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Building Apps With the New Subscription APIs


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Today, more than ever, subscription services are a big part of the everyday lives of most North Americans. Of course, the digital heavy hitters such as Netflix , Amazon Prime, and Spotify are all familiar to us all. In fact, many likely find it difficult to imagine getting through a day without at least one of them.

But for a long time, subscription services have been around and they've never been strictly digital. The start of the subscription business model was somewhat similar, depending on mail systems to receive and deliver customers. With instructions.

Today, many retailers take a hybrid approach and combine e-commerce productivity and size with physical subscriptions and packaged goods that have been purchased historically by brick-and - mortar retail.

Physical subscriptions: Relatively fresh but rapidly catching up.

Brands like Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron are possibly familiar to you. The forerunners of physical subscription commerce have long been known as them. They were among the first merchants to see the advantage of having for items that consumers enjoy, "Subscribe & Save" choices.

In recent years , thousands of subscription companies have been introduced, making it one of the most interesting e-commerce categories, and a rising number of consumers are taking note.

Reports in 2011 indicated that subscription e-commerce companies created $57 million in revenue to put this sector's growth in perspective. The number had already shot up to $2.6B by 2016. And it does not seem to be slowing down. Just down.

What about the rest of the industry?

Those are the figures for the entire industry. But what do we expect from deeper diving? It wasn't an option until recently. There was very limited data available, apart from the aforementioned success storeys, that looked at the physical subscription market from something other than a 30,000-foot view.

That all changed at ChargeX 2019 last September, when ReCharge provided proprietary details on the state of physical subscription commerce. In 12 separate verticals, this data came from more than 4,000 clients and it let us dig down deeper than ever before.

How plan type affects subscription schedules

Interestingly, both Subscribe & Save and Box plan types have a nearly identical percentage of customers choosing a monthly plan (55% and 57% respectively). Whether it’s a regular shipment of a single product or a selection of new products, people like to see them show up at the same time every month.

Within Subscribe & Save plans there is growing interest in custom delivery cadences. This level of personalization allows customers to choose a delivery frequency that makes the most sense for them and reduces the likelihood of churn due to surplus deliveries — one of the most common reasons that customers cancel a subscription.

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Smol is a direct-to-consumer laundry detergent pods company. Their checkout flow puts customers through a two-question quiz to determine both the appropriate amount of product to send and the optimal frequency of deliveries.

Merchants offering Box plans have higher proportions of quarterly, semi-annual, and annual plans on offer, indicating that customers are willing to make longer-term commitments for curated items that tend to be more discretionary. We believe this is likely due to the excitement around the un-boxing moment

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Subscription schedules by vertical

When comparing plan lengths by vertical, monthly subscriptions dominate for categories like Health & Wellness, Beauty, Home, and Fashion. While products in these groups may not always be considered essentials, they do tend to have devoted customer followings.
Custom plan lengths; however, far outweigh monthly plans for Coffee, Beverage, and Pets — verticals that are generally more essential to the customers receiving them. In these verticals it becomes clear that the convenience of being able to choose a delivery schedule offers a significant advantage.

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Shopify Subscription APIs - The slow-mo game changer!

Shopify launched subscription APIs in October 2020, which will enable partners and developers to create new subscription experiences directly inside Shopify Checkout. With this latest update, you can now use the Shopify Subscription APIs and Product Subscription App Extension to create apps that support evolving merchant business models.

These new APIs and extensions to the app will allow you to:

  • Develop subscription apps that Shopify Checkout is native to. Focus on enhancing the purchase and management experience of subscriptions on top of the quick and secure checkout of Shopify.
  • Your app remains compliant with platform functionality (like Shopify Purchases, delivery, discounts, monitoring, etc.) and the entire app ecosystem with subscription orders generated and handled by Shopify.
  • Powering new business models that are not yet available on Shopify. The new APIs are designed to enable you to build new ways of selling for tomorrow while selling subscription products is a recognized merchant need today.

As of now, Shopify gives out three different subscription APIs and tooling that include,

  • The Selling Plan API
  • The Subscription Contract API
  • The Customer Payment Method API

Before getting into the nerves and finding out how Shopify Subscription API matters to developers, let us take a quick look at some of the Shopify principles that have guided their approach to extending the Shopify platform to support subscriptions.

You May Also Like to Read: Changes in the Shopify Eco Space

Before getting into the nerves and finding out how Shopify Subscription API matters to developers, let us take a quick look at some of the Shopify principles that have guided their approach to extending the Shopify platform to support subscriptions.

#1 - Using checkout to guarantee quality, integration, and sustainability

Checkout is where the eCommerce platform's key business rules come together and determine how much, what terms, and how they will be charged. It's also the location where binding contracts are made and money is exchanged. Checkouts must be reliable and have the highest performance and reliability levels on a global scale.

