Shopify’s Subscription APIs: Build Apps That Integrate with Shopify Checkout (2023)

subscription apis

Shopify constantly strives to push forward the world of commerce by evolving our platform to support new merchant business models. 

The partner ecosystem is vital to this constant innovation, but until now, building new ways of selling products beyond a one-time purchase on Shopify have been limited.

That’s why we’ve built Shopify Subscription APIs and the Product Subscription App Extension, enabling partners and developers to build subscription experiences directly within Shopify Checkout. 

These APIs and app extension enable you to:

  • Build directly into Shopify Checkout. Build subscription apps that improve the subscription buying and management experience on top of our fast and reliable checkout.
  • Fully integrate with Shopify. With subscription orders created and managed by our latest APIs, your app will remain compatible with platform features like Shopify Payments, shipping, discounts, reporting, and more.
  • Solve for emerging merchant needs. Power new business models not yet available on Shopify. While selling subscription products is a known merchant need today, our APIs are built to empower you to create new ways of selling for tomorrow.

Read on to learn more about how to get started with the new Shopify Subscription APIs and tooling.

Why we built subscriptions this way

Our Subscription APIs and Product Subscription App Extension let you focus on innovation, while Shopify continues to deliver a fast and reliable checkout experience. Here’s some context on why we built subscriptions this way.

Build on Shopify Checkout

subscription apis: example

Over the years, we’ve obsessively focused on building the most scalable, resilient, and conversion-optimized checkout in the industry, that’s unmatched in customer trust worldwide.

Now that developers can build on Shopify Checkout, merchants no longer have to choose between selling subscription products and using Shopify’s checkout. Moving forward, partners and merchants don’t have to manage multiple checkout experiences to support subscriptions, so buyers can enjoy the same friction-free checkout experience, regardless of whether they’re purchasing a one-time or recurring product.

Merchants no longer have to choose between selling subscription products and using Shopify’s checkout.

For developers, building on Shopify Checkout guarantees a performant customer experience that’s been tested by over 1.8 billion orders to date, and compatibility with all future updates and optimizations we make at Shopify. 

Complete customer data

With subscription orders created and managed by Shopify, merchants maintain a complete picture of their customer data for both one-time and subscription customers. By modeling and storing subscription data in Shopify, merchants will be able to access capabilities like:

  • Getting insights from recurring revenue reports on subscription customers
  • Exclusively targeting subscription customers with email campaigns 
  • Setting up automated workflows triggered by subscription customer actions

Data is key to helping merchants better understand their subscription customers and grow their subscription businesses. This approach will also ensure the same data can be leveraged by all other partner apps and integrations a merchant may use. 

Business model flexibility

The Subscription APIs enable developers to uncover new ways of selling that go beyond the Shopify default of “buy now.” We want to make it possible for developers to build great apps, and enable you to target specific merchant segments and tailor experiences to their needs.

As part of subscriptions we've introduced the Selling Plan API, which supports recurring- and non-recurring business models, to power these new experiences.

How to get started with Subscription APIs

To get started with the Subscription APIs and the Product Subscription App Extension, review our detailed developer documentation and developer guide on migrating existing subscription contracts to Shopify.

Here’s a quick, high level overview of the new tooling available to you as of today.

Subscription APIs

The Subscription APIs provide the architecture to support new selling methods and functionality:

  • The Selling Plan API enables you to extend Shopify’s merchandising model to support new ways of selling a variant, other than Shopify’s historical default: “buy now”. Using this functionality avoids the need to customize the checkout, and ensures the best experience for merchants, customers, and developers.

  • The Subscription Contract API enables you to create and manage subscription contracts. After a customer purchases a subscription product at checkout, Shopify generates a subscription contract and shares it with your application using a webhook. We also now support Local Delivery and Pickup in-store. Partners and merchants can manage the delivery methods of a subscription contract by choosing shipping or local delivery and pickup. This means customers are given more choice and flexibility when choosing how they would like to receive their subscription products.
    • Subscription Contracts are also supported in the Bulk Operations API which reduces the API consumption for creating, updating, or billing multiple subscription contracts. Manual tasks that are often repetitive can now be updated in bulk. For instance, you can easily change the price in a subscription contract with a single action.
    • The Billing Cycle API helps you make temporary changes to one or more subscription contracts over a specific period. Using the Billing Cycle API, you can modify subscriptions so customers can skip one delivery without canceling the entire subscription order, ship a replacement product for out-of-stock subscription items, or combine subscription contracts into one order to save on shipping and billing costs.
  • The Customer Payment Method API represents stored payment methods that can be used to pay for future orders without requiring the customer to manually go through checkout. When a subscription is purchased, permission to “vault” the payment method is requested from the customer during checkout.

Product Subscription App Extension

As a companion to the Shopify Subscription APIs, which empower you to create new types of subscription plans, we’ve also introduced the Product Subscription App Extension, which enables content from your app to appear in Shopify, meaning merchants can create and manage those plans directly in the admin.

Applying for access and the app review process

To build a subscription app for Shopify merchants, you’ll need to apply for access, build your subscription app, and submit it for review (a necessary step for any app launching in the Shopify App Store). 

Because the security of our Subscription APIs is paramount, there are some extra steps to consider while building a subscription app.

Applying for access

To begin developing a subscription app, you must first apply for access to two protected scopes:

      • read_customer_payment_methods: Allows an app to read customer payment methods
      • write_own_subscription_contracts: Allows an app to read and write subscription contract mutations for contracts they own

This extra step helps us ensure they are being used the way we designed, especially when it comes to customer payment methods.

You do not have to re-request access to the scopes if you received access during the early access period. 

To request access:

  1. From your app's overview page in the Partner Dashboard, click App setup.
  2. In the Orders section, click Request access to Subscription APIs.
  3. Provide a description about why you are applying for access.
  4. Click Request access.

The Subscriptions section will show that your request is pending approval. If your request is approved, you'll see a Manage subscriptions banner. If your request is denied, you'll see a Request denied banner with options to get further details or appeal the decision.

The app review process

Many developers will want their app published in the public Shopify App Store. Developers can begin by reading about how the review process works, and how to submit an app

In addition to the general list of requirements for all apps in the app store, subscription apps must follow specific requirements for the storefront and admin to pass the review process (see section 13). Developers can expect the review process to take ten business days.

Get started now

Get started building apps that power new business models and solve for merchant needs with Shopify’s Subscription APIs today. 


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