The Ultimate Guide to WooCommerce Subscriptions (2020)

WooCommerce Subscriptions

Hey there, entrepreneur! Are you thinking about WooCommerce subscriptions? If you want to build a recurring payment stream, a monthly or periodical based payment structure is ALWAYS the best business model. If you can pull it off!

You might have noticed that most leading companies are fast moving toward a recurring payments model. If you want to retain your customer base and still be profitable, there is no alternative to subscriptions.

This is all great, but how do you manage such a complex system?

There are several things involved in setting up this type of model:

  • creating the various packages,
  • setting up the payment methods,
  • configuring the shipping options,
  • monitoring the status of payments each month or period,
  • and so on.

How can you deal with all these complexities on your own? Wouldn't you rather be managing your business rather than managing your shop's revenue model so that your subscription product can grow?

Luckily, WooCommerce has developed a special extension to deal with setting up and managing a subscription product. This can be set up on your existing WordPress site.

In today’s post, we're going to introduce you to WooCommerce Subscriptions. We will analyze its features and show you how to use the extension to set up your own recurring payments system.

Are you ready? Let’s get started.

This article has been updated in to add any necessary new details and features about this product. Rest assured that this article is as relevant as it can get.

Should you implement a custom recurring revenue model?

Looking at this model at face value, things might seem pretty straightforward and not much different from a normal, one-time fee payment model.

In reality, as you'll read on web design blogs and  as you'll discover when you start digging in, this revenue model is much more nuanced than a one-time fee payment model:

  • What happens if a customer's Credit Card expires?
  • Do you stop their access to the service/product immediately? Is there a grace period?
  • What happens when a customer cancels the next payment during an already paid period? Do you cancel access immediately? Do you cancel access at the end of the paid time-period?
  • How do you send reminders when the subscription or CC is about to expire?
  • How do you handle upgrades/downgrades smoothly?

These and plenty of other edge cases make it complex to implement a custom subscription-based model.

That's why having a plugin for WooCommerce which enables this automatically is an absolute real benefit to your business.

You get the benefits of a recurring payments model, without the complexities associated with implementing this type of model.

What are WooCommerce Subscriptions?

WooCommerce Subscriptions

WooCommerce Subscriptions is a premium extension that you can use with your WooCommerce store.

The extension allows you to set up various subscription products and services with recurring pricing models. This helps you get a realistic projection of the expected monthly income from your business.

The powerful extension comes with all the necessary options for setting up recurring models of payment. That means you can offer both physical and digital subscription products and services for various durations including the obvious ones like weekly, monthly, annually along with custom frequencies you may what to define.

As the extension supports more than 25 payment gateway options, including the more popular ones such as Paypal, Stripe, BrainTree and many more, you will find it very easy to collect recurring payments from your customers, who may be located anywhere in the world.

Customers can upgrade, downgrade, or perform other account management tasks from their user dashboard. 

For you, the owner of the site, the detailed reports will help you track the overall performance of your packages and plans. 

Visit WooCommerce Website Now to Learn More

Why You Should Use It

The extension comes with a whole host of options which make it an obvious choice for creating subscription-based business models. Let’s take a few minutes to check out the features.

Create various packages and subscription plans

The extension allows you to set up as many packages or different subscription plans as you need for your business's use case.

Additionally, there is also an option to allow the customers to choose a custom billing schedule that fits their requirements (provided that you allow this).

You can also offer a free trial, this will allow your potential customers to try the subscription product or service before they buy.

If you would rather have customers who are committed, you can enable an option that asks for a minimal signup fee before allowing customers to try.

Manage customers using the Management Options

The accounting and product admin(s) can manage all the existing customers by going to WooCommerce > Edit Subscription.

You will find separate options to suspend or cancel existing items, add items, reset the trial expiration date, configure the shipping options, tax details, etc. Such options are very useful when you run into payment problems, or just want to show goodwill to your customers who might not have put in the correct details.

Being able to intervene manually is something we find useful because inevitably, circumstances will arise which will require some input from your sales administrators.

user subscription management

The extension also offers management options for subscribers. Customers will find options to

  • manually suspend or cancel any active subscription,
  • change the payment method for future payments,
  • change their current plan,
  • and update their shipping address.

This allows customers to be in full control of their payments and not feel locked in. This gives your end-users more peace of mind, prolonging your business relationship with them.

Flexible Subscription Scheduling

By default, the extension will initiate the schedule as soon as the customer has made the payment.

This could be a problem in some situations where you need to provide the products or services to all the subscribers on the same day, for example, in the case when you make a delivery run on a particular day.

This applies most especially to subscription box type of businesses, where deliveries occur on a specific date. Billing should, therefore, be synched to that same date.

