Adding a subscription element to your eCommerce store is a great way to boost your revenue. If implemented correctly, subscriptions place the customer at the center of the shopping experience, providing convenience, flexibility, focused spending, and continuous rollout of new options and improved interaction with your brand. 

In case you were wondering, customers really like to be the center of attention. Case in point: 70% of business leaders say subscription business models will be key to their prospects in the years ahead.

“But, with all those perks--flexibility, convenience, continual improvements--isn’t this going to be a royal pain in my ass?”

Oh, we’re so glad you asked!

Shopify supports several third-party subscription apps, but there are two industry leaders which truly take the headache out of eCommerce subscriptions: ReCharge and Bold. These work directly with your payment gateway to handle recurring billing with ease. While their core provisions are the same, each has its own set of perks and quirks. Ahead, we’ll break them down and help you decide which may be best for you.

Subscription Apps for Shopify

The Core Provisions

There are five features that these heavy hitters have in common:

  1. Recurring subscriptions (duh). Both apps support recurring billing through an approved payment gateway and the addition of subscription products to your website. They’ll even pull shipping costs and taxes directly from Shopify!

  2. Customer portal. Customers are granted access to a personalized portal, where they can manage and change subscription information, including delivery dates, payment info, and more.

  3. Customized recurring subscriptions. Both apps support more sophisticated subscription products, like mystery kits and “build-your-own” boxes. (However, it’s worth noting that ReCharge has significantly more flexibility in this area.)

  4. Customer retention. Customers only remain customers if they continue paying for their subscription, which can only happen if their payment information is up to date. Both ReCharge and Bold will send your customers an email whenever their credit or debit card’s expiration date draws near. 

  5. Analytics. Both platforms offer analytics baked right in for easy reference and management.


The Unique Features of ReCharge & Bold
ReCharge

In contrast to Bold--which offers a full suite of apps unrelated to subscription (more on that later)--ReCharge focuses solely on subscription and recurring billing services, meaning their team does nothing but focus on delivering the best possible technology for both. 

How It Works

Since ReCharge is built exclusively for Shopify, the app integrates seamlessly into your admin dashboard. When someone orders a subscription, it will show up in Shopify Orders instantly. You’ll never miss an order in fulfillment, inventory, accounting, email marketing, or anywhere else it counts.

You can also set parameters surrounding your subscriptions, such as billing on specific days, allowing subscriptions to be created with no inventory, or giving customers the option to skip or pause a subscription.

Automated Workflows

ReCharge allows you to “set it and forget it” with a whole gaggle of automation features. For example, you can set up an automatic workflow that gives subscribers a free trial, and then rolls them into a paid subscription when it expires.

On-Brand Customer Portal

ReCharge makes it easy to design the customer portal to match your brand. You can use the out-of-the-box template or build something completely custom and unique to you--the benefit of which is, of course, a seamless branding experience for your customers and a portal that’s custom-tailored to your business’s unique needs.

ReCharge API

If you’re not afraid of a little coding (or are willing to hire a developer), you can customize your subscriptions using ReCharge’s API. Available customizations include improved reporting and analytics, trigger-based emails, SMS, and automated discounts and cancellation flows. 

Generous Free Trial

The Standard plan is free for the first $100,000 in transactions, after which you’re charged a monthly fee, plus nominal transaction fees. For entrepreneurs just getting their feet wet with subscriptions, that first $100k with no fees can make all the difference!

ReCharge Rates

Standard Plan: A flat fee of $60 per month and a per-transaction fee of 1% + $0.05 (after the $100k transaction limit is reached)

Pro Plan*: A flat fee of $300 per month and a per-transaction fee of 1% + $0.19 

*With the Pro Plan, you get extra goodies like a custom domain, enhanced analytics, and one-time products.

Ecommerce Subscriptions

Integration Station 

ReCharge plays nice with dozens of other popular services and apps. To name a few:

    • CartHook
    • Google Analytics
    • Klaviyo
    • Referral Candy
    • Zapier
    • Loyalty Lion
    • One Click Upsell
    • Smile
    • Gorgias

Downsides of ReCharge

The main downside to ReCharge is the limited payment gateway options it supports: Stripe, BrainTree, or Authorize.net. That said, while each gateway has its own pros and cons, chances are one of them will meet your needs--rendering this downside moot. 


