Migrating Subscribers and Recurring Payments into WordPress

E-commerce can be complicated, tricky and is absolutely essential for many modern websites. Sometimes, we encounter clients for whom getting things set up right the first time was so challenging that they just don’t ever want to mess with it again, let alone try to migrate to a new site or even a new platform. So they end up settling for what “works” instead of figuring out how to make it better.

Recently, we helped a client to migrate hundreds of subscribers from an antiquated, custom content management system into a brand new WordPress site running WooCommerce and WooCommerce Subscriptions. Each of their subscribers had various subscriptions, with varying auto-renewal times and end dates. Most importantly, the subscribers’ payment information was linked to their accounts, making those auto-renewals possible. As you can imagine, it was vitally important that all of that just kept working when we switched them over to their new site.

So…we dug into the old system to see what we were working with.

What we discovered was good news. The old site was using Authorize.Net as the payment gateway (Authorize.Net is one of the most mature, robust payment gateways available—we strongly recommend it) and the setup used their CIM technology. Hope on the horizon.

Authorize.net CIM for Recurring Payments in WordPress?

Back in the wild-west days of the internet, there were plenty of poorly constructed e-commerce systems around. Even now it’s not unheard of to come across an old site storing customers’ credit card information in the database or even just a text file sitting on the server. But technologies like CIM (and similar options from other respected payment gateways), make those kinds of shenanigans absolutely unnecessary—even for recurring payments.

Authorize.Net’s CIM makes use of tokens (you can think of a “token” as a kind unique, secret password that represents your credit card information in a secure way) to connect users on a site to their information stored securely on Authorize.Net’s servers. That stored information might include multiple payment types as well as multiple addresses for the customer. A site merely needs its own merchant tokens, plus the tokens assigned to a customer to reference that information when a customer wants to use stored billing information to make a purchase or sign up for a recurring subscription.

The great thing about this technology (other than the high level of security it provides), is that the tokens are the same regardless of the platform or other technologies used on the site. So for our subscription migration project, the task was to round up the tokens in the database on the old site and get them linked up with the customers and then insert them into the new WordPress site just like they had been generated there in the first place. Once that was done, all the customer payment options that had been added through the old site showed up in their profiles and the renewals continued to go through without interruption.

There are certainly other scenarios where moving over the subscriptions would’ve presented additional challenges, but in most cases it’s going to be a fairly similar process. If you’d really like to get away from an outdated setup, but maybe you’re worried (or even embarrassed) about the complexity of your aging site, just ask us to take a look. We’d love the opportunity to help you move to something easier to manage, more secure, and more future-proof.

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