By embracing tactics like subscription billing, omnichannel sellers can make it as easy as possible for customers to make recurring purchases with little to no disruption to their everyday lives.

Omar Nawaz

Omar Nawaz, chief product officer, Chargebee

Megan Higgins

Megan Higgins, vice president of ecommerce and marketplaces, Avalara Inc.

Following the pandemic-driven shift to ecommerce, consumers have become accustomed to convenient, blended shopping experiences across online and in-person environments. In fact, nine out of 10 consumers desire an omnichannel experience that delivers seamless service between channels. While having an omnichannel strategy creates new opportunities for retailers to reach more customers, it also creates additional challenges for them to manage.

A major sticking point for customers in an omnichannel environment is checkout and billing. Nearly 79% of people agree that they prefer to shop at stores with both an in-person and online presence, and 68% noted being more excited to shop at retailers that offer the latest payment methods. So, whether a customer is in-store, online, or subscribed regularly, they have certain expectations about the checkout experience, including transparency, flexibility, and convenience. As such, when it comes to optimizing your business for omnichannel, embracing subscription or pay-over-time models and applying automation at checkout can help support a seamless customer experience across channels.

Subscription and recurring billing give customers the flexibility they seek

In an omnichannel environment, consumers want options when it comes to the shopping experience, but they also crave convenience. Businesses can benefit from subscription and recurring billing models for their ecommerce operations to provide the blend of flexibility and convenience that consumers demand.

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Subscription and recurring billing often go together, but while very similar, they have slightly different characteristics that can benefit customers. Recurring payment models allow customers to sign up, input their payment information, and authorize the merchant to deduct the payment at the agreed frequency. Subscription billing is the automatic recurring billing process after a customer signs up for a product or service.

Because technology plays a fundamental role in subscriptions and recurring billing, merchants can serve customers easily by quickly making changes, such as downgrades, credit notes, and prorated billing. These models also offer customers the convenience and personalized experiences they crave. They are not repeatedly requested for payments and can rely on seamless delivery of their physical or digital products at the frequency they’ve subscribed to—saving the customer time and money.

Automating the checkout process across channels streamlines the customer experience

While billing models are a valuable tool for omnichannel retailers to increase customer convenience and flexibility, retailers must still address checkout across the rest of their channels. When it comes to checkout and billing in an omnichannel environment, there are three things that merchants need to get right to succeed and keep customers happy—regardless of channel. Those include flexible self-serve options, a seamless checkout experience with multiple delivery options, and end-to-end tax compliance.

Consumers want options, and they don’t want to feel locked into their subscription, which is why providing the ability to pause, skip, change frequencies, and more is essential. 

And, whether it’s an ongoing subscription or a one-time purchase they’re completing when a consumer gets to checkout, they expect to pay with their payment type of choice easily. Offering flexible payment options in-store and online, including touchless pay options like Apple Pay, buy now pay later, and electronic commerce platforms like PayPal, allows customers to make purchases easily—and avoids cart abandonment.

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Optimizing the post-purchase experience to meet customer expectations

Once a customer decides to subscribe to a product or service on an ongoing basis or makes a one-time purchase, they expect timely and transparent updates on upcoming billing and shipping details. Having proactive and transparent communications with your subscribers and one-time purchasers can help build trust and loyalty, leading to an increase in repeat purchases and overall customer lifetime value. While personalized experiences and flexibility are keys to customer delight and loyalty, dependability is also crucial. Consumers want to know that they can rely on getting products delivered at the agreed-upon frequency, requiring retailers to ensure they have their business automation in order and investment in the right technologies to streamline every touchpoint from checkout to billing and fulfillment.

At checkout, retailers can also improve the omnichannel experience by automating complex transaction components like tax collection and compliance to ensure accuracy on transaction totals regardless of the channel. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 13,000 sales and use tax jurisdictions—many of which have their own tax rates and rules. When selling omnichannel, the complexity of tax can quickly create hurdles for businesses. Automated solutions can help omnichannel sellers stay on top of changing tax rates and rules so that transactions are automatically updated and compliant.

By embracing consumer-friendly tactics like subscription billing, omnichannel sellers can make it as easy as possible for customers to make recurring purchases with little to no disruption to their everyday lives. Similarly, retailers can closely look at their checkout processes to see what areas can be improved and automated for seamlessness and accuracy. Offering diverse and flexible options for subscription management, payment collection, and automating tax across channels helps acquire more buyers and provide them with a positive experience that keeps them coming back.

Avalara Inc. is a provider of tax management software. 

Chargebee offers an online platform for subscription billing and revenue management.

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