Krish Subramanian Contributor
Krish Subramanian is co-founder and CEO of Chargebee, a global leader in subscription billing and revenue management. He began his career as a software engineer at a startup before going on to specialize in indirect purchasing implementations for Fortune 500 customers.
Although recurring revenue businesses have been around for a long time, the trend toward a subscription economy has escalated rapidly in the last few years. IDC expects that by 2022, 53% of all software revenue will be purchased with a subscription model. Even the car subscription market is set to grow by 71% by 2022.
Many types of businesses are looking for ways to earn recurring revenue — and it has gone beyond business-to-consumer companies like Netflix and Dollar Shave Club. Business-to-business companies are also joining in, even those with products that last a long time. For instance, elevator-maker Otis offers Otis ONE, a subscription-connected elevator solution that offers predictive maintenance insights.
Promising, but there are pitfalls
Subscription business models are attractive, but there are two major pitfalls. At the top of the list is payment. Regardless of company size, there’s an ongoing need to convince customers to sign up long term.
Companies also need to accommodate new payment methods and ensure ongoing compliance with interstate and international tax laws. As a result, the payment process can quickly become painful.
As any company with recurring revenue scales, it becomes increasingly challenging to manage subscriptions, especially with homegrown systems, changing subscription offers and the complexities of converting customers from free trials to paid subscriptions. Subscription billing options should make it easy to manage all types of subscriptions, including integrating analytics to provide a more complete picture of the subscriptions landscape.
Businesses also have to keep in mind that every time they add more product categories or expand into new geographies, they need to tack on extra software code to change their operations and stay sales-tax-compliant. As they expand globally, this can become an obstacle to rapid growth and flexibility.
To keep the company focused and maintain growth without having to expend resources, subscription businesses need a specialized billing system so they can focus on customer acquisition and revenue growth rather than staying on top of billing complexity.
The CAC payback gap constrains growth
The second issue: How do businesses cover the funding gap between when customers sign up and when they pay? In the subscription economy, companies that would previously receive a customer’s payments all at once now earn revenue spread across a monthly or quarterly subscription fee.