ProgramMatek: An Introduction to Woocommerce Variable Subscription

This article serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding the features available to store managers with the Woocommerce Subscriptions extension.


The Woocommerce Subscriptions extension offers a range of features that enable store managers to create simple or variable subscription products. These features are similar to those found in Woocommerce for normal products, making it easy for users familiar with Woocommerce to navigate the subscription product creation process.

Creating a Subscription Product

To create a subscription product, follow these steps:

  1. Go to: WooCommerce > Products > Add Product.
  2. Select either Simple Subscription or Variable Subscription as the product type. More on Variable Subscriptions below.
  3. Set the terms for the subscription, including price, billing interval, billing period, length, sign-up fee, and trial period (optional).
  4. Add the necessary product details as instructed by Managing Products.
  5. Click Publish.

Add Subscription Product

Flexible Recurring Billing Schedules

Subscriptions offers great flexibility when it comes to scheduling renewal payments for your subscription products. By default, you can charge renewal payments on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis, at any interval between 1 and 6 (inclusive).

For example, if you want to charge a payment every two weeks, simply set the price to “every 2nd week.” If you prefer to bill quarterly, set the price to “every 3rd month.”

Flexible Recurring Billing Schedules

Subscription Length and Expiration

With the “Expire after” field, you can set a predetermined duration for a subscription. Once a subscription reaches its maximum length, it expires and is no longer active.

However, subscriptions with “Never expire” set in the “Expire after” field can renew indefinitely, as long as the renewal payments are successful.

For instance, if you have a one-year magazine subscription billed monthly at $5/month, the subscription length would be 12 months, and you’d set the “Expire after” field as “12 months.”

Setting the subscription length (the "Expire after" field)

Free Trial Periods and Sign-up Fees

Subscriptions allow you to incorporate a free trial period at the beginning of a subscription. This period is added to the duration you set for the subscription. For example, if you create a subscription for $5 per month for 6 months with a 1-month free trial, the subscription will expire after 7 months.

See also  Leveraging QR Codes for Your WooCommerce Business

When a subscription includes a sign-up fee but no free trial period, the initial payment consists of both the sign-up fee and the price per period. On the other hand, if a subscription has both a sign-up fee and a free trial, only the sign-up fee is charged at the start of the subscription period. If there is no sign-up fee, no payment is charged initially.

If you enable the option to allow $0 initial checkout without a payment method and there is no sign-up fee, subscriptions will be moved to the “On Hold” status after the trial period, awaiting payment for their first renewal order.

Variable Subscription Products

The Variable Subscription product type is similar to the Variable Product type. Each variation in a Variable Subscription can have unique attributes such as sign-up fee, trial period, recurring price, billing period, and subscription length.

Variable Subscription Attributes Screenshot

Limiting Subscriptions

You can use the Limit Subscription feature to restrict customers to having only one subscription. To set this up:

  1. Go to: WooCommerce > Products > Edit Product for the desired subscription product.
  2. Select Advanced in the left menu.
  3. In the Limit Subscription section, choose how to limit the subscription from the dropdown.

Limit Subscriptions Setting

When a subscription is limited, customers can only sign up once. If a customer cancels their subscription, they need to resubscribe by clicking the Resubscribe button next to the subscription on the My Account page. Unless the store manager permanently deletes or trashes the subscription, the customer cannot purchase the same subscription product again. This system ensures that each customer account only receives one free trial period for a product.

Shipping Options

Shipping for subscription products is typically charged on the initial order and all subsequent renewal orders. However, some products, such as mobile phones with a data plan, only need to be shipped once at the start of the subscription.

The One Time Shipping option introduced in Subscriptions v2.0 allows you to charge shipping fees only once, on the initial order.

To enable one-time shipping for a product:

  1. Go to: WooCommerce > Products > Edit Product for the desired subscription product.
  2. Select Shipping in the left menu.
  3. Check the One time shipping checkbox.
  4. Click Update to save the changes.

One Time Shipping Checkbox on Edit Product Screen

Pricing and Minimum Amounts

When creating a subscription product, you need to specify the price customers will pay for each billing period. Customers pay this amount initially, along with any sign-up fee (unless there’s a free trial period). Furthermore, customers pay this amount on a recurring basis at the beginning of each billing period.

See also  Accepting ACH Payments in WordPress: A Smart Choice for Your Business

Please note that when using Subscriptions with WooCommerce Payments, there is a minimum amount limit for the subscription price field. This limit prevents customers from being blocked during checkout while attempting to purchase a subscription below the minimum threshold that WooCommerce Payments can process.

