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Measuring Churn Rates and Actioning the Results

There is much talk about how to calculate churn, how to reduce it, and how bad it is. But let's look at how we can actually manage it, and what actions we can take given certain metrics.What to do if your Customer Churn Rate is…Low Churn RateWhile your churn rate may seem low, and great if it is, it is still important to ensure that th...

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Subscription Billing is Not Enough

Subscription Billing is Not Enough
So you need a subscription billing solution … but is that all you need ? While being able to bill your subscriptions and collect payment is critical to your subscription strategy, consideration should be given to:How will your customers subscribe to your servicesHow will your partners sell your subscription servicesHow do you sell and provision bot...

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Saxum Commerce

Is Subscription Billing the holy grail for business software vendors and what does it really mean?

Subscription BillingSubscription has become synonymous with SaaS (or hosted) solutions. There is however also a move to provide subscription options for on-premise and traditionally licensed products. While these have carried annual fees in the past under the banner of "Annual Maintenance Fees" or "Annual Upgrade Protection", a range of subscription options are starting to be offered which essentially include both the annual fees and the purchase of the license but leaving the current status quo of deployment in place.

In both cases there are many reasons why subscriptions make good business sense such as predictive revenue streams, better cash flow, fewer highs and lows in the analyst forecast charts for vendors and from the customers perspective, being able to spread his cash flow over time are a few of the financial benefits.

So how is this all tracking in the market ...

For small business software vendors such as Intuit, Wave Accounting, Xero, MYOB and others, the answer is GREAT !!

The uptake of these products has been exceptional and continues to enjoy strong growth in user numbers ... although it should be noted that profits are not nearly as impressive as one might believe.

However, in contrast to this, for vendors providing solutions to medium sized and larger enterprises such as Microsoft, Sage, SAP and Infor the picture is nowhere near as stellar either in the uptake of SaaS solutions or in the sale of license subscription plans.

Some of the reasons for this include ...

  • The businesses using this software need more complex solutions and generally fall out of the box of being able to use an off-the-shelf SaaS solution.
  • Resellers and ISVs do not have the benefit of scale to absorb the cash flow and revenue effects on their current business models brought about by a transition to a subscription based model and are seriously concerned about how it will affect them. Neither them nor their vendor partners have the necessary systems to manage these new models to ensure revenue participation, client ownership, etc. As such they are skeptical about the change and are reluctant to push the model into their markets.
  • There is a massive installed base of legacy systems and these will stay for a long time to come. These are unlikely to change in any great rush and accounts for a substantial part of the current revenue streams of the software vendors. They will need to continue to service their customers by the current models which in turn contradict with the roll out of subscription models.

It is however inevitable that over time the go-to-market, deployment and pricing models will change but to continue to deliver enhanced functionality and high levels of local services, it is essential that the vendor keep their current ecosystem of value added resellers and independent software vendors ("ISVs") engaged. Were this not to happen, the vendor's business could be substantially negatively affected.

To deliver new models and at the same time deliver a consistent experience for the customer and keep the ecosystem fully engaged is going to add substantial demands on the models and systems used by software vendors as their legacy models and systems do not have what is needed to achieve this.

To cater for this, the next big thing for business software vendors to come to market will be the availability of Ecosystem Management Platforms ("EMP").

Unlike the current crop of disparate systems that software vendors hobble together to create islands of solutions in their organizations, these new EMP solutions take a completely different and more holistic approach to the business by providing a tool that manages multi-channel sales models, caters for a diverse ecosystem, deploys multiple licensing models, integrates e-commerce, drives new sales through complex marketing and analytics tools, manages their global skill availability and this is all provided in a single cohesive package.

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Differences between AppStores, WebStores, Catalogs and Ecosystem Marketplaces

Ecosystem MarketplaceFor Business Software Vendors, the need to implement a more encompassing ecommerce solution is becoming more prevalent every day.

This is being driven by a changing landscape in which the industry is seeing new sales channels, new deployment methods, new revenue drivers and new business models which in turn are affecting the rest of the business operations including marketing, channel management and accounting.

Once the vendor has recognized their need for an ecommerce solution to manage their changing business, they then face the challenge of figuring out which of the myriad of options out there best suites their business.

This is especially difficult for vendors that have an established and complex ecosystem of resellers, ISVs, end-users, distributors and skilled resources as the ecommerce solution selected needs to keep these entities involved in the transactions.

The following chart shows the types of ecommerce features needed by a channel focused vendor and the ability of different types of systems to deliver them.

