downgrade options
- Flexible product options
- Multiple subscriptions
- Automatic emails
Although you can use the WooCommerce plugin itself at no cost, if you want to add WooCommerce Subscriptions you’ll need to pay $199/year. That payment entitles you to one year of extension updates and customer support from WooCommerce. You can test out WooCommerce Subscriptions with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
WooCommerce is known for its integrations with high-risk payment processors. If you want to set up a subscription business for selling vape, adult products, CBD, tobacco, or e-liquid, you can find a home for your store on WooCommerce, though you may need a plugin, depending on which processor you want to work with.
Where WooCommerce Really Shines
Although subscription platforms are becoming more common, it’s less common to find one that seems to welcome high-risk businesses. If you’re selling products considered high-risk, such as vape, CBD, or adult items, WooCommerce may be the best subscription platform for you to use to set up shop.
- Free trial
- Integration required
- Revenue caps on BigCommerce plans
BigCommerce is a popular and easy-to-use eCommerce platform, and although you won’t find built-in subscription functions, it’s easy to add an app that will give you the power to sell and process recurring payments. You can even set up buy now, pay later (BNPL), making it easy for customers to buy from you. Here are some other BigCommerce features that support subscription sales:
- 13 billing and subscription apps to choose from
- Easy installation, with no coding required
- Customize payment options
- PCI compliant
- Social media integrations
- POS options
- Coupons, discounts, and gift cards
- International payment methods
BigCommerce offers a free trial that gives new users 15 days to test out the software. After that, you can choose from three paid plans, ranging from $29.95-$299.95/month. There’s also an enterprise-level plan with custom pricing. To add subscriptions to your BigCommerce store, you’ll need to add an app. There are 13 subscription apps in the app market, including two free apps. Most of the paid apps offer custom pricing based on your needs.
BigCommerce offers recurring billing functionality via numerous payment processors. You’ll need to add an app from the marketplace to access this.
Where BigCommerce Really Shines
As subscription selling becomes increasingly more common, we expect to see more ways for customers to pay for their purchases, and we think BigCommerce is a little ahead of the competition here. With the possibility of adding BNPL options like Klarna, Afterpay, Sezzle, and PayPal Pay Later, your customers will appreciate the convenience of being able to pay the way that works best with their budget.
6. Shift4Shop: Easiest To Set Up
- Fully loaded free plan
- Strong loyalty tools
- High-risk subscriptions supported
- Integration needed for subscriptions
- Revenue limits on paid plans
Although Shift4Shop does not offer built-in subscription functionality on any of its plans, it does offer a native integration, called AutoShip, that fully support subscription and recurring sales. Although AutoShip comes at a price, it may be worth it for sellers looking for an easy way to start selling via subscription, especially those selling high-risk products like vape, CBD, and adult items. Here’s what you’ll find when you add AutoShip to your Shift4Shop store:
- Token-based payment gateway
- Auto-process recurring orders and ongoing subscriptions
- Subscription intervals
- Automatic order refills
- Loyalty options
- Cart abandonment tools
- Discounts for recurring orders
- Marketing tools
- Social media and marketplace integrations
- Bulk discounts
- Digital downloads
- Saved carts
- CRM tools
- Gift certificates, coupons, and discounts
- Subscriber-only addon product offers
- Membership tiers
Choose from three competitively priced plans in addition to a completely free plan that, for a $0 monthly cost, offers the most advanced features of all the Shift4Shop offerings. The paid plans run from $29-$299/month. Adding AutoShip will cost you an added fee of $49-$99/month.
Shift4Shop connects with payment gateways that support subscription sales, including PayPal, Square, Stripe, Authorize.net, and more.
Where Shift4Shop Really Shines
Although you’ll need to pay for an integration to add subscription sales to your Shift4Shop store, that cost can be offset when you select the free End-to-End plan with a $0 monthly cost. And because Shift4Shop’s AutoShip is a Shift4Shop app, and not a third-party integration, it works seamlessly with your store.
