The online payments landscape is constantly evolving, both good and bad for businesses. On the one...
The subscription business model brings numerous benefits both for consumers and merchants. No wonder the subscription economy is expected to touch the $1.5 trillion mark by 2025. However, subscription-based businesses are now considering accepting cryptocurrencies as subscription payments to become more customer-centric and capture a wider market. While that sounds innovative, is it even possible? Read along to find out.
This blog will explore what cryptocurrency is, how it relates to subscriptions, if crypto can be used to make subscription payments, as well as the advantages & obstacles that come with accepting cryptocurrencies for subscriptions.
What is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is a decentralized digital/virtual currency crafted to be used online. Unlike regular currencies such as Rupee or Dollar, cryptocurrency isn't regulated or controlled by a central authority. Instead, a decentralized public ledger (blockchain) records the transactions.
Common examples of cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Tether, sorted by market capitalization. Over the years, the use of several cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin and Ethereum, has increased as more businesses accept them in exchange for their services.
But can subscription payments be made with cryptocurrencies? Read along to find out.
How do Subscriptions Work?
Think of subscriptions as a contract between you (the merchant) and the customers. The customers make recurring payments, and in exchange, you offer them access to your services/products for a set period.
Customers can choose a subscription plan (based on what options are available with the merchant) and decide how long and often they'd like to receive the service/product. Once the contract ends, they can renew or cancel their subscription. If they choose to renew, the cycle repeats.
Let's take Netflix, for example.
A customer buys a monthly plan for the price of X. Each month, they pay X and have access to Netflix's content. However, if a month passes and the customer doesn't make a payment, Netflix restricts their access to content. Also, customers can cancel their membership anytime, and services will be stopped immediately. This is how subscriptions usually work.
Benefits of Using Crypto Currency for your Payments
1. Increased Speed
While regular payment options such as UPI or debit/credit cards offer instant transfers, there are certain limitations. For instance, UPI might work in India, but it's unavailable in other countries. Also, not everyone has an international debit/credit card. And if you have international customers, you'll have to integrate payment gateways that charge a fee and take time to deposit the money into the merchant account.
However, you can solve this issue by accepting crypto payments. Regardless of your customer's location, you can instantly receive crypto payments, saving you and your customer time and money.
2. Improved Security
One of the most significant advantages of accepting cryptocurrencies as payment is improved security. Thanks to the technology they're based on: blockchain. For instance:
- Crypto payments allow for the anonymity of the customers securing their identity.
- Blockchain can help verify the identity of high-risk products that come with expiration dates and proof of identity.
- As there are no middlemen, customers can only file a chargeback with the merchant. And this will ensure that only genuine chargebacks are processed, thus reducing the chargebacks filed.
3. Reduced Costs
Online payment wallets such as PayPal and credit cards charge huge fees to customers and even merchants. Sometimes there's a flat fee, and sometimes it depends on the transaction amount and even location. In short, it costs the merchants a lot in the long run.
However, by accepting cryptocurrency, you can reduce these costs. While there's a small upfront fee for setting up the process, the overall transaction charges in crypto are way less than what credit card brands and wallets charge. This way, both the merchant and the customer can save money.
4. Instant Access to Funds
If you are an online merchant, you will likely use a payment gateway or a payment aggregator to accept payments. Unfortunately, it takes anywhere between 3-5 business days for the payment to be credited to your account after the customer has made the payment, which delays your access to funds. With cryptocurrency payments enabled, your wallet can be credited instantly once the customer makes the payment. This way, you can now access and put your funds to use.
5. Increased Loyalty and Trust
When it comes to online payments, customers value nothing more than their security, considering the rising number of identity thefts and other online frauds. And by accepting crypto payments, you can offer them the security they need, increasing loyalty and building trust, which will benefit your business in the long run.
6. Access to New Markets and Demographics
More than a billion people across the globe still lack access to banks and, thus, traditional payment systems. Opening a bank account requires valid ID proofs, KYCs, and a minimum balance, which is probably why so many people don't have bank accounts.
However, using traditional payments, you can reach a limited audience. But cryptocurrency saves the day. Several people find crypto payments more secure and easy for obvious reasons. If you start accepting crypto payments, you can reach out to a broader audience which can help boost your revenue.
Challenges in Accepting Cryptocurrencies for Subscription Payments
While cryptocurrency offers several benefits, it's a complex technology and hence poses several challenges, such as:
1. Keeping Track of Customers
Recurring payments are meant to make the customer experience more seamless. However, cryptocurrencies follow a 'push' system. It means each time, the customer has to initiate the payment defying the whole purpose. Also, it leaves the control in the hands of the customers, making it hard for merchants to keep track of the customers in case they cancel or renew their subscriptions.
2. Inability to Change Prices
Presently, subscription-based businesses can increase or decrease the price of their subscription packs and charge the customers' cards without explicit intimation. However, accepting crypto payments for subscriptions will limit your ability to do that. Merchants will have to explicitly inform the consumers of a price increase before they can start charging the new amount. And this can lead to customer churn.
3. Setting Up Smart Contracts.
Smart contracts are programs on the blockchain that execute when some conditions are met. For instance, if a customer pays amount X (if this condition is met), he gets access to service S. However, each time the merchant changes the price of their offering, a new contract is required, which is quite an inconvenient process.
Look at : https://inai.io/subscription-management to understand how you can collect subscription payments through crypto.
Can Subscription Payments be Made using Cryptocurrencies?
Yes, that's possible. However, the more important question is whether cryptocurrencies should be used for subscription payments.
Well, cryptocurrencies bring along more severe challenges than the benefits they offer. And these challenges ruin the customer experience, which can eventually push your customers/subscribers away from your business. Therefore, relying on traditional payment systems to accept subscription payments is better.
How Can inai Help?
inai is a payment aggregator that offers you complete subscription management software using which you can scale your business globally. Along with setting up subscriptions the traditional way, inai can help you connect crypto payment gateways (Xanpool, Transfi) with different payment processors for accepting and processing cryptocurrencies for subscription payments across multiple geographies.
inai can also help you with payouts. Once the payment is received, we can help you make fiat payouts, i.e., payouts in regular currencies across different geographies. And during transfers, we connect you with the cheapest payment rail to save you money. In addition, a single front-end adapts to different fields as payment methods change, making it easy to integrate.
Anta Pattabiraman is the co-founder and CEO of Inai, a global payment stack simplifying native payments within a single integration. Over the last 5 years, he has worked with 200+ businesses ranging from SMEs to Bigtechs.