Aria Systems is an on-demand billing & subscription management solution for SaaS companies. The venture backed company was founded in 2003 and has been a leader in the billing industry for several years, serving mainly the enterprise market.
Aria’s billing system has many of the same features as Chargify, including dunning tools, reporting and analytics, an API and customer management controls. Aria does have a few more capabilities than Chargify including Salesforce integration and the ability to use multiple payment processors. Aria is also one of the few recurring billing companies, along with Chargify, who are Level 1 PCI compliant.
Aria offers two editions of their subscription billing product:
The Enterprise edition includes the basic feature set (per-seat based billing, API, tax capabilities, standard reports, web service access, etc) along with several additional features:
- Unlimited payment processors
- Usage-based billing
- CRM/Financial system integration
- Phone support
- PCI compliant hosted pages
The Standard edition includes the same Chargify Overview as the enterprise edition but does not include phone support, PCI compliant hosted pages, channel management, ad hoc reporting or usage-based billing.
Aria also offers several a-la-carte options including custom web development, data migration, custom pay processing and more.
Pricing appears to be flexible as some report pricing based on revenue share while others report pricing per customer.
Aria does charge up front for the initial setup phase (pricing starts at $5,000 for standard implementation services) which includes setup and support. For smaller businesses who cannot afford the initial fee, some of it can be defrayed into a monthly service fee (based on number of customers).
How is Chargify different?
- Chargify pricing is based on the number of customers you have. It is a monthly fee that only changes when the number of customers you have exceeds your plan.
- Chargify does not charge a setup fee. We have a documentation section & a dedicated support team to help you if necessary.
- Chargify offers 24/7 phone support to merchants on the Basic, Plus & Pro Plan.
- You can have an unlimited number of free customers on every plan.
- All plans include secure hosted payment pages.
FreshBooks has long been known as a leading invoicing application for small businesses and freelancers. Their system allows small business owners to track time, generative invoices online, manage projects, clients, and contacts. Invoicing, generating paper or email statements that get sent to a client for a service performed, is an entirely different process than recurring billing.
Recurring billing involves managing large amounts of credit card data for your customers, executing billing transactions at scheduled intervals, and then generating receipts for your customers. FreshBooks generates an invoice to send and then you wait for a check; Chargify automatically executes the transaction and generates a receipt for the payment received.
In terms of recurring billing functionality, FreshBooks allows you to create what’s called a “recurring profile.” This feature allows you to generate invoices automatically, but doesn’t actually charge your customers – it’s up to you to send the invoices out electronically or by mail.
FreshBooks does have an add-on feature they refer to as Auto-Billing which allows you to charge your customer’s credit cards whenever an invoice gets generated. This feature takes recurring profiles to the next step and actually collects payment for you. However, the Freshbooks Auto-Bill feature is limited on every account. They only allow you to use the auto-billing feature with a pre-defined number of recurring profiles before they start charging more.
Recurring billing features are bolted onto FreshBooks, which at its core is an invoicing application. There are no tools to help you manage fraudulent orders or manage declined cards. No analysis or reporting tools, and you get little to no insight into your business. There’s no question FreshBooks is an outstanding application for invoicing, but its recurring billing platform does not utilize best practices for today’s web applications.
Each free FreshBooks account comes with 5 free auto-bills every month. If you have more than five customers you’d like to bill on a recurring basis you are required to upgrade to a paying account and add extra auto-bills to your account.
How is Chargify different?
- Chargify manages recurring billing. It works with your payment gateway to charge your customers and generates a receipt, not an invoice.
- Our dunning tool manages declined credit cards and helps merchants protect themselves against fraudulent transactions.
- Business intelligence tools reveal trends in revenue and sign ups
- Chargify allows you to collect payments through custom branded payment websites
Payment gateways allow you to process charges and refunds to your customers. Some of the payment gateways and payment processors offer simple recurring billing features. As a full recurring billing system, Chargify goes way beyond those simple features and we continue to grow every week.
Some of the added features of Chargify:
- Support for trial periods: Create custom trial periods by product or even by customer.
- Automatic proration if your customers upgrade/downgrade during a billing cycle.
- Dunning: Chargify will automatically reach out to your customers to resolve problems if their credit card payments fail.
- Custom Public Signup Pages for your customers to sign up and later to update credit card info.
- Chargify allows you to enter coupon codes so your customers can get a discount when they sign up.
- Track units consumed by your customers and then bill them accordingly (think of text messages sent or sales leads purchased).