In this case, all subscribers should get billed on the same date, irrespective of their date of purchase.

custom scheduling

WooCommerce comes with an intuitive solution to address this problem.

The built-in renewal synchronization feature allows the customers to sign up at any time. However, the payment will start from the next billing date.

The extension also allows you to prorate the first payment and then continue from the next billing date.

As you can see from this very specific scenario, the developers of this plugin have thought of all possible situations and addressed them in advance. We do believe that the development team has integrated a lot of real-world feedback into their product.

Reduce fees by Grouping Multiple Plans or Product Purchases

In some scenarios, your customers might want to purchase different products and services at the same time. Given that most payment gateway services add a percentage fee to each transaction, your fees will increase substantially.

Also, when a customer makes separate payments for each purchase, besides having to pay the payment gateway fee separately, you also have to deal with the logistics and renewal issues for each purchase. In the case of a subscription product, if a customer chooses two separate "packs", shipping them together would also reduce your postage and packing costs. 

WooCommerce subscription offers a unique solution to address the problem. The extension will group similar items and reduce the fees for your business hassles.

Boost Conversions using fully customizable Coupons and Discounts on your plans

Time-limited coupons and discounts are a proven way of boosting conversions.

You can implement this using WooCommerce by providing exclusive coupons on various occasions (such as Black Friday, the festive seasons, or other one-off occasions as necessary).

The Subscription extension supports coupons for both signup and recurring payments.

When you offer a signup coupon, customers will get a discount on first signing up but would have to pay the regular amount for recurring fees.

Coupons feature

On the other hand, one can offer a coupon that applies to the recurring payment.

For both discount types, it is possible to offer a fixed amount (for example $10 off) or choose a percentage of the total amount (10% off).

Fully customizable email notifications

Transactional based notifications are great for eCommerce sites, yet using your brand's tone of voice ensures there is consistency across all communications with your client.

As the extension comes with full support for notification emails, both the admin(s) and the customer will get notifications for various events. You can enable or disable emails for various events like:

  • new renewal order,
  • renewal completion,
  • renewal invoice,
  • payment retry,
  • suspension,
  • expiry,
  • cancellation,
  • switching of plans, etc.

It is also possible to customize the header, subject, recipient(s), reply-to email address for each of these emails.

Various Ways to Use Payment Plans

One rule of business that has held steady is that it is always easier to do business with existing customers than gaining new customers. You have already earned the trust of existing customers, therefore it is easier to get them to purchase something else.

That is one of the main reasons why recurring payment-based businesses are so popular these days.

This concept can be implemented using the Subscriptions plugin.

There are different types of recurring or repeating payment plans you can use. Let’s take a look at the popular types of plans:

1. Membership Plans

Membership plans are undoubtedly the most used subscription-based business.

This is so common that you probably have subscribed to many such plans for your services already. Most online tools, platforms, and software support are provided as membership plans (typically monthly or annually). Such online tools are known as Subscription as a Service or SaaS.

In this payment model, you offer the services or products in exchange for a monthly fee via a trusted payment gateway. Also, since you integrate with a payment gateway, you don't need to store any credit card or payment details, so you don't to meet the stringent ISO requirements to store financial data.

The WooCommerce Subscriptions extension allows you to create this model. You can create different types of membership plans with different facilities and/or options attached to them.

Your customers then can switch to higher or lower packages according to their requirements.

Given that you're looking for Membership plans, why not have a look at our membership website templates roundup? We've featured the best themes and plugins for membership sites!

2. Subscribe for Discounts

Offering discounts on regular purchases is another popular recurring payments-based business model.

This is especially applicable if you offer discounts for products which are daily necessities for customers. This is a win-win situation for both parties – you are getting more sales, and your customers are getting the chance to save on the items they purchase regularly.

amazon subscribe save

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save is a perfect example of this strategy.

This special plan allows customers to subscribe to getting various household items. In exchange, they can enjoy additional benefits on other items while shopping from Amazon.

3. Subscription Boxes

Subscribing to monthly or regular boxes are another fun and interesting business idea based on a slightly different concept - which has become very popular in recent years, thanks to various niches such as beauty, makeup, wine or food, health, supplements, and other small type items.

In this model, customers subscribe for a box or package of different items that will be delivered on a fixed schedule.

This method allows customers to check out new products and become familiar with new brands. As an entrepreneur, you can build a solid business with a predictable amount of revenue by using this model.

Subscription boxes can work in most popular niches including snacks, beverages, desserts, cosmetics, beauty products, toys, tools, crafts, fitness items, mystery items, and plenty of other niches.

The key to success is identifying your customers, keeping the box unique, and providing constant value.

