Recurring Bill: A Comprehensive Guide For 2021

The recurring bill model seems to be all the rage today. Are you looking to choose a recurring bill software? Look no further. Here’s a guide to help you out!


Recurring Bill Meaning/ What is Recurring Bill

Recurring Bill is a type of payment where a business automatically deducts payment for their product/services from the customer’s account at regular intervals of time. 

The recurring bill model has led to the tremendous growth of subscription-based services in various industries. In fact, the expected CAGR of global automotive subscription services is 71% by 2022. Moreover, 53% of all software revenue will be generated by the recurring bill model. 

Recurring Bill

Sounds Interesting? 

Let’s have a look at how the recurring bill model is taking the Indian industry by storm. 

Recurring Bill in India: How Does It Work?

In India, the recurring bill model can be divided into different kinds of payment modes. Let’s dissect each of them in detail.

Recurring Bill

Electronic Clearing House (ECS)

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced the Electronic Clearing House (ECS) in 1994. This kind of recurring billing payment mode has no upper cap. As a result, it is used for high-value transactions for SIPs, Loans, Insurance, etc. 

However, it requires the customer to submit a physical form to the bank or the company. Moreover, the mandate creation period is 30 days. Needless to say, it is extremely incompatible for subscription businesses that require efficient and time-bound billing.

National Automated Clearing House (NACH) and E-Mandate

To reduce the inefficiencies of ECS, NPCI initiated the National Automated Clearing House or NACH. This allowed customers to use debit cards or net banking services to authorize a recurring bill

Now, interestingly e-Mandate is objectively a different service from NACH. However, they both work on the same principle and enable recurring billing. However, e-Mandates services are provided by individual banks. Presently, this service is only available in certain banks.

Related Read: NACH Mandate For Businesses: What You Need To Know

Standing Instructions (Sis) on Debit and Credit Cards

Standing Instructions (Sis) on debit and credit cards help customers create the mandate instantly

However, the upper limit on the mandate varies from one bank to another. The authentication process is rather simple as the customer only needs the card information and OTP.

The debit and credit card holder needs to authorize the payment through a 3D secure flow or two-factor authentication. Moreover, it is important to note that a handful of banks only provide Sis services on debit cards. 

UPI Autopay 

The latest payment mode for a recurring bill is the UPI Autopay. It was launched as UPI has become the most preferred mode of payment for Indian customers. Moreover, the mandate creation from UPI Autopay is instant and only requires the UPI PIN for authentication. 

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UPI Autopay and Standing instructions modes have made it possible for many businesses to build a thriving subscription business. This is especially true for OTT, eCommerce, SIPs, and utility bills.

Recurring Bill Examples: Industries Using Recurring Bill Payments

Let’s dive in deeper to understand how different industries are shaped by the recurring bill model. 

OTT Media Services and Content Providers

Out of all the industries benefiting from the recurring bill model, OTT has come out on top. Companies like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Hulu and many more use the subscription-based model to fuel their businesses. In fact, the global OTT market is set to reach $332.53 billion USD by 2025.

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Netflix uses the subscription based model

Moreover, the consumption of OTT media was increased manifolds because of the pandemic. In fact, Indian customers spent 45 billion hours on online video streaming services. This is almost double the US population despite their obvious lead in digital penetration. 

However, a lot of entertainment and content websites have limited modes of payment. The recurring billing model can be applied through many payment modes. However, services like Hotstar or Netflix lack payment modes like UPI Autopay, net banking and more.

Healthcare and Insurance Industry

Health insurance, car insurance, SIPs and mutual funds investments. All of these are examples of healthcare and financial services that require a recurring bill model. Earlier, customers utilized ECS even for smaller transactions. However, the 30-day mandate creation period and the need for physical forms made it extremely inefficient.  

The mutual funds and insurance industry have been able to provide a seamless customer experience with the coming of UPI Autopay and Sis. 

Related Read: Future of Mutual Fund in India: Experts Speaks

Utility Services

Another space where the recurring bill model has proved helpful are utility bills. Customers need to pay electricity bills, water bills, gym memberships on a monthly basis. A lot of times these bills are charged on the basis of units consumed. 

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Recurring Billing for utility services

Moreover, paying the bills past the due date may lead to an increase in the payment due. This increases the dynamic nature of these recurring bills. 

