How to choose
your subscription management solution

  • Identify the capabilities your business needs
  • Gain an in-depth understanding of your provider options
  • Receive a personalized subscription profile tailored to you

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A Merchant's Guide to Subscription Managmeent

What is subscription management?

Subscription management is the process of handling your customers’ subscriptions (including ways you allow them to handle their own subscriptions) to ensure they have a positive experience with your recurring products or services. These software solutions are more than home-grown fixes. They’re a curated assortment of tools and solutions that intertwine automated and manual actions, ultimately empowering merchants to build long-term relationships with their subscribers.

Choosing the right provider for your store all depends on your stage of business growth, type of product offerings, and the preferences of your unique customer base—and what works best for your competitors may not work for your brand.

Ready to identify your perfect solution? Let’s get started.

Which of these options best describes your store and current goals?

Ready to build out your tech stack for launching subscriptions?

It looks like you’re ready to build out your tech stack for launching subscriptions. Let’s dive in!

Are you actually experienced with subscriptions? Select another option above.

It looks like you’re ready to optimize your tech stack and take your subscriptions to the next level. Let’s dive in!

Not currently selling subscriptions, but looking to get started? Select another option above.

Please select an option above to move forward.

1. Business Stage

Why subscription management?

Build & optimize a recurring revenue stream

A subscription management solution is an invaluable way to launch your recurring offerings for the first time. Whether you’re new to the world of ecommerce, expanding rapidly, or mature and looking to scale your operations, choosing the right solution better equips you to meet your goals while increasing your retention and customer lifetime value (LTV).

Graph showing LTV increase when offering subscriptions

On average, merchants who offer subscriptions more than double their LTV. For certain verticals, this number is closer to 4–6x LTV.

Increase LTV with subscriptions

Subscriptions Subscriptions + One time purchases Subscriptions + OTP



For this exercise, we analyzed our book of business of 15k merchants. We calculate LTV using the following formula:

Subscriptions only, multiply by 1.7
Subscriptions + One time purchases, multiply by 2.3

What can the right subscription management solution do for your business?

Consolidate essential business functions

Consolidate multiple essential business functions around recurring orders, saving you time and money on the support end

Launch subscriptions quickly and easily

Launch subscriptions more quickly and easily—whether you choose an out-of-the-box-only or API-driven solution

Empower customers to make subscription changes

Empower your customers to make changes to their subscriptions, such as swaps, skips, and add-ons

Acquire new customers and build a loyal subscriber base

Focus on acquiring new customers and building a loyal subscriber base, setting your brand up for higher retention and customer LTV

Improve subscriber loyalty

As a current subscription merchant, you’re already tapped into the power of recurring revenue. But by optimizing your subscriptions, you can improve your subscriber loyalty, building long-term customer relationships that can take your business to the next level. It might be time to reassess your needs so both your business and customers can get the most out of your subscriptions.

Chart showing the relative cost to retain current customers and acquire new customers

Acquiring a new customer can cost five to ten times more than retaining an existing customer—but optimized subscriptions are uniquely primed for increasing brand loyalty.

What can the right subscription management solution do for your business?

  • Increase AOV and LTV
  • Reduce churn
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Gain more detailed customer insights through robust data capabilities
  • Save time with automated workflows
  • Empower your customers to manage their own subscriptions

How can your stage of growth impact your tech stack?

Step 1Select the business stage that best fits your store.

Newly started

Recently-launched stores often focus on a fast rollout—one they can set up as independently as possible—so they can start acquiring new customers and building up their recurring revenue stream.

Rapidly growing

Already-established stores typically focus on expanding their existing customer base and getting more out of their current customers through churn reduction, LTV growth, and engagement efforts.


Businesses who are sustaining growth at scale often share the priorities of rapidly growing stores, but with an added focus on business optimization. Automation, workflows, and scalability are priorities, as are more advanced analytics functions that allow greater insight into business health.

