WooCommerce emerged in 2011 from WooThemes, a project that was initially gathered around the idea of building themes for WordPress CMS (content management system). From there WooCommerce grew to be the #1 solution for handling payment processing and billing for anyone hosting their site on WordPress. Also worth noting that WordPress is self hosted as well.
To truly understand the similarities and differences between WooCommerce and Subbly, readers will first need to understand that WooCommerce is not a standalone eCommerce platform. WooCommerce is an app that will work only in conjunction with the site made and hosted on WordPress. Furthermore, if you’re looking for a solution that will handle recurring billing for subscription products, you should be looking to install specifically an app called WooCommerce subscriptions and add it to your WordPress admin.
That said, this review will speak to the combination of WordPress and WooCommerce Subscriptions can see how it compares to Subbly which is an all in one solution (meaning you don’t have to work with any other platform if you choose Subbly).
WooCommerce advertises their billing app for WordPress as the most customizable eCommerce platform for building your online business, which could be up for debate. But it is indeed true that you’ll be able to do some phenomenal things when setting up your subscriptions through Woo Subscriptions. The impressive list of features includes customizable billing/shipping frequencies (from once every week or once every 2 weeks, across different monthly setups and even annual plans)), the ability to create different product variants for both one-time and subscription products, built-in dunning and customer retention tools, and more. But perhaps what makes WordPress shine the most is their app store which is seemingly endless.
Woo Subscriptions relies heavily on WordPress’ website builder, which is one of the most frequently used across the Web. WordPress websites can be used for ecommerce but was originally built for blogging and publishing, which is perhaps what it does best. Being that it is an app for WordPress itself, Woo Subscriptions provides a handful of eCommerce orientated themes as well as some premade designs (mainly for easily displaying products) which become unlocked when you install the Woo app on your WordPress admin. Although the entire builder setup and interface can come across as a bit clunky to a non-technical or even the average user, it definitely gives the customer a lot of flexibility. Plus, the number of templates is truly impressive (though not all free).
At this point, we are not even sure if this can be considered a pro for WooCommerce, however it’s definitely worth explaining here how this works. And while we at it, although Subbly is not directly integrated with WordPress’ admin, you will still be able to integrate Subbly product checkouts onto your page built on WordPress (see here how), although in this setup you’ll need to handle your customer’s subscriptions on your Subbly, and not on your WordPress admin.
Because using Woo Subscriptions means you have to work with WooCommerce, you’ll enjoy plenty of integrations and support of all major payment gateways. This WordPress set up is highly customizable mostly because of the vast library of apps available on the WordPress app store. No matter what business problem you’re trying to solve, it’s likely you will find a WordPress app to help (although, like their templates, it will increase your overall costs).
We typically don’t recommend building your business on top of a stack of plugins because it starts to feel a little cobbled together (not to mention expensive). This is the main thing we don’t like about WordPress and WooCommerce combo. That is why Subbly is built as an all-in-one solution: instead of fumbling around with multiple technologies, you can focus on building a great business and servicing your customers.
Some of the things that need consideration when opting for WordPress as a CMS (which is most commonly used if you’re using WooCommerce for subscriptions) is the fact that it’s self hosted and at times complex even for more techy users. The fact that it was primarily built for bloggers makes it an inadequate solution for eCommerce that can make it very hard to scale due to being unstable and breaking once at scale.
The main drawback of opting for WordPress and WooCommerce is that costs can easily balloon up to staggering amounts. On the surface, it looks very affordable but that’s because you need to add plugins and integrations to fill the gaps in the features available in the basic WooCommerce set up. Let’s break down a common example: WooCommerce plugin will cost $199 on a yearly basis and won’t take any additional transaction fees on top of the payment processing fees you will be mandated to pay for the payment gateway you are using. However, this is just a tip of an iceberg as default Woo Subscriptions app doesn’t remotely cover most of the features you’ll most likely need in order to scale and streamlined different aspects of everyday business (checkout user interface, building scalable sales funnels by setting up upsells, post purchases or cross-sells, marketing tools etc.). Let’s also not forget that you’ll still have to pay for hosting your site on Wordpress, with the most basic WordPress-branding-free plan starting at $8/mo.
Some more examples of how WooCommerce (and WordPress) can dramatically increase costs are fairly basic features like the ability to take preorders. If you want to take preorders, you can add a Woo Preorders app but it will cost you $129/year. Similarly, if you want to monetize users who abandon their cart without purchasing, you’ll have to pay for another app for a whopping $79/year. And so on, and so on. In contrast, Subbly offers both of these features out of the box, where preorders are already available in the basic package for only $19/mo, whereas the cart abandonment tool is priced at $19/mo as well.
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WooCommerce has branded themselves as the most customizable, but this is actually one of Subbly’s major strengths. One of Subbly’s key features, called the survey builder, allows you to survey customers as they shop so you can offer various packages when they reach the checkout. Plus, the survey can actually serve as price modifiers which dynamically change the grand total on the checkout. Subbly is so customizable in this regard that your customers can assemble their recurring order (or subscription box) by themselves in many cases. Not only does this make it easier for you to set up your business, but it also gives your customers more choice and a better shopping experience.
Subbly has a suite of features that are hyper focused on subscription business models which means you don’t have to go and install other apps or plugins and cobble together multiple platforms. This in turn makes the platform cheaper, easier to use, and more effective from day one. A few examples of these out of the box features include: incoherent billing/shipping schedules (for example: bill on a yearly basis, ship on a monthly basis), preorders, gifts, upsells and more. These are all available and included in the price of even the cheapest plan, and that doesn’t even include some great upgrades like automations that allows even the least technical people to automate tedious workflows. All in all, Subbly truly presents a complete and much more affordable solution than WordPress and WooCommerce Subscriptions.
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Compared to Woo, Subbly offers far fewer payment processing solutions and doesn’t support various sales channels (like point of sale or Amazon). Also, the number of available integrations and plug-ins is scarce compared to what is offered on the app store on WordPress, mostly due to the fact that we tend to offer a built-in solution for every feature. Additionally, despite having a powerful and highly customizable website builder, Subbly also has considerably fewer design templates than WooCommerce.
Because Subbly was built originally for subscription boxes, the platform supports physical product delivery better than digital services or membership businesses. While there are many businesses who use Subbly for their digital or membership business, the solution will be less seamless than working with WooCommerce (at least for now!). Additionally, Subbly caters only to businesses who put subscription first and so for anyone who sees recurring revenue as only a small part of their business, may be better off to go with WooCommerce.
WooCommerce has incredible capabilities, but it is not a standalone platform; users will have to use WordPress, Woo Subscription, and likely many other apps to achieve a sophisticated set up to support a growing business. The ability to add plugins and apps is great, but it can be expensive. Subbly offers a very focused set of features for subscription-first businesses which makes it simple to use, inexpensive, and effective right from day one.
It’s worth noting that you can use WordPress and Subbly together and, if you’re on the fence, you can get the best of both worlds! Find out how you can embed/integrate Subbly’s checkout solution onto an existing WordPress site for only $19/mo (in addition to your WordPress costs).
Subbly really is built subscription-first. While you'd need a lot of plugins and connectors to start off on other platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce, here, it's all built right in.
Before I found Subbly I never had the ability or finances to have a subscription business platform which could meet my needs and expectations. Subbly has been there for me every step of the way!
Everything was so straightforward, the support team are AMAZING, I would not have been able to launch without Subbly.
We’ve used the software for over 3 years and it keeps getting better. It has everything you need to easily run a successful subscription box business!
Subbly is straightforward and easy to use. Designing your site is simple and allows you to control your entire business from one place.