Creating Subscription Products on WooCommerce: The Complete Guide

The WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin allows WooCommerce store owners to easily kickstart their subscription business. It’s an effective tool that turns physical and virtual products and services into a variety of subscription options, boosting the store’s recurring revenue and paving the way for exponential business growth.

Much like how you can create simple and variable products on your WooCommerce store for on-demand sales, the Subscriptions plugin allows you to turn those same products into simple and variable subscription products.

This allows customers to purchase products or services on a recurring basis, which offers them convenience and cost savings while providing store owners with more predictable revenue streams.

Simple Subscription Products Vs Variable Subscription Products

A simple subscription product is a subscription for a unique stand-alone product or service without variations, for example, electronic books and magazines or a fixed service such as a web design & maintenance package.

In contrast, a variable subscription product is a subscription for a product with variations in color, size, quantity, flavor, price, etc, such as T-shirts, coffee beans, pet food, and more.

This complete guide to creating subscription products on WooCommerce will take you through each step of the process so you can get your subscription business up and running in no time!

Creating a Simple Subscription Product

1. Add Product Details & Subscription Terms

The product creation process for simple subscription products is similar to the process for creating regular products on WooCommerce.

  1. Under WooCommerce > Products > Add Product, select Simple Subscription as the product type.
  2. Set your required subscription terms such as price, billing frequency and period, sign-up fee, and trial period, if applicable.
  3. Fill in the necessary product details and attributes and hit publish.
Create Simple Subscription

For those of you who prefer a quick video walkthrough, here’s a useful video demonstration by WooCommerce on creating a simple subscription product:

2. Set the Renewals Payment Schedule

WooCommerce Subscriptions offers great flexibility in setting subscription renewals for your products and services.

Standard features of the plugin include the ability to charge renewals daily, weekly, monthly or annually, besides the option to set the subscription frequency at every 1 to 6 months.

For fortnightly renewals, simply set the renewal frequency to every 2nd week, and for quarterly billings, set the subscription price to every 3rd month.

Select subscription frequency

3. Assign the Subscription Period

The “Expire after” field offers the ability to set an end date for a subscription. Subscriptions with a value in this field will automatically expire after the predetermined duration. On the other hand, subscriptions with Never expire in the Expire after field will keep renewing unless there are issues with the renewal payments.

Example: We are selling a one-year digital magazine subscription at $5.90 per month, billed every month. In this case, our subscription period would be 12 months with the billing frequency set at every month. It would look like the following:

Subscription price: $5.90 every month
Expire after: 12 months

Select subscription period

4. Free Trial Periods & Sign-Up Fees

Free Trial Periods

Going back to our example of the digital magazine subscription, we can choose to add a free trial period as an added incentive for new subscribers.

Say we offer a 12-month subscription at $5.90 per month with a 1-month free trial period, this means the subscription will expire after 13 months.

Sign-Up Fees

This is a useful feature for subscription products that involve a one-time setup or administration cost. A sign-up fee is an additional charge to the subscription price.

If we decided to charge a $20 sign-up fee on top of our $5.90 per month subscription price, the customer would be charged a total of $25.90 for the first payment. However, the payment process differs if there is a free trial period included.

Payments for Subscriptions with/without Free Trial Periods and/or Sign-Up Fees

Depending on whether a subscription includes a sign-up fee and/or a free trial period, the first payment varies accordingly.

Subscriptions that include a sign-up fee but no free trial period will charge the total amount of the sign-up fee and subscription price per period for the first payment.

This means that if we were to charge a $5 sign-up fee with our $5.90 per month subscription, the customer will be billed $10.90 for the first month.

However, if we include both a sign-up fee and a 1-month free trial, the customer will only be charged the sign-up fee when their subscription is activated. If we don’t charge a sign-up fee but offer the free trial, the customer won’t be billed anything for the first month of their subscription.

Creating a Variable Subscription Product

Each variation in a variable subscription product can have unique product attributes as well as an individual SKU, sign-up fee, trial period, subscription price, billing period, and subscription length. This offers greater flexibility and allows store owners to promote individual items as needed.

1. Add Product Details

Under WooCommerce > Products > Add Product, select Variable subscription as the product type.

Create a Variable Subscription

2 Add Product Attributes for Variations

Before creating product variations, first, you need to add the necessary product attributes. There are two types of attributes:

  • Global attributes that are commonly applicable to various products (such as size and color), and
  • Custom attributes that are specific to the product variation (e.g. T-shirts with illustrations or unique prints, or coffee beans that are organic and Fairtrade-certified).