James Holding, Managing Director, Little Vitamin James Holding, Managing Director, Little Vitamin

2. Elements

Elements of a subscription management solution

There are five main elements of subscription management solutions. Let’s dive into each of these elements to help identify your priorities.

Step 2Star the elements most important to your business.

Subscription billing tools are the core product of a subscription management solution. These should include a recurring billing engine to automate the payments process and allow for pricing customizations (e.g. the ability to offer discounts). Base-level tax and shipping capabilities also fall under subscription billing, and are particularly important for businesses offering physical products. Depending on your business, you may need additional tax and shipping functionality from ecommerce solutions like Avalara.
Merchant tools are administrative tools that are only seen internally by the merchant. One important example is an admin portal (also referred to as a merchant portal), which allows for behind-the-scenes subscription management and built-in customer support. Additionally, these tools typically include a suite of platform-independent APIs and documentation, as well as the ability to create workflows for a variety of user scenarios.
Shopper tools are used by customers to manage their subscriptions. Within this category, the customer portal is a crucial tool that allows customers to manage their own subscriptions, view their order history, and more. This reduces both friction for subscribers and support needs on the business end.

Transactional SMS is another critical shopper tool that empowers customers to update
and manage their orders straight from their mobile device, giving them ultimate flexibility and control.

Other shopper tools include empowering customers to add one-time products to their subscriptions (cross-selling) or skip, swap, or reschedule a delivery. Additional communication features, such as the ability to enable email notifications, also fall under this umbrella.
Analytics tools are internal tools that are used to measure success and return on investment for your business. These tools vary from solution to solution, but frequently include an overview of your revenue, including revenue planning tools and a breakdown of your key performance indicators.

Other analytics tools include an overview of your customer base (including insights into your customer retention and breakdowns by customer cohorts). They can involve a performance tracking of your product SKUs
and variants to facilitate more accurate and seamless inventory management. They may also feature industry benchmarks that help you stack up your business performance against your competitors.

Customer actions tracking tools, which allow you to see how your customers are interacting with their subscriptions, are another important type of analytics tool. Finally, media attributions capabilities provide a breakdown of your customer engagement across different channels so you can more effectively target your efforts.
Payments tools center around security, payment processing, and logistics. These can include payment processor support and payment method support to make sure your payment options are accessible and seamless for your customers. Security measures, such as secure payment vaulting, also fall under this category. Payment tools also can include measures to prevent involuntary churn, like sending customers notifications when credit cards expire or retrying failed payments behind the scenes. They can even include pre-authorizations of transactions to facilitate more seamless subscription billing.

Create seamless customer experiences

When chosen correctly, a subscription management solution can help your business anticipate and meet your customers’ needs more effectively than ever.

Next, we’ll cover the tech stack needs of different types of subscription merchants.

Amer Grozdanic, Co-Founder & CEO, Praella Amer Grozdanic, Co-Founder & CEO, Praella

3. Solutions

Types of subscription management solutions

Each type of subscription management solution has its own unique focus, specialty, and potential risks.

Since you’re currently selling subscriptions online, you may already have one or more ecommerce solution providers in place for certain needs, like email marketing, shipping, or customer service. Based on those providers, you’ll need to choose a new subscription management solution that fits into that larger ecosystem.

Step 3Tell us a bit more about your store—we'll then recommend solution types for your business.

  1. What best describes the timeline and complexity of your launch?
  1. Which products will you offer on subscription?
  1. Which products will you offer on subscription?
  1. What best describes your business resources for launching subscriptions?
  1. What best describes your business resources for launching subscriptions?
  1. What is your level of experience with the ecommerce industry?
  1. What is your level of experience with the ecommerce industry?

