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What You Need to Know about Shopify Checkout and the Subscription APIs

As you may know, Shopify is now able to process subscription orders through Shopify Checkout. To help developers and merchants create experiences with Shopify Checkout, they’ve also launched Subscription APIs.

With over 300 million customers using the new system, Shopify Checkout has roped in over $100 billion in sales.

In this article, we’ll cover how Shopify Checkout will affect stores going forward. Plus, everything merchants need to know about Shopify’s Subscription APIs.

What is Shopify Checkout?

Before Shopify Checkout, if a customer bought an item once, they went through a different flow than anyone who subscribed to get products from a Shopify store.

To date, if you’ve been running subscriptions on Shopify you had to use a third-party checkout from Upscribe, ReCharge, or other subscription solutions. Subscription orders couldn’t be processed by Shopify.

Shopify Checkout Makes Subscriptions More Accessible

Previously, to use a subscription service, a third-party app was required for recurring charges with Shopify. This made it less accessible for online storefronts to provide subscription services to their customers. Additionally, it reduces the friction of utilizing multiple checkout experiences.

However, with Shopify Checkout, Shopify processes subscription orders. Now any store can provide a better customer experience as customers use Shopify Payments to check out a subscription. Then they can use the same account on any other Shopify Store for future purchases — regardless if it’s a subscription or a one-time purchase. This results in a unified checkout.

Due to the introduction of this new system for subscriptions, in the first quarter of 2020, Subscription Solution’s revenue grew to $187.6 million, an increase of 34%. 

Are 3rd Party Subscription Apps Obsolete?

At first, it seems as if this change has rendered subscriptions provided by third-party applications like Upscribe and others obsolete. After all, if all Shopify merchants are provided with subscription tools, what’s the point in investing in a third party to add that functionality? 

The reality is a bit more complicated. It’s true that Shopify allows merchants to incorporate subscriptions into their storefront with Shopify Checkout. However, those third parties can still offer a number of important benefits for users in the form of powerful metrics, competitive customizability, and rich options for the customer-facing experience.

The Future of Subscriptions on Shopify

Going forward, Shopify prefers subscription solutions to use Shopify Checkout for processing subscription orders. With these changes, customer acquisition can happen through Shopify Checkout, but customers are able to continue to log into Upscribe and other third-party applications’ customer portals to manage their subscriptions.

What Are Shopify Subscription APIs?

Shopify introduced its Subscription APIs in October 2020. With Shopify Subscription APIs, developers and Shopify partners are able to create custom subscription experiences within Shopify Checkout.

Custom Experiences

Creating a custom experience can involve a number of customer-facing and behind-the-scenes features. One of the most important things that can be added to the experience is visual changes to reflect the brand. However, more advanced changes come into play when it comes to connecting your storefront’s data with 3rd party applications. This is necessary to gain additional insights. If you can give subscription management apps the data they need to analyze your metrics, you can learn more about your progress. 

Recurring revenue reports are one example of how data can be used with Shopify Subscriptions API integrations. Features like email campaign marketing targeted at your subscribers are another option. Paired with automated workflows based on customer actions, these integrations can provide enhanced value to your business’s subscriptions.

These features have the ability to result in a number of measurable benefits for ecommerce businesses. Thanks to using customized APIs and Upscribe’s powerful subscription tools, ‘Ready, Set, Food!’ was able to increase its revenue by 35%.

Current Limitations With Shopify’s Subscription APIs

While Shopify’s Subscription APIs will be able to streamline more behind the scenes for your store as they release more updates, there are a few current restrictions to keep in mind:

  • Scripts discounting subscription price or shipping rates apply to the first payment only.
  • Gift cards used to pay for subscriptions only go towards the first payment.
  • To use subscriptions, merchants must use Shopify Payments, Stripe, PayPal Express, or Authorize.net as their primary payment gateway.
  • Customers can’t use accelerated checkouts or local payment methods to purchase subscriptions. Shopify added support for Shopify Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, but supports only United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which have support for Visa and Mastercard.
  • Subscriptions don’t support “buy x get y” discounts.
  • Selling plan titles don’t support translations for multi-language storefronts. Shopify said they will add this feature in the future, but don’t have a target launch date.

Staying aware of these limitations is important for choosing a solution that works best for your business’s needs.

Upscribe’s Unique Advantage

Up until the Shopify Checkout release, Upscribe has been a private app for fast-growing Shopify brands to expand their subscriptions. To help get ecommerce brands onto Shopify Checkout, we received early access to the Shopify Subscription APIs.

As a trusted Shopify partner with early access to these APIs, Upscribe has been able to provide storefronts like Four Sigmatic and Caledera + Lab with rich insights and boosts to their margins. Businesses see noticeable increases in their subscription counts, revenue, and productivity.

The app’s powerful benefits can be seen with solutions like Four Sigmatic, where the company’s active subscribers increased by 50%. The app increased reduced loading times and provided a smoother process for customers on the front end. With subscription analytics, the company can make informed changes to reduce its churn rate and continue to grow the company’s list of subscribers.

Productivity can increase when using an app like Upscribe because of the app’s ability to empower customers with self-service solutions. This ultimately reduced help tickets for Caldera+Lab by 50%. Now that the company isn’t spending as much time focusing on helping customers with password resets and other administrative tasks, the company can focus more on its product and its subscription strategies.

In May 2021, we introduced a public app available on the Shopify App Store that will include everything you need to grow your subscription program including:

Find out how you can increase your recurring revenue with Upscribe’s new subscription app. If you’re switching to Shopify checkout, you can make the transition even easier by switching to Upscribe.

What You Should Do Now

Now that every merchant has access to subscription features with Shopify Checkout, businesses need to do more to stay competitive in the marketplace. Gaining the benefits of rich analytics, customization, and other features are solutions that can maintain your relevance. 

Now that you know about how Shopify’s new subscriptions API works and its limitations, here are the next steps that you should take to keep your business competitive in the subscription space. 

Schedule a Demo and see how Upscribe can provide a superior subscription experience for your customers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use an API with Shopify? 

Yes. Shopify will allow you to use APIs to add additional features and customization to your storefront. This enables connections with partnered applications like Upscribe that can enhance experiences for customers and provide rich data insights. 

These APIs do have limits, so it’s important to keep in mind the limitations that are available to you. Some of these limitations involve acceptable payment methods, discounts, and translations. You can learn more about the limitations of Shopify APIs for third-party applications on this developer page.

How Do Shopify Subscription APIs Work?

Shopify Subscription APIs, introduced in 2020, enable businesses to customize the subscription experience on their storefront. Not only can it allow for feature customization at checkout and elsewhere, but it can also provide useful data to 3rd party applications like Upscribe. In addition to these features, merchants can reap the benefits of advanced insights about their subscribers. 

How Has Shopify Unified Checkout Affected Online Storefronts? 

After Shopify Unified Checkout was rolled out, it became more accessible for merchants to provide subscription services to their customers. However, this has displaced some 3rd party applications that offer subscription features to Shopify storefronts. However, teams like Upscribe were able to adapt with early access to Shopify Subscription APIs.

Are 3rd Party Shopify Subscription Apps Obsolete? 

No. Although every merchant can use Shopify Checkout to create subscriptions, additional value can be added by using a 3rd party partner like Upscribe. 

The insights and integrations available through the use of Shopify Subscription APIs enable you access to additional data, features, and customization options. By enriching the experience of your customers and gaining access to these insights, you can get a leg up on your competition instead of using the stock subscription features that Shopify provides to everyone.