To set it apart from PayPal, Chargebee uses data to tell a story

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When Krish Subramanian and his partners were starting a new payments venture about eight years ago, the prospect of creating a subscription billing-technology company had some appeal.

"It seemed to be something new and interesting taking place in the cloud, and we felt we should do something and make the transition to a cloud-based company," said Subramanian, who had previous experience in software engineering and technology.

It led to Subramanian becoming the CEO of Chargebee in 2011. But recurring billing technology has changed since then and the market for providers has expanded rapidly. And even in the early days, Subramanian was hearing a lot of feedback questioning what his company could do that PayPal and others could not provide.

"We started the company with simple subscription billing," Subramanian said. "We always considered recurring billing as somewhat of a payments problem to solve, but as we got deeper and deeper into this, and the industry matured, it became clear there were far more aspects to this than just getting someone to make a $10 monthly payment."

In response, Chargebee developed RevenueStory, a data analytics tool that measures all aspects of a recurring billing operation to better procure information from departments that executives might not otherwise consider as sources to support revenue growth.

Chargebee, which operates out of San Francisco and Chennai, India, complements other payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal and Adyen, while RevenueStory operates as a platform alongside the Chargebee billing software. Stripe added its own Stripe Billing product earlier this year.

Concentrating more on the data delivered through a customer database, Chargebee began focusing on what was driving consumer success for a company, and turning that into a revenue generation point.

In that regard, Subramanian says there is "some impact on revenue" in many functions within a business — if the data is analyzed and presented in a way the business can understand what could, or should, be done to increase the bottom line.

Monitoring the success of marketing promotions and new subscriber conversion, as well as metrics to address customer churn and enhance subscription engagement, become vital aspects of operating a recurring billing business.

RevenueStory represents more than 1,800 manually designed Excel sheets and PDF reports that Chargebee has developed over four years to help its more than 8,000 customers in 52 countries make sense of their data to influence wiser revenue decisions.

Chargebee currently has 70% of its business on the B2B side of the equation, while 20% is with e-commerce merchants and 10% with digital content providers.

Those numbers reflect industry research that indicate working with businesses that serve consumers will take more time.

Past Aite Group research showed that only 32% of consumers said they were signing up for an autopay or recurring billing program, while 68% said they continued to make one-time payments on their bills.

"It is something that billers have been looking for, trying to encourage consumers to enroll in the autopay and other features," said David Albertazzi, a senior analyst and expert with Boston-based Aite Group. "The sign-up number is low, so that is a missed opportunity."

As more payments move digitally, recurring billers on both the B2B and B2C sides will benefit and companies like Chargebee may see clients lists climb, Albertazzi said.

"Across all payments, 71% of recurring billing payments are set up online, as opposed through mail or on the phone," he added. "It will be important to make the enrollment into these programs easier."

RevenueStory also helps companies keep data straight if complexity arises when a customer changes payment terms that could include different time zones in the system and changes in customer service.

"Data plays an important role in all of these functions, and much of that data is lost," Chargebee's Subramanian said. "Subscription billing is a problem that calls for a lot of specialization, especially when dealing with companies that serve consumers across the globe."

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