Subscription eCommerce

eCommerce Subscriptions: Central Features to Include

October 3, 2022  |  8 min read

eCommerce Subscriptions Overview

To successfully run a subscription eCommerce platform, there are some basic functions you’ll need to include.

Whether you’re already running a subscription site or looking for an eCommerce platform with subscription capability, this is a great place to get started and dive into some of the nuances of subscription platforms.

Key Areas of Subscription Offerings

We’ll go through some examples using the Clarity eCommerce platform to give you an idea of these key concepts for subscription eCommerce, including a few standard scenarios and a few industry-specific implementations.

Product Detail Page Subscription Option

A basic subscription offer can start from the catalog or the product detail page when a client clicks on a product to view it.

When they go to add it to their cart, they can choose to do a one-time purchase or a subscription. If they choose a subscription, they can choose the recurring period, such as every 90 days to have this product delivered to them.

This is a simple model, but this type of option can be presented in a lot of different ways. For example, we can also show the upsell and cost benefit of the subscription on the page.

eCommerce Subscription Dashboard

After purchasing an eCommerce subscription, you can view the status of the subscription overall within the subscription dashboard. You can also check the duration of the subscription, the billing information, shipping information, subscription details, and you have the ability to cancel.

It depends on the business, but usually when someone purchases an eCommerce subscription, there’s some level of commitment with the subscription in order to get the discount. For example, there may be a signature required, or someone may need to commit to a certain time period (or have consequences if they don’t).

Additionally, you may have to deal with changing payment information, and using an auto payment updater, you can have that payment information auto-update.

Being able to view the details of a subscription is vital to subscription eCommerce. People might forget about subscriptions (they are called “set it and forget it” for a reason, after all), so providing them with a nice interface that gives them access to everything they need to know is key.

That includes the number of subscriptions remaining, number of purchases, what orders payments are from, etc., as well as sending an email or text letting them know that the subscription is coming up for renewal.

Checkout Subscription Upselling

During the checkout process, it’s a good idea to offer the user an upsell on turning a one-time purchase into a subscription or purchasing a longer subscription and getting a savings on that subscription purchase.

subscription upsell

This refers to what we were talking about earlier, where if someone purchases for a longer time period, they’re going to get a discount.

Subscriptions in eCommerce are helpful in securing a consistent cash flow for your business. In turn, this helps the end customer, because you can then build on your offerings and focus on delivering great value as opposed to customer acquisition.

Up-to-Date Billing & Shipping Information

A successful subscription payment means having accurate billing information from the customer. Therefore, you’ll want to make that easily accessible from the user dashboard.

When users click to update their billing information, a box opens up where they can choose a payment method from their digital wallet and an address from their address book; or if they don’t have pre-entered data, they can add new information.

Their payment method doesn’t have to be a credit card; it can be any form of payment that works with your business’s operations and offerings.

Updating shipping information works in much the same way—they can choose from pre-entered data or add a new shipping address.

These edit boxes can be all within a single module, on the same page, or in individual modules.

Let Users Manage Their Own Subscriptions

Users need to be able to manage their subscription, see what’s going on, and make changes without having to contact customer support—in other words, self-serve. Self-service is important so you can scale and provide a lot of value to the end customer.

eCommerce Subscription Upgrades

Another important thing to offer the end customer is the ability to upgrade their subscription to a higher tier or level.

upgrade membership example: upgrade to Gold Membership

It’s best to have this option available and presented to users at all times within their user dashboard, and to run occasional promotions.

For example, a promotion could be quarterly or semiannually, and it allows users to upgrade at a discount. So, if they complete this upgrade during this time period, they’re going to get this discount.

That can be a helpful marketing tool for memberships and subscriptions, including auto-ship subscriptions, because they can help your business go through lower cash-flow time periods with greater ease.

Subscription Varieties

Now we’ll go over some examples showing how we can present these different memberships and subscriptions.

What’s a Subscription vs a Membership?

The idea is that a subscription is to a membership within our eCommerce platform. You can have a subscription to products, a subscription to a membership community, etc., and these come with different opportunities and benefits.

