Top 5 Ecommerce Platforms for Subscriptions
From 2021 to 2022, the subscription ecommerce market cap increased from $72.91 billion to $120.04 billion—a little over 64%.
This growth is not only driven by customer preference for convenient and recurring payments, but also the availability of versatile ecommerce platforms designed specifically to meet the needs of subscription businesses.
In this Upscribe guide, we’ll be looking into a few of these platforms—including features, pricing, and pros & cons—to help you decide which one is best for you.
Ready to supercharge our subscription business? Let’s get started.
What Is a Subscription Ecommerce Platform?
Simply put, a subscription ecommerce platform is an ecommerce platform for businesses that generate some (or all) of their revenue through subscriptions.
A good subscription ecommerce platform is built with recurring revenue model in mind—allowing businesses to manage subscriptions, payment plans, product variations, and more. They also typically feature subscription management portals and messaging to simplify renewal, cancelation, and pausing for customers.
Subscription ecommerce platforms can either be standalone products that support the creation of subscription stores or integrated into existing ecommerce platforms.
Why Are Subscription Ecommerce Platforms Important?
Better Revenue Forecasts & Projections
Projecting revenue for a subscription business is a very different exercise than projecting one-time purchases. With subscription ecommerce platforms, businesses can better understand their customer base and predict future revenue more accurately.
Increased Customer Value & Loyalty
Subscriptions offer customers a “set it and forget it” approach to shopping that keeps them coming back every month (or whatever frequency of subscription you have). This helps to build customer loyalty and increase their lifetime value (LTV).
Increased Customer Retention & Relationship Management
A good subscription management platform will help you build strong, lasting relationships with your customers. Take Upscribe, for example—we give you all the tools you need to keep your customers engaged, from cohort promotions to frictionless account recovery.
Best 5 Ecommerce Platforms for Subscriptions
In a rush? No worries—here’s a rundown of the tools we’ll be covering below:
- Upscribe: Best Overall Choice for Subscription Businesses
- Shopify: Best for Industry-Leading Ecommerce Tools
- Recurly: Best for Payment Flexibility
- Sellfy: Best for Simplicity and Affordability
- BigCommerce: Best for Headless Commerce
Now, onto the tools.
Best Overall Choice for Subscription Businesses
Upscribe is a subscription management tool designed to supercharge subscriber growth with a range of powerful features.
With Upscribe, you can add subscriptions to your Shopify store in minutes, manage customer relationships and marketing campaigns, and set up payment plans—all from a centralized console.
Features like SMS- & email-based subscription management, customizable customer portals, cohort promotions, and flexible payment options arm you with all the tools you need to give customers an experience that keeps them coming back.
- Intuitive Customer Portals: Manage multiple subscriptions, product variations, and payment plans in one place.
- Multichannel Subscription Management: Allow customers to manage their subscriptions, payment plans, and more directly from SMS & email messages.
- Smart Communications: Use data to target recurring customers with messaging when it’s most likely to be effective.
- Powerful Dashboards: Get all the data and insights you need at a glance with powerful, customizable dashboards.
- Cohort Actions: Send targeted offers to your customers with segmented marketing campaigns and cohort-based promotions.
Upscribe only has one, all-inclusive plan—no need to worry about hidden fees or extras! The platform costs a flat fee of $300/month + 1% per transaction.
Pros & Cons
- Simple pricing structure
- Powerful subscription management features
- Intuitive customer portals
- Easy-to-use interface
- No free plan available
Best for Industry-Leading Ecommerce Tools
We’re gonna take a leap of faith and assume that as someone in the ecommerce space, you’re already familiar with Shopify—the go-to platform for global ecommerce.
Shopify also happens to be a great platform for managing subscriptions and subscriptions businesses, thanks to a solid foundation of ecommerce features and integrations with tons of dedicated subscription management apps like Upscribe.
- Apps & Integrations: The Shopify App Store holds 7,000+ apps (including Upscribe) and the platform integrates with thousands more. This makes it easy to add features, customize your store, and integrate with other services.
- Flexible Payment Options: Shopify has plenty of payment plans to fit your needs—including straightforward single-payment options, monthly payment plans, and even a free plan that charges 0% commission.
