Introducing Shopify Subscription APIs: Build Apps That Integrate with Shopify Checkout

shopify subscription apis

At Shopify, we constantly strive 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 experiences that are truly integrated with Shopify, and that enable new ways of selling products beyond a one-time purchase, have been limited.

That’s why we’re excited to introduce the first APIs and tooling that will enable partners and developers to build new subscription experiences directly within Shopify Checkout.

Starting today, you can use the Shopify Subscription APIs and Product Subscription App Extension to build apps that support emerging business models for merchants.

These new APIs and app extension will enable you to:

  • Build on Shopify Checkout. Build subscription apps that are native to Shopify Checkout. Focus on improving the subscription buying and management experience on top of Shopify’s fast and reliable checkout.
  • Fully integrate with Shopify. With subscription orders created and managed by Shopify, your app remains compatible with platform features (like Shopify Payments, shipping, discounts, reporting, etc.) and the entire app ecosystem. 
  • 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 new 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 new Subscription APIs and Product Subscription App Extension let you focus on innovation, while Shopify continues to deliver a fast and reliable checkout. Here’s some context on why we built subscriptions this way.

Build on Shopify Checkout

shopify subscription apis: demo

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.

For the first time, developers can now build on Shopify Checkout, meaning 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, and customers 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 functions 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

As part of subscriptions we've introduced the concept of selling plans, a new flexible platform that allows you to power new business models. While the Selling Plan API currently supports recurring business models, new and non-recurring business models will emerge in the future.

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.

You might also like: The Shopify App CLI Tool: Build Apps Faster.

How to get started with Shopify Subscription APIs

If you’re keen to get started with the Shopify Subscription APIs and the Product Subscription App Extension, check out our detailed developer documentation and our 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.

New APIs and tooling

The Shopify 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.
  • 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.

The Product Subscription App Extension is the first app extension type to use our new app extension technology, Argo. 

Argo is a fast, highly secure technology for app extensions that lets you extend your app deeply into workflows throughout Shopify, from admin to checkout, with more to come in the future. Building with Argo lets your app’s interface render natively across mobile and web, using a library of Shopify-authored components and powerful new tools.

With Argo, you create app extensions by writing JavaScript or TypeScript to define your app’s behavior and describe your UI. Shopify securely hosts and renders your UI on the client. The result is a faster user experience, without the performance compromises that come with embedded apps.

We're making this limited preview of Argo available to allow you to start building Product Subscription App Extensions today, but it will enable many more app extension types in the future.

[Updated January 2021] Applying for access and the app review process

Now that the Subscription APIs are available in general access, you can apply for access, build your 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

We’re excited to release these new tools for developers to creatively reimagine methods of selling. This is the first step towards improving checkout extensibility so developers can help customize our checkout to meet more merchant needs. 

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