Self-serve subscription management and billing portals: How they improve retention and revenue


Stripe Billing lets you bill and manage customers however you want—from simple recurring billing to usage-based billing and sales-negotiated contracts.

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  1. Introduction
  2. What are self-serve subscription management portals?
  3. What types of businesses use self-serve subscription management and billing portals?
  4. Benefits of self-serve subscription management portals
  5. Customer billing portals with Stripe Billing

As the subscription-based business model increases in popularity, more businesses across industries are realizing the value of offering subscription services to their customers. According to a report by Zuora, the subscription economy has grown more than 435% over the past decade, with subscription-based businesses outperforming their product-based counterparts in revenue growth by 5.5 times, on average.

Subscription-based businesses must create a management and billing experience that customers love—or risk losing existing customers. A study by Harvard Business Review found that acquiring a new customer can cost 5 to 25 times more than retaining an existing one, demonstrating that customer retention should be a top priority for businesses. But managing subscriptions and billing customers on a regular basis can be a challenge.

Self-serve subscription management and billing portals solve this problem by providing businesses with a convenient and efficient way to manage customer subscriptions and payments, while also addressing some of the most important concerns for businesses with recurring revenue.

Here’s an overview of how self-serve subscription management and billing portals can help businesses increase customer retention, reduce churn, and boost revenue—and what businesses need to know about offering these portals to their customers through Stripe Billing.

What’s in this article?

  • What are self-serve subscription management portals?
  • What types of businesses use self-serve subscription management and billing portals?
  • Benefits of self-serve subscription management portals
  • Customer billing portals with Stripe Billing

What are self-serve subscription management portals?

Self-serve subscription management portals are web-based platforms that allow customers to manage their subscription services, without assistance from a customer support representative. These portals are typically provided by businesses that offer subscription-based products or services, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, online media services, and utility providers.

Through a self-serve subscription management portal, customers can perform a variety of actions related to their subscriptions, such as:

  • Viewing their subscription details, including payment history, renewal dates, and subscription plans
  • Upgrading or downgrading their subscription plans
  • Canceling their subscriptions
  • Updating their payment information, such as credit card details and billing address
  • Changing their subscription preferences, such as opting in or out of promotional emails

What types of businesses use self-serve subscription management and billing portals?

A variety of subscription-based businesses offer self-serve subscription management and billing portals. And these businesses could become more diverse as more industries start to embrace subscription models. That said, here are some examples of the business types that have historically offered self-serve subscription management portals to their customers:

  • SaaS companies
    SaaS companies offer software applications that customers can access through a subscription model. Examples include productivity tools like Microsoft Office 365 or project management software like Asana.

  • Online media and entertainment services
    Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify offer customers access to a vast library of movies, TV shows, and music through a subscription model.

  • Ecommerce businesses
    Ecommerce companies such as Amazon and Birchbox offer subscription-based services, including Amazon Prime and Birchbox Beauty Box.

  • Utility providers
    Utility providers such as electric, gas, and water companies might offer subscription-based services that allow customers to manage their accounts and pay their bills through a self-serve portal.

  • Telecommunications companies
    Telecommunications companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile offer subscription-based mobile phone plans and other services that customers can manage through a self-serve portal.

Benefits of self-serve subscription management portals

Self-serve subscription management portals have recently become more popular because they offer considerable benefits to both businesses and customers.

Self-serve portals can improve customer experience by allowing customers to conveniently and efficiently manage their subscriptions, without waiting on hold for customer support or navigating complex phone trees. For subscription-based businesses, self-serve portals can reduce the workload on customer support teams by decreasing customer support inquiries. They can also increase customer retention and boost revenue in several ways, including:

  • Improving customer experience
    By providing customers with an easy-to-use portal that allows them to manage their subscription services at any time, businesses can improve the overall customer experience. This convenience can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn can lead to higher retention rates and increased revenue.

  • Reducing customer churn
    Customers might cancel their subscriptions if it’s difficult to manage their accounts or if they encounter issues with billing or payment. Self-serve subscription management portals can help minimize these issues by making it easy for customers to manage their accounts and quickly resolve any issues, which can ultimately reduce customer churn.

  • Upselling and cross-selling opportunities
    Self-serve subscription management portals can also enable businesses to easily upsell or cross-sell additional products and services to customers on a platform they routinely log in to. For example, a business might offer a higher-tier subscription plan or an add-on service that a customer can purchase directly through the portal. This can increase revenue by providing existing customers with additional value and encouraging them to spend more with the business.

  • Improving billing and payment processes
    Self-serve subscription management portals can streamline billing and payment processes for customers, reducing the likelihood of errors or delays. Improving the overall billing experience and reducing the number of failed payments will typically result in a healthier bottom line.

Customer billing portals with Stripe Billing

Stripe offers a suite of solutions to help businesses manage and process payments, including Stripe Billing, which allows businesses to create and manage customer billing portals. The portal is a secure, Stripe-hosted page that lets your customers manage their subscriptions and billing details. Through this portal, your customers can:

  • Upgrade, downgrade, or cancel a subscription
  • Update their payment methods
  • View their billing history

Here’s how Stripe Billing works and how it can help businesses optimize their recurring revenue:

  • Creating customer billing portals
    With Stripe Billing, businesses can create custom billing portals for their customers. These portals can be branded with a business’s logo and colors and accessed with a unique URL. Customers can log in to the portal to view and manage their subscription details, update their payment information, and make payments.

  • Managing subscriptions and payments
    Stripe Billing allows businesses to set up recurring payments for customers and automatically charge them on a regular schedule, while also providing tools for managing failed payments and retrying them automatically.

  • Tracking custom metrics
    With Stripe Billing, you can configure how Stripe calculates your monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and churn metrics. You can also see how your MRR changes in real time and identify what is driving these changes. All of your SaaS and billing metrics are downloadable in CSV format for downstream reporting and analytics.

  • Increasing customer retention
    By providing customers with a user-friendly billing portal that makes it easy to manage their subscriptions and payments, businesses can improve customer satisfaction and retention—but that’s just the start. Smart Retries, automated failed payment emails, and an automatic card updater all work together in Stripe Billing to minimize churn. In 2021, Stripe Billing helped businesses recover 38% of failed payments, on average.

  • Streamlining billing processes
    Stripe Billing also helps businesses streamline their billing processes. Instead of relying on manual invoicing and payment processing, businesses can automate these processes and save time and resources. Setting up the ability to accept recurring payments typically takes just minutes. Then you can manage accounts, view detailed financial and revenue reports, and enable your customers to self-manage their subscriptions by sharing a link to your secure, prebuilt customer portal.

To learn more about how Stripe Billing can streamline and optimize your recurring revenue and customer billing management, start here.

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