In this tutorial you will learn about using the PayPal Subscription button on your website.
A PayPal Subscription button allows your customers to sign up for recurring payments for products and services.
Using the PayPal Subscription button lifts the administrative burden of managing subscription payments off your shoulders. Once PayPal subscriptions have been set up, all you need to do is monitor the process, while PayPal does the rest.
A PayPal Subscription button is suitable for any type of product or service that is brought on a regular basis. Whether you sell services, or physical or downloadable products, using the PayPal Subscription button will come in handy.
- How PayPal Subscriptions work?
- Setting up a PayPal Subscription button
- Creating the PayPal Subscription button
- Adding the PayPal Subscription button to your website
- Copying the Subscription button code
- Pasting the code on your website
- Setting up inventory and profit tracking for your Subscription button
- Configuring advanced settings for your Subscription button
- Streamlining checkout
- Customized Cancel and Success pages
- Setting up advanced variables
- Editing your PayPal Subscription button
Here’s an overview of how the PayPal Subscription button works:
- You display a PayPal Subscription button on your website.
- Your customer clicks the Subscription button to sign up.
- They are taken to the PayPal website where they can:
- Login to their PayPal account to sign up; or
- Enter their billing information to sign up using their credit card.
- The customer confirms the recurring transaction before signing up and paying.
- The customer is taken to the PayPal Thank You page where they can view or print their subscription confirmation.
Setting up a PayPal Subscription button is a relatively simple process:
PayPal also offers optional advanced configuration options that you can use if you like.
Once you have created your PayPal Subscription button, you can edit and update it whenever necessary.
The first step is to create your PayPal Subscription button in your PayPal account and generate the button code.
The sections that follow take you through a step-by-step process of configuring your Subscription button.
Accessing the Subscription button settings
To access the PayPal Subscription button settings:
- Login to your Business or Premier PayPal account.
- Click Tools > All Tools in the top bar.
- Click Open in PayPal buttons.
Tip! Click the heart in PayPal buttons to add this option to the Tools menu for easier access next time you login.
- In Related items (right column) click Create new button.
Entering basic Subscription button information
The Create new button link opens the Create PayPal payment button page. This page is used to create all of PayPal buttons.
To enter your basic Subscription button information:
- Click to expand Step 1: Choose a button type and enter your payment details to show the available options. <expand-icon.png>.
- Choose a button type: Select Subscriptions in the drop-down menu.
- Item name: Enter the name of the item the Subscription button relates to. For example, use the magazine name if you sell a range of magazines or the course name to distinguish one eLearning course in a series etc.
- Subscription ID: This is an optional field and you can leave it blank if you like. It can be useful if you offer different types of subscriptions, for example monthly, quarterly and annual subscriptions. Enter an identifying name or code that corresponds with the subscription type.
- Currency: Select your currency in the drop-down menu. All supported currencies are listed. <paypal-currency.png>
The Customize button section allow you to customize the way your Subscription button looks and functions.
Check Add a drop-down menu with prices and options to set up different subscription options at different prices.
- Description: Enter text that describes your subscription options or helps your customer understand them. This text displays above the drop-down menu.
- Menu name: Enter the name of the option, for example the name of membership type. These names display first in drop-down list and are separated by a dash from the price.
- Amount: Enter the price of each option.
- Frequency: Select the frequency at which your customer will be charged in the drop-down. Options are Daily, Weekly, Monthly or Yearly.
- Add another option: Click this link to add additional option boxes. You can add a total of 10 options.
- Remove option: Click this link to remove the last option.
- Done: Click to save your settings and preview the button in Your Customer’s view.
Adding options without prices
Check Add a drop-down menu to add subscription options without prices.
This option is useful when you charge one price for all available options. For example, if you charge a fixed monthly rate for courses on various subject matters. Note! The price per billing cycle will be added later.
- Name of drop-down menu: Enter text that describes your subscription options or helps your customer understand them. This text displays above the drop-down menu.
- Menu option name: Enter the option names, for example Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Each name displays as a menu item.
- Add another option: Click to add another option box. You can add a total of 10 options.
- Done: Click to save your settings and preview the button in Your Customer’s view.
Check Add text field to add a text field in which your customer can enter personalized information.
This option does not fit typical subscription scenarios, but it may be useful in your circumstance:
- Enter the name of text field: Enter text that helps your customer understand and complete the field.
- Done: Click to save your settings and preview the button in Your Customer’s view.<customize-text-field>
Customizing text and appearance
You can change the appearance and text of the default PayPal Subscription button or use your own button image.
To customize the button appearance, click Customize text or appearance to access the options.
