Introducing Shopify Subscription API: An Innovation for Merchants

Shopify is continuously advancing the world of commerce by evolving its platform to support various merchant business models. To drive constant innovation, Shopify recognizes the importance of its partner ecosystem. However, until now, developers faced limitations when it came to creating new ways of selling products on Shopify beyond one-time purchases.

That’s why Shopify has developed the Subscription APIs and the Product Subscription App Extension. These powerful tools enable partners and developers to build subscription experiences directly within Shopify Checkout. With these APIs and app extension, you can:

  • Build directly into Shopify Checkout: Create subscription apps that enhance the buying and management experience, leveraging Shopify’s fast and reliable checkout system.
  • Fully integrate with Shopify: Utilize the latest APIs to create and manage subscription orders while remaining compatible with important platform features like Shopify Payments, shipping, discounts, and reporting.
  • Solve emerging merchant needs: Empower yourself to create new business models that are yet to be available on Shopify. While selling subscription products is a known merchant need today, these APIs pave the way for innovative ways of selling in the future.

Why We Built Subscriptions This Way

Our Subscription APIs and Product Subscription App Extension empower developers to focus on innovation, while Shopify ensures a seamless and trustworthy checkout experience. Let’s understand the reasons behind building subscriptions in this manner.

Build on Shopify Checkout

subscription apis: example

Over the years, Shopify has prioritized building the most scalable, resilient, and conversion-optimized checkout in the industry, earning customer trust worldwide. Now, developers can build directly on Shopify Checkout, eliminating the need for merchants to choose between selling subscription products and using Shopify’s checkout. This means buyers can enjoy a friction-free checkout experience, whether they are purchasing a one-time or recurring product.

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As a developer, building on Shopify Checkout ensures a performant customer experience. It has been extensively tested through over 1.8 billion orders to date and remains compatible with all future updates and optimizations made by Shopify.

Complete Customer Data

With subscription orders created and managed by Shopify, merchants have access to complete customer data for both one-time and subscription purchases. By storing subscription data within Shopify, merchants can benefit from features like:

  • Gaining insights from recurring revenue reports on subscription customers
  • Targeting subscription customers exclusively through email campaigns
  • Setting up automated workflows triggered by subscription customer actions

Data plays a crucial role in helping merchants understand their subscription customers better and grow their subscription businesses. This approach also ensures that all partner apps and integrations used by merchants can access the same data.

Business Model Flexibility

The Subscription APIs allow developers to explore new ways of selling that go beyond Shopify’s default “buy now” model. We want to enable you to build exceptional apps and tailor experiences to specific merchant segments and their unique needs. As part of our subscription offerings, we’ve introduced the Selling Plan API, which supports both recurring and non-recurring business models, empowering developers to create new and exciting experiences.

How to Get Started with Subscription APIs

To begin working with the Subscription APIs and the Product Subscription App Extension, review our comprehensive developer documentation and developer guide on migrating existing subscription contracts to Shopify. Here’s an overview of the available tooling:

Subscription APIs

The Subscription APIs provide the architecture needed to support new selling methods and functionality:

  • The Selling Plan API extends Shopify’s merchandising model, enabling new ways of selling variants beyond the traditional “buy now.” Utilizing this functionality eliminates the need for customizing the checkout process, resulting in the best experience for merchants, customers, and developers.
  • The Subscription Contract API facilitates the creation and management of subscription contracts. After a customer purchases a subscription product during checkout, Shopify generates a subscription contract and shares it with your application using a webhook. We also support Local Delivery and Pickup in-store, allowing partners and merchants to manage the delivery methods of a subscription contract, giving customers more choice and flexibility in receiving their subscription products.
  • The Billing Cycle API empowers you to make temporary changes to one or more subscription contracts over a specific period. With the Billing Cycle API, you can modify subscriptions to allow customers to skip deliveries, ship replacement products for out-of-stock items, or combine subscription contracts to save on shipping and billing costs.
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The Customer Payment Method API represents stored payment methods that customers can use to pay for future orders without going through the checkout process manually. During checkout, customers are asked to grant permission for Shopify to “vault” their payment method when purchasing a subscription.

Product Subscription App Extension

In addition to the Subscription APIs, we have introduced the Product Subscription App Extension. It enables content from your app to appear directly within Shopify, allowing merchants to create and manage subscription plans directly in the admin.

Applying for Access and the App Review Process

To build a subscription app for Shopify merchants, you’ll need to apply for access, develop your subscription app, and submit it for review (a necessary step for any app launching in the Shopify App Store).

Due to the paramount importance of security for our Subscription APIs, there are additional steps to consider during the app development process.

Applying for Access

When you start developing a subscription app, you must apply for access to two protected scopes:

  • read_customer_payment_methods: This scope allows your app to read customer payment methods.
  • write_own_subscription_contracts: This scope enables your app to read and write subscription contract mutations for the contracts it owns.

This extra step ensures that these scopes are used as intended, particularly when it comes to customer payment methods. If you have already received access to these scopes during the early access period, there is no need to reapply.

To request access, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your app’s overview page in the Partner Dashboard and click on App setup.
  2. In the Orders section, click on Request access to Subscription APIs.
  3. Provide a description explaining why you are applying for access.
  4. Click on Request access.
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The Subscriptions section will indicate that your request is pending approval. Upon approval, you’ll see a Manage subscriptions banner. If your request is denied, you’ll see a Request denied banner with options to obtain further details or appeal the decision.

The App Review Process

Many developers aim to have their apps published in the public Shopify App Store. You can begin by familiarizing yourself with how the review process works and how to submit your app.

In addition to the general requirements for all apps in the app store, subscription apps must meet specific criteria for both the storefront and admin to pass the review process (refer to section 13). The review process typically takes ten business days.

Get Started Now

Begin your journey of building apps that cater to new business models and address merchant needs by utilizing Shopify’s Subscription APIs today. Let the power of innovation guide you towards success.