- Track “seats” used by customers over long periods of time, such as billing your customer based on the number of software licenses (“seats”) they have or the number of hotel rooms they manage with your system, for instance.
Google Checkout is a payment gateway and shopping cart system that allows your customers to buy products and services using their personal Google log-in credentials. This is a huge disadvantage for your customers that don’t have a Google account, requiring them to open a Google account just to buy from you.
Here’s how Google works. When your customer is ready to buy, they click a Google-checkout branded payment button and are brought to a Google branded payment page. When this occurs, your company’s brand is essentially disconnected from the transaction and your customers get the feeling that they’ve left your site.
Chargify addresses this issue in two ways.
- Merchants have the option to integrate our API into their sites to create a seamless payment experience.
- Or they can link to their hosted payment page. Hosted payment pages can be custom branded, giving your customers the impression that they haven’t left your site.
Next, Google processes their payment information, validates the transaction, and transfers the payment into your merchant bank account. When your customer’s view their credit card statement the charge is marked as coming from Google and not your company as the merchant. This makes you look unprofessional, decreases your brand equity, and will most likely increase the number of charge backs your receive. Google makes it really easy to get paid for one-time transactions but what does it offer in terms of recurring billing for growing subscription based businesses?
Not much. Google Checkout is inadequate for Web 2.0 and SaaS companies for a few different reasons. Its first downfall is the lack of any subscription management tools. It simply allows you to define a price and set an interval at which to bill that price. Chargify can create an unlimited number of product families, with multiple subscription plans. You can setup free trials, create add-ons, and define the frequency at which you’d like to bill your customers. You control every aspect of how your customers get billed.
Google’s second downfall is its lack of analysis and billing intelligence tools. It doesn’t help you learn from your billing. It does not track sign ups, trends in revenue, or cancellations. Chargify’s robust reporting system analyzes your billing and shows you the key operational metrics you need to make key business decisions. It shows you how your business has performed over time and how to make it perform better in the future.
In the interest of full disclosure, Google’s recurring billing functionality is currently in beta. In addition, use of recurring billing is limited to those who choose to integrate the Google Checkout API into their websites. Google’s definition of recurring billing is: “charge customers on a regular basis without additional input from your customer.” At Chargify, we believe growing Web 2.0 and SaaS companies deserve more tools, more control, and easier integration with their billing system.
Google Checkout has a tiered-percentage fee structure. They take a tiered percentage of each transaction and a flat rate of 30 cents on top of that (for every transaction). They base the percentage on how much revenue your application is generating. The lower your revenue, the higher the percentage they take.
How is Chargify Different?
- Provides robust reporting tools that help you analyze your billing data to make key business decisions.
- Works with a variety of merchant gateways so you can shop around for the best rate
- Merchants have the choice of either integrating our API or sending customers to a custom-branded payment page. Customers will never feel like they’re leaving your site.
- Chargify never charges transaction fees or setup fees and has simple flat-rate billing plans. Chargify also support billing an unlimited number of customers.
- Chargify customers can setup and test different freemium pricing models and make changes without affecting customers who’ve already signed up.
- Your customer’s see your company name on their credit card statement as the Merchant of Record
PayPal, the defacto standard in online payment services, offers a wide variety of tools for merchants running subscription based sites. PayPal has two primary products for Web 2.0 and SaaS companies: Website Payments Standard and Website Payments Pro. They both offer similar functionality except for the fact that the Standard Version requires your customers to check out on a PayPal branded payment page, with limited opportunity for customization. In addition, the Pro service costs an extra monthly fee on top of PayPal’s tiered percentage fee structure.
PayPal offers its users limited analysis or business intelligence tools. At most, you can download a historical log of your transactions, but you can’t see how those trends are changing over time. Are you interested in how your marketing efforts correlate with sign ups? Or how your dunning strategy (how you handle declined credit cards) effects retention? That insight simply isn’t built into PayPal.
Another major headache for subscription based companies is how to handle declined credit cards. From our experience; about 50% of lost customers are due to declined or expired cards. PayPal doesn’t give you a proactive means to address these credit card issues.
Chargify gives you a powerful set of dunning management tools so you can proactively address credit card issues before they happen. If one of your customer’s credit cards is set to expire, you can set up custom notifications to help them remember to renew. This helps your business retain more customers. In addition, you can set up custom email notifications for all of the possible credit card failure reasons. You control how your customers get contacted and the messaging around how payments are collected.