Local Payment Wins Emerging Market Subscribers
Cross-border Payments

How Saas Providers Can Tailor Subscription Payments For Emerging Markets

U.S. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers expanding globally may find that card payments give way to paper invoices and cash payments, says SaaS company Corel’s Executive Vice President of Global eCommerce and Digital Marketing Rob Charlebois. In this month’s Global Recurring Payments Tracker, he tells PYMNTS how providers can prepare to support subscribers in untapped global markets who think differently about how they want to pay.

Entering global markets is not easy for SaaS providers, who need to launch compelling products, promote them through robust global marketing campaigns and also provide convenient, locally tailored payment experiences. Those that cannot deliver risk missing out on significant populations of would-be customers. 

SaaS providers must understand each market’s cultural differences, tax considerations and preferred payment methods, according to Rob Charlebois, executive vice president of global eCommerce and digital marketing for Corel, a B2B and B2C graphics and word processing software subscription company. 

Countries such as Brazil, China, India and Russia can be especially hard to serve with payments, Charlebois told PYMNTS in a recent interview, and companies must be ready to adapt to each location’s preferences. 

“The bar these days is to have a full complement of local payment methods and the relevant currency in each market,” he said. 

Supplying Emerging Markets’ Local Payment Methods 

Emerging markets’ populations may generally lack mainstream credit card access, challenging subscription companies that want expansion and forcing customers to handle the undue friction of converting currency. It has therefore become important for Corel to leverage eCommerce platforms that provide access to more domestic credit cards and currencies. 

“If we didn’t offer the local credit card, it would drop conversion rates slightly for those [customers] who might not be familiar with [how] to calculate [the currency conversion] and determine what their total cost of ownership is,” Charlebois said. “It’s not that they wouldn’t buy, but that they wouldn’t buy at the same rate.” 

The situation is challenging in Brazil, where many potential customers do not use international credit cards. Corel must instead offer installment payments via Boleto Bancário – invoice-like tickets that customers can pay with cash at physical stores or online via banking apps. Lengthy payment processes correspond to greater customer-retaining struggles, and simple forgetfulness can be a major cause of churn for those who must remember to bring boletos to a grocery store or other location in time to make a recurring payment. 

“Offline installment payments … create a greater leak in the funnel: Someone may … want to buy a subscription online and … get distracted before they get to the store to make payment and then forget about it,” Charlebois said. “When dealing with offline payment methods, it’s harder to keep [the same conversion as] in domestic North American markets.” 

Local nuances such as tax requirements and linguistic differences necessitate that international SaaS providers render website portions as well as terms and conditions in simple, clear language, he added. 

Fighting Churn in Emerging Markets 

Companies that thrive by securing and retaining consumers need to pay particular attention to subscription renewal, as subscribers can easily forget to re-enter payment details as required, accidentally dropping a service they still want to receive. 

Corel therefore works to make automatic renewal options both available and simple in each of its markets. The company has found that WeChat in China limits foreign providers to a version of its payment platform that only offers manual renewal. This has spurred Corel to consider ways to gain access to the domestic platform, which allows payment autorenewals. 

“Which global payment methods support autorenewal versus no autorenewal is an important nuance for companies offering subscriptions,” Charlebois said. 

Ambitious SaaS providers targeting the globe must help subscribers sign up and keep paying. Doing so successfully in new markets frequently means supporting both domestic payment methods and convenient autorenewals.

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