Subscription Billing Plans

Unlike most cloud based eCommerce platforms, LemonStand includes built-in features for recurring subscription billing as well as standard billing for one-time purchases. 

You can create and customize 1 or more subscription billing plans with varying billing schedules, fees and incentives and offer some or all of your products for sale on a recurring subscription basis. Best of all, no third party apps are needed, you can accept recurring credit card payments using any of our 90+ Standard type payment methods, and we don't charge any extra transaction fees on top of what your payment processor charges.  

This makes LemonStand a great choice for subscription box businesses, online retailers who want to add a "Subscribe and Save" option to their standard one-time purchase offerings,  and even subscription innovators who need a lot of flexibility to offer customizable subscriptions with free trial packs, self-service options for updating subscription item selections and more. 

To learn how to set up and manage subscriptions in your LemonStand store, check out the articles listed below.

Important Subscription Help Articles 

Subscription Enabled Themes

When setting up subscription plans and products, it's important to be aware that not all LemonStand themes have recurring subscription features built-in by default.  Below is a list of themes which currently support subscription features out of the box (with more on the way), so make sure to install one of these if you're looking to test out our subscription features or need a reference theme for a custom design. 

  • Frescobox - Beautiful, sales-ready theme with lots of customization options for subscription only or a mix of subscription and one-time products - best for merchants who want something more "out of the box"
  • Bones - Our bare bones developer theme - packed with features but minimal design styling - best for merchants who are working with a developer and want a completely custom design for their subscription store

And just so that you know, it's possible for a developer to customize any of our other free themes to include subscription features or even build a completely custom subscription theme, so if you're interested in learning how to do this, check out our theme documentation on implementing subscription features.  

As an FYI, we can also help you connect with an experienced LemonStand developer if you need help with theme customization. 

Future plans

We're continuing to expand and improve our subscription and recurring billing functionality. To learn more about this and some of the other great product improvements we're working on, you can check out our public roadmap.

What is a Subscription Billing Plan?

In order to sell your products on subscription, you'll need to set up at least 1 subscription billing plan (all trials have one added by default). A subscription billing plan defines the business rules for products that are ordered on a recurring basis. These business rules include the billing cycle on which orders are billed and shipped, any setup fees or recurring discounts, as well as any special incentives such as discounts on the first order, a free trial period and/or a free trial gift product that may be included for new subscribers.

Managing Subscription Billing Plans

Subscription Billing plans are managed on the Business Settings > Subscription Billing Plans page in your LemonStand store admin. Here you can see a list of any existing billing plans that have been created for your store.  The list can be filtered if needed by using the tabs at top, which will group a subset of all billing plans together based on the schedule type. From this page you can also add, edit and delete billing plans. We'll cover each of these actions in more detail below.

Adding Subscription Billing Plans

To add a new subscription billing plan, click the Add a Plan button from the list view shown above. This will open up a screen where you can configure settings for this plan. We'll cover each area of the plan configuration settings below.

General Settings

All subscription billing plans require that you configure a Name and a Code as show below.

Name

The Name field is a customer friendly short text description that will usually be displayed in your store front-end when customers are selecting the subscription plan they'd like to order one or more products on. 

Code

The Code field is typically used by developers in your front-end theme code for automatically subscribing to a specific plan without needing users to select it from a drop-down list. It's a required field that can only include latin letters and numeric digits so give it a simple and unique code, usually a simplification of whatever you've set the Name field to be works well.

Most Recent Renewal

The most recent renewal is a display field which will show the most recent date on which any subscription(s) associated with the billing plan last renewed. 

Next Synchronized Renewal

The next synchronized renewal field shows the next date on any subscriptions associated with the billing plan will be renewed if the billing plan is configured to charge subscribed customers on the same date (as described below). To adjust the next synchronized renewal date for all associated subscriptions, you can click the edit button and select a new date. Once updated, all associated subscriptions will renew on the updated date.  

Billing Cycle Settings

The billing cycle settings allow you to set the schedule on which subscription orders and payments related to a billing plan will recur. 

Charge Customers On Subscription Creation

If checked, the "Charge customers on subscription creation" checkbox allows you to ensure that all customers will be charged immediately when they first sign up to a subscription associated to this billing plan. If unchecked, customers will not be charged until the first scheduled renewal.

Charge Subscribed Customers On The Same Date

Checking the "Charge subscribed customers on the same date" checkbox means that all subscribers to this billing plan will be renewed on the same date as defined by the Day of the Month/Week you've set (see above). 

Schedule

4 billing plan schedules are currently supported:

  • Every X Days: Renews a subscription, completes payment and generates an order for fulfillment every X days (ie. x=14 days for biweekly). The number of days is entered manually when this schedule type is selected.
  • Monthly: Renews a subscription, completes payment and generates an order for fulfillment every month
  • Every X Months: Renews a subscription, completes payment and generates an order for fulfillment every X months. The interval for the number of months is adjustable when creating the billing plan (ie. x=1 months for monthly, 3 months for quarterly, 12 months for annually, etc.).
  • Weekly: Renews a subscription, completes payment and generates an order for fulfillment every week 

Interval

For plans set to use either the "Every x days" or "Every x months" schedules, you can set the number of days or months for the schedule by editing the value the Interval field. For example, if you use the "Every x days" schedule and set the interval to 14, subscriptions will renew every 14 days. If you use the "Every x months" schedule and set the interval to 3, subscriptions will renew every 3 months. 

