Creating The Best Shopify Tech Stack to Scale Your Subscription Brand

There are 7 core categories that DTC brands should consider in order to build the best subscription-led Shopify tech stack. Here's what you need to know.

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    The Shopify ecosystem is a rich landscape full of a range of different tools and platforms — and when we say rich, we mean it. With over 8,000 apps listed on the Shopify app store, there are limitless options when it comes to building a strong tech stack. But that also means it can get overwhelming fast.  

    Direct-to-consumer (DTC) eCommerce brands that know they want to develop a strong subscription offering can truly benefit from creating a Shopify tech stack specifically designed to coincide with a subscription strategy. Because at the end of the day, supporting your subscription offering means supporting the creation of a loyal customer base — and who doesn’t want that?

    ‍Whether you’re just launching an eCommerce business or looking to audit and clean up your current Shopify tools, we’re outlining what you need to know to create the best Shopify tech stack in order to scale your subscriptions.

    What is a Shopify Tech Stack?

    Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's quickly discuss the meaning of a Shopify tech stack. A technology stack in general is a term that encompasses an entire suite of software solutions and tools that allow an eCommerce brand to operate. A Shopify technology stack simply refers to back-end solutions like apps, programming languages, and software solutions specifically on the Shopify or Shopify Plus eCommerce platform that are leveraged to power your online store.

    Why Does Creating the Right Shopify Tech Stack Matter For Subscriptions?

    Shopify app store

    Here’s the thing about subscriptions: by literal definition, they’re the act of opting into recurring billing in exchange for ongoing access to products. But if there’s one thing we stand for here at Smartrr, it’s that subscriptions can (and should) be so much more than that.  

    That way we see it, subscriptions create the framework for all but guaranteed repeat interactions with customers — which is no small thing. With repeat buyers proving to be 22x more valuable than other consumers, building a business model that primarily fosters repeat buyers gives brands the ability to unlock the full potential of these loyal returning consumers. And the way to do that is for brands to ask themselves what they can do to improve the overall customer experience.

    That’s where supplemental tools come in. The right Shopify tech stack will reduce customer friction, help anticipate subscribers’ needs across the board, and ultimately draw consumers back to their subscription experience. Being intentional and strategic about how your end consumer interacts with your brand every step of the way will organically improve the scalability of your subscription business.

    But before we dive in, we want to make one thing clear: creating a strong subscription offering (obviously) starts with choosing the right Shopify subscription app. And while the subscription landscape is vast, Smartrr is ultimately the most comprehensive and holistic tool in the ecosystem. Smartrr comes already equipped with a robust toolkit to help unlock the full potential of repeat buyers. With loyalty rewards, referrals, one-time add-ons, advanced bundling options, and more, choosing Smartrr automatically points your tech stack in the right direction.

    Smartrr Subscription Analytics

    Having said that, carefully constructing a subscription-led tech arsenal will only further aid in your mission to increase customer retention and bloom brand loyalty, which in turn will strengthen your subscriptions.  

    Now let’s explore the specifics of what a subscription-led tech stack powered by Smartrr looks like in practice.

    Building The Best Shopify Tech Stack for Subscription Brands: The 7 Core Categories

    Let’s take a look at the overarching functionality of a range of Shopify apps to help power your subscription offering.


    Shopify Analytics tools are imperative for the success of any brand, as they help collect and analyze important data and metrics that are key for growth.

    When it comes to any business, it’s helpful to think of analytics as being similar to taking someone’s vitals. Just like body temperature, pulse rate, and blood pressure can give doctors an invaluable look into your current and future health, your brand’s analytics (be it profits, customer behavior, or marketing campaigns) provide you key insight into the well-being of your brand. These numbers can then help you inform future marketing efforts and overall business optimizations.