Bold Subscriptions

As the name suggests, Bold Commerce offers more than just subscriptions. They have a whole library of apps meant to augment the customer experience, such as Bold Upsell, which offers customers a product that complements what they are buying, and Bold Loyalty Points, which allows customers to earn points as they shop. 

We’ll let you peruse those add-ons while we dive into their Subscriptions app. 

How It Works

Bold Subscriptions runs harmoniously with Shopify’s inventory tracking system, meaning an order will process based on inventory levels reported in your Shopify admin dashboard. If inventory can’t be found, the order will be held, and you’ll receive an email about the missing products, giving you time to resolve the issue or reach out to the customer about the shortage. (You can also automate those shortage emails to customers.)

If you decide you don’t want to sell based on real inventory, you can easily allow overselling so that orders will process even if the products are “sold out.” 

Other settings you can personalize include choosing anniversary or specific monthly billing dates, and having a buffer period between subscription orders.

Gift Subscriptions

Who doesn’t want presents showing up at their door every month? Setting up gift subscriptions with Bold couldn’t be easier. Customers simply check the “Is this a gift?” box at checkout and enter the recipient’s address.

(To be fair, ReCharge has this functionality as well--it just takes a little more legwork to make it happen.)

How to Set Up Subscriptions Shopify

Wide Variety of Payment Gateways

Unlike ReCharge, Bold supports a ton of payment options. (More than 20!) Some of the most popular are:

    • Stripe
    • BrainTree
    • Authorize.net
    • PayPal
    • MasterCard
    • Fat Zebra
    • QuickPay

60-Day Free Trial

The first 60 days of using Bold are free, giving you a chance to look around and test all the features to see if it’s right for you. After the trial, you’ll pay a monthly fee (slightly lower than the cost of ReCharge), plus transaction fees. 

Bold Rates

Essentials Plan: $39.99 per month + a 1% transaction fee

Advanced Plan: $199 per month + a 1% transaction fee

Downsides of Bold

Even though Bold’s customer portal is customizable, there’s only so much you can do (and you’ll need to know CSS to get it done, which has limitations). The API gives you more flexibility to create a custom customer portal, but those permissions only become available on the Advanced plan. 

Another downside is that Bold doesn’t integrate with as many apps as ReCharge does. Aside from other Bold apps, it also works with:

    • Google Analytics
    • Facebook Pixel
    • Referral Candy
    • Refersion
    • Klaviyo
    • Zapier

And a couple of others.

Shopify Subscriptions

Which Shopify Subscription App Should You Use? 

Both ReCharge and Bold have their merits. 

If you’re looking for….

    • API access without the premium price tag
    • An app (and support team) focused exclusively on subscriptions and recurring billing 
    • Ultra-flexible integration options 
    • No fees for the first $100,000 in transactions

...then we recommend ReCharge.


If you’re looking for….

    • An app that’s part of a bigger collection of apps, designed to work together 
    • 20+ payment gateway options
    • Robust analytics without the premium subscription price
    • Slightly cheaper plans 

...then you may want to consider Bold.

 

ReCharge (Standard)

Bold (Essentials)

ReCharge (Pro)

Bold (Advanced)

         

Payment Management

3 payment gateways + customer retention tools

20+ payment gateways + customer retention tools

3 payment gateways + customer retention tools

20+ payment gateways + customer retention tools

Order Management

Yes

Yes 

Yes 

Yes

Integrations

30+ 

8+ 

30+ 

8+ 

API Access

Yes

No 

Yes

Yes

Enhanced Analytics

No (Basic only)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Custom Customer Portal

Limited

Limited

Yes

Yes

One-time Products

No

No

Yes

No

Priority Support

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

What Now?

“OK, I know which app I want to use. How the heck do I get started?”

You’ve got questions--we’ve got answers! Tako Agency is a certified partner of both ReCharge and Bold, which means we’re experts in migration, customization, configuration, and design. Onward and upward, with subscriptions for Shopify! 🚀

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