features for subscription managers

More and more bloggers, small businesses, publishers, and organizations are realizing the benefits of running membership model businesses. They also know that to make such a business a success, they need subscription management software.

Whether you are providing mostly free content, paid, or a combination of the two, you’ll need a robust subscription management platform to make it simple and easy to use for both yourself and your members.

We’e put together the following checklist of subscription management software features you’ll need to ensure your subscription business model has the best chance of thriving from the start.

Our subscription management checklist is divided into two sections:

Part 1 – Front-end features that your website visitors and members will expect and appreciate

Part 2 –  Back-end features to make your job as Administrator as easy and fun as possible

Comprehensive List of Subscription Management Software Front-End Features

Integrated Login and Password Access

There should be clearly visible link to a login page with fields for username and password. The benefit of having a subscription website is the option to protect some (or all) of your content from the view of non-subscribers.  This usually means placing the subscription-only pages in an area where they must be accessed through a login page.  This sounds simple enough, but the challenge is how to link password protection to the subscriber database and the content management service.  With full integration, you have control over who has access to what and for how long.

Integrated Payment Processing

Even if you don’t plan to charge subscribers, you’ll need a subscription management software with integrated payment processing because you never know how your site will evolve.  Good subscription software will integrate with PayPal and Stripe. Other payment processors are becoming popular with website visitors, including Apple Pay and Google Pay, so you’ll want to plan for those integrations in the future if not now.

Multiple Subscription Levels

The subscription software or service you choose should enable you to assign content, subscribers, and password protection to multiple subscription levels. You don’t necessarily have to offer multiple tiers right off the bat. In fact, for some business models, it only makes sense to offer one, all-access subscription plan. But again, you don’t know how your business will evolve in the future, and you will want to be able to offer a simple tiered subscription model for potential members to choose from.

Free Trial Subscription and Paid Subscription

The most successful subscription websites offer limited-access, time-restricted, free trial subscriptions to all premium content, and long-term full access to this content with paid subscriptions.  You should ensure that your subscription software has this flexibility. It gives potential subscribers an option to try before they buy.

subscription management free and paid memberships

Multiple Currencies

Even the simplest subscription site requires multiple payment plans and support for multiple currencies.  For example, a site with bronze, silver, and gold subscription levels that offers monthly, quarterly, or annual subscription plans to customers paying in Dollars, Euros, or Sterling potentially need 27 different payment plans.
Your subscription software should have the flexibility to establish and manage multiple payment plans.  More advanced software should allow you to receive live foreign exchange data as well, but this is only important if you want all of your subscribers around the world to pay exactly the same amount at all times.

Automated Customer Messages

Your subscription software should have the capability to send customized, automated email messages to your subscribers when they join your site.  For paid subscription sites there are legal requirements to send customers an invoice, cancellation policy, and your contact details. Apart from being a legal requirement, it’s just common sense that after signing up for anything, purchasers want and expect an automated confirmation email, welcome email, and to be directed to a thank you page on the website after they submit their payment.

Customer-Controlled Subscription Management

Once your website grows to dozens, hundreds, or (hopefully) thousands of subscribers, it will be impossible to manage renewals manually.  Your subscription software should be able to fully automate the process of renewing subscribers’ accounts, automatically take payments, notify you if a credit card fails, send out renewal reminders, and suspend the passwords of those who don’t renew their subscriptions. Even more important, your software system should allow subscribers to manage their subscriptions on their own, without intervention from you. They should at a minimum be able to cancel their membership on their own, and possibly upgrade or downgrade to a higher or lower tier as well.

Showing “Teaser” Content

A useful functionality for your website is to show your visitors the titles of all your articles along with brief descriptions, and once they click on an article they are prompted to subscribe to view the entire content.  Your subscription management software should be able to work this into your site.

Forgotten Password

Since it is common for subscribers to occasionally forget their passwords, your subscription software should be able to automatically verify users and email new passwords to them.  If you choose to do this manually, you will waste a lot of time and end up with very frustrated subscribers.

Comprehensive List of Subscription Management Software Back-End Features

Now that you’ve ensured you can implement the front-end features your audience will love you for, let’s continue by making sure you have all the back-end features you’ll need to easily create and manage your subscription service.

