5 Steps For a Fail-Proof Migration to WooCommerce Subscriptions

    Shreya Reddy
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WooCommerce Migration

Site migration is stressful.

Especially when you have a live subscription website with active users to think about. Not to mention, the tonnes of the valuable user and product data that cannot be compromised at any cost.

I’ll be honest here. Switching to a new platform and importing all your customers to WooCommerce can be a really tricky process. Having said that, if you know what you’re doing, you’ll get through it just fine.
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Whether you’re handing the migration to WooCommerce Subscriptions yourself or getting professional help with it, you need to know exactly what your site’s in for before taking the plunge. 

So let’s get to it!


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#Step 1: Check if Users Need to be Migrated


user migration to WooCommerce Subscriptions


The first step of your migration depends on which platform your current website is built on. 

If you’re already a WordPress user, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Since your WordPress CMS already holds your users, you can directly jump to #Step 2.

On the other hand, if you’re migrating to WooCommerce Subscriptions from platforms like CrateJoy, Recurly, Wix or Magento, you’ll have to import your users onto the new WordPress installation. You can go about this by using an importing tool, by manually entering the data or via a custom importing process depending on what’s most ideal for your situation.

Once your users are migrated, you’ll need to have them reset their respective passwords. The MASS Users Password Reset plugin will help you send a ‘password reset’ notification to all your users. Sadly, this is something you can’t get around while switching platforms. At the most, you can choose to carry out the password reset at a later stage of the migration.

#Step 2: Set Up Your Payments Module

woocommerce dynamic pricing and discounts


We’ve seen a big chunk of our clients migrate to WooCommerce Subscriptions because they have a payments related issue. If you’ve been having second thoughts about your existing Payment Gateway, now’s a great time to think about switching to a new one.

WooCommerce Subscriptions supports all major Payment Gateways. In fact, you can choose from an infinite pool of extensions to add features like discount coupons, subscription boxes, and dynamic pricing to your subscription website.

Once you’ve chosen a suitable Payment Gateway, check if the integration plugin with WooCommerce exists. 

If you’re not using a popular Payment Gateway, there’s a possibility that you won’t find a ready-to-use extension. If that’s the case, you’ll need to have the integration-tool custom developed.

Nothing can wreak havoc on your subscription website like messed up payments tokens. If you don’t get this step right, you’ll risk overcharging your active subscribers or not charging them at all. It’s best to rely on experts while setting up a payment system in case you don’t have prior experience of dealing with something like this. 

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If you’re using PayPal Standard, we suggest that you manually process the Payment details during the migration to WooCommerce Subscriptions.

I’ll explain.

Generally, an event (like a user subscribing to your product/service) on WooCommerce Subscriptions triggers the payments via your chosen gateway. 

Paypal Standard, on the other hand, sets an automatic billing cycle that isn’t based on these events, thus causing a payment discrepancy with some of your subscribers when you’re switching from your existing platform.

If you have any other questions about this, feel free to leave a comment below, or better yet, get in touch with us.


#Step 3: Set Up Your Products on WooCommerce Subscriptions

Migration to WooCommerce Subscriptions

Before the migration to WooCommerce Subscripions, it’s always best to understand subscription workflow of this plugin. 

There are two types of purchase options you can offer for your products or services viz; ‘Subscription Products’ and ‘Subscriptions’. Both ‘Subscription Products’ and ‘Subscriptions’ have distinct billing schedules to determine when future transactions will be processed. 

Let’s explore this in a little more detail.

#1 Subscription Products

When it comes to ‘subscription products’, you can assign standard data like the price, sale price, tax and shipping details, etc just like you would to a standard WooCommerce product.

In simple words, it’s more of a direct purchase option for your users where the item is added to a cart and then the order is processed. I know what you’re thinking. 

How is this a ‘subscription’ product?

The WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin takes care of the subscription element by recording the purchase of this product in ‘orders’ and adding the terms for future payments to a ‘New Subscription’. 

Billing Cycle of Subscription Products:

  • Billing interval and period
  • Billing length
  • Trial period and interval
  • Synchronization date (optional)

#2 Subscriptions

A subscription is an agreement between your store and a customer for future transactions.

The main difference between a ‘subscription product’ and a ‘subscription’ is that an order is a record of a transaction in the past, whereas a subscription is an agreement for transactions in the future. 

Billing Cycle of Subscriptions:

  • Billing interval and period
  • Trial end date
  • Next payment date
  • End date

Once you’re through with setting up your products with the appropriate billing information, you can move on to importing the rest of your data.

#Step 4: Import Your Data and Customers to WooCommerce Subscriptions



Needless to say, while migrating to WooCommerce Subscription, or even otherwise make sure you have a backup of your database and WordPress files. If your current subscription website is on WordPress and you haven’t been taking backups regularly, you can take backups using tools like BackupBuddy, WordPress Backup Plugin by BlogVault, or BackWPup which is free.

Next, you need to create a staging site or test site if you don’t already have one. Now, some web hosts offer a built-in staging site. In other cases, here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Upgrade your main site to the latest version of WordPress
  2. Setup or update all the themes and supporting plugins on your site
  3. Migrate your live site to a subdomain
  4. Use a robots.txt file to make sure Google doesn’t crawl or index your staging site

Once your staging site is ready, your next move depends on which situation you’re in.

If you have an existing WordPress Site, you can copy the database of your live site onto the new staging site. 

In case you’re Migrating to WooCommerce from a Non-WordPress Platform, you’ll need to import all your customers, products, and orders to WooCommerce Subscriptions on your staging site (in the same order).

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Make sure the plugin WooCommerce Subscriptions understands which one of the two is your test site.

The metadata inside your database stores the URL of the live site. The WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin compares the URLs of your live site and test site to distinguish between the two.

So, when you’re copying the database of your main site onto the staging, see to it that all the URLs are replaced.

This again is a very important step considering the fact that if you don’t get it right, WooCommerce Subscriptions will end up charging all the customers on your live site, as well as the test site. In other words, you’ll bill the same users twice. If that does happen, and say you have 1500 subscribers, you’ll have to initiate 1500 refund requests! Eeek!


#Step 5: Test Your New Subscriptions Website Before Going Live


Ideally, that includes everything from checking the broken links on your site to testing out the payments system. 

For now, here’s a list of some basic things you need to pay attention to:

  • Create test users to check if subscriptions are getting created
  • Test out the basic subscription workflow (add to cart and checkout) 
  • Make sure payments are getting triggered as per the billing cycle you have set
  • Check if these payments are recorded on the payment gateway

This is hardly a comprehensive list, but it covers the major elements you need to look at on any subscription website. Prepare for the worst and double-check everything before you get the changes live.

Parting Words

We’ve seen a lot of businesses get the migration process wrong. 

Dealing with botched website migrations is a whole other challenge. Making sense of what needs to be fixed can be a monumental task in and of itself, let alone repairing the damage done. Such clean-up jobs are time-consuming, costly and messy.

Simply put, it’s best to avoid putting yourself in that situation. 

Plan out every step of the migration before you begin, prepare to tackle the common pitfalls you might come across during the migration to WooCommerce Subscriptions and don’t hesitate to get help when you need it. But as I mentioned earlier, if you plan for it and know what you’re doing, you’ll be fine.

Got questions? Ask away in the comments section below. We’re Official WooCommerce Subscriptions Migration Partners and would love to help you out in any way we can.

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Further Reading on WooCommerce Subscriptions: 


Shreya Reddy

Shreya Reddy

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