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Don’t Build Subscription Billing for Your SaaS Business. Use Chargebee, It’s All the Buzz

Ready to add recurring payments to your SaaS business? We did all the research and went with Chargebee. Here’s our product review showing how on how easy it was to implement, why it works better than Recurly and how it’s so worth the few extra bucks over Stripe.

Doing Research on Recurring Payments

We had an idea of what was important to us before we picked Chargebee. I told my partners that flexible coupons were critical including the ability to do lifetime, annual, monthly, discount by percentage, discount by dollar, multi-use, single use, end date and require credit card or don’t. Turns out there are ton more permutations for coupons, but that is what we wanted to start with. We knew there were a bunch of solutions out there but we tasked our head of engineering with researching them before we picked. He built a Notion sheet to compare the options; we narrowed down to four, here is the spreadsheet.

Chargebee Feature Comparison by Markup Hero

How to integrate and implement Chargebee?

Implementing the subscription flow for our product via Chargebee was a relatively simple process as compared to legacy payment gateways such as Authorize.NET. And with the additional features we got out of the box it kinda doesn’t compare. Their API documentation is very detailed and for simple setup they offer pre-built UI components which is probably good enough for most companies. Although, we opted to build our own to match our user experience perfectly.

Setting Up Products and Addons

For Markup Hero, we only have 2 products at the moment: Monthly and Annual. We don’t currently use the addons feature, but I can see how useful that could be for a company that sells a base product with several upgrade options that aren’t necessarily part of a more expensive package. Or it can be used for ala-carte offerings which is an effective way to maximize revenue per customer (we used that model at Velocify and it was very effective). Long term, we may have more options and we may end up using the addons features.

Chargebee Feature Screenshot Using Markup Hero
Subscription Plans for Chargebee from Markup Hero

What are the coupon and discount code options with Chargebee?

Coupon codes are native to the Chargebee platform and they really shine in this area. This was an important factor for us as we planned to do a range of marketing programs and partner offerings that required various coupon permutations.

Recurring Subscription Coupons Annotated by Markup Hero
  1. Apply to Discount To: One or more specific products or the entire invoice amount
  2. Duration Type: One time, forever or for a specific number of months
  3. Valid Till: Specific date and/or maximum redemptions
  1. Discounts on monthly and annual plans
  2. Free months on a monthly plan
  3. Free months on an annual plan which tabulate the total annual fee based on the free months discount
  4. Percent off monthly or annual plans for just the first month or for every month
  5. Fixed dollar amount off a monthly plan either every month or for a specific number of months only
  6. Coupons that can only be used a certain number of times and expires by a certain date
Chargebee Customers Highlights via Markup Hero

Recurring payments dashboards that will wow executives

If you like dashboards, Chargebee has you covered. They have built in KPI cards that showcase the most commonly asked metrics: Monthly Recurring Revenue, Active Subscriptions, Net Revenue, Net Payments and Unpaid Invoice.

  1. New Sales: Total value of new invoices generated during the period
  2. Payments: Total payments received during the period (not including refunds)
  3. Refunds: Total amount refunded during the period
  4. MRR: Recurring plans + Recurring Addons — Recurring Coupons (not including refunds)
  5. Signups: Total number of signups acquired during the period
  6. Activations: Total number of subscriptions activated during the period (includes reactivations)
  7. Churn Rate: Number of subscriptions cancelled this month / Total number of Active subscriptions at the beginning of the month
  8. Sales Reversals: Total value of credit notes generated during the period
  9. CMRR: MRR + Scheduled changes for the month (scheduled changes include upgrades, downgrades, cancellations, and activations)
Screenshot of Chargebee Dashboard Reports

Managing customers, refunds and other recurring billing management

Like everything in Chargebee the customer interface is simple but perfectly useful. In fact, this is one of the best aspects of Chargbee, it’s not bloated. It has just the right amount of bells and whistles to run a small and large SaaS recurring business. No fuss. No hassle. The two primary customer screens are Customers and Subscriptions. They are actually fairly similar, but both useful:

Customers View

This screen is designed to give a quick glance at users, the status of the plan they’re on and payment details.

Chargebee Customer View by Markup Hero

Subscriptions View

This screen is designed to give a quick glance actual subscriptions with renewal dates and MRR.

Chargebee Subscription View by Markup Hero

What kind of reporting does Chargebee have?

In addition to the dashboard and the integration with Revenue Story, Chargebee has a ton of built-in reports — more than we’ll probably end up using, but it’s nice to know they’re there. They break down reporting into four sections: Subscriptions, Accounting, Revenue Recovery and Transactions. These basically cover everything you need to manage a subscription software business.

Subscription Reports

This section has 7 reports but I particularly like the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) report as this is something that often can be difficult to nail down for SaaS subscription businesses. Revenue per user is an essential metric to understand profitability and factor in your marketing and user acquisition costs.

Image Annotation of ARPU Subscription Metrics

Accounting Reports

Accounting for a SaaS subscription business can become a bit tricky, especially as you offer a range of coupons, trials, lifetime plans and more. Chargebee makes this aspect of running your business more manageable and your CFO will thank you. I particular like the Revenue Recognition report; although this, and some others, are part of an upgraded plan we’re not on at the moment.

Revenue Recovery Reports

For more sophisticated SaaS businesses these reports offer visibility into cart abandonment and the implications of uncompleted transactions. Seeing abandoned and recovered carts helps you learn where your checkout flow might be breaking down. Note, these reports are part o the premium packages as well.

Revenue Recovery Report for Chargebee

Transaction Reports

These reports give a picture of the specific payment transactions. You can see when transactions are happening and are useful for testing and customer support needs.

Chargebee Subscription Transactions Report

Final thoughts and good times to come

Overall we’re extremely happy with Chargebee. And while Markup Hero is an early stage SaaS business, I’ve run large scale subscription software companies in the past and clearly see how Chargebee will save us a ton of time and headache (ugh, where were you in 2004 guys, ha).

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Jeff Solomon

Entrepreneur & 6x founder @velocify @amplifyla @markuphero @audiojoyapps @geekingapp | Teacher. Advisor. Content Creator. Product. Marketing. Startups. Dad.