Simplified Control Panel

The more time you spend on administrative tasks, the less time you have to build your online business.  To minimize the time you spend on administrative details, make sure that your website has a single, simplified control panel from where you can accomplish routine tasks – like adding content, changing payment plans, accessing your subscriber database, and viewing your web stats.

Content Management System

Content management must be at the heart of your website, and a content management system (CMS) can help you easily add text articles, images, and video clips.  The CMS should also allow you to edit your site’s navigation.  As an online publisher, you need to have complete control over your site’s content without having to know HTML or any other technical web coding.

Customizable Design

You may want to be able to constantly adjust your website’s design. You should have access to a design interface where tweaks can be made or even completely changed.  The most flexible way to manage your website’s design is using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), so make sure the website software or platform you choose allows CSS.

customizable design subscription management software

Image Library

Images are an important part of your website, so your CMS should have the capacity to manage images so they can be inserted into any page with clear labeling (alt-tags) and can also be linked to content within your site or third-party sites.

Multimedia Content

Multimedia content is the biggest advantage that an online publication has over its print competitors, so make sure your website is enabled to publish content in multiple formats (text, images, audio, video) even if you don’t plan to use them all immediately.

Member Database

At the heart of all subscription management software is a database that collects information from subscribers.  The quantity of information collected will vary from one site to another.  For example, a free subscription site may only collect email addresses, while an expensive business site may collect additional data. This could include name, address, company, position, or association subscription.  Regardless of what your short-term plans are, I highly recommend that you choose a subscription software that allows you to customize the amount of personal data you can collect.  The subscriber database should also have a search feature and be easily customizable.

Enable Multiple Revenue Streams

Most successful subscription websites have multiple revenue streams, so don’t focus only on charging subscription fees while ignoring other revenue-generating opportunities like:

– adding affiliate links related to your site’s subject matter;
– selling physical or digital products via an online shop; and
– promoting and selling offline events.

Consider the different ways you can generate income from your website and make sure the functionality can be enabled or added later to make it possible (for example, a shopping cart, adserver, event booking form, etc).

Download Library

Most content websites provide their subscribers with downloadable reports, e-books, software programs, video clips, or audio files.  Your website should make it easy to upload and manage downloads.

Search Engine Optimization

Your website must be easy for search engines to index, and any good web developer should be able to optimize the code to make it easy for Google and other search engines to find and index all the pages on your site.  The best subscription website should be highly optimized from the outset so you don’t need to worry about anything other than adding quality content.

Relationship-Building Features

As your site begins receiving visitors, you need to establish relationships with them to encourage them to keep coming back.  The most useful applications for building online relationships are email newsletters, RSS feeds, forums, comment fields under articles, and member profiles.  The best subscription website should have these applications integrated.  Some subscription software will come with additional plug-ins so the applications can be added.

Reporting and Analytics

In addition to connecting to Google Analytics, your membership software should feature a built-in analytics dashboard. In order to make informed decisions, you need to have access to valuable insightful data. Your reporting should track and measure your website’s key metrics like signups, logins, enrollment, engagement and churn.

Monitoring, Maintenance, and Backups

A common mistake made by new website owners is that they underestimate the work involved. This includes managing, hosting, security, maintenance, data backups, and upgrades to the site.  They often use free open-source software on a cheap host to launch their site. But that usually results in a lot of down-time, lost data, and wasted time.  Non-technical people should avoid managing the technical, security, and back-up side of their website because these tedious tasks can consume a great deal of time for very little gain.  You should either use a fully managed subscription service or a development company that can handle this work for you.


Even though support is the last point on this checklist, it should be one of your highest priorities.  As the owner of a subscription website, your time is the most valuable resource you have.  You should focus your energy on creating content, marketing, and managing your subscribers, not worrying about hosting, bandwidth, backup, upgrades, and fixing bugs.  You need excellent support from people who have an understanding of the technology as well as the online publishing field.


Running a subscription website is one of the most exciting business opportunities on the internet today. There are tons of resources available so that you won’t have to reinvent the wheel to get started.  Everything you need to be successful is available to novices and experts alike.  If you invest time and thought into the early planning phase, you can quickly have a thriving online business.

Refer back to this checklist while shopping for subscription management software.  Look at a hosted and fully managed subscription website service (like SubHub). A full-service platform can accelerate your launch and make your day-to-day work a pleasure.