Create a WooCommerce subscribe and save system

Offering subscriptions for products in your eCommerce store is a great way to develop consistency in your revenue and manage inventory. They increase customer lifetime value, as they ensure that customers repeat purchases in your store. The Prospress blog has some fantastic examples of eCommerce businesses succeeding with a subscription model.

Product subscriptions aren’t just good for you—they also offer convenience and value for your customers, as customers benefit from having products they use consistently delivered without a second though on their part. For example, I love subscribing to products like hair shampoo and conditioner on Amazon, as I used to always forget to buy them when I ran out.

(Kissmetrics also has some great tips on improving your subscription product offering that can help you ensure customers get tons of value out of your subscriptions.)

Offering product subscriptions is simple with WooCommerce, and you can create a WooCommerce Subscribe and Save system to offer individual or subscription purchases of your products.

There are a few ways we can do this:

  • Grouped product: use a grouped product in our catalog to show both “versions” of the product (individual purchase and subscription)
  • Subscribe and save—the easy way: output the subscription product’s button above the current product’s “add to cart” button
  • Subscribe and save—the hard way: output the subscription product’s button below the current products “add to cart” button (requires some code)

If you choose the hard way, be sure you know how to add custom code to your site before doing so.

Set up subscribe and save products

First, let’s go through the setup you’ll need to do regardless of how your WooCommerce subscribe and save system is implemented. You’ll need to have WooCommerce (free) and WooCommerce Subscriptions ($199) installed and set up already. It’s also helpful to know how to get a product’s ID — if you don’t know how to do this, check out this guide.

We’ll need to create 2 products in your store: one for the individual purchase of the product, and one for the subscription purchase. These need to be created as separate products in WooCommerce so that it knows if the product is being purchased one time, or if a subscription needs to be created.

WooCommerce Subscribe and save individual purchase
Product – Individual Sale
WooCommerce Subscribe and save subscription purchase
Product – Subscription Sale
 

Once you’ve created these products, you may also want to consider if one or both should be hidden. For example, if you’ll be showing the subscription product only as part of a “subscribe and save” on the “individual purchase” product’s page, then you may want to hide the subscription version from your catalog. This will ensure it doesn’t show up on shop or category archives.

Change WooCommerce Product Visibility
Hide Product from Catalog

Now that you have these two products set up, you can continue on with the WooCommerce Subscribe and Save set up of your choice.

Grouped product subscribe and save

We have a tutorial on creating WooCommerce grouped products that will be helpful here and should be used as a guide. This set up will only work if your individual sale and subscription products are both “simple” type products that don’t have variations, as only simple products can be used as part of a group.

If you opt to create a grouped product, you’ll need to create a third product in WooCommerce: the “grouped” product that you’ll show to your customers. This product will then show both the individual sale and subscriptions sale products to customers at the same time, and the customers can choose which version they want.

Once you’ve created the grouped product, go back to both your individual sale and subscription sale products, and add them to the grouped product under Product Data > Linked Products:

WooCommerce product grouping

Once you’ve added both versions of your product to the grouped product, you may also want to hide those products from your catalog (if you only want to show them as part of the group). Customers can then choose which version to purchase from the grouped product itself:

WooCommerce Subscribe and Save Grouped Product

Above “add to cart” subscribe and save

If you want to show the subscription product as part of your “individual purchase” product, you can do so pretty easily with the help of a core WooCommerce shortcode: the Add to cart shortcode.

This shortcode outputs an “add to cart” button for a product, so we can use it on our “individual sale” product page to output an add to cart button for our subscription product. The format looks like this:

[add_to_cart id="99"] — replace the id with the ID for your subscription product.

The optimal place to use this is at the end of your individual sale product’s short description.

WooCommerce Subscribe and Save: Add shortcode

This will output your “subscribe and save” section right above the add to cart button:

WooCommerce Subscribe and Save version 1

Below “add to cart” subscribe and save

Last option: many companies, such as Amazon, offer their subscription options after the individual purchase options. If you want to add your WooCommerce subscribe and save option following your individual add to cart option, you’ll need a bit of code to do so. We can tie our individual sale and subscription purchase products together with a product custom field, then use some custom code to add the subscribe and save section.

First, make sure your subscription product’s short description is filled in — we’ll use this as the text right above the WooCommerce subscribe and save section.

WooCommerce subscribe and save product short description

Next create a custom field on your individual sale product. We’ll use the custom field to tell WooCommerce which subscription product is associated with this. You can do this in the “Custom Fields” meta box by clicking “Enter new” so you can add a custom name for the field.

WooCommerce subscribe and save add custom field
Add your custom field

Add a new field titled subscribe_save_id — if you change the title of this field, you’ll need to adjust the custom code snippet that follows. For the value of this field, enter the ID of your subscription product. Click “Add Custom Field” and save your product.

WooCommerce subscribe and save add subscription product id
Add Subscription Product’s ID

Now we have our subscription sale product tied to our individual sale product, but we need to tell WooCommerce to add the subscription product’s information to the individual product page.

This is where the custom code part comes in — we’ll need a snippet that (1) gets the subscription product ID from this field, and (2) adds the “Add to cart” shortcode if the field exists.

Once we’ve implemented this code, the WooCommerce subscribe and save section will appear right after the add to cart button on your product page. If a product does not have a “subscribe and save” ID set, then nothing will be added here.

WooCommerce subscribe and save after add to cart

If you want to change the way this section is output or extend this code, I typically recommend using Codeable for small code customization projects like this.

Key takeaways

Creating a WooCommerce subscribe and save system is simple, and there are multiple ways to show your individual sale and subscription options to your customers.

Doing so helps you develop more consistent revenue streams and improve customer lifetime value as they subscribe to your products, while your customers are happier since they can get products they use over and over without having to remember to re-order.


Beka Rice
Beka Rice is the Head of Product at Jilt. She works on app improvements, integration plugins, helping merchants improve recovery campaigns, and shares tutorials on reducing abandonment or improving recovery on our blog.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Beka,

    You are a life saver! This document is perfect for what I (think) need. I was beginning to think I had wasted $199 on WordPress subscription plugin.

    I want to implement the hard way – but becoming stuck on the custom fields – as I don’t have that option – what plugin did you use for this?

    Alanna

    1. Hey Alanna — try the “Screen options” in the top right of your screen and ensure “custom fields” is checked. These are a core WP option, but they may be hidden for you.

  2. This is a great write up thank you. Could these subscription options be applied when the product page is not for a particular size ( like in the example). Instead the product page has a drop down for different sizes. Can a subscription option be added to that product page as well?

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