If it's just an autoship or an autopayment of a product, then they're going to receive that product, and that's the benefit of the “membership” or subscription.

If the subscription is to a membership community, then depending on the site, there could be content like articles and books they can access with that membership, or chat groups and discussions they can partake in.

Membership Hierarchy & Subscription Level Benefits

With different eCommerce subscription or membership levels, there are additional benefits assigned to higher levels.

For example, if the levels are Free, Basic, Standard, and Premium, with Premium offering the most benefits, then a Premium membership would have greater discounts on products than a Standard, Basic, or Free membership would. You get to decide what these subscriptions will include and what benefits users will gain at each level.

Typically, along with more benefits comes greater cost for the customer as well. The premium subscription would cost the most, and the basic plan would cost the least out of the paid subscription options.

A free membership, on the other hand, is a good opportunity for new users to try out the platform to see if they like the base functions. Offering a free version with fewer benefits can give users a good idea of what’s available, and they can see if they want to upgrade based on what features they want but don’t have at their current level.

Another way to get users interested is to offer a free trial of a premium membership. Users can experience what it’s like to have the full functionality of the eCommerce subscription platform, which might make them more inclined to continue receiving those benefits and purchase the subscription after the trial period. Users might also be more willing to try it out for free than purchase right off the bat.

Plus, if users have the opportunity to opt out if the membership doesn’t suit them, then you won’t have to deal with those customers asking for refunds.

Membership Types

You can also have different types of memberships that have different functions or serve different purposes, that are separate from the hierarchy. For example, you can have a membership type for sellers who want to promote their products on the platform, and an option for companies that want to be in the directory listing.

These membership types would be for two different customers, who come to the platform with a different intent about what benefits they want access to. Each of these options could then have their own levels, with each level up offering more access, functionality, or other benefits.

Subscriptions in the Medical Industry

Another form of subscription is the autoship model, which can also apply to the medical industry. For example, a user can go into the platform to make sure they’re able to get their refills for a prescription, since they have a certain number of remaining refills they can receive.

They may put those on autoship, or there might be a manual step such as requesting that refill, and they may have to be approved in some process depending on the prescription, pharmacy, location, etc.

Maybe the pharmacist or doctor has to approve it, or there may have to be some form of interaction, such as a telehealth call, video call, or chat session that’s documented and recorded.

With medical subscriptions, we also need to make sure that laws in relevant jurisdictions (e.g., states) are being complied with. That’s why our platform is HIPAA-compliant, highly secure, and can be customized to meet any legal needs.

Cater Your Subscriptions

Customers like it better when they can choose the plan that works for them. That’s why you want to offer subscription levels with different price points and benefits and form your membership types with your customers’ needs in mind.

eCommerce Subscriptions Customized to Your Needs

We work with a lot of companies that provide various memberships and subscriptions, such as:

  • Subscriptions that provide access to a membership framework
  • Marketplaces with varying membership levels and benefits
  • Memberships that allow sellers to advertise based on their level
  • Subscriptions that allow users to get discounts on items

Our eCommerce platform is constantly evolving, and we’ve accumulated and commoditized all the standard aspects of subscriptions so that we can then use those as a base to cater and customize the features to your specific use case and the needs of your business and customers.

The objective is to allow your customers to have the most optimized self-service possible so they can take advantage of integrations within your internal line of business and external partner ecosystem through APIs and other data feeds.

If you're interested in talking with us about your project, feel free to take advantage of our complimentary discovery and complimentary strategy sessions. We’d be happy to discuss this more with you, and if we're able to directly help you, great, we'll be able to provide a plan. If not, we'll be very happy to point you in the right direction.

Take Your Subscription eCommerce to the Next Level

We can help your eCommerce subscription platform succeed and grow. To get started, sign up for our free discovery session—it's free and there's no obligation to work with us afterwards (though if you'd like to, welcome aboard!). We'll review your business and project needs and offer expert advice on what solution would be the right one for you.

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Autumn Spriggle is a Content Writer at Clarity Ventures with experience in research and content design. She stays up to date with the latest trends in the eCommerce and software development industries so she can write content to help people like you realize the full potential for their business.
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