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Choosing the best subscription billing software for your company and customers

Find the best software to support subscription payments – whether you're an online store in a single market, or a SaaS business operating across the globe.

What is subscription billing software?

Subscription billing software is a tool used by businesses that sell products and services through a subscription model to manage recurring billing. It lets businesses create and manage subscriptions, billing cycles, and subscription packages, including discounts, upgrades, and downgrades more efficiently.

Who uses subscription billing software?

Subscription billing software can be used by any business selling its products or services via a subscription model. Once a small market made up of convenience services like milk or newspaper deliveries, subscriptions are the applied sales model in an ever-growing market spanning everything from streaming services to design tools to recipe boxes.

The size of the market (an estimated US$ 47.82 billion by 2025) sees subscriptions billing software used by businesses at all stages of growth, targeting both businesses and consumers, domestically and internationally. 

As such, different subscription billing software providers target different segments of the market. Paddle and Chargify, for example, are built specifically for SaaS businesses where ReCharge and Bold Commerce cater to businesses selling physical goods. 

Within a business, finance and accounting teams use subscription billing software to track revenue and performance metrics. It can also be used by sales and marketing teams to develop insights into customer behavior like the most popular products and plans.

Why use subscription billing software?

From trading goods to cash payments to online checkouts and licensing, the way we buy and sell has seen lots of change over time. As technology advances, customer expectations about the buying experience change too. When this happens, businesses need to adapt their billing models in order to capitalize on new opportunities and avoid getting left behind.

Subscription billing is the most recent shift in how businesses sell. But while the model opens up a scalable and predictable source of revenue, it also contains a number of complexities that see traditional payment providers and accounting setups fall short. Subscription billing software is designed to simplify how you manage subscriptions and recurring billing. This includes: 

  • The ability to accommodate flexible subscription models, including pauses, cancellations, and proration to ensure customers only pay for what they use
  • Dunning and payment retry processes that help businesses to recover more revenue when a subscriber's payment fails
  • Visibility over clear and accurate revenue and customer data 

It also helps businesses create a better customer experience – one that gives subscribers a level of control over how and when they are billed. 

Without software to do it for you, businesses are forced to build their own subscription logic to sit on top of a payment gateway which puts a heavy burden on engineering teams and can leave you with silos in your revenue data.

With subscription billing software the process is easier but there is still work to do to connect it with other components in your wider revenue delivery infrastructure, including payments, sales tax compliance, accounting, and fraud prevention.

Important features to consider when choosing subscription billing software

There are a number of features that are common to subscription billing software. Different providers choose which to specialize in depending on the types of business they serve. 

The features that matter most to you will depend on your business. For example, a global SaaS business is more likely to be concerned about multi-currency support and sales tax compliance than a business that only serves customers in one country. 

Below is a list of popular subscription billing software features to consider, as identified by G2

  • Custom recurring billing: The ability to choose how often you bill customers (for example on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis), and to offer trial periods, add-on payments, price modifications, and proration. 
  • Subscription data management: One source of truth for all of your customer data. 
  • Subscription lifecycle management: Visibility over the customer lifecycle and the ability to automate aspects of it, for example, collecting payment information, and subscription renewals.  
  • Compliance: Offering a level of financial compliance, and support for managing sales tax (depending on the provider, this varies from notifications and alerts to tell you where you’re liable through to full sales tax liability, managed on your behalf).
  • Analytics: The ability to measure success and optimize processes based on accurate data across core subscription metrics. 
  • Dunning: The ability to strategically communicate with customers to collect or recover payments. 
  • Multi-currency support: The ability to charge customers and collect payments in a number of different currencies. 
  • A/B testing: The ability to test features, like pricing models, to determine where there are opportunities to collect more revenue. 
  • Integrations: - The ability to connect your subscription management software to the other tools in your revenue delivery infrastructure.

The best subscription billing platforms – for every business model

Using the features above, we’ve identified the best subscription billing software for different use cases, including: 

  • Global SaaS businesses with international subscriptions
  • Domestic SaaS businesses who don’t operate across complex tax jurisdictions
  • International e-commerce, physical goods and services
  • Domestic e-commerce, physical goods and services

Best subscription billing software for global SaaS businesses with international subscriptions

Paddle

Key features:

  • Custom recurring billing
  • Subscription lifecycle management
  • Compliance
  • Multi-currency support

Why Paddle?

