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How Output managed a 45% decrease in credit card declines


Output is an LA-based company that develops innovative software products for musicians, composers, producers, and sound designers. The company’s focus is simple: groundbreaking concepts, new sounds, and new sources of inspiration. Their products include software instruments and effects heard in music by Drake, Rihanna, Coldplay, Game of Thrones, and more. Their latest creation, Arcade, is a subscription-based music production plug-in that’s unlike anything on the market.

Using the SaaS model to increase engagement

By leveraging the SaaS model, Output has significantly boosted engagement among its customers. Clients can either subscribe to the various software products monthly or opt for a perpetual license. Although the subscription model is relatively new in this niche, Output’s VP of Strategy and Operations, Brian Zarlenga, notes its considerable success. 

One of the primary benefits of the SaaS model is the ability to offer frequent updates. While perpetual licenses rarely see software updates, subscribers benefit from new content daily and substantial product upgrades at least once a month. This ensures that even those on a one-month free trial experience new features and content, highlighting the product's continual value. 

"We wanted to continue to improve the product without having to nickel and dime customers along the way," Zarlenga explains. "As a result of this new model, we have customers who are far more engaged with our products on a monthly basis, and it’s now our job to continue to offer great updates so they keep coming back." 

Prior to partnering with Recurly, Output managed its subscription business via WooCommerce but faced a significant payment decline issue, with rates approaching 30%. Identifying and mitigating these declines became imperative to curbing revenue loss, prompting the shift to a more robust solution.

Credit card declines cut by 45% with Recurly

Zarlenga recalls dedicating the latter half of 2018 to consulting with payment experts and surveying industry standards to understand and resolve their payment decline issues. His efforts eventually led him to Recurly, where he learned about the platform's comprehensive features, particularly its advanced payment decline management

After implementing Recurly, we saw a 45% decrease in credit card declines.

Brian Zarlenga, General ManagerOutput

"Recurly described how their subscription management solution could help us route payments using different gateways, what makes their retry system superior, their advanced dunning features, and all the other elements involved in addressing payment failures. WooCommerce was flexible, but we ran into problems as soon as we reached any kind of volume in processing transactions. We never have those problems with Recurly—it’s a very stable and robust solution,” Zarlenga noted. Following the transition to Recurly, Output enjoyed an impressive 45% reduction in credit card declines.

Test, learn, and iterate

As time went on, Output gained a greater understanding of the many intricacies of running a subscription business. “The main thing we've learned in entering the subscription space is the need to continually test and learn—not just our marketing and landing pages but the flows in which people sign up for our product and all the ways that a customer interacts with our business,” shares Zarlenga. “Recurly enables us to do this.”

With Recurly, we started having great success: more signups, a better customer experience, and a better experience managing subscriptions on the backend.

Brian Zarlenga, General ManagerOutput

Output realized that if they were testing nearly everything else, they also needed to refine their payment processes. Before partnering with Recurly, their payment system was a black box where payments would either succeed or fail without any clear insight into the causes. “We gained visibility into what’s happening at the most crucial point in our business: collecting money. Recurly really helped demystify payments for us,” says Zarlenga.

Knowing that we can continue to process payments, even during an outage, gives us valuable peace of mind.

Brian Zarlenga, General ManagerOutput

He highlighted the aspects of Recurly that have been most valuable: “Recurly provided us with a more sophisticated retry system, enhanced dunning capabilities, the advantages of using multiple payment gateways, and a variety of payment routing features.”

Small changes, big results

Recurly's advanced dunning capabilities and expert staff were pivotal in significantly reducing Output's payment declines. Recurly advised Zarlenga to extend their dunning period from seven to fourteen days, which resulted in far lower involuntary churn rates

90% of our customers came back after we started offering Recurly’s pause features. That’s massive.

Brian Zarlenga, General ManagerOutput

Recurly’s gateway failover feature was another critical element for Output, ensuring continuous payment processing despite primary gateway outages. "Knowing that we can continue to process payments, even during an outage, gives us valuable peace of mind. Recurly really led the way, helping us to dive into the details on how payments work and the mechanisms that drive payments on a daily basis," explained Zarlenga.

Creating beautiful music with a dedicated subscription management solution

Recurly provides more than just essential payment features; it offers comprehensive tools to test and understand how to reduce decline rates effectively. Zarlenga emphasizes, “We knew we needed an incredibly stable solution, one that’s focused on achieving 100% uptime. We wanted a company whose core mission is subscriptions. We got that with Recurly. We don’t ever have to ask ourselves, ‘Is this going to be billed correctly every month?’ because we know it is.”

Beyond the payment features, we knew we needed an incredibly stable solution, one that’s focused on achieving 100% uptime. We got that with Recurly.

Brian Zarlenga, General ManagerOutput

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Output Hits All the Right Notes with Recurly case study graphic