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Published Article

Subscription Billing Systems: The Complete Guide

Inxeption Editorial Team | Published 1-15-2020 | Modified 11-5-2020

Many B2B companies are transitioning to selling services online via subscription billing. This is made possible by software programs that make it easy to get business customers the products they need at the intervals they need them. The diverse number of accepted payment methods that B2B buyers need to accommodate has created a need for better online payment processing engines. Benefits of having a tool that accommodates for this include lowered costs, improved storage space, increased security, and enhanced customer retention and loyalty.

If you are a business selling services, you need to make sure you choose the right payment processing system and subscription billing system for your business and the needs of your customers. This guide will prepare you for all things payment and subscription billing.

This guide will prepare you for all things payment and subscription billing.

What is an online payment system?

An online payment system, sometimes called an e-payment system, or electronic payment system, is an internet-based method of processing transactions between parties. This industry has steadily grown due to increases in both B2C and B2B ecommerce. Using an online payment system extends a business’ ability to sell.

Largely, online payment systems are classified into two main areas: credit payment systems and cash payment systems.

  • Under the credit payment system, a business will contract with one of the hundreds of credit card payment processors to be able to process customer transactions. If you’ve ever used an online store, you’re familiar with this system.
  • Under cash payment systems, a business completes transactions via bank account transfer from checking or savings accounts that customers hold.

Using either of these forms of processing will reduce foreign transaction fees, improve cash flow statements, and open your business to greater operating cash flow by accepting multiple credit card issuers. Team members of your ecommerce store and users of your ecommerce software will be able to boast a platform offering unlimited products through a subscription and ecommerce solution.

What are the pros of using an e-payment system?

There are countless benefits to using an electronic payment system.

  • Expanding your business for a global audience
  • Quicker, more efficient, and more prevalent transactions
  • Lower transactional cost
  • Easy to add payment methods to an integrated platform or website
  • Anti-fraud and increased security
  • Imagine project management without project management software, and you'll understand why you need to accept e-payments as part of your service solution.

What is subscription billing?

Subscription billing is the process of billing customers on a recurring basis in exchange for access to resources, entertainment, or software. You might already be engaged with a business who offers services as a subscription. These businesses make their way by offering a desirable commodity or service (in the case of software) that is accessible only through a regular, recurring fee.

What is recurring billing?

Recurring billing means that your process for billing customers occurs over and over again, often automatically, so that your customers can continue to enjoy your service or software for a specific amount of time. Some of the best invoicing software for small businesses have a recurring billing feature to satisfy such customers. Usually, recurring billing for your software or service will exist on a certain timeline such as monthly or yearly.

What is subscription management?

Subscription management is the process of managing service subscribers across their lifecycle. A subscription management system handles your product catalog, pricing, subscriber data, subscriber history, and more. For a SaaS system, subscription management also includes managing trials, price changes, and cancellations across a subscription.

There are many kinds of data that you might be interested in maintaining as the provider of a subscription, which require a system of understanding and categorizing your users. Subscription management includes all of the data that you need to continue to grow and succeed as an electronic payment and subscription biller.

What are subscription billing systems?

Subscription billing systems help to bill customers regularly in an automated way instead of through a one-time fee. Instead of paying for a single item and establishing ownership over a commodity, the user or buyer establishes access to a resource on a time-limited basis. This access is only valid for a set amount of time, making it easy for the customer to discontinue access and for the subscription provider to change terms, features, and prices to suit business demand.

In subscription billing, the following traits need to be identified by an electronic payment processor and by the subscription management system:

  • Who’s being billed
  • What they’re being billed for
  • How much they should be billed
  • When they should be billed
  • How payment should be collected
  • How the data from the subscription should be reported for analytics and accounting

Likewise, each recurring payment needs to make use of components of the subscription billing system.