    🔄 The Impact on Subscriptions: Having access to the right analytics has a major impact on subscription success — specifically when you have accurate subscription analytics. You can track your monthly recurring revenue (MRR), average order value (AOV), customer acquisition cost (CAC), lifetime value (LTV), number of subscribers, and more crucial metrics.

    Here are just a few ways that utilizing analytics can improve your subscriptions:

    • You can monitor your churn rate to offer discounts at high-risk times.
    • You can gauge which products often get purchased together to offer product bundles and increase AOV.
    Righteous Felon Jerky Bundle
    • You can leverage data to provide personalized recommendations.
    • You can track revenue by product type to help inform future ideation, innovation, one-time add-ons, and more.

    And while Smartrr can equip you with everything you need to run an effective subscription business, we know that there are many scenarios where your brand needs access to more than just subscription data. The good news is that approaching any analytics tool with the mindset of “great data leads to happy customers which leads to a great business” will ultimately strengthen your brand and, subsequently, your subscription offering.

    The Shopify Analytics Tools Smartrr Recommends:  

    • Littledata — A tracking solution for Shopify brands that operates as a supplemental resource to Smartrr’s analytics. Littledata connects directly with Google Analytics in an effort to improve your marketing attribution.
    • Triplewhale — Provides you with an analytics report card to generate a high-level overview of all of your data, also operating as a supplemental resource to Smartrr’s analytics.
    • Peel —  A more robust data option that includes an “All-in-One Retention Analytics” to cover any kind of data your Shopify brand might want.  

    Customer Support

    We’ve all been the customer before. It almost goes without saying that it’s a universally awful experience to encounter a small hiccup that spirals into a whole saga due to ineffective customer support.

    These support touchpoints end up impacting more than just the abstract concept of customer satisfaction; rather, the quality of a brand’s customer support has actually proven to have a measurable impact on the health of a business. And with the majority of modern consumers now holding higher expectations than ever for customer service, this only continues to grow in relevance.

    There are a couple of reasons that exceptional customer service really matters.

    For one, a little something called word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) — the practice of happy consumers organically spreading the word about your brand — has been shown to be one of the most effective marketing strategies, and offering stellar customer service greatly encourages WOMM.

    In general, 62% of consumers will recommend a brand to a friend if they receive great service. And to make matters even better, these referred customers end up being incredibly invaluable due to the fact that they tend to spend 200% more than the average customer.  

    On the flip side of things, consumers tend to have a very low tolerance for bad experiences. It’s estimated that 80% of consumers will switch to a competitor after more than one bad experience and as many as 50% will change after only one bad interaction.

    Not only does this directly increase churn and minimize profits, but it can also be really harmful for a brand’s reputation. Just as consumers will spread the word about brands they love, they also tend to talk about brands they dislike. Needless to say, it’s wise for DTC brands to proactively prevent this loss by investing in the right customer support tools.

    🔄 The Impact on Subscriptions: The link between customer support and subscriptions is a clear one. As we’ve already established, subscriptions thrive off loyal repeat buyers — and great customer service is crucial for both retaining and developing loyalty with subscribers.

    Plus, you can leverage your customer support tool to further aid your subscription offering by anticipating your subscribers’ needs, making subscribers feel like VIPs, and leaning into personalization. Here are some examples of how you can do that:

    • Whenever subscribers inquire about something they can manage themselves, like switching an order date, editing their order frequency, or swapping out an item, automate a response with clear instructions that direct subscribers back to their customer account portal.
    • Don’t be afraid to lean on discounts after a subscriber has received customer support. They’re a great way to help delight and retain subscribers, especially after something went awry.
    • Provide personalized help & recommendations via a chatbot as consumers are perusing your PDP and emphasize subscription savings when the consumer is ready to commit.

    The Shopify Customer Support/Helpdesk Tool Smartrr Recommends:

    Gorgias Shopify Helpdesk Tool

    When it comes to a holistic eCommerce customer service tool, Gorgias is one of the strongest platforms and offers everything from email, SMS, call, and social media support to automation and analytics tools. Plus, Gorgias’ integration with Smartrr allows you to specifically create subscription-led customer support.