Software as a Service Industry

The SaaS industry is growing at a tremendous rate. In fact, the SaaS market is expected to reach $157 billion by 2021 end. Interestingly, a lot of businesses are using the recurring bill model to offer their services. Companies like Freshdesk, Intercom and Slack are examples of the recurring bill model. 

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Slack uses the Recurring Billing model

Furthermore, this mode of payment model has become so popular that traditional companies are reevaluating their payment plans. For instance, MS office and Adobe have also shifted towards subscription-based services. In fact, 80% of historical SaaS merchants are now using the recurring bill model. 

Ecommerce and Online Retailers

Ecommerce shops have moved to the recurring bill model as it leads to a higher customer retention ratio. Moreover, it has resulted in more accurate business predictability. 

Companies like Sugarbox and Freshmenu in India are using the subscription-based model to fuel business growth. The pandemic has also aided in accelerating the expansion of these businesses. 

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Ecommerce Startups like Freshmenu using Recurring Billing

However, running a business on a recurring bill model may not be as easy as it sounds. 

While a  fixed recurring price model is convenient, it might not work for utility services like electricity charges. So, how can businesses come up with a recurring bill model that caters to their needs?

Let’s find out. 

Types of Recurring Bill: Choosing What Suits You

Now, a recurring bill can be of three major types. The type of bill will depend on the nature of the product/ service as well as the consumer behaviour. 

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Fixed Model For Recurring Bill

The fixed model can work for companies that sell products for a fixed price. The merchant can choose to charge on a weekly or monthly basis depending on the nature of the service. For instance, broadcast satellite service providers like Dish TV and Tata Sky can bill their customers monthly on the basis of their desired plan. 

Pay Per Usage Model

Next up, we have the pay per usage model. Here, the customers pay on the basis of the number of units consumed. For instance, the electricity or water bill will vary according to the amount of customer consumption. 

Fixed+Pay Per Use Model

This model can be considered as a combination of both. The merchant may charge a fixed price at the beginning and overhead charges for the subsequent variable components. For instance, cab services may charge a fixed price till a certain distance. After crossing that distance limit, they may charge per kilometre.

Advantages of Recurring Bill Payments 

By now, one thing is clear: the recurring bill model is becoming a staple across all industries. But what is the reason behind it? 

In other words, what are the advantages of recurring bill payments? 

That is exactly what we are uncovering in this section. 

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Customer Convenience

First and foremost, recurring bill payments provide an excellent customer experience. They can enjoy uninterrupted services without authorizing the payment again and again. 

Moreover, it gives them the flexibility to pay according to their consumption. They can choose to change or terminate the services in a hassle-free manner. 

Ease of Payment

Recurring bill payments are inherently simple. Moreover, with the advancement of technology, Sis and UPI Autopay have made real-time mandate creations possible. To commence their recurring billing, the customers only need to remember their VPA in UPI or their credit card details. 

Security of Payment

Recurring bill payments are secure and help increase the customer trust in the merchant. Standing instructions on cards require two-factor authentication or payment through 3D secure flow. ECS and NACH mandates require bank verification forms or net banking authorization. Similarly, UPI Autopay requires MPIN and UPI PIN. 

Most importantly, most merchants utilize an international payment gateway for their recurring bill requirements. These payment gateways are PCI-DSS compliant and employ robust risk management systems. 

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Increased Customer Retention and Acquisition

From a merchant’s point of view, a recurring bill model can help in customer retention. Customers get a seamless experience and can enjoy the services without authorizing every transaction. This reduces their decision points and chances of churning out while buying the product. 

Furthermore, the recurring bill model can help merchants reduce acquisition costs as well. For instance, Adobe had a one-time fee of $200. However, they switched the pricing to $10 after adopting the recurring bill model. Naturally, most of their leads were happy to convert after that. 

Upsell and Cross-sell Opportunities

Here’s a statistic that might interest you.

75-90% of revenue for companies can be attributed to upsell and cross-sell activities (for companies that engage in it). Moreover, upselling can increase revenue by an average of 10-30%. 

Recurring billing has proved successful in increasing customer loyalty and upselling opportunities as well. For instance, OTT platforms like Netflix offer subscription-based models. After building customer loyalty over a while, they may offer to upgrade plans through personalized offers. This helps them increase revenue from existing customers instead of acquiring new customers.