- PayPal button: This is the default option and signifies that a button image provided by PayPal will be used.
- Use a smaller button: Check this option to use a small-sized Subscribe button with no credit card logos – . <small-subscribe-button.png>
- Display credit card logos: Uncheck this option to use a standard Subscribe button with no credit card logos – . <standard-subscribe-button.png>
- Country and language for button: Select your country and language. Your choice will be applied to the button and will change the syntax and spelling to that of the chosen language.
- Select button text: Select an option in the drop-down. Options are Subscribe or Buy Now.
- Use your own button image: This option allows you to link to a custom button image, instead of using the images provided by PayPal. This is useful if it is important to match the button with the look and feel of your website, for example.Enter the URL to the image. If your image is hosted on an SSL-secured server, change the text box to begin with https://.
Creating usernames and passwords
The Have PayPal create user names and passwords for customers is an optional, advanced feature that requires programming knowledge. If you are not an advanced user, ignore this option.
When enabled, PayPal generates usernames and passwords that allow your customers to access restricted, member-only content on your website. To use this feature you need to be able:
- Write or edit a Perl script and place it on your server.
- Modify your webserver settings.
For more information, see Subscriptions Password Management.
Note! To use this feature, you must first enable Instant Payment Notification and disable Auto-Return in your Profile.
Note! If you enabled Add a drop-down menu with prices and options in Customize button, this section does not apply. The options will be greyed out and inactive.
To set up your Subscription button billing amount and terms:
- Billing amount each cycle: Enter the amount to be charged at the beginning of each billing cycle.
- Billing cycle: Set the billing cycle by:
- Selecting a number from the drop-down to set the billing frequency.
- Selecting the period of the billing cycle. Options are Day(s), Week(s), Month(s) and Year(s). This is can be confusing. Here are a few examples:
- 1 month(s) means every month;
- 3 month(s) means every 3 months or quarterly;
- 12 month(s) means every 12 months or annually;
- 1 year(s) means every 1 year or annually;
- 2 week(s) means every 2 weeks or fortnightly.
- After how many cycles should billing stop: The number of billing cycles after which billing stops.
Setting a trial period
You can offer your customers a free or discounted trial period as an incentive to subscribe to your product or service.
To enable a Subscription button trial period:
- Check I want to offer a trial period.
- Leave Amount to bill for the trial period blank to provide a free trial period, or enter the discounted amount to charge for the trial period. Customers will receive only one bill for each trial period, irrespective of the length of the trial period.
- In Define the trial period select a number and a unit of time for the trial period. For example, 1 and month(s) for 1 month, or 14 and day(s) for 14 days.
- Make a selection in Do you want to offer a second trial period:
- Yes: To offer a second trial period. Repeat the procedure in 2. above.
- No: To not offer a second trial period.
Setting your merchant account ID
PayPal offers two options for setting your merchant account ID:
- Use my secure merchant account ID: This option associates transactions from your Subscriptions button with your PayPal merchant ID. This is the default setting and we strongly recommend that you use it. It ensures that your email address is not used in the button code, preventing its exposure to spammers.
- Use my primary email address: This option associates transactions from your Subscription button with your primary email address. It may be useful in larger organizations to identify the person responsible for handling subscriptions. Only the selected email address receives email payment notifications.If your Profile contains multiple email addresses, select the address to use as the primary email address for this button.
Note! This option includes the selected primary email address in the button code, making it vulnerable to spammers. For this reason, PayPal recommends using the default (first) option, if possible.
Note! If you have a Premium account, your email address may still appear in the <head> tag of your checkout page for both options.
The button settings will be sufficient for most users at this stage. If you are satisfied, you can go ahead and click at the bottom of the page to generate the button code. <create-button.png>
Advanced users may want to configure the following additional advanced options before generating the code:
- Step 2: Track inventory, profit & loss (optional), and
- Step 3: Customize advanced features (optional).
These topics are covered later in this tutorial.
Once you have created your Subscription button on the PayPal website, the next step is to display it on your website
When you click on PayPal, the page containing the generated button code opens automatically. <create-button.png>
PayPal provides the HTML code for webpages and emails in separate tabs.
The code in our example generates a Subscribe button to sign up customers for a magazine subscription for £20.00 per month.
To copy the code:
- Activate the Website tab and click Select Code.
- Right-click and copy the code to the clipboard.
- For now, paste the code in Notepad or similar application for later use.
We use WordPress to demonstrate this section. These instructions can be adapted for any platform as long as you have access to the HTML code of your pages. The editor in most CMSs has a Text or similar option which allows you to see the code.
In WordPress you can paste the generated code on any page or post, or use it in a widget area.