    Email Marketing Tool

    Email marketing has been around for a while now, and there’s a reason it’s prevailed even as technology advances. Pretty much everybody emails and has grown accustomed to seeing brands pop up in their inboxes, so it’s a great method of reaching a high number of both potential and existing consumers.

    Emails give brands a voice and the ability to connect with consumers on an individual level. They’re great for new product announcements, leveraging strong images, displaying reviews, sharing anecdotes, and drawing traffic to your DTC site in general.

    In general, email marketing boasts low unsubscribe rates, high customizability, and lots of room for creativity.

    Freestyle Diapers Newsletter Prompt

    🔄 The Impact on Subscriptions: Emails are great for acquiring new subscribers, yes, but they’re especially powerful for marketing to the subscribers you already have. Remember, subscribers are your most valuable customers — and creating a subscription-led email strategy is one of the best ways to unlock their full potential.

    Both email & SMS marketing are your main opportunities to directly communicate with your subscribers and proactively nurture these relationships.  

    Here are some of the ways you can leverage your email marketing to strengthen your subscriptions:

    • Send a welcome series to new subscribers to communicate the many perks of your subscription offering.
    • Send more seasoned subscribers a similar email to ensure everyone is taking advantage of your flexible subscription management.
    • Send subscriber-exclusive alerts for first access to new products.
    • Send subscriber-exclusive promotions and discounts.

    Since many Shopify email tools also provide SMS, we’ve grouped our recommendations in the SMS section below.

    SMS Marketing Tool  

    Though a much newer form of marketing, SMS is quickly making a splash in the eCommerce space. Texting is inherently a more personal form of communication, which means effectively-utilized SMS marketing can be an incredibly powerful tool.

    In general, texts have a significantly higher open rate than emails do (it’s between 95 - 98%!), but they are also associated with a higher unsubscribe rate. And while brands are more limited in what they can do with their text marketing, there are still countless ways to get creative.

    🔄 The Impact on Subscriptions: Weaving SMS into your marketing strategy is a highly effective way to bring your subscriptions to the next level. It’s a great way to promote exclusivity, increase personalization, encourage the use of your customer account portal, empower customers to manage their subscriptions as they see fit, and more.

    Here are some subscription-led SMS tips:

    • Text next-order reminders and allow subscribers to manage their subscriptions directly in the text thread — like skipping, delaying, swapping out items, and more. From there, you can send a link back to their customer account portal to keep engagement high and easily encourage further subscription management.
    • Text exclusive subscriber-only new product releases.
    • Text personalized reminders for subscribers to cash in however many loyalty points they’ve accrued.

    SMS communication can also be an exceptional vehicle for building real relationships, and the best part is you don’t always have to initiate the conversation.  

    The Shopify Email & SMS Tools Smartrr Recommends:

    Between customizable templates, clear segmentation, and accurate reporting, here are some of the best Shopify email & SMS tools that Smartrr recommends:

    • KlaviyoEmail & SMS. Offers cross-channel messaging in one platform, which includes AI predictive analytics to help streamline marketing efforts. Klaviyo is definitely best known for its strong email software, but if you’re looking for one tool that tackles both your email & SMS marketing, this is a stellar solution.
    • ARPUEmail. Specializes in shipping soon emails to leverage 2-click upsells. ARPU also allows customization to personalize upsells to subscribers based on what they already like, how long they’ve been subscribed, or both.
    • PostscriptSMS. An SMS revenue platform that includes a variety of ways to grow your SMS subscriber list and a range of tools to turn conversations into conversions.
    • Attentive —  SMS. An SMS marketing platform specifically designed to grow, manage, and connect with a diverse audience.

