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What We Know About Shopify Checkout’s Subscription Offering

Have you heard about Shopify’s plans to offer the ability to process subscription orders in Shopify checkout? They first announced this back in May 2019 at Unite and recently announced more details in October 2020. We’ll continue to provide you with updates, but wanted to shed some light on the topic to help make sense of the new announcement and what this means for you and your subscribers.

There are several subscription solutions for Shopify merchants, including Upscribe, ReCharge and Bold. All subscription solutions currently leverage an Upscribe, ReCharge or Bold checkout for subscriptions since subscription orders could not be processed by Shopify. The new Subscriptions API now provides the ability to process subscriptions orders through Shopify Checkout. If merchants choose to use Shopify Checkout, customer acquisition for the first subscription order would happen through Shopify Checkout.

But customers would continue to log into Upscribe’s, ReCharge’s or Bold’s customer portal to manage their subscriptions. Essentially, the only change is how the first subscription order is processed if merchants choose to use Shopify Checkout for subscriptions. The customer portal as the merchant portal would continue to be with Upscribe as would any other interaction between customer and merchant post-purchase (e.g. email, SMS, etc.).

Unstable beta access to the new Shopify checkout is currently available with stable versions to be released early next year. And here’s what we know so far: the new Shopify Checkout requires users to checkout with Shopify Payments (not Stripe, Braintree or other payment processors). So existing subscribers might have to re-enter their payment details using Shopify Payments because merchants won’t be migrating payment data. And while new subscribers could use Shopify Payments, merchants would be forced to manage multiple payment profiles for customers.

We also don’t know how Shopify Checkout will handle discounts, trials, upsells or other features that relate specifically to subscription programs. Again, the basic offering is still being worked out and it’s unclear when these and other features will be developed and released. So the new offering is a potential option for merchants that are looking to start basic subscriptions but not ideal for merchants with existing subscribers .

At Upscribe, our approach is and always has been merchant-first. That’s why we’re going to provide merchants with the option to switch to Shopify Checkout the moment it’s available (and stable) or let merchants continue to use Upscribe’s checkout. There may be advantages to the former down the road, but as it stands, we don’t think it makes sense for merchants with existing subscribers right now.