Subscription Business

Subscription Management: Definition, Best Practices, and Software Reviews 

Serge Frigon

Modern consumers are all about convenience and hassle-free experiences. To monetize this behavior, subscription models have become a go-to strategy for certain businesses. By doing so, they can provide subscribers with regular access to products and services without recurring transactions. 

However, as with any other business model, transitioning to subscription isn’t a one-time shift. It requires continuous effort to ensure long-term customer satisfaction and maximize revenue streams. 

Here’s everything you need to know about subscription management—from its evolution to key components and best practices. This guide will help optimize your brand’s subscription processes with actionable tips and real-world case studies.

TL;DR

  • Subscription management requires an ongoing effort to attract and nurture long-term subscribers. It involves customer onboarding, billing processing, customer support, retention, and forecasting. 
  • Managing subscriptions has 4 key components: customer lifecycle management, billing and payment processing, revenue recognition and reporting, and subscription metrics and analytics.
  • Optimizing customer acquisition and retention, billing processes, user experience, and compliance and security is crucial for successful subscription management. It not only fosters customer loyalty but also safeguards your business against potential pitfalls.

Subscription Management: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Subscription management is the systematic approach to overseeing customer subscriptions throughout their lifecycle. It requires effort on multiple stages to ensure you maintain control and offer the best experience for your subscribers. Let’s break it down piece by piece.

  • Customer onboarding. Provide a user-friendly platform (e.g., websites or mobile apps) where customers can initiate the signup process and see ongoing subscriptions. ​​All subscription details and service terms must be transparently presented.
  • Billing processing. Your system calculates and schedules billing cycles based on the subscription terms. Current subscribers receive notifications about upcoming payments, successful transactions, or payment failures.
  • Customer support. This involves addressing the needs and queries of customers throughout the subscription lifecycle. The more proactive your CS team is, the more customers will feel valued and stay in the long run.
  • Retention and renewals. Here’s where you employ incentive strategies to retain customers nearing the end of their subscription period. Implement an opt-in default approach for auto-renewal, with opt-out options in the user account settings.
  • Forecasting. Leverage historical data to forecast future revenues and improve your subscription management efforts. Implement a continuous feedback loop to monitor results, adjust models, and refine strategies based on real-time insights.

Subscription management may sound complex, but it wasn’t always the case. Today’s tools and processes have only evolved to meet the needs of modern subscription services.

Subscription Models: Then and Now

Early subscription models were often rigid and almost similar to one-time transactions. Subscribers can only make discrete purchases or upgrades, restricting revenue potential for providers.

Take the early days of cable TV. Customers only had a limited channel selection in predefined packages. If subscribers wanted to add a specific network, they had to upgrade to a higher-tier plan, regardless of the excess.

Modern subscriptions solve this by offering flexible, tailored options. Netflix, for instance, features customizable plans, diverse user profiles, on-demand content, and automated billing. Users can access its extensive library, giving them greater control over their viewing experience.

Today’s subscription services provide a streamlined approach to encourage recurring payments. Let’s look at the key components necessary to managing this pricing structure. 

4 Key Components of Subscription Management

Software-as-a-service (SaaS), eCommerce, and other digital solutions handle subscriptions differently. Despite this, they follow the same pricing, operational, and reporting ​​strategies. Consider the following when developing your subscription pricing model.

1. Customer lifecycle management

Subscriptions rely on a loyal customer base through ongoing satisfaction. Monitor customer behavior and engagement to identify early warning signs of potential churn (e.g., ​​decreased usage). It’ll help reduce churn rates and ensure each subscriber’s long-term profitability. ​​

Setting initiatives to nurture new subscribers and entice those who have churned to renew their subscriptions is also a part of lifecycle management. These efforts may include personalized onboarding emails, loyalty programs, and feedback surveys.

2. Billing and payment processing

Is your billing cycle monthly, annually, or based on tailored intervals? Do you accept multiple currencies and payment methods? If you offer ‌usage-based subscriptions, can your system track and monitor the usage metrics to bill customers accurately?

Make sure your billing platform meets your unique bill processing requirements. It’s the key to minimizing—if not totally avoiding—revenue leakage through billing errors, subscription miscalculations, or disputes. 

Pro-tip: Look for a provider that allows proration calculations for mid-cycle upgrades or downgrades. It ensures fair and accurate billing when customers change their subscription level before the regular billing cycle. 

