Launching, running, and growing a subscription commerce business is a formidable challenge. You have plenty of plates to keep spinning, from building brand awareness to delivering a service that keeps subscribers loyal. And one of the most important parts of operating a successful subscription commerce business is finding the right billing platform.
There are plenty of platforms available, with various plans and features to choose from. But subscription commerce businesses and online businesses have specific billing needs, which makes narrowing down your options more complicated than you might expect.
We want to make it easier for you. That’s why we’re putting together a few blog posts covering some of the most popular billing platforms on the market. We’ll explore their features, pros and cons, and other essential details to help you make an informed choice.
In this post, we’ll look at Zuora. What is Zuora? Why might Zuora billing work for you? Read on to find out.
What is Zuora?
Zuora’s story began with Zuora Billing, a cloud-based billing platform designed to eliminate the need for businesses to create their own standalone billing platforms. Following remarkable early success, Zuora grew its portfolio with additional products — Zuora Revenue, Zuora Collect, Zuora CPQ, and Zuora Central Platform.
In the years since its debut, Zuora has helped some of the biggest companies in the world, including General Motors and Zoom. They’ve also set up several offices globally, with teams in North America, UK & Europe, Japan, Australia, and more.
What are Zuora’s main features?
Zuora has built an extensive product portfolio to help subscription commerce businesses succeed. Let’s look at the top three:
With Zuora Billing, online businesses can set up subscription billing options to suit diverse target audiences, use flexible pricing strategies, create branded invoices automatically, and take advantage of convenient, automated billing.
There are more than 50 pricing models to choose from, including usage charges and one-time fees. You can update your pricing across every sales channel via a user-friendly interface and central product catalogue.
Zuora Billing also makes it easy to centralise complex billing operations, and automation reduces manual input. That frees up time for you and your team to focus on running your business.
It's Zuora's flagship product and it's been recognised a leader by Forrester.
Zuora Revenue is ranked as the number-one Automated Revenue Management product in the 2022 MGI 360 Market Ratings Report (MRR) and Buyer’s Guide. Subscription commerce businesses can use Zuora Revenue to track and analyse revenue in real time.
Innovative, cutting-edge grouping logic aggregates various data types (invoices, orders, etc.) to simplify in-depth analysis. Decision makers can study historical transaction data to gain up-to-the-minute insights, while dozens of pre-built reports eliminate the need for manual revenue reporting.
Subscription commerce businesses can rely on Zuora Collect to access payments from subscribers worldwide and recover as many as 20% more failed payments (thanks to the Smart Retry feature.) This can help companies understand which metrics impact cash flow with real-time performance tracking.
With Zuora Collect, you can access more than 35 payment gateways, and the Universal Payment Connector lets you connect to payment providers anywhere in the world. The Payment Method Updater allows you to proactively update subscribers’ credit or debit card details, and subscribers can pay through various methods with the Advanced Payments Manager.
How does Zuora pricing work?
Zuora’s pricing is fully customised based on your subscription. That means you will not find any pricing information on their website — you need to contact Zuora instead. Their sales representatives will discuss their subscription plans and give you a quote.
Who are some of Zuora’s customers?
Zuora has acquired many customers over the years, including some major companies. Let’s look at four diverse brands and find out how they use Zuora:
Zoom has evolved into a leading cloud-based video conferencing service since its launch in 2013 and became particularly popular during the pandemic. However, as Zoom grew, the company realised its then-current billing system was inadequate for customers’ requirements. They needed more robust support for customisation, reporting, and more.
As a result, Zoom started using Zuora to transform its billing processes — and hasn’t looked back since. Zuora supports Zoom with flexible pricing and packaging, customer insights, a wide range of payment options for self-service customers, and more.
Penske Media Corporation (PMC)
Penske Media Corporation (PMC) is a major digital media and information company with a portfolio of several massive brands, including powerhouse publications like Variety and Rolling Stone. However, for some time, PMC depended on legacy third-party partners for billing and customer support, so accessing customer data took more work than it should have.
PMC wanted to transform its subscription platform and chose Zuora to help them do just that. Migrating data from the legacy system to Zuora was a lengthy process. Still, it empowered the company with a new, flexible billing system that opens the door to offer monthly subscription plans (instead of traditional annual plans.) Zuora also enables PMC to view subscriber data in real-time, allowing them to make informed decisions.
The Seattle Times
The Seattle Times is a daily newspaper founded in 1896. After realising that catering to digital subscribers would be a major source of revenue (rather than advertising), The Seattle Times needed to overhaul its legacy payment system. Their existing system was designed around print subscriptions and led to failed digital subscription payments, exacerbating churn.
Today, The Seattle Times’ readers can subscribe faster than ever and expect a smooth billing process.
Fender is one of the most well-known guitar manufacturers in the world, creating the iconic Fender Stratocaster (or Strat) and various music accessories.
In 2015, the company discovered that 90% of its customers stopped playing guitar within three months of starting. But those who kept playing for a year or more became lifelong musicians, investing in many guitars and accessories along the way.
Fender wanted to help customers develop a passion for their products, so they launched a subscription service teaching novices how to play. To get the service up and running from scratch, they partnered with Zuora to create Fender Play.
Zuora helps Fender understand pricing for their subscription service, value prop positioning, and other essential aspects of billing. This relationship has been instrumental (pardon the pun) in building Fender Play into a success, with more than a million subscribers to date.
What do people like about Zuora?
Zuora has earned strong ratings on review sites such as G2, TrustRadius, GetApp, and Capterra. Reviewers mention the following highlights when praising Zuora.
- Makes powerful billing straightforward
- User-friendly interface, approachable for newcomers
- Good integrations, especially in the enterprise
- Access to valuable subscriber data
- High-quality support and community
- Regular functionality updates
- Highly customisable to suit varied business needs
- Lots of features to explore
- Robust notifications (e.g. reminding subscribers of renewal dates)
Zuora’s impressive ratings demonstrate how effectively the platform helps subscription commerce businesses improve their billing processes.
What do people think Zuora could improve?
As with any product, some users feel that Zuora could be improved in certain ways. Here are some suggestions from users:
- The sheer variety of features available can be overwhelming for some users
- Some users have found that customisation could be made easier
- The platform can seem complicated
- Reporting features could be improved for ease of use
- Certain subscription processes could be streamlined, with fewer steps to complete
- Exploring the wealth of resources to get comfortable with the platform can be time-consuming
- It lacks a front-end for online commerce (psst Limio can help with that)
Zuora does receive updates and changes regularly to ensure that it aligns with businesses’ needs. As a result, many of the issues flagged by reviewers may have been addressed over time. The company’s customer support has been praised, so reach out to its team if you have concerns before you sign up.
Making your decision
Zuora is one of the top billing platforms available and offers subscription commerce businesses an effective, customisable way to manage payments. And Limio, a startup based in London, is one of Zuora’s technology partners.
Limio makes integration with Zuora easy when setting up your own subscription shops and self-service portals. You can take advantage of Zuora’s pricing flexibility, accept payments in as many as 200 currencies, and process payments through multiple methods (including Apple Pay and PayPal). Limio supports every Zuora pricing model, too, from one-time to recurring plans. s