An increased reliance on e-business and consumer-oriented payment strategies used by Web-based businesses such as Netflix has democratized the subscription billing model. Adobe, too, announced recently that its Creative Suite software would be moved to monthly Creative Cloud subscriptions.
Although B2B companies can benefit from flexible consumer-oriented payment and pricing structures, the technology to get them there does not always keep up with individual and user-centric demand. In a business-to-business buying scenario, customers now expect choice and freedom to "try before they buy," much like in the consumer commerce experience, where shoppers have access to more self-service research and peer recommendations than ever before.
Thus, companies face "increased complexity in how they will go to market," commented Michael Ni, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Avangate, a maker of commerce platform solutions for software and cloud services companies.
B2B software companies now rely on a number of solutions and platforms to manage online or in-application orders, online marketplaces, mobile transactions, channel and partner networks, and even customer self-service portals or billing questions that arise in the contact center. According to Constellation Research's "Matrix Commerce" report, the average organization maintains 33 disparate systems to support an end-to-end delivery of an order.
"Companies, especially when digital disruption is happening, [have to ask] 'Who is my customer?' 'What's their price point?' 'Do they want to pay up front or pay as they go?'" Ni said. "Maybe a company has to segment these into smaller groups and [then the question becomes] 'How do I automate that?' because I have to figure that out and scale."
Avangate, with the recent launch of its SkyCommerce Summer Release, is seeking to address the proliferation of subscription billing models and complex payment plans by tying these pieces into a broader commerce management solution that incorporates channel-enabled sales and service portals and flexible product catalogs; the company also provides localized payments and taxation services for multisite businesses during global expansion.
Retina-X Studios, a maker of Internet and mobile-monitoring software, uses Avangate to optimize logistics around subscription renewals and to manage email prompts for software sign-ups. The company first imported more than 50,000 subscriptions to Avangate in March 2012. By using Avangate to digitize online orders and introduce a mobile shopping cart, Retina-X was able to increase sales conversions by 20 percent.
"That was a big deal for us...because people are more apt to purchase on a mobile device if they're seeing a mobile order page rather than if they see a full [desktop] order page on their mobile," James Johns, CEO of Retina-X Studios, told CRM.
Beyond management of transactions, Retina-X extended its usage of Avangate into the call center, where 13 agents spanning live chat, phone, and ticket support teams leave notes on customer record pages within Avangate for shared access to past order history. Avangate's global support team answers all customer billing-related questions "and we don't have to do anything," Johns added. "They give us charts on how many calls they take every month, the average wait times, and it's all seamless."