Paddle is a specialist platform for SaaS businesses and with Paddle Subscribe, it’s easy to manage recurring billing and build a flexible subscription experience that meets your customers’ needs, including:

  • Upgrades and downgrades
  • Price modifications and add-ons
  • Freemium models and trial periods
  • Subscription pausing and cancellations. 

Every seller that Paddle works with gets instant access to its global multi-acquirer payment infrastructure. This includes local payment methods and currencies at the click of a button with advanced technology for the best payment acceptance rate on checkout, recurring, and add-on/upgrade payments.  

The platform is built by SaaS experts and continuously optimized to help sellers increase payment acceptance and reduce churn. 

Paddle also takes on all sales tax liability for the transactions to all end customers, absolving sellers from the potentially hefty penalties of any non-compliance. This is especially useful in complex markets like the US, where there are over 11,000 tax jurisdictions to contend with.

About the product

Unlike other subscription billing software, Paddle unifies every aspect of revenue delivery, so businesses selling through it don’t have to complete additional work to integrate subscriptions with payment services providers, accounting software, and tax compliance tools. 

Features include: 

  • Paddle Subscribe: Flexible subscription management to meet customer needs across acquisition, renewals, and expansion. 
  • Paddle Managed Payments: Payment routing across multiple payment acquirers, and access to payment methods and currencies to drive higher conversions and successful payments. 
  • Paddle Comply: In-house experts and advanced technology managing global sales tax and payment compliance so you can operate with full integrity. 
  • Paddle Data Core: A single stream of accurate revenue data.
  • Paddle Managed Support: Outsource customer support tasks relating to payments and subscriptions.
  • Revenue Delivery Architects: Support mapping your subscriptions and migrating to Paddle, without causing disruption to you or your customers.

We speak to thousands of SaaS businesses about subscription billing, and which solution is right for them.Get in touch and speak to an expert today.

Best subscription software for SaaS businesses who don't operate across complex sales tax jurisdictions

Chargify

Key features:

  • Custom recurring billing
  • Subscription lifecycle management
  • Analytics
  • Integrations

Why Chargify?

Chargify is a specialized billing and management tool, offering a more flexible approach to billing than some of its more established counterparts. 

Perhaps its most distinctive offering being what they call ‘events-based billing’. Events-based billing allows businesses to price and bill customers based on metrics that apply to that business’ value, for example, seconds watched or click-through rates.

About the product

Chargify offers flexible recurring billing and subscription management for B2B SaaS businesses. From within the platform you can see dynamic data for both subscription usage and recurring revenue data. 

Chargify has a number of integrations with other software tools that your team can connect in order to get your whole revenue delivery infrastructure working together, including: 

  • Payment gateways
  • Accounting software
  • Customer support

Businesses operating in countries with complex sales tax regulations, like the US, would also need to integrate Chargify with a tax compliance tool and have the resources in-house to manage the filing and remittance process, even with a tool in place the business is still ultimately liable.

Remember, as a SaaS business you could be attracting international customers - whether you intend to or not. Keep an eye on where your traffic is coming from - sales tax on software is based on where your customers are based and you don't want to get caught out. Here's more on this from Paddle Chief Strategy Officer Harrison Rose.

Best subscription billing software for international e-commerce, physical goods, and services

Bold Commerce 

Key features:

  • Custom recurring billing
  • Subscription lifecycle management
  • Multi-currency support

Why Bold Commerce?

Bold Commerce is a software development company that provides e-commerce solutions for a number of brands around the world, including subscriptions Brightbox and Chaeban and retailers like Staples.

Bold Subscriptions is a way to generate recurring revenue on top of the Bold Checkout solution. It aims to give businesses the power to create custom subscriptions and a flexible customer experience.

About the product

Bold Commerce offers three core products that you can connect: 

  • Subscriptions: APIs to build custom subscriptions
  • Checkout: A headless checkout solution
  • Price rules: complex pricing and discounting  

For international businesses, Bold offers a localized shopping experience. This includes multiple currencies, access to different payment methods and a multilingual checkout flow. 

Bold also offers integrations with other revenue delivery tools including payment gateways, tax compliance and fraud prevention tools. 

Best subscription billing software for domestic e-commerce, physical goods, and services

ReCharge 

Key features: 

  • Customer recurring billing
  • Subscription lifecycle management
  • Analytics

About ReCharge

ReCharge is an e-commerce platform targeting modern subscription businesses, selling physical goods. 