    3PL Fulfillment

    3PL (third-party logistics) fulfillment means outsourcing your retail order fulfillment process rather than having to fulfill the orders yourself. Assuming your shop is in a financial situation where you can afford it, having a great 3PL service in your corner frees you up to tackle more high-level aspects of running your business. The right 3PL provider will also give you key insight into all fulfillment activity so you can effectively oversee every order.

    Of course, choosing the right 3PL service is extremely important, as they’ll be the ones ensuring that your consumers actually get access to your product. From a subscription standpoint, this is a pretty essential part of the customer experience — but let’s be honest, it also has an obvious impact on anyone ordering from your eCommerce store. None of these aforementioned efforts will matter if your products regularly arrive damaged, late, or not at all.  

    If you’d like to dig deeper, Shopify has a helpful blog that outlines what you need to know about eCommerce fulfillment services.

    🔄 The Impact on Subscriptions: Assuming you have a reliable 3PL provider that lays the groundwork with great delivery service, there are a few ways you can leverage shipping and fulfillment to improve the subscriber experience:

    • Offer free shipping. Giving all subscribers free shipping is an easy way to incentivize retention by providing meaningful value.
    • Send notifications when subscribers’ next orders are about to be processed along with a link to their customer account portals. That way, you can empower your subscribers to manage their subscription settings.
    • Take advantage of your inventory to incentivize and reward subscribers. Should you ever run out of stock of a certain product, offering subscribers first dibs on the product when it does come back in stock is an excellent way to add a layer of exclusivity.

    The 3PL Fulfillment Services Smartrr Recommends:

    MasonHub Shopify 3PL
    • MasonHub — MasonHub is a comprehensive eCommerce 3PL fulfillment platform. After connecting with your eCommerce store, all the team needs is your inventory to get started with order fulfillment. They’ll also handle any and all returns — all while giving you tracking data so you can monitor the whole process in real time.  
    • ShipBob — A global omnifulfillment solution that offers two-day express shipping solutions, customization, global expansion opportunities, and more. Similar to MashonHub, all you have to do is connect your Shopify store; send your inventory; and they’ll take care of inventory storage, packaging, and management.
    • Extensive — Offers a concierge service to help connect brands with the right 3PLs (and to make matters better — it’s free). They gather your requirements for a 3PL and help match you with 2 - 4 different options that you can then pick from.
    • Cogsy — Gives you full inventory control (without any spreadsheets!) to help streamline any purchase orders. And the best part is our integration with Cogsy allows you to automatically enhance the subscriber experience by prioritizing inventory for your subscribers so they are never out of stock.


    There’s a reason why so many brands have loyalty programs — they’ve been proven to have a substantial impact on both customer retention and revenue growth. On average, customers spend 67% more when they’re part of a loyalty program.

    Loyalty rewards make consumers feel special and valued while simultaneously encouraging them to keep spending more in order to gain more rewards. It’s an ideal win-win for everyone.

    🔄 The Impact on Subscriptions: It’s almost impossible to talk about subscriptions without also talking about loyalty. With such an emphasis on repeat customers, subscription success is contingent on a loyal customer base.

    Here are some creative ideas for leveraging loyalty:

    • Offer loyalty milestones. In addition to letting subscribers accrue points with every purchase, be sure to offer them additional rewards for sticking around for certain periods (6 months, a year, etc).
    • Pepper in both discounts and products that subscribers can trade their points in for. When picking which products to include, lean into your revenue-driving merchandise as a way to highlight your most popular offerings. “Price” these products at higher point values to incentivize subscribers to save up and trade in for the popular item.
    • Market your loyalty program! Subscribers may not be aware of how many loyalty points they have or perhaps they just keep forgetting to trade them in. There isn’t really a point to a loyalty program if subscribers aren’t engaging with it — so be sure to leverage your communications with personalized reminders to incentivize subscribers to trade in their points.