Ensuring the usage of Shopify's checkout by subscription merchants ensures performance and alignment with Shopify's core feature set and app ecosystem, both today and in the future. As both Shopify and its ecosystem evolve, to guarantee a sustainable long-term journey for merchants, checkout is essential.

#2 - Modeling and storing subscription data in Shopify

Shopify must model and store information about how the company truly operates in order to maximize merchant success. This means that vital information can be accessed by both Shopify and apps to help merchants understand and expand their business.

The following data is foundational to how a merchant's business works:

Shopify - Services_includes What subscriptions are offered

Shopify - Services_includes Who the subscribers are

Shopify - Services_includes What products they are subscribed to

Shopify - Services_includes How customers are paying for their subscriptions

Shopify - Services_includes How subscription data changes over time

To maximize the merchant's experience, subscription data must be stored in Shopify. Having key business data in a single, central location is beneficial for merchants and helps to reduce the cost and risk of synchronization across multiple systems.

#3 - Benefits of modeling and storing subscription data in Shopify

By modeling and storing subscription data, Shopify is able to offer merchants many benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Recurring revenue reports on active subscribers, new subscribers, churned subscribers
  • Shopify Email campaigns targeted to new subscribers or churned subscribers
  • Shopify Flow workflows triggered by a subscribed churned or a new subscriber
  • We encourage partners and developers to use the subscription data in Shopify and go beyond the above examples to provide creative solutions for merchants.

#4 - Selling a product in multiple ways

Previously, Shopify treated what a product is and how it is sold as the same thing.

A shoe is priced at $10 and you can buy it now. That's it.

Shopify has established merchandising by starting to distinguish "what" and "how" from each other. In multiple ways, a single product may be sold. In multiple ways, a single product could be sold. A product can, for instance, be sold both as a one-time purchase and as a subscription.

Shopify aims to give merchants the ability to sell their goods and expand in all the innovative ways that help push their business forward and to provide developers with the resources to help enable new ways of selling that go beyond.

#5 - Creating solutions for subscription management

Management of subscriptions is a complicated issue that has many innovative solutions. It is a deep and dynamic domain that operates through sectors, physical versus digital products, and large versus small businesses, very differently.

We assume that many excellent solutions are feasible and desirable at the same time. A different merchant segment can be targeted by each solution. The role of Shopify is to build a platform that allows the emergence of these multiple solutions.

Coming to the point, How Shopify Subscriptions API matters to the Shopify developers?

Shopify in its recent article made it super clear & easy by making a clear division of responsibilities between Shopify and apps.

Shopify developers, at this point, should be able to create apps that provide creative user-facing workflows and automation of subscription management.

Responsibility Shopify App
Models and stores subscription business data Shopify - checked Shopify - checked
Bills and processes subscription payments (both initial purchase and renewals) Shopify - checked Shopify - checked
Schedules and automates the billing of subscriptions Shopify - checked Shopify - checked
Provides a subscription management user interface Shopify - checked Shopify - checked

In context with the new Subscriptions API, this is how Shopify App developers should model their Apps

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  • Merchants build and treat how they want their goods to be marketed.
  • Customers buy subscriptions and update (such as changing their payment method) their subscriptions.
  • Shopify first generates a transaction and only orders when a customer purchases a subscription. Shopify produces a subscription contract after the transaction and order are created and creates a billing attempt on the initial purchase.
  • Subsequent orders from clients are automated by the app. Based on the current subscription contract using the API, the app generates a billing attempt. A transaction and an order are created when a billing attempt is created by the app.
  • When subscription-related events occur, the app collects webhooks, manages payment errors and scheduling, and provides both clients and merchants with a user interface for subscription management.

Shopify provides the following developer tools and services to help the developer community build and manage subscriptions:

App proxy

To retrieves information from an app proxy server to be shown on an online store website. Customers will have a smooth experience handling their subscriptions under the domain of the store with the use of an app proxy.

Storefront Liquid drops and properties

Liquid drops and features enable you to incorporate sales plans and subscriptions into the theme of a store.

App extensions

You must use app extensions to surface app subscriptions in the Shopify admin. Refer to Getting Started on creating a product subscription app extension to get started with app extensions.

Want to build your own Shopify Subscription Apps?

HulkApps can dramatically transform your experience in the subscription ecosystem. If you want to test how your subscription performs- if your customers like them or not, Shopify Subscription is a quick way to confirm these anticipations. Build your Shopify Subscription Apps with HulkApps, test your journey, and adjust to how your customers prefer it. Reach us today!


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