Best for:

Small businesses Speedy launch

May not be fit for:

Brands looking to scale

What they do well:

  • Allow merchants to set up recurring billing relatively quickly and easily
  • Preferred for very small businesses, especially those who are launching subscriptions for the first time
  • Position themselves as “better” and “faster” than the old-school players; relatively newer to the market

Where they struggle:

  • Often not built or tested at scale; may struggle to support businesses looking for a scalable solution
  • Can lack development tools and support documentation, limiting development and requiring more manual upkeep
  • Excel at core features, but can be outpaced by competitors in terms of innovation
  • New-school, “changing the game” mentality may carry platform risk

Best for:

Maximum customization Ample budgets

May not be fit for:

Limited budgets Stores seeking ecommerce expertise

What they do well:

  • Highly-customized, “build-your-own” subscriptions option
  • Broad suite of APIs can enable custom subscription use cases (when paired with a strong development team)
  • A development team can also build strong integrations with other core ecommerce features

Where they struggle:

  • High cost of overhead and maintenance for internal development, operations, and customer experience
  • Typically a better fit for larger, more established businesses with a generous budget
  • May cause merchants to incur additional costs as their products evolve and their business scales
  • Cannot independently deploy specialized use cases; often, merchants will have to rely on external agencies for deployment
  • Requires internal expertise with ecommerce or a reliable development partner who can provide this

Best for:

Maximum customization Offering ecommerce expertise Ample budgets

May not be fit for:

Limited budgets Speedy launch

What they do well:

  • Highly flexible and customizable
  • Similar to API-only solutions, but built with the help of an agency or development partner who is experienced with ecommerce
  • Typically offer a white-glove support structure—attractive for those with complicated builds

Where they struggle:

  • High upfront costs and maintenance fees
  • Long development timeline
  • Businesses may risk having a one-off build that requires a specialized developer for upkeep
  • Endless customization can limit pace of innovation on their core products and pose difficulties with scaling
  • Changes are made strictly via additional project engagements, which can further increase cost and limit pacing

Best for:

B2B software companies

May not be fit for:

Physical subscription businesses

What they do well:

  • Built specifically for the digital products and core functions of software as a service (SaaS) businesses
  • Tend to be more established and mature than their competitors
  • Empower businesses to integrate into a wide range of payment processors, making payment options highly accessible

Where they struggle:

  • Lack the product capabilities for businesses specializing in physical products, such as shipping, tax, and related logistics capabilities
  • Not on the cutting-edge of research and development in the ecommerce space

Best for:

Physical subscriptions

May not be fit for:

B2B software companies

What they do well:

  • Holistic solutions, like Recharge, balance an out-of-the-box approach with an API-first foundation
  • Popular with subscription box businesses—enable merchants to launch physical product subscriptions quickly; power integrations with a variety of other systems
  • Offer out-of-the-box integrations with shipping, taxes, and inventory management systems
  • Can easily handle recurring purchases, one-time purchases, and mixed carts with both purchase types
  • Allow businesses to offer flexible checkout and delivery choices
  • Easily customizable for businesses as they scale; able to maintain pace with fast-growing merchants
  • APIs can be built with specialized use cases in mind, empowering development teams to be more creative

Where they struggle:

  • Some players may be outpaced in terms of support for niche use cases or new platform adoption
  • Require innovation at an API level while maintaining overall product stability
  • Require mature development teams, documentation, and processes to consistently deliver value

Other solution types

Other solution types on the market

Solution types

Solution types on the market—explore and star solutions that match your needs

We also recommend asking the following questions:

  • How does this solution fit into my overall tech stack?
  • Does implementing a solution fit in with my future plans and product direction?
  • If there are reviews of this solution, are they positive? Has this solution passed the requirements of my ecommerce platform?
  • How many subscribers do I want to gain, and by when?
Jack Swift, Senior Marketing Manager, Irish Titan Jack Swift, Senior Marketing Manager, Irish Titan

4. Integrations

Integration with ecommerce tools

Because subscription management solutions typically don’t cover every unique need of an ecommerce business, brands often need to integrate with more specialized ecommerce tools—like a marketing platform, or cross-sell and upsell applications—to complete their tech stack and create seamless user experiences.