Day of the Month/Week

For plans set to use either the "Every x months" or "Monthly" schedule, when they are set to charge subscribers on the same date (details further below), a "Day of the Month" menu will be visible. This menu will allow you to choose a specific day of the month on which all subscriptions associated with this billing plan renew. You can choose the "First day", "Last day" or "Specific day" option. If you choose the "Specific day" option, you'll be able to select the day from the Specific Day menu described below.

For plans set to use the "Weekly" schedule, when they are set to charge subscribers on the same date (details further below), a "Day of the Week" menu will be visible. This menu will allow you to choose a specific day of the week (ie. Monday, Tuesday, etc.) on which all subscriptions associated with this billing plan renew. 

Specific Day

For plans set to use either the "Every x months" or "Monthly" schedule, when the Day of the Month is set to "Specific day", a "Specific Day" menu will appear and allow you to choose from a list of all days of the month. This would allow you to set things up so that all subscriptions associated with this plan would renew on the 15th of the month for example. 

Customer Settings

Customer settings allow you to configure self-service scheduling options for your subscribing customers. 

Allow customers to reschedule or skip dates:

If checked, allows your subscribing customers to reschedule or skip upcoming renewal dates from their account in your store front end. This gives your subscribers some control to make adjustments for holidays or similar so that they can keep their subscription active but not pay for or receive shipments that are inconvenient for any reason. 

Allow customers to generate extra paid orders

If checked, allows your subscribing customers to initiate a payment for an extra order prior to their upcoming renewal. This is great for subscription businesses with consumable products, where your subscribers may have run out of their previous shipment of goods early and not want to wait until their next renewal to receive more. 


Setup Fees and Discounts

Set-Up Fee or Percentage

You can optionally include a setup fee, which will only be charged on the initial signup transaction. This fee can either be set at a specific fixed price or can be applied as a percentage of the cart subtotal when a customer signs up and checks out.  The setup fee will be added to the shopping cart subtotal when the cart or items in the cart includes this billing plan.  

Discount Percentage

You can also optionally assign a discount percentage. This discount percentage will be applied to the cart subtotal (including any set up fee defined) when the cart includes this billing plan. This discount is often used to allow retailers to offer a "Subscribe and Save" type of incentive on products they also sell as one-time purchases.

Plan Incentives

The plan incentives configuration options allow you to set up special incentives to encourage your customers to sign up to a subscription.

Trial Period

If you'd like to offer a free trial period you can check this checkbox and configure the number of days you'd like the trial to last before shipping the first renewal order. This is often used in combination with the sample or gift product described below - which allows you to offer your customers a chance to try out some sample products first and subscribe to a recurring subscription that starts once the trial period ends. 

Harry's and many other huge subscription success stories have used this approach to acquire customers very quickly.

Discount the First Order

Checking this allows you to offer a promotional discount on the first order of a billing plan. For example, if you have set your store to use $ and want to offer $20 off the first order, you'd set the value to 20. If you wanted to offer the first order free (outside of a free trial), you could set the discount to 100%.  

Include a Sample or Gift Product

Checking this checkbox allows you to select a product from your product catalog that will be included in the first order. If you've set up a trial period, your sample or gift product will be the only product in the first order, which will be generated on subscription sign up.  Otherwise, it will be included with the first order alongside other subscription products but will not recur. If you want this product to be a free gift product, you should set its price to 0. If the price is > 0, it will be added to the charge for the first order.

Email Templates and Notifications

The subscription email templates configuration provides a list of all available email notification templates that can be triggered by subscription related events.

Upcoming Subscription Renewal Notification Settings

You can optionally configure up to 2 renewal notification emails to remind your subscribers that they have an upcoming renewal. Both can be set to a number of days prior to the renewal date if desired. Make sure to always set the first reminder to a higher number of days than the second if you plan to send 2 reminders.

Editing Subscription Billing Plans

You can edit any existing subscription billing plan's configuration settings by clicking on the plan you'd like to update from the list described above.  

If there are any customer subscriptions associated with the billing plan you update at the time of the updates, they will be affected by these changes.

A summary of what effect changes will have for existing subscriptions is below:

General Settings

These changes will update the label and code associated with all existing or new subscriptions, including where they are displayed on your store front-end.

Billing Cycle Settings 

Any changes to the Schedule, Interval and/or Day of the Week/Month settings (if the "Charge subscribed customers on the same date" is checked) will be applied to all subscriptions. This will result in updates to the upcoming renewal dates relative to the last renewal date for all plan subscribers as well as the new settings being applied to all new subscribers.

Changes to the "Charge customers on subscription creation" setting will only apply to new subscribers.