If you encounter a warning, make sure to enter a price above the specified minimum unless you intend for customers to exceed the minimum by purchasing in larger quantities or with additional subscription products.

Subscriptions by WooCommerce Payments, minimum amount warning

Coupons and Discounts

WooCommerce Subscriptions allows you to apply coupons to subscription products. When a coupon is applied to a subscription product, both the sign-up fee and recurring amount of the subscription are reduced, but only for the first payment.

To discount only the sign-up fee or all recurring payments, you can use subscription-specific coupons. Subscriptions offer two new coupon types:

  • Recurring Product Discount: This coupon type reduces the ongoing payment amount for a subscription by a fixed value. For instance, a $10 recurring coupon will discount all recurring amounts by $10. If the subscription product’s price is less than $10, the subscription will be free for the entire duration.
  • Recurring Product % Discount: This coupon type offers a percentage discount on the recurring amount.

Furthermore, Subscriptions allows you to limit a Recurring Discount coupon to a specific number of payments. By specifying the number of payments, the coupon will only apply for that duration before being automatically removed from the subscription.

Limited Subscription Payment Coupon Setting

Subscription Management

Woocommerce Subscriptions provides an administration page called Manage Subscriptions, which allows you to view and manage subscriptions ordered through your store. To access this page, go to WooCommerce > Subscriptions within the WordPress admin dashboard.

On the Manage Subscriptions page, you can change the status of a subscription by hovering over it and selecting the desired action. You can temporarily pause a subscription by clicking Suspend, resume a suspended subscription by clicking Reactivate, or permanently stop a subscription by clicking Cancel.

For more information on suspension and other subscription management features, refer to the designated documentation.

Additional Features

Woocommerce Subscriptions offers several additional features to enhance your subscription-based store:

  • Mixed Checkout: This feature allows customers to purchase subscription products along with other products in the same transaction. By default, Mixed Checkout is enabled, making it easier for customers to buy more and include subscriptions in product bundles.

  • Drip Downloadable Content: Enabling this feature allows you to gradually provide access to downloadable files on subscription products. By default, adding a new downloadable file grants access to all subscribers. However, with Drip Downloadable Content enabled, access to new files is only granted after the next renewal payment.

  • Customer Suspensions: You can set a maximum number of times a customer can suspend their account within each billing period. This feature ensures better control over the suspension process for both you and your customers.

  • Automatic Payment Retries: Subscriptions offers an option to automatically retry failed recurring payments, saving you time and reducing the likelihood of missed payments.

  • Renewal Synchronization: You can align subscription renewal dates to specific days of the week, month, or year. This feature helps ensure a smoother renewal process for both you and your customers.

See also  Analyzing Issues with Woocommerce Analytics

These features, among others, can be accessed and configured via the Woocommerce Subscriptions settings screen.

Integration with PayPal

Woocommerce Subscriptions comes with built-in support for two different PayPal payment methods: PayPal Standard and PayPal Reference Transactions via Express Checkout.

By default, Subscriptions uses PayPal Standard, which is easy to configure. With a valid PayPal business account and the correct IPN setup, you can start receiving recurring payments from customers without any further setup.

If you require advanced features or need to overcome some of PayPal Standard’s limitations, you can apply for PayPal Reference Transactions. Note that approval for Reference Transactions is subject to a fully underwritten application, which includes a review of your business model and finances.

For more information on PayPal integration, including API setup and account management, refer to the dedicated documentation.

Using Shortcodes and Customizing Emails

Woocommerce Subscriptions offers several convenient features to enhance the user experience and communication process:

  • Shortcodes: You can use the [[subscriptions]] shortcode to display a list of subscriptions on pages other than the customer’s My Account page. This allows you to provide a more comprehensive subscription overview for your customers.

  • Customizing Emails: Woocommerce Subscriptions includes a variety of emails that communicate important subscription-related events. You can customize, enable/disable, and configure recipients for these emails within the Woocommerce settings. Customizing emails helps you maintain a consistent brand image and improve customer engagement.


With the Woocommerce Subscriptions extension, ProgramMatek provides store managers with the tools they need to create and manage subscription products effectively. From creating simple or variable subscriptions to offering flexible billing schedules and discount options, Woocommerce Subscriptions empowers businesses to thrive in the subscription economy.

To learn more about ProgramMatek and explore their other offerings, visit ProgramMatek.