Now, let’s break down the main types of ecommerce tools so you can identify the key players for your business.

Step 4Star the integration categories most important to your business.

Retention solutions
Retention solutions are loyalty and referral programs that result in better customer experiences and increased customer loyalty.
Payments solutions
Payments solutions ensure that all revenue from a merchant’s subscription business is easily and securely processed, and make payments accessible for customers. Payment providers can also help merchants integrate Apple Pay, SEPA, and iDEAL, creating a streamlined customer experience that could lead to increased conversions.
Tax solutions
Tax solutions offer tax calculation and returns remittance for merchants.
Analytics solutions
Analytics solutions capture customer data and turn those insights into actionable tactics.
Acquisition solutions
Acquisition solutions drive sales by leveraging subscriber data, and keep customers informed through relevant communication.
Cross-sell and upsell solutions
Cross-sell and upsell solutions use customer feedback and data to help merchants make targeted product recommendations.
Customer service solutions
Customer service solutions allow merchants to manage customer support for their subscriptions.
Fraud and intelligence solutions
Fraud and intelligence solutions help facilitate the approval of orders and avoid chargebacks.
Shipping solutions
Shipping solutions typically involve an aggregator that will integrate with popular shipping services like UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc.
Josh Garellek, Co-Founder & CEO, Arctic Leaf Josh Garellek, Co-Founder & CEO, Arctic Leaf

5. Next steps

Next steps before transitioning your subscriptions

Successfully transitioning to a new subscription management solution requires thoughtful planning and consideration. After all, you’re not only thinking about what your business will gain through changing subscription management solution providers—you’re also thinking about how to preserve the customer experience for your existing subscribers during the transition.

Is your business ready for the change? Use the lists below to make sure your bases are covered.

  1. Optimize your business before enabling subscriptions

Investigate your product-market fit

  • Consider which of your products are typically purchased more than one time by the same customers.
  • Think about whether replenishment, curation, or access subscriptions are best suited for your business.
  • Choose one or two products for your subscription launch—you can always expand later once you’ve honed your process.

Prioritize your customer experience

  • Consider whether your chosen providers make it easy for your customers to manage their own subscriptions.
  • Investigate whether the providers on your list allow you to offer your customers options to skip or swap products, change delivery dates, and other flexible options.
  • Assess how effectively your customer service team will be able to step in and provide extra assistance when needed.

Identify your subscription priorities

  • Determine your ideal launch date, as well as which subscription management providers will be able to meet it.
  • Assess which providers are best able to meet your customization and security needs.
  • Determine your budget, allocate your resources, and plan out your launch timeline.
  • Pinpoint the provider that will be able to grow with you to set yourself up for long-term success.
  1. Set up your logistics for future success

Set up your shipping

Important for businesses who sell physical products

  • Identify how you’re currently fulfilling your orders.
  • Identify the ideal carrier rates for your business.
  • Determine how your shipping rates may be applied depending on your chosen subscription management solution.

Evaluate if you have tax liability or tax nexus

Always consult with a local tax expert to ensure you’re charging customers the correct sales tax

  • Consider whether you have warehouses or distribution centers in a state. If so, you very likely have sales tax nexus in that state.
  • Consider the states in which you have sales transactions. Depending on the state, county, and district regulations, you may have certain tax liabilities if you meet the threshold.
  • Take stock of the products or services that you sell. For example, digital downloads or goods can have complex nexus rules that vary state to state.
  • Determine any U.S. states with which your business has physical or economic connections. For these states, you will likely need to charge sales tax.
  • Determine if your business needs to charge tax outside of the United States.
  1. Assess your analytics capabilities

Establish your baseline

  • Measure your baseline metrics (LTV, AOV, churn rate).
  • Determine which specific metrics you’d like to improve through a subscription business model.
  • Ensure your chosen solution can help you track these metrics over time.
  • Ensure your chosen solution can address other relevant analytics needs for your business, such as cohort tracking.
  1. Ensure a clean customer experience during migration

