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SaranacLake

Limiting Subscriptions

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OMG!  Crafting well thought out business logic is such a PITA sometimes!

I am working on an ecommerce site that sells subscriptions, books, gear, etc.

Similar to a lot of online newspapers, I have a "Subscribe" button in my website mast where people can buy a subscription.

After clicking on that button, the user is first presented with different subscription offers (e.g. sliver, gold, platinum), and then I have a one-page checkout form where they create an account - kind of important for an online subscription! - and they pay with a credit card.  Easy!

Trying to be a nice guy, I decided to add the ability to choose a subscription from my online store as well.  (Presumably you want to offer as many ways for people to buy things from you as possible, right?)

Well here is the issue I just discovered...

What happens if a person is browsing through my product catalog, and they add multiple subscriptions to their shopping cart?

Of course I would welcome the extra $$$, but I just realized that would break how people create their accounts and pay, because above I assume that ONE person, buys ONE subscription and pays for it in ONE transaction.

So my questions is, "Would it be a mortal sin to limit people to buying only ONE subscription at a time if they do so while in my online store?"

I would hope that people would get that, but as we know, users do some crazy stuff!!

In fairness, if you went to buy a subscription at the Wall Street Journal or any other large newspaper/magazine, you would be forced to do one subscription per transaction.  I am just wondering what happens if someone goes on a shopping spree in my online store, buys several books, some t-shirts, and decides he/she also wants to buy 5 subscriptions on the spot.

Thoughts?

 

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1 hour ago, SaranacLake said:

"Would it be a mortal sin to limit people to buying only ONE subscription at a time if they do so while in my online store?"

No, but I don't think you should include subscriptions in the store.

A subscription is access to the site or whatever. The online store is for products. They are not the same thing.

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11 minutes ago, requinix said:

No, but I don't think you should include subscriptions in the store.

A subscription is access to the site or whatever. The online store is for products. They are not the same thing.

I wondered about that.

So me trying to be helpful to my potential customers, apparently not only creates a pain for me from a design standpoint, but you are saying really isn't necessary, eh?

That would definitely be easier, it's just that I had always heard, "Don't tell customers how to buy things from you, just allow them to shop and purchase as they like."

 

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1 hour ago, SaranacLake said:

So me trying to be helpful to my potential customers, apparently not only creates a pain for me from a design standpoint, but you are saying really isn't necessary, eh?

Yes. You can certainly tell people about the subscriptions, anywhere you want, but unless you're prepared to make changes to your store and product models, it's easier to keep it all separate.

1 hour ago, SaranacLake said:

That would definitely be easier, it's just that I had always heard, "Don't tell customers how to buy things from you, just allow them to shop and purchase as they like."

Yes. It isn't impossible to add subscriptions to the store, but are you sure people will be looking at your online store for a subscription? If you advertise the store as a place to buy goods then they might not think it's the same place to buy access to the website. If it features prominently as a purchase place, maybe they would.

You could also not offer the subscription as a "product" but as something they opt into. You can keep the details of the subscription as a sort of hidden product that they cannot add to their cart - only your PHP code can do it, which it would when the user goes through your subscription page thing.

Treating the subscription as a product means you have to add a concept of conflicting products to your store. That might be useful for other things, I don't know, but if not then you're creating a lot more complexity for only one thing.

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16 minutes ago, requinix said:

Yes. You can certainly tell people about the subscriptions, anywhere you want, but unless you're prepared to make changes to your store and product models, it's easier to keep it all separate.

Yes. It isn't impossible to add subscriptions to the store, but are you sure people will be looking at your online store for a subscription?

At the top of most pages on my site is a top menu bar, and sitting on top of that and to the far right there is a "Subscribe Now" button for users who aren't logged in or who are not yet members.  (You get a "Renew Now" button 30 days before your subscription expires if you are logged in.)

Like this...

image.thumb.png.b9c719398366af455e26f1b0cdf43f3f.png

 

Then, at the right of my top menu I have a "Store" option - like where "video" is above.

Because of the close physical proximity, I can see a person navigating to either, although if you ONLY wanted to subscribe, then a button labeled "Subscribe Now" would be the place to go.

 

But in a larger sense, I have always seen my store"as a place to sell "Products" (e.g. books, T-shirts) and "Services" (e.g. subscriptions, podcasts, etc).  And originally I thought it would be nice to have subscriptions in my store because MAYBE a person clicks on "Store" to check out books and then they see subscriptions as well, and they end up buying one or the other or both?!  (Which ties back to my earlier statement of making it as easy as possible for customers to buy things...)