Displaying the Subscription button on a page
To display the PayPal Subscription button on a page:
- Create a page showcasing your subscription product or edit an existing page.
- Open the page in the editor, click Text to access the HTML code.
- Paste the Donations button code you copied from PayPal.
- Click Visual to see the button in the editor.
- Publish your page or changes to make your button live.
Displaying the PayPal Subscription button in the side bar
To display the PayPal Subscription button in a widget area.
- Go to Appearance > Widgets.
- Select Custom HTML widget.
- Add it to an appropriate widget area on your site, typically the side bar area.
- Paste the code you copied from PayPal into the Content area of the widget.
- Click Save.
- Visit your site to view the button in the widget area.
To access the tracking options, on the PayPal button settings page click to expand Step 2: Track inventory, profit & loss. <expand-icon.png>
- Inventory tracking is very useful to ensure you do not sell products that are out of stock, and to alert you when stocks are low.
- Profit and loss tracking allows you enter your cost price to monitor profit on sales.
You can enable both inventory and profit tracking, or either option.
To enable tracking:
- Track inventory: Check this option to track your inventory.
When you check the box, item and option tracking settings become active in the box below.
- Track profit and losses: Check this option to enter a cost price to track your profits.
When check the box, the Cost field becomes active in the box below.
- You can track your products by item or by option.The options you selected when customizing your subscription button options determine the options that are available for tracking.
- By item: This setting tracks your inventory by item only, regardless of any product options that you may have configured for the button.
- By option: This setting tracks your inventory by the product options you specified for the button. If you set up product options with prices, this option is automatically selected.
- Item ID: Enter an arbitrary ID for tracking purposes.
- Qty in stock: Enter the quantity of the item you have in stock.
- Alert qty: Enter the alert quantity. PayPal will send you an email when stock reaches this quantity.
- Price/Cost: Enter the cost price of the product. This box will greyed out and inactive unless the Track profit and loss option is checked.
- Can customers buy an item when it is sold out: This option allows you to disallow purchasing if your tracking options indicate a product is out of stock.Choose the option that best suits your circumstances, depending on your ability to restock quickly, and your delivery-time obligations:
- Yes: Select to allow your customers to complete a sale, regardless of the quantity indicated to be in stock.
- No: Select this option to not allow purchases of out-of-stock items.You can optionally direct the customer to a custom page that provides instructions on back ordering, or whatever may be appropriate in your circumstances. To do this, set up your custom page on your website and enter the URL in the box provided.
This is an advanced topic that you can ignore, without consequence, if you like. These settings should be configured before generating the button code.
PayPal offers optional advanced settings for your PayPal Subscription button.
To access the advanced options, on the PayPal button settings page click to expand Step 3: Customize advanced features (optional). <expand-icon.png>
Depending on the type of products and services you offer, it may not be necessary to ask your customer for their shipping address. For non-physical products and most services, a shipping address is rarely necessary.
The Do you need your customer’s shipping address option allows you to skip a shipping address request in the checkout process.
- Yes: This is the default setting. Your customers will be required to furnish their shipping address.
- No: Select this option to skip the shipping address request during checkout.
PayPal allows you to customize the pages your customer is taken to after successfully checking out or if they cancel their checkout.
- Take customers to this URL when they cancel their checkout:If you enable this option, when a customer cancels their checkout process, they will be taken to a custom page on your website, instead of the default PayPal cancellation page. This provides an opportunity to get them to change their mind about cancelling.
To enable this functionality, check the box and enter the URL to the custom page on your website.
- Take customers to this URL when they finish their checkout:If you enable this option, your customer will be taken to a custom page on your website, instead of the default PayPal success page, after successfully checking out. This provides a great opportunity to personally thank them.
To enable this functionality, check the option box and enter the URL to the custom page on your website.
Note! Advanced variables require HTML programming experience and should only be used if you really know what you are doing.
Developers can use the Advanced variables field to create and customize buttons using PayPal HTML payment button variables.
All PayPal buttons are saved by default. You don’t need to explicitly save your buttons in Step 2: Save your buttons (optional), because this is the default behaviour.
You can access your buttons at any time in Tools > PayPal buttons> My Saved Buttons.
The button list contains all your PayPal buttons and provides Actions that allow you to edit and update them:
- Edit button: Click to access and edit the button settings.
- View code: Click to access and copy the generated button code.
- Create similar button: Click to create a new button based on this button.
- Delete button: Click to permanently delete the button.
- Create new button: Click to create a new button from scratch.
We hope you have found this tutorial on using the PayPal Subscriptions button useful.
Good luck and Happy Selling!