How to Build a Subscription-Based Store on WordPress
Technology is always changing around us. As it evolves, we fit it into our lives and make changes to how we operate. Business is no different. While in the recent past online subscriptions were reserved only for a certain sector of businesses (think magazines), we’re now surrounded by subscription services, chatbots and live chat tools bringing us everything from our weekly meals to mystery boxes or video content.
As it turns out, the subscription model works for so many different types of businesses. Because it’s such a common thing today, it’s surprisingly simple to build your own subscription-based WordPress (WP) website for whatever you’re offering.
Understanding Your Target Audience
The market for subscription boxes is vast. There’s already something for everyone, so you first have to understand exactly who you’re targeting. You’re more likely to succeed if you narrow your market to a specific niche from the start. If you gain some traction, you can expand that niche to appeal to more people, but you should start small to test the market.
Depending on the size of the market and the type of subscription service you’ll be offering, your next steps may differ. But, the general process is the same for all types of subscription websites.
You have to start out with the right foundation to build your subscription website. If you’re using a free site hosted by WP, you won’t be able to make a subscription website. Instead, you need a WP site that’s self-hosted. All this means is that you’ll purchase a hosting plan and install WP as the back-end of your website. Hosting plans are widely available at reasonable price points for whatever you need.
Once you’ve got a self-hosted website with WP installed, you can move on from there.
Using Plugins Vs. Building the Service from Scratch
If you run a giant, multi-million dollar online company, you may want to build your own back-end subscription membership software platform. If you’re anyone else, this is probably an unnecessary upfront cost. There are plugins available that are already set up to help you configure the site you need for a fraction of the cost of developing your own software.
Subscription content services will use different plugins than subscription box services. Find a plugin that offers the right type of membership or subscription features to make your business possible. Common features of these plugins include:
- Payment Gateways
- Tiers of Membership/Subscription
- Username & Information Storage Systems
- Automatic Restricted Access Options
- Automated Communications (Emails, SMS, or otherwise)
- Customizable Online Shopfront
- Theme Options
Not every feature offered is useful or relevant to you. All you need to do is make sure the features you see are going to make sense for your specific business. You may not need to restrict access to certain pages, but you will definitely need a payment gateway and a system to allow people to register an account and log in.
Customizing & Making Choices
Once you have your WP plugin, you have an infinite number of choices ahead of you that will impact how your website looks and how it functions. Decide how your web pages should look and operate, how your online store will look, which payment methods to accept, how many levels of subscription you’ll have, and more.
Many of these choices will be influenced directly by your target market. Let’s look at an over-simplified example. Company X is a subscription wine service. They have a few options to match their website to their business model:
- Send out a specific bottle of wine every month to every customer
- Send out some number of unique wine bottles monthly, dependent on subscription tier
- Charge customers a base price & work with that budget
- Charge customers within a specific range, adjusting to the price of the wines sent out
- Allow customers to choose how many bottles to receive or which bottles they want
Each of these 5 options has subtle differences in how Company X would set up their website, both in the back end and the customer-facing front end. If they decided to market to a high-end customer, they may choose to offer 3 different subscription options that give customers a different number of bottles selected monthly by a professional sommelier. If their market was more budget-friendly, they may choose to offer the same wine within a set budget.
The example of Company X just works to show you how much wiggle room you have. Depending on what you’re offering and who you’re offering it to, you can adjust everything to fit your niche as well as possible.
The final step you want to take is to set yourself up for successful long-term website management. This means getting your analytics in place, keeping up with evolving market trends, and marketing your service.
All businesses need to know how things are going. Make sure you’re getting data from your website. Most WP themes or subscription plugins make this part really easy. The data will automatically be compiled and presented to you in an easy to understand format.
It’s good to learn how to read and understand the analytics from your business. Once you know the basics of what they mean, take a look at the data on a regular basis to track your performance over time.
To keep your website relevant, you need to be aware of trends and movement in your industry and online in general. Regular reading can help you stay on track. Read the news, market and customer service statistics, industry innovations, business magazines, and anything else that might give you some meaningful insights.
In terms of how your website is set up, the biggest points to focus on are your content and SEO optimization. Well written content stays relevant for a long time. When you pair clear, concise written content with attractive images, infographics or videos, you end up with a website that looks great and allows people to navigate through your shop and the various pages without hassle. SEO is something that works in the background of great content, and it generally needs a little ongoing support to continue working as it should.
Even if you don’t feel comfortable doing these things for yourself, there are many freelancers who make a living by creating great website content and working on SEO for people just like you. Consider it as part of your setup and maintenance costs.
WP is a great platform to start working on a new business website. With the right plugin and a good understanding of your target market, you can get a new subscription-based WP website up and running in an afternoon.
Georgi Todorov is a digital marketer, specializing in Outreach strategies, International SEO and Influencer Marketing. He recently started his own blog about digital marketing called DigitalNovas and joined GetVoip to provide his marketing expertise.
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