Sugar on top of Stripe to manage subscription services
Many online businesses have adopted the subscription-based business model in the past few years. From music membership subscriptions to monthly razor blade boxes, the Subscription Economy is already a trend. But, finding the right software to handle this business model is currently a pain. In this article, I will explain the necessary functionalities to run an online subscription-based gig.
If you have to process any type of online payment, you need a payment gateway, and Stripe is the most powerful online payment gateway. Basically, it processes online credit cards, bank account transfers, Apple Pay, etc. It integrates with almost every eCommerce solution such as Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce, and many more using its robust API. I’m a huge fan.
Stripe has a built-in subscription billing system, which in theory works as follows:
* Funding source token. For any type of funding, including credit cards and bank transfers, Stripe creates a token. You input the credit card, Stripe outputs a token id.
* Attach token to a customer. Once a token id is obtained, you attach it to a customer object. Customer objects are simply created using an email address.
* Payment plan. Payment plans are self explanatory. A payment plan defines the price, billing interval (monthly/yearly/daily), currency, and the name of the subscription plan.
* Subscribe customer to plan. Creating a subscription is as easy as attaching a customer to a payment plan. That’s it!
Sugar on top of Stripe
Stripe handles subscription billing really well, but there are some additional features that are required to run an online subscription-based business. Lets run through these features:
Customer self-service portal — I’m sure you’ve worked with an advanced subscription system before. For example, your wireless provider’s online account. You login to your account, pay for your monthly bill or setup automatic payment. You can view your invoices, request cancellations, and communicate with your wireless company all through your online account. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that same functionality for your gig? Customers purchase your service, login to their account and manage their subscription, and you manage the lifecycle of the service you are providing. Stripe doesn’t provide a self service portal for your customers.
Website catalog listing — Stripe doesn’t provide a public website for your service listings. In order to have a front-end website that lists all your Stripe payment plans, you would need a third-party eCommerce application. However, most third-party application are tailored towards product sale, and require customization and additional plugins to get a subscription-based website ready.
Advanced checkout system — What if your gig had questions to be answered by the customer during the service request? You should be able to create input fields or advanced request forms tailored to each of your services. Furthermore, you don’t want your customers to go through an account creation process. You want them to purchase your service and automatically acquire an online account to manage their purchased subscription. Simple and easy checkout process!
The open source solution
The ideal solution would leverage Stripe’s API to build a platform that fulfills all the above features. I’ve spent the past eight months with my team to build an open source tool (Github Link: https://github.com/service-bot/servicebot) for online subscription-base gigs. It’s called ServiceBot. Check out my initial blog post describing the story if you haven’t already.
ServiceBot is tightly integrated with Stripe. In fact, in order to setup a new ServiceBot website, all you need are Stripe API keys (which comes with a Stripe account). We didn’t reinvent the wheel, Stripe takes care of all payments. You shouldn’t reinvent the wheel either, ServiceBot takes care of your subscription-based online gig out of the box.
ServiceBot is an open source Node.js application. It uses some of the most popular libraries such as Express, React, Redux, and many more.
For a limited time, we are offering free open-beta ServiceBot instances. We are paying for the hosting so you can use ServiceBot and give us feedback about how to further improve it. You can signup for an open-beta instance through our website https://servicebot.io. It should take less than 2 minutes to setup your own online subscription-base ServiceBot website!
Share your ServiceBot website with us and we will showcase it!
In the next post, I am going to pick a specific ServiceBot feature and explain it in detail.