It has over 14,000 sellers, servicing 20 million customers, including fast growing companies like Huel, Oatly, Wild Deodorant and Hubble contact lenses. 

About the product

Built for subscription e-commerce businesses, ReCharge has focussed on enabling businesses to create a seamless buying experience for their customers, with features including:

  • A portal where customers can manage their own subscriptions
  • The ability to combine one-time and subscription purchases
  • Flexible subscriptions allowing customers to skip or reschedule a delivery

The platform also has an analytics suite, where sellers can track key performance metrics including sales breakdowns, refunds, average order values, and churn rate. 

ReCharge also offers support for multiple payment gateways and local payment methods. It also has a number of third party integrations with other tools you might be using to run your business.

Best subscription billing software for PayPal

Paddle

Why Paddle?

Paddle Managed Payments gives you access to a global, multi-acquirer, payment infrastructure out of the box. This allows you to access PayPal payments along with other payment methods like credit card, wire transfer, and Apple Pay, without having to integrate with PayPal or other payment service providers directly. 

With other subscription billing software you would need to integrate directly with PayPal in order to process payments. You’d also likely want to accept payments by other methods alongside PayPal which would mean integrating with at least one other provider and incurring an additional set of fees. 

Find out more about Paddle Managed Payments

Other important considerations

Integrations

Subscription billing software is only part of your wider revenue delivery infrastructure. That is, the systems, processes, and teams responsible for optimizing customer acquisition, retention, and expansion.

This includes everything from how you accept payments to how you make sure you’re tax compliant everywhere you operate to how you reconcile your payments and how you track and analyze revenue data. 

In order to build a robust infrastructure, you need to: 

  • Integrate your subscription billing software with a number of other tools and processes (payment services providers, tax compliance, analytics, and more)
  • Or use an all-in-one platform to manage your revenue delivery.

Implementation

What your technical implementation looks like will depend on a number of things:

  • Whether you build the subscription logic yourself or integrate a platform 
  • If you choose a platform, which one, and how much it handles for you 
  • The billing model and subscription lifecycle management you want in place

Things that can affect the complexity of subscription billing software implementation include:

  • Subscription plan length: The platform might automatically attempt to collect payment in line with a subscription cadence that was determined by the customer's chosen plan or selected by them on checkout. Or you might have to trigger this yourself with API calls based on your own tracking of when payment is due.
  • “Vaulting” payment details: Most providers will secure and handle payment details so you don’t need to become PCI compliant yourself, although where you store your customer information might vary. If you use a CRM or central customer database, you might need to listen to webhooks to keep your records up-to-date. For example , to know whether customers have paid and are still allowed to access your product (with further logic to grant/rescind access based on their payments).
  • Proration calculations: This means using proration logic to understand how much to charge customers if they change their plan mid-term. With some providers you might have to create a piece of middleware that calculates the charges - so you can forecast it to them - and then applies the charge if they add/remove/upgrade/downgrade. Other platforms offer automatic prorated charges and API calls to return an estimated value so you can display the value in a customer portal.
  • Customers changing plan: Depending on the tool, this might be as easy as triggering an API to switch a user from one plan to another, or you might need to cancel a subscription and ‘resubscribe’ them onto another plan.
  • Dunning and payment retries: A holistic platform will handle failing renewals with dunning emails to the customer and by retrying payments on a schedule over several days. Alternatively, if you’re building subscription logic yourself or integrating a number of tools, you might also need to integrate your payment platform with a renewal/dunning tool and/or a transactional email platform. Or you might even need to trigger these emails and payment retries yourself according to your own in-house logic.

Whichever route you take, there will be a small amount you need to do yourself to keep track of your customers and manage access to your product based on subscription events. But the implementation and engineering time can soon swell if you need to handle more actions throughout the lifecycle or integrate a network of tools to handle different elements of the subscription process.

Cost

The cost of subscription billing software varies, with providers usually offering a range of packages that include different features and levels of service. Charges usually include: 

  • A flat monthly fee
  • A percentage of revenue or transaction fee

Most providers also offer custom pricing for enterprise businesses. 

When evaluating cost, it’s important to think about the holistic cost of your revenue delivery infrastructure. For example, the subscription billing software fees, plus fees to a payment provider and tax compliance solution (and the headcount needed internally to maintain these systems).

You should also consider the “opportunity cost”. That is, the impact that spending weeks or months to implement and maintain a system of subscription tools has on your ability to put money and resource into developing and improving your product.