Set-Up Fees and Discounts

Changes to the Setup fee will only apply to new subscribers, since this is only charged on the first order of a subscription. Changes to the Discount percentage will be applied to all new and existing subscriptions. This means that the total of the upcoming renewal amount for existing subscriptions will change based on updates to this setting.

Plan Incentives

Changes to any of the plan incentives will only be applied to new subscription signups.

Email Templates and Notifications

Changes to any of the email notification templates or upcoming subscription renewal reminder settings will be applied to all new and existing customer subscriptions for the updated plan.

Deleting Subscription Billing Plans

You can delete a subscription billing plan by clicking the checkbox next to it in the list as shown below and clicking the Delete button.

Failed Renewals - Dunning Management

LemonStand has some built in features for dunning management to enable automatic charge retries of a declined card for a subscription renewal. If a subscriber's card is declined when a renewal attempt is made, it triggers an email to be sent to the subscriber using the "subscriptions: billing declined" email template. This allows you to automatically notify your subscriber that there is a problem renewing their subscription and to ask them to update their card details if necessary. 

Renewal Retry Attempts

After the first failure occurs, the renewal will be retried every 24 hours after the initial decline up to 2 more times (a total of 3 attempts over 3 days).  On each additional failed attempt, it will trigger another email to the subscriber using the "subscriptions: billing-declined" email template.

If any of the retries completes successfully, the subscription will be renewed and an email notification will be sent to the subscriber using the "subscriptions: billing-success" email template to notify the customer that their subscription has been renewed successfully.

If all attempts to renew fail, the subscription status will be set to "Past due - will not renew." This status is treated like a paused subscription (no re-attempts to renew will occur while in this status) but is labelled differently to help you manage workflow for failed renewals.  

Reactivation from Past due - will not renew

Your customers can update their card details at any time after the above retry cycle. When entering their card details, they'll see an error message flash if the card details are not accepted. If they don't see an error message, the new card details have been saved successfully and can be used when reactivating their subscription. In order to reactivate their subscription at this point, they'll need to communicate directly with you (or any store administrator for your store) confirming that their card details have been successfully updated. 

You (or any store administrator for your store) can then manually edit that customer's subscription from the Subscriptions admin page and update the status for that subscription to "active." Once a subscription has been reactivated, a billing cycle will run on the night immediately following reactivation for that subscriber to recover the most recent failed payment. Note: if more than one billing cycle has been missed since the subscription was set to "Past due - will not renew", only the most recent renewal will be recovered.

Reactivation Example - Billing Schedules Set to Charge on the Same Date

For reactivated subscriptions for billing plans that have been set up to charge all subscribers on the same date, once the most recent billing cycle has been recovered, the next renewal will occur on the day of the week or month that has been designated as the unified billing date for that billing plan. For example:

  • Jason signs up March 7 to a monthly billing plan that has a billing date set to charge all subscribers on the 1st day of each month and where the "charge customers on subscription creation" is not checked
  • He is not charged when he initially signs up to the subscription on March 7, but a renewal is scheduled that will bill him on April 1
  • His card expires or is reported lost before his first renewal
  • April 1 - Failed charge attempt --> email 1 is sent but Jason does not update his payment info. 
  • April 2 - Failed charge attempt --> email 2 is sent but Jason still does not update his payment info. 
  • April 3 - Failed charge attempt: --> email 3 is sent but Jason still does not update his payment info - his subscription is set to "Past due - will not renew" and no further attemps are made
  • April 12 - After some emails between Jason and the store administrator, Jason updates his card details successfully on April 12 and the administrator reactivates his subscription
  • April 13 - Jason's updated card will be billed to recover the missed renewal from April 1st 
  • May 1 - Jason's next renewal completes on the next unified billing date and his card is billed again

Reactivation Example - Other Billing Schedules 

For reactivated subscriptions for billing plans that have not been set to charge all subscribers on the same date, once the most recent billing cycle has been recovered, their next renewal will occur exactly based on the defined schedule for their billing plan using the billing recovery date as a starting point. For example:

  • Jason signs up March 7 to a monthly billing plan that doesn't have a unified billing date ("charge subscribers on the same date" is not checked) and the "charge customers on subscription creation" is checked
  • He is charged when he initially signs up to the subscription on March 7, and a renewal is scheduled that will bill him again on April 7
  • His card expires or is reported lost before his first renewal
  • April 7 - Failed charge attempt --> email 1 is sent but Jason does not update his payment info. 
  • April 8 - Failed charge attempt --> email 2 is sent but Jason still does not update his payment info. 
  • April 9 - Failed charge attempt: --> email 3 is sent but Jason still does not update his payment info - his subscription is set to "Past due - will not renew" and no further attempts are made
  • April 12 - After some emails between Jason and the store administrator, Jason updates his card details successfully on April 12 and the administrator reactivates his subscription
  • April 13 - Jason's updated card will be billed to recover the missed renewal from April 7 - since he's not on a unified billing schedule, Jason's next renewal  will be set for May 14 - one month after his most recent successful renewal
  • May 13 - Jason's next renewal completes and his card is billed again

See Also

See links below for other important articles related to LemonStand's subscription billing features.