 

Function Marketplace Webstore Catalog App Store
         
Self Help Portals supporting the whole ecosystem including partners, distributors, ISVs, end-users, branches, “crowd”
Multi-Channel Sales model support including Web, Mobile, In-App, Channel
Multi Party Transactions to include multiple trading partners in a single transaction
Limited


Limited

Multiple Product Types including Mobile, On-Premise, SaaS, Hosted, etc.
Automated Notifications
Traffic Analytics
Payment Processing


Limited


Limited
Inbound Marketing
Limited

Limited

Limited
Outbound Marketing


Limited


Limited


Limited
Complete product collateral including video, PDF, HTML, presentations, spreadsheets, etc
Limited
Fully integrated across all components i.e. each of the features listed in this table should be integrated with each other to provide a single cohesive solution
Skills Market
Ecosystem Profiling
Limited
Ecosystem monetization e.g. membership fees, product placement fees, skills search, advertising etc.
Ecosystem activity integrated to social networks
Drives traffic back to the vendor
Vendor shares in revenue
         

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Increase Sales, Drive New Sales Models, Deliver Multiple Deployment Methods and Manage The Business

Ecommerce, Operational and Marketplace SolutionsSoftware businesses are being affected by the growing demand for:

  • Subscription billing
  • Multi-channel sales models including In-App, Web and Channel
  • Multiple product deployment types such as SaaS, Mobile and On-Premise
  • Web merchandising, marketing and promotion
  • Delivering a better customer web experience

To achieve this, software vendors need an integrated ecommerce, marketplace and operational platform that would provide the relevant functionality to:

  • Support multiple sales channels including on-line, direct, through partners and In-App
  • Sell, track, manage and deploy on-premise, SaaS and mobile products
  • Increase Sales through turning traffic to your website into customers by delivering a rich environment where prospects can find, review, test and purchase products
  • Create new sales opportunities by using "big data" to identify trends, user interest and merchandising effectiveness
  • Process subscription billing and payment collection for your SaaS and Hosted solutions together with billing your legacy Annual Maintenance Fees
  • Create a Marketplace ("App Store") of both your products and those of your ISVs to assist your channel and customers in building comprehensive solutions quickly and easily
  • Provide a rich Resource Library of technical, marketing and downloadable content
  • Automate Notifications for support, marketing and merchandising events delivered directly to your ecosystem as well as to social networks
  • Give your ecosystem the tools they need to make transacting with you simple yet comprehensive through highly functional self-help portals
  • Keep your partners engaged by ensuring they are involved in relevant sales transactions no matter which sales channel drives the deal and automate multiparty splits on these transactions
  • Make it easy for your customers to find suitably qualified systems integrators, consultants and staff while creating new business opportunities for your channel through a Skills Market

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How Tacos Can Improve Your Subscription Business

Subscription businessWhile the family argues persistently about having hard or soft tacos, in the final scene of the advert for “El Paso! Tacos” the little girl shrugs her shoulders and says … “Why don’t we have both?”

(See the video below)

The point is: not all choices are mutually exclusive; not everything is a zero-sum game. That’s a fact that we here at Saxum find ourselves pointing out to the many businesses that find themselves embarking for the first time on some recurring revenue offering. “How do we manage and price our service or product? Should I offer an all-you-can-eat, or would a first-one-free model serve me better?”

Put differently, it would appear that the choice between a subscription model and a consumption model is mutually exclusive. And the reality is that one certainly can choose a single option but we would always suggest you offer both and give your customer choices (not too many though as that can be counter productive).

Why? The first reason is that the subscription and the usage/consumption models can and do “feed” off of one another. Any subscription will be consuming something, so it would be a natural option to have both fixed and consumption plans.

By example, what if my marketing team informs me that they will get more traction if they can offer a lower monthly commitment plan with overage costs to complement my existing single-fee-focused product catalog?

The second reason is that uptake is always greater when the customer is offered choices and where they feel that they have control over the way they engage and the costs they are likely to incur.

I am sure I would not be alone in suggesting that the mobile phone plans always leave you not really knowing what you are getting and this leads to 53% of all customer dissatisfaction. So while offering choice, be sure to keep your plans clear and easy to understand so that the customer knows what they are getting and to prevent customer churn.

Saxum Commerce prides itself on both understanding the subscription economy and also on providing a powerful and flexible platform to take advantage of it.

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Saxum Commerce are leaders in providing solutions that are critical to the success of a digital vendor's commerce strategy while also assisting them in improving their customers' experience, reducing sales friction and driving revenue growth so that they can focus on their strategy and not the systems that underpin it.