Blog / InspirationFriday, May 22, 2020

Buying a Subscription Billing Platform – 6 Crucial Points

Anne Egdal

Buying a Subscription Billing Platform – 6 Crucial Points

Is your business considering signing up to a subscription billing platform for the first time, or considering changing how you manage your subscriptions? Your business model might be evolving so you can offer subscriptions, or you could be about to launch your SaaS platform and be offering subscriptions from the outset.

Many businesses or employees within start-ups will have experience of using customer relationship management (CRM) and similar tools but adding online subscription billing may add another layer to a business and therefore represent a new, and different challenge.

Let’s look at six crucial points of buying a subscription billing service, incorporating both what to look out for as well as the benefits of implementing such a solution for your business, whether you’re selling SaaS or something else.

1. Subscription Handling & Admin

When it comes to operating a subscription model, the best and most successful businesses are those who model the best range of options to their customers, while at the same time keeping things simple.

From your perspective, this means you need your subscription platform:

  • To allow customers to be able to move between different pricing tiers or plans.
  • To allow your customers’ businesses to be scalable – remember that it’s your customers’ customers that will be taking out the subscription if you’re operating a SaaS platform and selling to agencies and others on a B2B basis.
  • To enable you to offer a variety of payment options whether you operate fixed fees, recurring but variable fees, or discounts for taking out an annual rather than a monthly subscription, which is common.
  • To be able to accept a variety of payment methods and currencies.

Depending on your business model and when you bill users, you may also need to use things like metered or percentage-based billing for part-month usage, and to trigger initial followed by recurring payments if your business offers a free trial.

2. Billing Automation

Just as the primary benefit of moving to a subscription model is to ensure recurring revenue for your business, making it easier to project cash flow, choosing the right subscription billing platform puts this process onto autopilot and massively reduces the work you need to do to ensure you get payments from customers.

You should consider your business model and how you can further automate this process yourself, and look for your subscription billing platform to:

  • Trigger emails with your branding to customers if they’re due to be billed but their payment method is expiring.
  • Send receipts to customers every time they are rebilled.
  • Activate multiple attempts to take payment if the first attempt fails. Do you really want to cancel a customer’s subscription immediately and then deal with the potential negative PR as well as potentially the human time to ensure the subscription is re-activated correctly?
  • Remind customers if they could save money. For example, if a customer subscribes on a monthly basis, when they reach month 12 or 13 could you tell them about what they could save by taking out an annual subscription for the next 12 months? You’ll lock in that revenue and the customer gets a great deal!

3. Payment Processing

Payment processing is something to keep in mind that impacts both on you and on your customers.

Let’s tackle this from a customer perspective first.

Your customers want to be able to take out your subscription safe in the knowledge that their payment and personal details are held securely. If leaving your site to make a payment managed by your subscription provider, they want this process to be seamless. Remember that your web development team will also have a part to play in making this work for your customers.

Ensure you spend some time understanding how payment processing works at every subscription billing provider you are considering using. If something goes wrong with payment, it will come to your customer service teams’ door. Doing your due diligence before choosing a provider will make a massive difference to your business in the long-term.

From your perspective? While you won’t be dealing with the practicalities of payment processing in the same way your customers will, you do want to know how your subscription platform will go about paying you, and about things like payment fees.

Do your homework for yourself as well as for your customers!

4. Automation Around Customer Needs

Ensure that your subscription billing platform allows your customers to do whatever they need and want to do, whenever they need and want to do it.

Given that you’re web-based, the ability to subscribe 24/7 will – or should be – a given.

What you need to make sure of is everything that will underpin and facilitate this, such as:

  • Using helpdesk software in conjunction with your subscription billing platform, predominantly so at out of hours times customers can find help and you increase the chances of earning a new subscriber. Using remote Live Chat will help you do this, too.
  • Your website being optimised across multiple devices, so that new subscribers can join whether they’re on their desktop at home or on their smartphone or tablet while travelling.
  • Customers being able to update billing details or their subscription without needing to contact you.

While some services look to make the cancellation process difficult, for example by requiring you to make a call to speak to someone, you should think about customer satisfaction and make this as simple as possible. You can, of course, automate different offers and retention strategies as a means of reducing churn and keeping subscribers, but if people do want to unsubscribe no matter what, it should be easy for them to do so.

5. Tracking Usage

Understanding customer usage of your product, both on an individual level as well as from a wider trends perspective, will enable you to build your databank and over time understand how customers behave prior to unsubscribing, or how wider economic trends influence your business.

In turn, this will allow you to be proactive with putting things in place before customers unsubscribe, or prior to periods that have historically seen a lot of sign-ups or a spike in those unsubscribing.

6. Business Management Insights

In addition to tracking usage at multiple levels, you want your subscription billing platform to be able to provide you with insights that will help you to manage your business.

You should be looking for your subscription platform to be providing data such as:

  • Regular monthly income
  • Income from annual subscribers
  • Sign-up and retention rates
  • Churn rates

While naturally you will likely be tracking a lot of this yourself via other analytics platforms or your own website back-end, it pays to have visibility from your subscription billing platform, too.

Summing up

Choosing a suitable subscription billing platform and provider for your business will help you to achieve growth, keep customers satisfied, and lay a foundation for your business to be a success.

In such a crowded sector, ensure you take the time to understand which tools are available, what features are most important to you, and how these will help you to run your business, retain subscribers, and grow your customer base.

 

Author: Anne Egdal

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