7. Wix: Best For Startups
- Easy to use
- No addon needed
- Recurring payments or curated boxes
- Expensive eCommerce plan required
- No digital subscriptions
Wix offers some advanced eCommerce features to support subscription sales. Here’s a sampling:
- Flexible options allow subscriptions or one-time purchases
- Auto-renewals on weekly, monthly, or annual basis
- Multichannel sales
- Global eCommerce and currency conversion
- Customization options
- Automated taxes
- Integrated members accounts
- Free and discounted shipping options
- Express checkout option
- Delivery and curbside pickup
- Sell curated boxes or set up recurring orders
While anyone can create a free Wix website, to gain eCommerce functions you’ll need a paid business-level plan. Those run from $23-$49/month, but you’ll need to subscribe at least at Business Unlimited ($27/month) to access subscription features. And because the lower-priced plans include tight limits on storage and tax features and don’t include useful features like marketplace integrations, you might need a higher plan level to sell subscriptions successfully.
You can use any of four Wix payment gateways that support recurring payments: Wix Payments and Stripe are the best known of the four.
Where Wix Really Shines
With its native support for subscriptions, including help resources that will guide you as you get your business on its feet, Wix seems to be the best subscription platform for sellers who are just getting started in the subscription business. And although you’ll need a paid plan to sell subscriptions, at $27 or $49/month, Wix is an affordable option.
8. Recurly: Best For Existing Stores
- Includes client libraries in multiple languages as well as mobile SDKs
- Supports global transactions
- No setup or monthly fees
- Developer knowledge required
- Transaction fees
Recurly is hub-and-spoke subscription management software you can use via a hosted payment page, with customizable forms, or through a flexible API. If you already have an eCommerce website you like, Recurly’s features can help you add subscriptions to your sales mix. Here’s how:
- Flexible integrations to your systems, including payment processors and CRMs
- Comprehensive analytics and insights
- Customizable customer preferences
- Global sales
- Customer recovery strategies
- Supports one-time sales
- Billing models include prepaid, use-based, fixed, quantity-based, and hybrid
- Central item catalog allows one-click price updates
- Coupons and gift cards
- Trials, promotional offers, and upselling
- Automated invoicing
Recurly is available in the US, Great Britain, and Europe. US plans can be paid annually or monthly, with about 25% savings for annual payment. Plans are available for $199/month with a revenue limit of $500K. Recurly also offers a Professional plan and an Elite plan, both with custom pricing; they are aimed at businesses bringing in subscription revenue between $1 million to $25 million a year. Note that Recurly also charges transaction fees.
You’ll need to connect your own payment processor to your Recurly account. Recurly integrates with 12+ payment gateways, including international options. These include Adyen, Amazon Pay, Authorize.net, PayPal, Stripe, Worldpay, and more.
Where Recurly Really Shines
eCommerce merchants with successful online stores don’t need to start from scratch just because they want to add subscription capabilities. Software like Recurly works with businesses of all sizes to allow recurring billing and repeat sales of curated boxes. While it’s not the least expensive option available for subscription management software, the fact that you can integrate your existing website and tech stack may make it worth every penny.
Why We Don't Recommend These Subscription Platforms For eCommerce
You may have come to this post expecting to see the name of a software company that we didn’t include. Here are some top names in subscription management software that we decided to leave off this list of the best subscription platforms, and why:
It appears as a top search result for subscription sales, but a closer look reveals that Chargebee is available primarily for software subscriptions. If you’re selling subscriptions to physical goods and services, you can still use Chargebee SDKs (software development kits) and wrappers to process payments.
Magento is a highly rated eCommerce platform — in fact, we rate it a perfect 5 stars in our review. And Magento makes a subscription module available that allows users to set up recurring payments and sell subscriptions from their online store. If you have a Magento store and want to explore this, you can join a group of satisfied users. For many eCommerce sellers, this open-source eCommerce platform may be a bit more complicated than they’re prepared to handle, at least if they don’t have a developer on staff. Even then, Magento’s subscription capabilities come with a steep price tag of $399 for the first year and $245/year after that.
Which Subscription Platform Is Best For Your Online Store?
Adding subscription boxes and recurring billing to your sales mix can be a good strategy. After all, while the exact number can vary depending on who’s doing the calculations, it’s generally agreed that it’s cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to find a new one.
We have some resources that can help you sell more to the customers you already have, including tips on starting a subscription business and suggestions for the best ways to set up recurring payments.
And, if you’re an eCommerce beginner only dreaming of starting a subscription business, we have resources that can help you, too! Check out our list of the best eCommerce platforms to help you gain a foothold. (If you’re working on a shoestring budget, you might want to start with our list of the best free eCommerce platforms.) If you want to start selling without a website, we can help there, too, with a step-by-step guide to accepting online payments without a full website and a list of the best payment providers to work with.
Wherever your search for eCommerce success leads you, we wish you the best of luck and would love to hear from you!