Shopify offers three basic plans—Basic Shopify ($39/month), Shopify ($105/month), and Advanced ($399/month).
Basic is decent, but most subscription businesses will want the additional features included in Shopify and Advanced. All plans cost just $1/month for the first 2 months, so don’t worry if you’re still on the fence!
Pros & Cons
- Industry-leading ecommerce platform
- Tons of apps & integrations
- Flexible payment options
- Pricing can be expensive (especially for the advanced plan)
- No native subscription features
Best for Payment Flexibility
Recurly is a well-known name in subscription management, with a set of features that make it great for international businesses looking for payment flexibility.
The platform is built to make recurring payments as painless and straightforward as possible, with support for 20+ payment gateways and 140+ currencies. Recurly also offers features like payment reconciliations, backup payment methods, and subscriber wallets—all of which make payments seamless for customers.
- Alternative Payment Methods: Give your subscribers the option to pay via Amazon Pay, PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, SEPA, Bacs, BECS, ACH, and more.
- Plans & Add-Ons: Create complex plans with add-ons, discounts, and custom prices to give customers more flexibility when subscribing.
- Lifecycle Communications: Automate emails, SMS messages, and other forms of communication to help keep customers informed and engaged throughout their subscription cycle.
Recurly offers a free Core plan that’s a great option for businesses earning up to $40,000/month in subscription revenue.
Beyond that, you’ll need to upgrade to either Professional or Elite, depending on the features you’re looking for. You’ll need to contact sales for a custom quote.
Pros & Cons
- Great free plan
- Dedicated subscription platform
- Accepts a variety of payment methods
- Easy to customizable plans and add-ons
- No publically available pricing
- Subpar customer support
Best for Simplicity and Affordability
Sellfy is an ecommerce platform built with simplicity in mind.
The platform boasts an intuitive user interface, easy setup times, and a range of native features to help you create subscription-based products. You can also use Sellfy to manage recurring payments, create coupon codes for discounts, and track customer analytics—albeit without all the bells and whistles of other platforms on this list.
- Easy Setup: Get an online store (complete with subscriptions) up and running in just a few minutes.
- Affordable: Plans start at just $19/month and you will never be charged transaction fees.
- Built-In Tools: Gain access to a capable set of built-in tools for upselling, email outreach, promotions, pixel tracking, and subscriptions.
As we mentioned, the Starter plan costs just $19/month for stores that earn less than $10,000 in revenue per year.
Beyond that, there are two more advanced plans—Business ($49/month) and Premium ($99/month). If your store earns more than $200,000 per year in revenue, you’ll need to contact sales for a quote.
Pros & Cons
- Inexpensive plans
- Easy setup times
- Built-in marketing tools
- Not as many features as other platforms on this list
- Customer support could be better
Best for Headless Commerce
BigCommerce is a popular headless commerce platform with a great set of features for managing your ecommerce business.
Like Shopify, BigCommerce lacks native subscription features like recurring billing and subscription analytics—you’ll need to add these in via third-party apps. That said, BigCommerce is a solid foundation to build on, with powerful APIs that let you sell pretty much anywhere.
- Unlimited Products & Staff Accounts: Create as many products and staff accounts as you need on every plan.
- Plug and Play Commerce Engine: Add ecommerce functionality to existing sites, apps, and platforms in minutes.
- International Payment Processing: Sell to customers anywhere with BigCommerce’s integrated payment gateways.
BigCommerce offers four plans, starting with the Standard plan ($29/month).
From there, you can upgrade to Plus ($79/month), Pro ($209/month), or Enterprise (custom) depending on the number of storefronts and advanced features you need.
Pros & Cons
- Generous plans
- Advanced security measures
- Powerful APIs
- More expensive than some other options on this list
- More technical than other options
- No native subscription features
Choose a Purpose-Built Ecommerce Subscription Platform
Subscription ecommerce businesses have unique needs that not any old ecommerce platform can meet. That’s why it’s so important to take your time and research the right platform for your business.
Upscribe is a purpose-built tool for managing subscriptions, growing subscription revenue, and long-lasting relationships with customers. From self-service portals and smart payment options to advanced analytics and dashboards, Upscribe arms you with all the tools you need to delight your customers.
Ready to give your subscription business a boost? Schedule a demo and see what Upscribe can do.