  1. Payment Gateway

    This is a tool used to receive payment. Just as there are many ways to pay, there are many payment gateways. Different payment gateways allow customers to pay through a different variety of options including major credit cards, third party payment, purchase orders, ACH, etc. If you use a limited payment gateway, you won’t be able to charge customers in all the ways that B2B business often demands. Inxeption’s robust cart acts as a gateway that integrates many payment methods needed for business transactions.

  2. Merchant Account

    In order for a recurring payment to happen, your business will need a bank account that recognizes and processes card payments before transferring them to the business account. This will allow you to smoothly and easily bill customers for access to your subscription. Merchant accounts will also help you store data on your customer and ensure that all touchpoints with them are personal to their account.

  3. Subscription Management Tool

    A shopping cart that allows for a recurring payment process is an example of a subscription management tool. Subscription management software works alongside the payment gateway to allow the customer to be charged correctly and quickly.

  4. Analytics

    If you are using a SaaS software or platform, you want to look for some form of integrated analytics and a place to see the log of transactions and user data, such as Inxeption’s analytics dashboards. This is where all the data you collect on your customer will be categorized and held to be analyzed and used in decision making for the future of your product. You might eventually want to use usage and payment data to make choices about how you bill your customers and attract them to your service.

What’s the difference between a subscription billing platform and payment gateway?

Some payment gateways and subscription billing platforms are one in the same, like Inxeption’s robust shopping cart. The Inxeption Cart allows your business to sell services, and manage your subscription billing and payments with ease and industrial strength.

But, when payment gateways are not part of the same tool, there is a payment gateway on one side that facilitates your payments from account and cards. The subscription billing platform is separate from this in many cases as it manages the billing of subscriptions only without the ability to actually complete payments.

The most important thing to do when evaluating a payment gateway and subscription billing solution for your business is to know the size of your business and the resources you need to scale.

How do I know which subscription billing system is right for my business?

Knowing which subscription billing system is right for your business will depend on how you intend to satisfy the way your customer wants to buy. Ask yourself a few general and relevant questions about your platform and your business.

  • What platform does my business use?
  • Can this easily integrate if not already a component?
  • How easily will the solution scale as my business scales?
  • How secure is the system?
  • Does my existing payment gateway combine all the types of payment methods I need for my customers?
  • How will I deal with customer problems?
  • Who will deal with customer problems?
  • What is the cost and what can I afford to pay?
  • Are there any unique business requirements to my business that are absolutely necessary?

If you find yourself asking these questions, you are well on your way to choosing an effective payment gateway and subscription billing system that is right for your business. Don’t be afraid to get specific. Answer the above questions to get an idea of the requirements of your system from a customer, business, and security standpoint.

Subscription billing mistakes to avoid

  1. Hard coding your own billing system

    The problem with hard coding your own billing system is that your business will lack the flexibility to quickly change pricing around market demand, and will have to reserve engineering resources for assessing problems with the system. By utilizing a customized, but not hard-coded billing system, you can change price on demand and save resources and flexibility for actually running your business, not charging your customers.

  2. Thinking B2B cannot be self service

    The second mistake in subscription billing for B2B businesses is thinking B2B cannot be self service. Shifting to a recurring revenue model will help increase customer interactions and reduce hand holding. If you consider the alternative, manual processing results in high administration costs and, sometimes, unhappy customers. Manual processing requires resources and leads to delays in satisfaction of your customer when your business is growing and expanding to meet demand.

  3. Sending bland emails and invoices

    Bland emails and invoices to notify customers that they have been charged are a missed opportunity to remind them of other opportunities, special offers, or promotions. A polite, personal email can go a long way toward establishing a relationship with your B2B audience, and it will help ensure that your customer is aware of all the ways you try to make their subscription affordable, worthwhile, and valuable to them in some way.

What makes Inxeption’s solution unique?

Inxeption’s robust commerce platform allows you to bring your business online, reach a wider audience, and sell more product online. The Inxeption Cart is especially designed to make B2B transactions easy, without the added hassle of paperwork or multiple systems. The cart handles purchase orders, subscription billing and recurring billing, digital signature with DocuSign, quoting and more.