3. Revenue recognition and reporting

Transparent subscription revenue reporting provides data for strategic decision-making. Business leaders can analyze revenue patterns, identify growth opportunities, and tweak pricing strategies and product offerings (if need be).

Most subscription businesses follow accrual accounting principles for precise revenue recognition. That means you recognize revenue over the subscription period and not when payment is received (i.e., cash accounting). 

ASC 606 and IFRS 15 introduce a consistent framework for accounting revenue over time. Understanding these standards will help you see an accurate depiction of the company’s financial health and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

4. Subscription metrics and analytics

​​Subscriptions can’t thrive with guesswork. Metrics and analytics are essential components because they provide data-driven insights to drive sustainable growth in a competitive market.

This component tackles the following questions: How do customers interact with our products and services? What patterns can we identify to improve their experience?

Gather and analyze various data points to determine and plan your next move. These metrics include customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (CLV), churn rates, conversion rates, and usage analytics.

Now that we know the key components of managing subscriptions, here are some best practices for optimizing your strategy. Implement the following to redefine your approach and ensure a steady revenue stream.

Subscription Management Best Practices

Weak strategies can lead to customer dissatisfaction and subscription cancellation—or even deter potential sign-ups. Here are some of the things you can do to avoid such pitfalls and adopt a more robust subscription model.

Subscription Management Software

Optimize customer acquisition and retention

Solid customer acquisition and retention strategies can differentiate your business from competitors. They attract long-term subscribers who can help you weather market fluctuations and economic downturns.

To target new potential subscribers, gather demographic information (i.e., age, location, and preferences) about your existing customer base. Tailor future marketing messages and recommendations based on your findings. 

Suppose your beauty subscription business finds that a majority of its existing customers, aged 18-35, favor cruelty-free and organic products. In that case, adjust your future campaigns to highlight eco-friendly beauty experiences tailored for youthful, glowing skin.

​​After acquiring new subscribers, the goal is to develop strong customer relationships to maintain low churn and high retention rates. Remember: retaining a subscriber is 25 times less costly than acquiring a new one.

Offer exclusive upsell recommendations based on their past transaction data. For a more relevant and enjoyable experience, consider bundling exclusive items, limited-edition sets, or add-on services.

Streamline billing and renewal processes

Did you know that 32% of consumers cancel product subscriptions because they’re auto-renewed without approval, while 30% opt out due to recurring payment misinformation?

Subscribers appreciate clarity on when payments will occur. Avoid surprises by employing well-streamlined billing cycles and payment procedures.

​​Send personalized reminders with relevant details, such as the amount due, payment date, and a direct link to update payment information. Subscription management systems like StaxBill can automate these tasks for you.

Pro-tip: Strike a balance in frequency. Regular reminders are beneficial but don’t overwhelm customers with excessive communication. Generally, a few days before the billing cycle or renewal date is sufficient.

Enhance Customer Experience

Over 22% of consumers prioritize convenience as their primary motive for subscribing. If merchants fail to meet such expectations, they’ll switch to competitors for a better experience.

So, design a user-friendly interface where subscribers can easily manage their accounts and update user preferences. This self-service functionality makes things more accessible. Built-in interactive notifications can also come in handy when informing subscribers about any changes, offers, or critical actions required.

Outside the platform, foster a sense of community among subscribers by creating forums, discussion groups, or social media channels. This peer-to-peer interaction reduces the load on customer support while ensuring everyone feels supported and valued.

Meet compliance and security measures

Failure to honor subscription terms and implement adequate security measures can bleed your pockets dry. Conduct regular security audits to identify and address system vulnerabilities before they escalate. Here are some protocols to cross off your list.

  • Data encryption. Implement data encryption protocols to safeguard sensitive customer information during transmission and storage.
  • Two-factor authentication. Require users to verify their identity through 2FA to deter unauthorized access.
  • Incident response plan. Develop and regularly update an incident response plan to effectively address and mitigate security incidents on time.
  • Payment gateways. To process transactions in a secure channel, only utilize reputable payment gateways that comply with industry standards.
  • Regular updates. Keep all software up to date to patch vulnerabilities and protect against emerging threats.

Trust is currency. Educate your customers about your company’s security measures, reinforcing their confidence in a safe and secure subscription experience. In the next section, we’ve compiled a list of subscription management tools to help implement these practices.