The goal is to have a store that is like Amazon.com in that it has everything you need - just obviously not that big!

 

16 minutes ago, requinix said:

If you advertise the store as a place to buy goods then they might not think it's the same place to buy access to the website. If it features prominently as a purchase place, maybe they would.

Yeah.

 

16 minutes ago, requinix said:

You could also not offer the subscription as a "product" but as something they opt into. You can keep the details of the subscription as a sort of hidden product that they cannot add to their cart - only your PHP code can do it, which it would when the user goes through your subscription page thing.

Well, when you choose "Subscribe Now", after they choose a subscription type, I do add it to the shopping cart, but in that flow I just go immediately to checkout, as my goal is to get their $$$ as soon as I can and get them their site access.  Therefore, I don't add an obvious path to keep shopping, although technically I guess theyc ould.  (Still think through all of the different paths you can take!)

The store is more intended to let people search and browse and hopefully add several things, including possibly a subscription.  (If you are looking at books, and see that I offer subscriptions, I had originally thought it a good idea to let people buy things in ONE stop.  (I just don't want to allow people to buy multiple subscriptions in one sitting - which mainly ties back to my other thread where I am still leaning towards limiting accounts to a credit card.  And even if I did allow that, it is illogical to let 5 people all set up individual accounts at once, because that just isn't how it works most times in real life!)

 

16 minutes ago, requinix said:

Treating the subscription as a product means you have to add a concept of conflicting products to your store. That might be useful for other things, I don't know, but if not then you're creating a lot more complexity for only one thing.

Well, I just spent the last few days how to do super/subtypes in MySQL, so my website will scale to sell anything from subscriptions to books to tractors or music or pizza!

 

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So far my vote would be for keeping subscriptions separate from everything else, but on the pages for products that the subscription covers (podcasts?) you can advertise the subscription model. Or during the checkout process, try to upsell them into the subscription funnel instead.

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Posted (edited)
49 minutes ago, requinix said:

So far my vote would be for keeping subscriptions separate from everything else, but on the pages for products that the subscription covers (podcasts?) you can advertise the subscription model. Or during the checkout process, try to upsell them into the subscription funnel instead.

Well, my site is built like an online newspaper like the NYT where 60%+ of the site requires a subscription to access "premium content" so it's not segmented quite like you're saying where there would just be one section where subscriptions would apply.  However, if you try to access "premium" content (e.g. exclusive interview), I certainly will throw up a way to buy a subscription, though.

Just to I understand, are you against putting subscriptions in the store because a.) it's confusing, b.) people won't take advantage of it, or c.) it will create a lot of extra work? 

Fwiw, subscriptions are already designed into the store, and I could just limit things to one subscription per checkout which wouldn't be too much extra work.  Then it is there to cross-sell, and limiting one subscription will make things much easier as far as my design.

Also, because you may be wondering, I am planning to offer gift cards and gift subscriptions, so in that case, people can buy as many as they want.  (I still have to design this part.)

 

Edited by SaranacLake

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Look. Here's the deal:

I don't know your business or application. Not like you. All I can do is offer general advice and what-ifs, and there's no way for you to explain everything to a degree where I'd be comfortable going beyond that.

So what you need to do is take what I'm saying under consideration, think about how your business works, think about how your application is written, and decide for yourself.

Will it make sense to people to go to your general online store to buy subscriptions? Will it be a hassle to support a subscription product? You need to figure out the answers to those kinds of questions, then act accordingly.

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4 minutes ago, requinix said:

Look. Here's the deal:

I don't know your business or application. Not like you. All I can do is offer general advice and what-ifs, and there's no way for you to explain everything to a degree where I'd be comfortable going beyond that.

So what you need to do is take what I'm saying under consideration, think about how your business works, think about how your application is written, and decide for yourself.

Will it make sense to people to go to your general online store to buy subscriptions? Will it be a hassle to support a subscription product? You need to figure out the answers to those kinds of questions, then act accordingly.

Based on what I have on paper, I think it is a good idea to allow people to buy subscriptions while they are shopping in my online store.

However, I will only allow people to buy one subscription per order, just like if you straight up buy a subscription from the menu bar.

If someone tries to add a second subscription to their cart, then I'll pop up a warning and explain only one subscription per order.

Shouldn't be too hard to do when I code things.

Can't say how users will react to this, but there's only one way to find out?!

Just figured I'd bounce it off of you all...  😉

 

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