    🧠 Smartrr Loyalty: Smartrr is the only subscription app that offers subscription-led loyalty rewards, which are designed to deepen customer relationships, boost customer engagement, and increase customer lifetime value. We have everything you need to develop a loyalty offering to scale your subscriptions, but if you want a more intricate loyalty program —

    The Loyalty Solution Smartrr Recommends:

    Smartrr integrates with LoyaltyLion, a data-driven engagement platform that grows loyalty at every stage of the customer lifecycle. LoyaltyLion offers loyalty emails, tiers, in-card rewards, and more — and the best part is all LoyaltyLion discount codes work natively with Smartrr, removing the need for any API keys.  


    We’re in the home stretch.

    A final puzzle piece to consider when creating the strongest Shopify tech stack to support your subscriptions is implementing reviews. In general, reviews are vital for conveying the value of your offering. That’s because they help provide social proof, or evidence that other people are using and enjoying your brand.

    Freestyle Diaper Reviews

    The impact of implementing reviews on nudging customers to the checkout button is staggering. Conversions rates have been shown to increase by as much as 380% when higher-priced items are paired with positive reviews. With 88% of consumers saying that they trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations, the simple act of collecting and displaying reviews works wonders to grow your brand.

    🔄 The Impact on Subscriptions: The act of both reading and leaving reviews can help make subscribers feel like part of a community – not to mention you can strengthen your offering based on the feedback you receive.

    In general, if subscribers feel you listen to and value their opinions, they’ll feel a stronger relationship with your brand overall.

    • Offer subscribers loyalty rewards and/or discounts in exchange for leaving a review.
    • Launch a subscriber-exclusive product alongside messaging that subscribers have been specially selected to sample and leave feedback on your new product. This way, you lean into exclusivity while also speeding up the process of gathering vital reviews for a new product.
    • Monitor great reviews from consumers who aren’t subscribers yet. This is a prime opportunity to send a personalized thank you for writing a review while also playing up the many perks of becoming a subscriber.

    The Reviews Tool Smartrr Recommends:

    When it comes to leveraging reviews for your Shopify brand, Okendo is a great choice. Okendo enables you to easily display customer reviews (including images), manage feedback in bulk, send personalized review requests, and more. Plus, Okendo also gives you the tools to implement engaging and effective surveys to level up customer feedback and engagement.

    Bonus Tip: Enhancing the Subscription Experience Overall

    With 8,000 Shopify apps, we are only just scratching the surface of the many ways you can develop a subscription-led tech stack. Having said that, we’d be remiss not to mention a few more key players that truly help elevate your subscribers’ experience:

    • Justuno — Provides a range of engaging and/or gamified pop-ups to help encourage action, be it signing up for your newsletter or subscribing. With precise targeting, Justuno lets you identify who has purchased before so you can catch them the next time they purchase and prompt them to subscribe.
    • Videowise — An eCommerce video platform that takes customer experience to the next level with shoppable videos. This is a great way to capture the attention of your retail audience and bring them into your DTC experience with fun videos that outline the many advantages of your subscription offering.
    • Brij — Brij specializes in QR code experiences and “bridging” the gap between retail and the DTC experience. You can utilize a subscription landing page QR code on any products currently being sold in stores as a way to introduce customers to your subscription experience.
    • EcoCart — With more and more DTC brands aligning with sustainability missions, EcoCart is a great solution to imbue sustainability in every part of the brand experience. EcoCart enables businesses to offer carbon-neutral shipping to consumers as a way to help offset emissions.

    Building or strengthening your Shopify tech stack through the lens of scaling your subscriptions is one of the best ways to ensure you have the right tools to grow your business. Remember — the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s important to consider how your tools work together to maximize recurring revenue, deepen customer engagement, and achieve your brand’s goals.

    It also doesn’t hurt to start with a robust Shopify subscription app like Smartrr that already comes with a variety of LTV-boosting features, including loyalty rewards, bundles, subscription analytics, and more. To learn more about how Smartrr elevates your entire tech stack, send us a note.

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