Global Attributes

  1. Create a global attribute by going to Products > Attributes and adding the attribute name and slug—e.g. Color—then select Add Attribute.
Create global attributes
  1. The attribute is then added to the table on the right.
Attribute list
  1. Select “Configure terms” to add attribute terms.
Configure attribute terms
  1. You will be directed to the following page to edit the attribute terms, which in this case is Product Color.
  2. Add the attribute term name and slug, e.g. Blue, and select Add new Color.
Add new attribute term
  1. You will see ‘Blue’ added to the table on the right.
Attribute term list
  1. If you wish to use any of your global attributes for product variations, add them to the product and make sure you select the Used for variations option (as per the screenshots below).
  2. Hit Save attributes.
Add a new attribute to a variable subscription
Add attribute values

Custom Attributes

Here are the steps to create unique attributes specific to the product:

  1. Select Custom product attribute and click Add.
  2. Name the attribute. For example, we’re selling sustainably sourced coffee beans. We’ll name this attribute ‘Sustainable Sourcing’.
  3. To create a list of values, separate each value with a vertical pipe [ | ]. It will look like this: [Organic | Fairtrade | Single-Origin].
  4. Tick the Used for variations option—this ensures that these attributes are enabled for creating product variations later.
  5. Hit Save attributes.
Add custom product attribute
Define custom product attribute

3. Create Product Variations

Now you’re ready to create product variations. You can do this manually or let WooCommerce automatically generate all possible combinations of variations using the attributes and values created.

Add Variations Manually

  • Go to the Variations tab, click on Add variation from the drop-down menu, and hit Go.
Add variations to a variable subscription
  1. Select the relevant attributes for your variation.
  2. Select Add variation and make any necessary edits to the available data by selecting the respective options from the drop-down menu.
  3. Select Save changes.
Define variable subscription product variation

Create All Possible Variations Automatically

  1. Select Create variations from all attributes and click Go. This will generate a maximum of 50 variations per run from both global and custom attributes. You will see a pop-up window notifying you of the variations generated. Repeat until it says ‘0 variations created’.
Create variations from all attributes
  1. For example, we have two attributes for our coffee beans—Size [250g | 500g] and Sustainable Sourcing [Organic | Fairtrade | Single-Origin]. The system will create the following variations:
    • 250g Organic
    • 250g Fairtrade
    • 250g Single-Origin
    • 500g Organic
    • 500g Fairtrade
    • 500g Single-Origin
  2. Once you’ve created all possible variations, click Save changes.
Save all product variations

4. Add Variation Data

You can create unique subscription terms and data for each product variation, which includes the following and more.

  • Downloadable Product
  • Virtual Product
  • Regular Price (required): This is the usual price for this variation.
  • Sale Price (optional): This is the promotional price when the variation is on sale.
  • Stock Management
  • Back Orders (only if Manage stock? is selected)
  • One-off Signup Fee
  • Free Trial (days, weeks, months, years)
  • Recurring Subscription Price (daily, weekly, monthly, annually)
  • Subscription Expiry
Add variation data

WooCommerce Subscriptions provides a great foundation for any e-commerce subscription business and allows you to quickly start generating recurring revenue from your WooCommerce store.

But once your subscription business starts growing, you might want to take it to the next level by offering a more personalized and enriching subscription experience for your customers.

Keep Your Customers Happier, Longer

It’s a simple but proven formula: the happier your customers are with your product or service, the longer they will remain active and be less likely to cancel their subscription.

Offering great subscription experiences that wow and delight is critical to minimize or prevent churn (loss of subscribers). Feature-rich subscription plugins can be real game-changers here.

Instead of limiting customers to the same products they initially selected at the point of subscription, imagine how delighted they would be if they had the freedom to create their own mix & match subscription boxes for each delivery.

You could also offer customers the ability to add new products to their existing subscription, which indirectly enables subscription upgrades and adds to your recurring revenue.

Another way to add flexibility is to allow customers to switch to a different product variation on their subscription.

There are countless ways to deliver highly personalized subscription experiences that increase subscriber loyalty and create sustainable growth for your subscription business, but this depends on the subscription plugin you use.

You can find a number of subscription plugins in the market, but if you’re looking for a WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin, Subscription Force is currently the only full-featured extension in this segment that provides all the features you need (and more!).

Ready to level up your WooCommerce subscription business? Subscription Force will help you awe and delight your customers, giving them every reason to stay active and loyal for as long as possible. Explore our plans.

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