In today's blog post, we'll explore best practices to minimize the impact of declined transactions. We’ll also share tips for benchmarking and iterating on site configurations to improve transaction decline recovery and drive revenue.
For merchants concerned about their decline rates, the most important place to start is by reviewing their average decline rates and then comparing them to industry standards. Decline rates can be assessed by exporting monthly transaction data and setting the origin to "recurring" and status to "declined." This will isolate recurring transaction declines from declines due to signups or billing information updates, which tend to be higher as a result of customer data entry errors. For most customers, a decline rate of 5-14% of monthly transactions for business-to-business (B2B) and 6-18% for business-to-consumer (B2C) is standard—but that number will vary greatly depending on the composition of a merchant’s user base.
Diagnose & Repair
Once data has been benchmarked, merchants can use that same data to better understand their decline reasons and look for trends (filter the same export on the "message" column). While the majority of merchants will see a generic "Decline" as their primary decline reason, other buckets of errors can be insightful.
For example, some errors will indicate that the payment gateway configuration needs to be optimized, like requirements for CVV or AVS, which should not be configured for recurring payments. B2B merchants may see errors relating to "SERV NOT ALLOWED" if customers are paying with corporate cards that have restrictions on recurring transactions. Likewise, a B2C merchant may see this error more frequently if customers are paying with pre-paid debit or gift cards.
Looking at the data month-over-month can reveal some interesting trends. B2C merchants tend to experience higher declines November through January, due to higher holiday spending. These declines are typically related to funding issues, so more dunning emails over a longer period of time during this window may be effective in driving recovery. During the summer months, B2B merchants might experience more declines as their business customers are away on vacation and not checking work emails. This is a prime time to add additional contacts to the customer’s account and extend the dunning window.
The longer a customer is retained, the more likely their card information may be out of date. Sending renewal reminder emails (with a call to action to update billing information) and using Recurly’s Account Updater service will help drive more recovery. This pattern can also become apparent with annual subscribers.
Another important information source is a merchant’s customer service team. Are they getting a lot of requests from customers wanting to make a payment and reactivate their subscription after an invoice has failed and the subscription terminated? If so, this can mean that the merchant’s dunning cycle is too short and doesn’t give their customers enough time to make a payment While most Recurly merchants experience the bulk of their recovery in 14 days, a 21-28 day dunning cycle might help recapture those long-tail customers without manual effort.
Finally, merchants should review the emails that are sent during the dunning process to ensure the From address makes it clear who’s contacting them and that the Subject indicates a need for action. The email can include links to a customer's Hosted Account Management page for them to update their billing information themselves.
With regular analysis, it will be clear what issues are causing transaction declines and what tweaks can correct them. Beyond the exports already discussed, the Subscription Churn export is helpful in identifying the split between different subscription terminations—for example, between intentional cancellations vs. terminations due to non-payment—and can be used to measure the success of your efforts.
Many factors can impact how successful a merchant may be in recovering transaction declines. It's important to periodically review declines and adjust dunning settings to minimize declines and maximize revenue. Don't be afraid to contact Recurly Support with any questions about decline rates and how to improve them.