Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Find the Right Ecommerce Platform for Your Subscription Business


One of the biggest challenges for any digital subscription business is finding the right platform to manage the entire revenue lifecycle. Everything from account management, payment processing, to automated email communications needs to be supported by an ecommerce platform designed for subscription businesses. But with many platforms to choose from, what are the key capabilities you need to look for and how do you select one that will meet your specific needs? To help you narrow your search, here are seven things to keep in mind:
1) Built for digital products
Software subscriptions are one of the fastest growing verticals in the ecommerce space and there are many platforms that are hoping to support this space. When you begin to research companies, make sure to find out how long each company has been supporting digital products and how they got started in ecommerce. It’s important to look for companies that are founded on supporting digital products. These companies understand how the digital space works so their platforms are fully FTC compliant and support everything from the point the software is purchased, to downloads and license key distribution, as well as subscription management.
2) Global business support
When looking at platforms, make sure to ask about global support – the number of currencies, languages offered and payment options. There tends to be stronger conversions when the shopping cart is in the local language and currency. So if you are selling products globally, choose a platform that supports the geographies you need. Also, the platform needs to support multiple payment options. Offering multiple payment options leads to a higher the conversion rate because customers have a wide selection of payment choices.
3) Lifetime subscription management
Subscription management goes beyond customers updating billing information – it encompasses the entire customer lifecycle, from initial purchase to subscription renewal. The platform you choose should provide cost effective administration for your business including:
  • Flexible subscription terms
  • Renewal optimization and Dunning management
  • Real-time reporting and analytics on key subscription metrics
  • Subscription profile management
  • Flexible and robust API to allow you to customize your platform to meet your business needs
4) Integrated email communications
There are two types of email communications that are important to subscription businesses – transactional and marketing. Ideally, your platform should support both. Transactional emails seem like the more obvious choice to integrate, but marketing emails should be integrated as well. Marketing emails cover everything that is not deemed essential communication — newsletters, product enhancements and promotions just to name a few. Integrating your marketing emails allows you to manage your opt-in lists, add new subscribers in real-time, and streamline marketing operations.
5) Customer support
Professional customer support is a key element in ensuring customer satisfaction and building brand loyalty. Some ecommerce platforms offer professional customer support to handle customer requests such as purchase inquires, updates to credit information, password resets and lost license keys. These professional support teams operate as your company’s front line representatives and provide support to customers around the world.  On the other hand, if a platform doesn’t provide customer support, your fees may be lower, but you may not be able to maintain adequate levels of customer service.
6) Reports built for subscriptions
The platform you choose for your business should come with reports that are designed specifically for subscriptions. You need to be able to have a clear understanding of how subscriptions are performing overall and how different subscribers cohorts are performing. Reports like monthly recurring revenues, renewal rate and subscriber retention will provide you with the data you need to help you identify trends, highlight areas for additional testing and areas that can be improved.
7) Pricing Models
Ecommerce platforms generally have two types of pricing models. The first is designed for large enterprise companies. With this model, there is an integration fee and an ongoing monthly support fee. The second is the pay-per-transaction pricing model. With this model, there are no set-up fees, integration is done quickly, and you only pay when you make a sale. Companies that offer the pay-per-transaction pricing model provide customized solutions and take care of many of the details associated with ecommerce business.
What ecommerce platform is best for you?
Choosing a platform optimized for your specific business is a big decision. When you are searching make sure to keep the above points in mind and you’ll be on the right track for choosing a platform that meets your needs.
—Jason
Jason Kiwaluk
Ideation Manager

Jason Kiwaluk

Mower & Shoveller,

Ecommerce | Adtech | Innovation | Strategy

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