Of course, when creating such products, you might require specific custom fields to ensure you are giving your customers exactly what they need. While this is not a part of this product, or built-in to WooCommerce by default, there are plenty of extensions which allow you to create your custom fields on the products you're selling.

The WooCommerce extra product optionsextension is a good option if you require custom fields.

4. Recurring Services

Recurring services could be a very profitable business strategy for both physical and digital services.

The WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin makes it possible to offer recurring packages for both kinds of services.

For example, if you offer physical services like salon, spa, parlor, massaging, etc., you can offer weekly, fortnightly, or monthly packages for your customers.

bluehost recurring pricing

This type of model has already become the dominant business method for digital services (e.g. website maintenance, digital marketing, web hosting, etc etc).

A quick search on the internet will provide you with a huge list of monthly or annual packages for cloud storage, web hosting, online streaming, managed WordPress hosting, technical support, expert recommendations, etc.

With all these different types of subscription-based business types, we're sure you won’t have a hard time determining the perfect plan type for your business, following the examples of existing businesses and their current plans.

Download WooCommerce Subscriptions Now

How to Set It Up

Now that you know what features are available with the extension and which business models are available, let’s take a few minutes to find out how to set up the plugin.

Creating the Plans

As we discussed above, the plugin allows you to create both simple and variable plans. You can add a new subscription by going to Products > Add Product from the dashboard.

Create new Product Plan

When using the variable product, you can create several variations of a package with individual settings for each variation. It is also possible to use an existing product attribute or create new ones for your products.

The process will be familiar if you have used and set up a WooCommerce store before.

Setting the Price

The ‘Subscription Price’ section allows you to define the price of your package/plan.

Next, you will find the options to choose the payment frequency. The sign-up fee, free trial, and special discounts options are also available here as you can see below:

subscription payment setup

In the case of variable plan packages, you can set up the individual settings by going to the ‘Variations’ section. You can choose a separate price, payment frequency, sign-up fee, discount, for each variation.

If your subscription plan is limited in nature (for example, not more than 5 times), the plugin also allows you to limit the number of times a billing is triggered. To do that, go to the ‘Advanced’ section, and choose the desired option from the ‘Limit Subscription’ field.

Shipping Options

Shipping options are very similar to those available with the standard WooCommerce functionality. However, for subscriptions, you have various ways to handle the shipping. You can either include the shipping costs in the price of the plan, or you could choose to charge for shipping every time.

If you want, you can also choose to apply the shipping charge only once during the lifetime of the product.

one time shipping

This is especially applicable for physical devices like mobile phones and various machinery items.

WooCommerce comes ready to meet this requirement. You just need to go to the ‘Shipping’ section and check the ‘Charge Shipping Once’ box.

Setting up Coupons

Setting up coupons

The extension also supports coupons or special discounts for your customers.

You can add, edit, and manage the existing coupons by going to the WooCommerce > Coupons page from your website’s dashboard.

If you have never used a coupon on your WooCommerce site before, you need to enable the coupons functionality first by going to WooCommerce > Settings > General > Enable coupons.

Subscriptions Management

Management of customers and products

You will find a list of all the active and current subscriptions in the WooCommerce > Subscriptions page.

For each product, you will find all the relevant information including the currents status, number, the item(s), payment amount and frequency, start date, trial end date, next payment date, and any other information related to this purchase.

Items in the list are sortable by each of these fields.

It is also possible to search for a particular customer by using the name, address, email address, product name, and other fields.

The extension comes with several other management and customization options, but it is out of the scope of this article to cover all these options.

If you want to get a complete overview of the available options, you should check out the official documentation.

Alternatives to the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin

As we have seen, the extension provides the perfect solution for offering different types of subscription-based products or services.

But that doesn’t mean there is no other solution for developing a recurring payments-based website. There are a number of WooCommerce subscription plugin options that you could use.

There are a few premium WooCommerce subscription plugins that also allow you to create such products or services on your site.

Let’s take a look at some those other plugins: 

1. WooCommerce Memberships

WooCommerce Memberships

If you are choosing this plugin intending to create a membership-based website, there’s a better solution for you. WooCommerce has created a dedicated solution for that purpose, which is WooCommerce Memberships.

You can use this plugin to create different types of membership plans like a membership for getting a specific product, adding membership with a product, allow the same membership plan with various products, create a members-only area, and various other membership-related functions.

WooCommerce Memberships allow you to offer special discounts and reserve special benefits for the members. It is also possible to import or export the members' lists as CSV files.

You can take the membership plugin to a whole new level by using it along with the Subscriptions extension. When used together, you can apply recurring billing, offer free trials, apply content restriction or dripping, upgrade or downgrade membership levels, etc.

The extension is priced at $149 for a single website.

