What is scale?

In computing, scale is the ability of a system to handle an increasing amount of work without a decline in performance. In the context of your businesses, scale refers to the ability to grow revenue and customer base without a corresponding increase in costs. 

But what does it really mean when somebody says “at scale”? If a business has one hundred customers, are they operating “at scale”?  What about a thousand customers?  A million? When we talk about scale at Recurly, we are talking about our experience in processing over U.S. $12 billion in transactions every year for over 55 million subscribers. 

Why is scale important?

When you have a small number of customers to serve, things are easy. You can give each customer personalized attention and ensure that everyone receives the optimal experience. As your business grows, it’s important to maintain that same customer experience without spending the same amount of time with each customer. 

When you are operating at scale, automation becomes critical as you are looking for ways to continue to maintain a great customer experience while reducing your per-customer costs. At the same time, small improvements to the performance of your business become more important.  While a tenth of a percent increase in revenue may not seem worth the investment when you are bringing in less than a million dollars in revenue, that same improvement to 100 million in revenue is meaningful. 

Operating at scale is being able to focus on those small improvements while your subscription management systems are maintaining the optimal customer experience–that is how you keep a good thing growing.

Why is scalability difficult to achieve?

Scaling a business is not easy. There are a number of challenges that businesses face when trying to scale, including:

  • Technical challenges: Scaling a business often requires significant technical investment in order to add new resources and upgrade existing ones. This can be a complex and time-consuming process.  The amount of processing required to maintain your subscriptions grows exponentially as your business grows.

  • Organizational challenges: Scaling a business also requires changes to the organization's structure and processes. This can be difficult to manage, especially for businesses that are used to operating in a small, nimble way.  Leveraging a platform such as Recurly allows you to focus on growing your core business.

  • Cultural challenges: Scaling a business can also lead to changes in the company's culture. This can be difficult to manage, especially if the company's culture is not conducive to growth.

The parts of your business that you may take for granted when you are smaller suddenly become major challenges when you are operating at scale. In-house solutions that may have supported the growth of your business can eventually start to strain under the stresses of large numbers of operations. Visibility into the performance of your business that used to be a spreadsheet away now requires hours of analysis.

Recurly at scale

As mentioned previously, Recurly processes over $12 billion in transactions each year for over 55 million subscribers–that’s about 21 subscriptions processed every second on average. And that’s just the start of what is going on in the background while we also manage customer notifications, dunning campaigns, revenue recognition, multi-channel integrations including app stores, one-time purchases, and more. 

Recurly’s cloud-native, elastically-scalable platform allows you to scale your business without worrying about the performance of the next big thing, whether that be streaming the largest sporting event of the year or including the next must-have item in your subscription box. Our teams partner closely with your business to plan for future growth, elevate actionable insights and benchmarks, and provide guidance based on our experience of scaling subscription businesses for over a decade.

In this series, Recurly at scale, we will dive into the many areas in which Recurly operates at scale both internally and with our partners who rely on us to scale their businesses. We will discuss the challenges and opportunities of operating at scale and demonstrate how with Recurly you can keep a good thing growing.

Learn more about scaling subscription infrastructures

Scaling IT infrastructures is a common problem for subscription businesses–especially in the direct-to-consumer sector. Technology teams are often spread too thin across demands for product innovation, business scalability, and running a subscription management and recurring billing system. 

Not anymore. 

Join Tony Allen, Recurly CTO, and Andrei Rebrov, Scentbird CTO, and discover how to build an unshakeable foundation that supports the performance, security, and compliance risks subscription companies face.