“Autoship” vs. “Subscription”

While you can certainly create subscription-like programs with Autoship, we like to say that Autoship creates more possibilities for recurring orders and product replenishment than the traditional “subscription plan” model.

Subscription plans tend to only manage one simple recurring sale at a time for a set amount.

For example, think about buying a subscription plan for pet food online:

  1. Purchase a monthly subscription for a 10 pound bag of dog food and checkout.
  2. The food arrives every month until you cancel your subscription.
  3. Want to change the subscription to a 5 pound bag?  You’ll need to cancel your old plan and buy a new subscription plan.
  4. Want to change the subscription to ship every 2 months?  Cancel and opt-in to a new subscription plan.
  5. Want to purchase a single product from within the subscription plan? This isn’t always possible to do since the subscription plan is, itself, a product for sale.

Compare that to how you can buy pet food on Autoship:

  1. Purchase a 10 pound bag of dog food and select to add it to a monthly Autoship.
  2. The food arrives every month (just like a subscription).
  3. Want to change the shipment to a 5 pound bag?  Log in to My Account, change the quantity and save.
  4. Want to change the shipment date to every 2 months?  Log in, change the frequency and save.
  5. Want to just purchase the same product as a one-off without Autoship? No problem.

These 3 Big Differences Will Help You Choose the Right Fit for Your Store

Feature Subscriptions Autoship Difference
Ease of Setup Must create subscription products and plans to offer recurring orders. Immediately enable recurring order option on any simple or variable product. Autoship is simple to enable without changing your existing products. 
Order Management Customer manages subscription plans by upgrading/downgrading or cancelling them. Customer manages items within upcoming orders that contain products selected for Autoship. If managing items in recurring order(s) is your focus, Autoship is a straightforward customer and admin experience.  If managing a plan(s) is what you offerer, a subscription is a closer fit.
Customer Order View Customers may suspend/resume subscription plans and may only remove items from existing plans. Customers can suspend/resume orders, add/remove any simple/variable product from an existing Autoship order. Because Autoship can be enabled for any simple or variable product, these products are also available for the customer to add to existing Autoship orders too.
Subscription plans don’t allow other products to be added to existing plans.

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