With subscription popularity soaring over the last few years, consumers increasingly demand a frictionless subscriber experience. If it isn’t optimized at every touchpoint, you increase the risk of losing new customers and retaining existing ones.

While comprehensive subscription management and recurring billing can remedy many issues, most companies face one question: whether they should continue building and maintaining their platform or outsource to a third party.

To help you suss things out and gain confidence in your decision to build or buy, we’ve created a comprehensive checklist with the top strategic elements to consider when working towards a solution that will keep your business running smoothly and customers happy. 

Download it now, or keep reading to learn more.

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What to consider when building or buying a subscription billing platform

Building and maintaining a recurring billing platform requires deep consideration of development resources, integrations, subscriber management, payments, analytics, security and compliance, and revenue recognition.

Take a close look at your business—both where it is today and where you want it to be in the future—and ask yourself: Do I currently have the subscription management and recurring billing technology to make this happen?

Let’s review some key areas that growth teams must consider to accommodate modern-day consumers. 

1. Development resources

Flexibility in plan management, pricing, and billing are essential to a seamless subscriber experience. Consider the following: 

  • How will you handle billing? Suppose you aim to provide your subscribers with speed and simplicity. Then, you’ll need a robust tool for invoicing, receipt customization, and tax calculations–across many billing terms, contract details, plan purchases, renewals, and adjustments. 

  • What is a realistic timeline to build a solution? While it would be ideal to be up and running next week, your time-to-value is much slower when building everything from scratch.

When considering building, think about the projects you’ll need to de-prioritize to complete the job in the necessary time frame to support your growth goals. 

2. Secure integrations

A cohesive recurring billing platform requires countless integrations to be built and maintained–these tools will be crucial when designing a seamless, omnichannel experience for your subscribers. It’s time to review: 

  • Can you integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) platform? CRM tools like Salesforce are vital when managing account information, so you must ensure subscriber data flows seamlessly into your system.

  • Can you integrate your email system? Connecting the appropriate email or marketing automation system ensures your subscribers receive regular account updates and notifications whenever there’s a payment issue with their accounts.

3. Subscriber & churn management

Each step along the subscriber journey is important–and building a platform that delivers a smooth experience at each touchpoint is key.

Ask yourself the following:  

  • Can you build a comprehensive account management portal? Give subscribers an easy way to manage their plans. 

  • Will you need to account for different billing models? Ensure you can accommodate the right billing model for your business, and the ability to try new ones.

  • What is your involuntary churn strategy? Make sure you’re implementing an effective payment retry and communication schedule to recover more revenue.

  • What is your experimentation plan for different pricing schemes? Ensure you’ll be able to offer subscribers compelling price points and plans at all times. 

  • Can you build and scale support for account upgrades, downgrades, different billing cycles, and proration? Billing can get complicated when customers change plans during a billing cycle–you must prepare for them.

From plan management capabilities to dunning communications, there are many more considerations across the subscriber lifecycle that you must take into account.

4. Recurring payments

Payments are an effective growth strategy that helps you win subscribers anywhere you choose to expand. When thinking about recurring payments, there are three essential elements: 

  1. Payment gateways: Decide which payment processing providers make the most sense based on your customer's demographics and the kind of products you offer. Don’t forget the importance of having a backup gateway in case of an outrage.

  2. Account updaters: Credit and debit card details change constantly. You’ll need to team up with card networks like Visa and Mastercard to automatically update subscribers’ card details before they’re charged every pay period.

  3. Payment methods: Customers want a variety of convenient payment options. Depending on where they are and how technically savvy they are, they might use credit and debit cards or any other alternative payment methods. 

Does your team have the bandwidth and expertise to turn payments into a long-standing growth strategy?

5. Analytics & insights

Without a deep understanding of your business performance, you risk basing critical decisions on guesswork–not ideal. Having real-time, trustworthy data on growth, retention, and plan performance becomes a priority:

  • How well do you know your business metrics? Knowing your average revenue per user, retention numbers, and company benchmarks gives you a foundation to calculate growth objectives. Implementing a cohesive analytics system is instrumental in gaining insights on how to construct a platform tailored to your needs.

  • Can you calculate your current involuntary churn rate and set appropriate targets? Every subscription company deals with failed payments. Ideally, you’ll want to calculate your current involuntary churn to bring this rate down moving forward through smart retry and dunning strategies.

Data visibility empowers you to make informed decisions, enhance customer experiences, reduce churn, and maximize revenue. It plays a pivotal role in the long-term success and sustainability of your subscription-based business.

Time to decide: Build or buy a recurring billing platform?

A frictionless subscriber experience consists of multiple parts, from payments and billing to subscriber communications and promotions. A streamlined subscription management platform is foundational for accelerating the launch of new subscriber experiences–without draining your resources.

Does your current solution deliver a frictionless subscriber experience? Get this subscription software checklist to find out.