Accurate Business Predictability

Another advantage of the recurring bill model is that it helps merchants predict their future cash flow easily. Since their customers are on a recurring payment plan, the chances of an unexpected financial crunch are reduced. 

Moreover, it helps companies provide accurate growth projections to investors and stakeholders. 

Choosing a Recurring Bill Software

Now that we have covered the types and advantages of recurring bill payments, we still have one major question left. 

How can a merchant choose the right recurring bill software? 

Here’s all you need to know. 

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Easy Payment Methods

One of the biggest advantages of recurring bill payment is that it is convenient. You, as a merchant, must choose a payment gateway that provides an amazing customer experience. Look for a payment gateway that does not require code to activate recurring bill payments. 

Instead, go for one that has a user-friendly dashboard that allows easy activation, upgrade and cancellation. 

Comprehensive Dashboard

All the payment gateway transactions can be reconciled with ease through the dashboard. The webhook support can help you update the latest subscriptions and notifications in real-time.

Furthermore, the dashboard can help you obtain advanced reports on the transactions, customer preferred mode of payment and other details. It can also help you employ one-click refunds if required. Ensure that you choose a recurring billing software that provides a well-equipped dashboard. 

Related Read: Reconciling Your Payment: Comprehensive Guide 

Diverse Modes of Payment

We have already discussed how recurring bill payments work. Try to select a recurring billing system that helps you offer all kinds of payment methods. After all, 7% of carts are abandoned due to a lack of preferred payment options.

The right payment gateway will help you accept recurring billing through cards, UPI, wallets, and net banking. Moreover, it will help you accept payments in international currencies and settle the payment in INR.

Trial Period Offering

A lot of customers prefer to try out a product or service before fully committing to it. In this case, trial periods can prove useful. Try to select a payment gateway that helps you offer trial periods with appropriate subscription plans. These payment gateways can also help you charge at the end of the trial period. 

Offer Recurring Bill Options

Remember we discussed the three types of recurring bill types? Well, here’s where it comes in handy. Depending on your product offering, you need to offer a recurring bill option that suits your business needs. 

You may go for fixed charges, pay-per-consumption charges or a combination of both. Select a payment gateway that helps you offer different types of recurring bill options. 

Faster Settlement Cycles

While payment gateways make collections and disbursals a breeze, settlements can be an issue. Try to go for a payment gateway that offers T+2 standard settlement cycles. 

In fact, few payment gateways can offer instant settlements. This lets you access the funds within 15 minutes of customer payment! 

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Easy Onboarding and Swift Integration

Select a payment gateway that offers easy integration. Most payment gateways have ready-to-use plugins for eCommerce platforms like Magneto, Shopify etc. 

Moreover, look for a payment gateway that has integration guides for all major computer languages to further aid your developers. SDKs for mobile app platforms like Android, iOS, React Native etc. are equally important. 

Furthermore, the payment gateway must have a dedicated account manager for seamless onboarding. Check out all the details regarding sub-merchant accounts before committing to a payment gateway.

Related Read: Payment Gateway vs Merchant Account

FAQs on Recurring Bill

What are the reasons for the rise of recurring bill payments in India?

The rise of recurring bill payments in India can be attributed to two major reasons.

International Payment Gateways

Every transaction made in India has to go through the second step of authorization in India through OTP. While it provides an extra layer of security, it is still an obstacle to the recurring payment model. International Payment Gateways helped businesses avoid two-factor authentication by accepting credit cards for automatic payments.

Digitization of Recurring Bill Model

Previously, recurring billing was limited to ECS mandates. This payment mode required physical documents and was cumbersome for customers. With the coming of Standing Instructions, eMandates and UPI Autopay, the process has become instant and digital. 

What is a Recurring Payment? What is the difference between a one time payment and a recurring payment?

Recurring Payment is the same as the recurring bill. Essentially, it refers to periodic payments that may be made monthly, weekly or yearly by a customer to a merchant.

On the other hand, one time payments are transactions that help you buy a product and service at once with no deferred payments. 

For instance, buying a mobile handset at once can be a one-time payment. However, paying for your mobile bill every month is a recurring payment.

Are there recurring billing companies in India?

Yes, Payment Gateways in India can help merchants accept recurring billing. Most payment gateways have tailored subscription-based models for different industries. 

For more information, feel free to contact the Cashfree team.

Recurring Bill