Subscription Management Example: How to Do It Right

Thriving subscription businesses leveraged StaxBill’s AI-powered tools to optimize operations, boost customer satisfaction, and drive growth. Here’s the success story of ClearPathGPS, a B2B GPS tracking company for SME transport businesses.

ClearPathGPS faced billing challenges due to its high-volume subscription model with customizable pricing tiers and add-ons. They struggled with daily proration and plan adjustments. The manual processes became a headache, often resulting in operational inefficiencies, billing errors, and potential revenue leakage.

StaxBill streamlined these billing complexities with API integrations. They handled daily changes in subscriptions and custom pricing more efficiently, allowing ClearPathGPS to see their earnings in real time. The platform basically did all the hard lifting.

End Result: Staxbill’s automation eradicated manual errors and ensured accurate billing. Today, ClearPathGPS can confidently focus on growth initiatives, knowing their subscription management is in capable hands.

Subscription Model Optimization with StaxBill

Subscription management leverages technology to adapt to changing consumer demands. As more businesses embrace this model, customer-centric and tech-driven initiatives will help your business flourish.

That’s exactly why your subscription management platform matters.

At StaxBill, we help simplify billing, minimize churn, and enhance security. Our smart tools automate all the manual tasks so you can concentrate on delivering exceptional services for your subscribers. Learn more about the features here.


Quick FAQs about Subscription Management Software

Q: What is the role of a subscription management software?

Subscription management software is a tool used by businesses to manage the lifecycle of their customers’ subscriptions. This includes managing trials, assigning credits, issuing refunds, and making mid-cycle subscription changes. This type of software also tracks pricing changes and efficiently creates invoices to reflect new terms and plan changes.

Q: How does a subscription management software optimize the functions of an account manager?

Subscription management software optimizes the functions of account managers who handle important subscriber accounts. Its benefits include streamlining revenue generation, managing and automating recurring payments, enabling strategic pricing experiments, and discovering new revenue avenues.

Q: How does a subscription management software enhance customer satisfaction?

Subscription management software enables businesses to track all pricing changes and create invoices accordingly. It provides the ease of making changes at any point in the customer lifecycle. The software offers self-service portals for customers to manage their information and subscriptions, which enhances customer satisfaction.

Q: What industries can benefit from a subscription management software?

Subscription management software is adapted to handle changes often seen in industries like utilities and IoT, where subscriptions may be based on fluctuating data. It can manage these complexities seamlessly, thus simplifying the process of capturing and prorating daily subscriptions and dealing with voluminous data.

Q: Can a subscription management software integrate with popular accounting software?

Subscription management software can integrate with popular accounting software like QuickBooks Online and NetSuite. It supports double-entry accounting processes, thereby allowing for easy differentiation between earned and deferred revenue. This integration provides valuable insights into financial history, helps recognize trends, and anticipates future changes.

Q: What are some security measures in a subscription management software?

With increasing concerns about data breaches, well-built subscription management software prioritizes security. PCI Level 1 compliant software ensures the secure handling of customer credit card data, providing peace of mind for both businesses and their customers.

Q: How does a subscription management software support business growth?

Subscription management software is essential for businesses looking to grow. It efficiently manages the influx of customer data associated with rapid growth or mergers. This ensures that customer satisfaction remains high while handling the complexities of customer relationships, compliance issues, and resource allocations.

Q: What is the difference between subscription management and recurring billing?

While they work together, subscription management and recurring billing represent different facets. Subscription management involves handling the interaction between a business and its customers, including updates, upgrades, downgrades, and other customer-oriented tasks. Recurring billing involves generating invoices, tracking payments, and safely storing payment information in compliance with PCI rules.

Q: Why is subscription management vital for businesses?

Subscription management is vital for businesses due to the shifting pattern of the subscription-based landscape. This requires the right technology to leverage opportunities effectively. Subscription management software optimizes customer experience and recurring revenue potential, making it invaluable for success in the business model.

Q: What is StaxBill?

StaxBill is regarded as one of the leading subscription management solutions in the market. It’s known for its comprehensive features that cater to various aspects of subscription management, including billing, customer relationship management, and analytics.


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Written by:

Serge Frigon
Serge Frigon
Director of Product, Stax Bill

Serge Frigon is Stax Bill’s Director of Product. He is passionate about improving billing processes for SaaS companies. With 20+ years in SaaS and billing software systems, Serge has a first-hand view of how important financial insights can be to the health of a company.