We like commodities. So much so that any service that makes our lives even a little bit easier will instantly gain traction — and that’s exactly what recurring billing does. For many business models (membership sites included), recurring billing is a Holy Grail of sorts. It allows customers to purchase a subscription and have their payments made automatically on a regular basis, making sure they receive the product/service they need, on the dot.
Is the recurring billing model the best option for everyone, though? And if it’s a good option for your membership site, then what is the best recurring billing software?
Read on to find out more.
What Is Recurring Billing?
Recurring billing is a billing system that allows customers to pay for products and services on a regular, predetermined schedule. It is an automated process that helps businesses better manage their cash flow — and makes it easy for customers to get the products and services they want without having to remember to pay for them each month, manually.
Examples of services that work on a recurring billing model include Netflix, Amazon Prime, web hosting services, and subscription boxes.
Who Should Use Recurring Billing?
Recurring billing comes with an attractive proposition, as it can help businesses better predict their revenue (and thus, make better decisions for their growth). However, recurring billing isn’t a perfect fit for every type of business under the Sun.
Businesses that should use recurring billing include:
- Membership sites
- Software companies
- Education providers
- Media websites
…And even among these, recurring billing may not always be the best option. For example, if you run a very niche membership site for seasonal content (e.g., DIY crafts for Christmas), you may not need recurring billing.
Likewise, business models that aren’t (always) a good fit with the recurrent payment system include:
- One-time services
- eCommerce stores
- Wedding-related businesses
- Customized consultancy businesses
- Ad-hoc services (like handymen or plumbing)
Recurring Billing vs Subscriptions
Before we delve deeper into the topic of recurring billing software, let’s take a closer look at subscriptions and recurring billing. While very similar in many ways, the two concepts are not always interchangeable.
Both recurrent billing and subscriptions charge regularly, but they refer to different areas of the “subscription economy” spectrum. One’s all about the actual billing process, whereas the other one is the agreement that happens between customers and businesses.
Recurring billing refers to the process of automatically billing a customer on a regular basis for goods or services that they have previously purchased. The frequency of the billing may be daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. The billing amount may be fixed or variable depending on the customer’s usage of the goods or services. Recurring billing is often used for products or services that are consumed on a regular basis, such as software licenses or gym memberships (and thus, can be considered as subscriptions — hence the confusion.)
However, a subscription refers to the actual agreement between a business and a customer, according to which the customer can access their product/ services for a specified amount of time. The subscription is typically paid for upfront, before receiving access to the products or services.
How to Choose a Recurring Billing Software
If you’re keen on implementing recurring billing in your membership site business, you must look for software that satisfies your needs.
Essentially, you should be looking for recurring billing software that offers you with:
You want to make sure your recurring billing tool allows you to set up flexible payment plans, with different billing intervals, billing amounts, and cancellation policies. This gives you the freedom to customize your plans according to the type of product or service you’re offering. It also gives your customers the freedom to choose a pricing plan that fits their needs and budget — so it’s a win-win for everyone.
You need your billing software to automate your invoices. This will help you save time, effort, and resources that would have gone into processing payments manually. Plus, it will help you avoid human error and thus, reduce inaccuracies in your billing process.
Your recurring billing software should be capable of processing payments quickly and securely. Additionally, you should also look for a solution that supports multiple payment options (like credit cards, PayPal, etc.), so that your customers can select their preferred method of payment.
Reporting & Analytics
Finally, it’s important to choose a recurring billing solution that offers reporting and analytics. This way, you’ll be able to keep track of your billing performance, and make decisions with data-driven insights.
No matter how great it is, you may sometimes need technical support with your billing system. This means you need to settle on an option that offers reliable customer support (via phone, email, and/or live chat) in case you run into any issues.
Last but not least, you want your billing system to integrate with all the tools you use — particularly with your site and payment processor. This will ensure that everything works harmoniously, and that you can manage your business efficiently.
Top 5 Recurring Billing Tools for Membership Sites
Let’s take a quick look at some of the best recurring billing software options, so you can pick the one that fits your needs and budget best.
Chargebee is a reliable and user-friendly recurring billing software that offers intuitive invoicing, subscription management, payment processing, and more. It supports multiple payment methods (credit cards, digital wallets, bank-based payments, and so on), as well as multiple payment gateways (such as Stripe and PayPal). Additionally, it also offers analytics and reporting features to help you track your progress.
Chargebee pricing starts at 0 EUR/ month for your first 90,000 Euros in revenue. After that, the price will get incrementally higher, up to 549 EUR/ month (or higher, if you choose their Enterprise pricing plan.)
Zuora is frequently cited as the best recurring billing software for Enterprise-grade companies. The reason behind this is that it offers powerful features like multi-currency support, flexible payment plans, and automated invoicing. It also provides detailed analytics and reporting on customer lifetime value and churn rates.
Zuora pricing isn’t publicly available, but one can contact them for more information.
Wave is one of the best billing software apps on the market. Not only that, but it’s also a free option, which makes it a great choice for membership site owners just starting out (or who don’t have reasons to invest in something more expensive). Wave comes with a recurring billing and invoices set of features, which include automatic receipts, flexible scheduling, branding, and even time zone control.
Zoho Payments (Zoho Books) is another good option for anyone looking for an effective, professional recurring billing solution. It offers features like automated invoicing, payment processing and tracking, analytics, and fraud protection. Plus, it integrates with some of the most well-known payment processors, it has all the automation features you need, and it allows you to customize your messages too.
Zoho Payments starts at 0EUR/ month (if you charge less than 50,000 Euros/ year), and can get as high as 200EUR/ month (for the “Ultimate” pricing plan.)
Recurly is a great recurring billing software for those who want to keep an eye on expenses and profits. It offers features like automated billing, fraud protection, analytics and reporting, and streamlined payment processing. Plus, it helps you stay tax-compliant too, by integrating with Avalara and Vertex and allowing you to configure tax regions and address-based tax calculations.
Recurly starts at 0EUR/ month. Paid pricing plans are not available, as they are customized to your specific needs, so you should discuss with their representatives if you want to learn more.
Recurring billing is a great option for a wide variety of business models. And if your membership site falls in this category, you should definitely pick billing software that helps you stay on top of your finances, automate at least some of the process, and ensure data security for your business and your customers. Ultimately, the best recurring billing software largely depends on who you are, what you do, what your needs are, and how much you can afford paying for it — so analyze where you stand and decide based on your specific situation.