Learn more about WooCommerce Membership plugin 


2. YITH - WooCommerce Subscription

YITH WooCommerce Subscription

Coming from Your Inspiration Themes, YITH WooCommerce Subscription is another excellent plugin for creating various recurring-based products or services.

The plugin allows you to sell magazines, periodicals, audio/video products, offer online training, consultancy services, etc right from your website. You can create both simple (static) products or products that are variable in nature.

As with similar plugins, you can offer a free trial to customers before subscribing. With YITH WooCommerce subscription it is also possible to assign a signup fee for the package(s). Customers can pause, resume, or cancel the plan anytime.

If you offer different levels of payments, customers can easily upgrade or downgrade between the level, and even allows customers to purchase multiple plans.

In terms of payment gateways and billings, you can accept payments by using PayPal or Stripe. As the plugin is fully compatible with WPML, it is possible to create your website in other languages as well.

The price of the YITH WooCommerce subscription plugin starts at $99.99 for a single site.

Visit YITH WooCommerce Subscription plugin website


3. Subscriptio

Subscriptio WooCommerce Subscriptions

With more than 4,000 sales in CodeCanyon, Subscriptio is one of the more popular WooCommerce plugins for creating and selling products or services with recurring payments option. You can use the plugin to sell online membership plans, magazine subscriptions, learning resources, or other similar items.

Both simple and variable products are possible and you can define relevant options such as trial length, setup fee, payment cycle, duration, etc. Both the admin(s) and the customer can pause or resume the plans whenever they want.

Since the plugin supports both PayPal and Stripe, you can accept payments easily.

The plugin also allows fully automatic or semi-automatic billing, which offers complete control to the customer. If you are a developer and want to further customize the plugin, you will find the built-in hooks and filters very useful to integrate with.

Subscriptio is priced at $49.

Download Subscriptio Now

Finally, if you're not completely convinced whether this is the way to go for and you want to look at other options, you might want to have a look at our WooCommerce vs Shopify Guide.


WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin is priced at $199 for a single site license.

You can get very attractive discounts by purchasing the 5 or 25-sites licenses. All purchases come with 1 full year of support and updates.

At the time of writing this post, WooCommerce is offering a special bundle of 19 (yes, 19!) products including this extension. The bundle is priced at $299 - and of course, it is an absolutely incredible bargain (given that just 3 of these bundles would cost you the whole $299. Instead of just these 3 you are getting 19 different products - click here to get the bundle).

It also comes with 1 year of support and updates.

Click here for the lowest price WooCommerce Subscriptions

WooCommerce Subscriptions Download

If you think this is the right tool, your next step is to buy the extension, download it and install it on your WooCommerce store.

If you find that you are not happy with your purchase, you have a full 30-day money-back guarantee.

In reality, we doubt you'll be having any second thoughts. Currently, the product enjoys a rating of 4.45 stars out of 5, with such reviews and comments as:

"Very pleased",

"5 stars without question - I’ve been using the plugin for about 4 years and have only good things to say about it",

"Excellent product, excellent support! I can not recommend this product enough.",

"The product has saved our business"

Just download it here, give it a spin yourself and see whether it works for you or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can WooCommerce do subscriptions?

Yes, WooCommerce can do subscriptions, however, this is not enabled in the core plugin. You'll need to install one of the plugins mentioned in the above post, including one which is available directly from the WooCommerce website.

2. Is there a monthly fee for WooCommerce?

No, WooCommerce is free and there are no monthly fees. The only monthly fee you will have to pay is for your hosting.

3. How do I add a subscription to WooCommerce?

You can add a subscription to WooCommerce simply by installing the Subscriptions extension or a 3rd party plugin that provides this functionality, all of which are mentioned in the post above. You can then decide what kind of plans you would like to implement.

4. How do I accept a recurring payment on WordPress?

The easiest way to accept recurring payments on WordPress is to install WooCommerce, purchase a copy of the Subscriptions extension and then create the recurring payment plan you need.

5. Can Stripe do recurring payments?

Yes, Stripe can do recurring payments, particularly if you use it via the plugin mentioned above. The actual payment is enabled via the extension, Stripe just handles the payment part.

6. Does WooCommerce cost money?

No, the WooCommerce core download is completely free.


Are you ready to start a subscription model via your WooCommerce site?

Creating and managing a fully-featured subscription-based business is almost a full-time job for an individual. But you can make it a lot easier by using WooCommerce Subscriptions. The powerful, feature-rich extension offers all the options you need for your recurring revenue website.

Now that you know how this extension can help you set up the whole process, why don’t you get started already? And by the way, what do you think about this recurring-revenue business?

Let us know in the comments below.

Visit WooCommerce Subscriptions website now

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