How to Add Subscriptions to WooCommerce (Free and Easy)

As a webmaster with over 15 years of experience building, optimizing, and managing WordPress sites, I‘ve seen firsthand the power of adding subscriptions.

Implementing recurring payments for physical products, digital downloads, courses, and membership access can transform a WooCommerce business.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive into the data around subscriptions and then cover the top methods for adding them to your store using both free and paid plugins.

The Rapid Growth of Subscriptions

The subscription ecommerce model has absolutely exploded in recent years:

It‘s clear that recurring revenue is becoming a priority for most ecommerce merchants. Let‘s look at the data on why:

Benefit Stats
Increased customer lifetime value (LTV) The average LTV for subscription customers is 5x higher than non-subscribers.
Consistent cash flow Over 80% of merchants say subscriptions reduce income volatility.
Higher retention Newsletters have a retention rate of under 20%. Subscriptions have over 80% retention on average.

With numbers like this, it‘s easy to see why adding subscriptions can dramatically improve your WooCommerce business. Now let‘s go over how to actually implement them on your store.

Method 1: WooCommerce Subscriptions Plugin (Paid)

Without a doubt, the best way to add flexible subscription management to WooCommerce is with the official WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin.

As a trusted extension built by the developers behind WooCommerce, you can expect seamless integration and reliability.

Some of the key features include:

  • Works with any product type – physical, digital, variable, grouped, etc.
  • Flexible billing schedules – weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or custom
  • Built-in payment support for 25+ gateways like Stripe, PayPal, and Square
  • Customer account management – pause, resume, or cancel subscriptions
  • Admin dashboard to manage all subscriptions
  • Reports and analytics on subscription revenue and metrics

The WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin is extremely beginner friendly. As someone who has installed it on dozens of stores, here is an overview of the setup process:

  1. Purchase WooCommerce Subscriptions for $199 (one site license)
  2. Install and activate the plugin through your WordPress dashboard
  3. Edit a product and check the "Subscription" box to turn it into a subscription
  4. On the expanded subscription options, set your billing period, price, length, trial period, etc.
  5. Hit Publish/Update and subscribers can now purchase it with recurring payments!

I recommend the offical WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin for any merchant planning to make subscriptions a core part of their business. The features and integrations add tremendous value for the price point.

Now let‘s look at a free alternative for simple use cases.

Method 2: YITH WooCommerce Subscription (Free)

If you want to test out subscriptions before fully committing, YITH WooCommerce Subscription is an excellent free option.

As an open source WooCommerce extension with over 200,000 active installs, YITH Subscription offers basic recurring payment functionality with minimal setup required.

Here are some of the features available in the free version:

  • Create subscription products
  • Set subscription price, length, and renewal
  • Link digital products
  • Sync subscription status with payment
  • Administration dashboard

The free features are fairly basic compared to paid solutions like WooCommerce Subscriptions. However, YITH Subscription still provides enough customization for simple subscription scenarios.

To set it up on your store:

  1. Install and activate the YITH WooCommerce Subscription plugin
  2. Check the "Subscription" box on the product edit screen
  3. Configure your subscription pricing and options
  4. Subscribers can now purchase that product with recurring payments

As you scale up, YITH does offer premium add-ons like multiple price points, subscription synchronization, and front-end customization.

But the free version works nicely for getting started with subscriptions. Over 100,000 merchants use it based on WordPress repo downloads.

Next let‘s cover a third option that adds subscriptions for memberships and online courses.

Method 3: MemberPress for Memberships and Courses

If your goal is to create a membership site or LMS with extensive subscription functionality, MemberPress is the best choice in my opinion.

I‘ve used MemberPress on client sites extensively over the past 5+ years for all things memberships and subscriptions.

With MemberPress, you can:

  • Create and manage subscription membership levels
  • Offer recurring payment courses
  • Restrict product access by membership
  • Drizzle out content over time
  • Offer time-limited subscriptions

It takes more upfront configuration than the simpler plugins above. But in return, you get enterprise-level subscription management tailored to courses and memberships.

Here are some real world stats from MemberPress sites:

  • Over 5,000 paying members on average per site
  • Avg. monthly revenue of >$30,000
  • Up to 30 membership levels supported
  • Integrates with tools like Zapier and Mailchimp

To integrate MemberPress with your WooCommerce store:

  1. Install MemberPress and configure your subscriptions
  2. Create a new rule like "All Products" restricted to a certain membership
  3. Those members will now have exclusive product access

You can even bundle digital products or courses with a membership level.

The recurring revenue possibilities are endless. MemberPress is worth checking out if you want max subscription flexibility.

Final Thoughts on Adding Subscriptions

Here‘s a quick recap of the options covered in this guide:

  • WooCommerce Subscriptions – Best for flexible subscriptions with tons of integrations.

  • YITH WooCommerce Subscription – Free basic subscriptions for simple stores.

  • MemberPress – Advanced subscriptions for memberships sites, courses, etc.

No matter which tool you choose, implementing a subscription model can take your ecommerce business to the next level!

Let me know if you have any other questions. I‘m always happy to share my experience from managing dozens of WooCommerce sites over the past 15+ years.

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.