Maintain a top-tier customer experience

  • Identify opportunities for subscription customization. Confirm that your chosen provider will empower you to make these customizations.
  • Request migration success stories. These can help you determine if your potential vendor is well-versed in the unique challenges and priorities of your business.
  • Consider potential customer pain points in the transition (e.g. increased pricing, site downtime, etc). Be sure that your communication manages expectations about these changes.
  • Identify any ecommerce tools you’re already using, or would like to begin using. Ensure that your vendors offer robust integrations with those tools.
  • Determine whether you may need additional support from your subscription management solution. Ensure that your chosen vendor will assist you through the process during the transition.
  1. Deep dive into your subscription metrics

Gain a baseline for your business metrics

  • Conduct analysis on your metrics for retention, churn rate, and LTV, as well as any others that are important to your business.
  • Identify your current process for predicting and managing your churn, and how this could be handled with your new potential provider.
  • Consider which metrics you want to improve through optimizing your subscriptions.
  • Investigate trends in your customer feedback, particularly regarding cancellation reasons and subscription self-management.

Clear selections and start over

Sean Kelley, Client Director, Chelsea & Rachel Co. Sean Kelley, Client Director, Chelsea & Rachel Co.

Your personalized profile is here!

Ready to determine the right provider for your store? Use the personalized profile below to keep your priorities top of mind as you debrief with your internal stakeholders or attend a sales call.


Where you're at now

A store

What to focus on

Meeting your goals while growing your subscriber base and increasing LTV.

Improving subscriber loyalty, reducing churn, and building long-term customer relationships.

What to focus on
What you prioritize

A solution for that allows for , seamless integrations, and room to grow.

A solution for that allows for seamless integrations and room to grow.

Your starred solutions
Your starred integrations

Your subscription profile

Your subscription profile created by Recharge

Where you're at now

A store

What to focus on

Meeting your goals while growing your subscriber base and increasing LTV.

Improving subscriber loyalty, reducing churn, and building long-term customer relationships.

What to focus on
What you prioritize

A solution for that allows for , seamless integrations, and room to grow.

A solution for that allows for seamless integrations and room to grow.

Your starred solutions
Your starred integrations

Glossary of terms

Access subscriptions

Access subscriptions, which include memberships, grant exclusive access to discounts, early releases, content, and more (e.g. a subscription streaming service)


Average order value; a key metric representing the average amount of money a customer spends in a single transaction with a merchant


A marketing and sales tactic where customers are shown related products or services they can add on to their original purchase

Curation subscriptions

Curation subscriptions provide collections of products—typically chosen by the merchant, but at times selected by customers—that are organized around a certain theme (e.g. a monthly beauty subscription box)

Customer churn

When customers stop using a business’s products or services over a given period of time

Customer portal

A secure hub that gives your customers easy access to all relevant information about their business with you


Lifetime value; a key metric representing the profit a single customer brings in throughout their customer lifetime with a merchant

Merchant portal

An internal hub only viewable to you as a merchant that allows you to manage multiple aspects of your store, including analytics, product details, discounts, and more

Replenishment subscriptions

Replenishment subscriptions, also referred to as subscribe-and-save offerings, provide the same consumable products in each delivery (e.g. shipments of essential household cleaners)


Search engine optimization; the process of improving key areas of your web content in order to achieve higher ranking on search engines

Subscription management

The process of handling all aspects of your customers’ subscriptions, including the ways you empower them to manage their own subscriptions

Transactional SMS

A business strategy where merchants open up a line of communication with their customers via text message about their purchases


A marketing and sales tactic where customers are shown more premium, higher-priced products or services they can buy instead of their original intended purchase

Mick McCarthy, SVP of Design, The Stable Mick McCarthy, SVP of Design, The Stable

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