Stripe billing is good, but is it the right fit for you?

Read on and find out how Zenskar stacks up against Stripe Billing for usage-based pricing models and more.
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Usage-based pricing is taking the software world by storm. With 15% of SaaS companies using some form of usage-based pricing model and 46% of them testing the waters with a hybrid approach, it's clear that this innovative pricing strategy is here to stay.

From industry giants like HubSpot incorporating usage-based components into their subscription plans to cloud communication tools like Twilio charging based on resource consumption, usage-based pricing offers unparalleled flexibility and fairness for customers.

If you're running a SaaS company yourself, chances are you've heard of Stripe billing. It's the trusty sedan for billing solutions - versatile and widely used by businesses of all sizes. 

But just as you wouldn't take a sedan off-roading in the mountains, Stripe billing isn't the right fit for all billing needs, specifically for usage-based and hybrid pricing models.

Stripe struggles with complex usage-based pricing models

Stripe's data model for billing is linear. Anything you want to sell is defined as a "product," the way you want to charge is defined as "price," and it's accessible by customers via a "subscription." 

This model works well for simple usage-based use cases, but as your business scales and pricing complexity increases, it quickly becomes rigid and messy. 

Stripe also doesn't allow different billing periods for products within a single subscription. It means, if you want to offer an annual subscription combined with monthly overages, you'd need to create two separate subscriptions - one for the annual fee and another for the overages.

Zenskar, on the other hand, does pricing differently. Zenskar is built on a graphical data model. Every aspect of your pricing—from pricing models, usage metrics, entitlements, and payment terms—is represented as a node in a graph.

Your finance/sales team can simply choose different nodes in a simple point-and click interface and put together complex contracts - without having to loop in the engineering team.

These contracts then define how usage is granted to the users. It can enforce hard entitlement limits and block access once the limit exceeds them, or it can allow overages and bill extra for consumption beyond the set limit.

Stripe billing is not exactly usage-first

Stripe billing uses usage data as an input for their billing calculations. While it aggregates usage data for simple usage-based pricing models, it's closely tied to the plans on Stripe, limiting how you can aggregate the data.

For more complex usage-based models, the responsibility of collecting and pre-aggregating usage events into billable metrics falls entirely on the user. You have to build additional infrastructure to collect and pre-aggregate usage events into proper billable metrics before sending them over to Stripe Billing.

Sending usage data to Stripe is also limited, as it only allows 100 read and write operations per second via API. This rate limit is insufficient for industries like cloud, API, fintech, AI, etc., where thousands of events occur in each second.

Stripe suggests batch uploading usage data to Stripe on a daily basis to avoid rate limits. But this is not ideal for companies with usage-based pricing models. 

What if you only report usage every 24 hours, but the customer's billing period ends 8 hours into the day before that triggers? It will result in the current billing being underreported. And the next billing period will carry over the last 16 hours of usage. It can lead to customer dissatisfaction, administrative overhead, and potential compliance issues.

Zenskar takes a different approach by decoupling usage from contracts altogether. It allows the handling of usage data independently from contract terms and enables businesses to tap into the full potential of their usage data.

Zenskar solves usage at three fundamental levels: ingestion, aggregation, and billing.

  • Ingestion: Zenskar can ingest usage data from any source in real-time or batches via pre-built integrations, CSV uploads, or direct API ingestion. In addition, Zenskar allows clients to manage consumption within their own application and pipe that data to Zenskar via webhooks. In this case, Zenskar only needs to manage consumption if the consumption information is required for revenue recognition.
  • Aggregation: Zenskar's usage-centric approach goes beyond just data collection. It can record all types of usage events, regardless of whether they're billed for or not. With a powerful SQL query builder, raw data can be flexibly aggregated into billable metrics. It also lets you analyze usage patterns to gain valuable product insights.
  • Billing: And when it comes time for billing, with Zenskar's event-based architecture, usage data is immediately applied to rate usage, deduct entitlements, update invoices, and recognize revenue as it streams in—no delays like Stripe.

Stripe only allows 20 products in a single subscription

Stripe limits you to only 20 products in a single subscription. And all of them must have the same billing interval. 

Source

Zenskar's flexible billing engine doesn't impose these limitations. You can add as many products per contract as you want with different billing cadences. It gives you unlimited freedom to create complex contracts that fit your unique business needs.

Stripe billing locks you into Stripe Payment

Choosing Stripe billing means you are exclusively tied to the Stripe payment ecosystem. 

While ACH, and bank transfers are available only in selected regions, you may have to arrange for alternative payment methods to collect payments from other locations around the world.

Zenskar, on the other hand, offers multiple payment options, including bank transfer, wire transfer, and ACH, and connects with payment gateways like Stripe, Adyen, Braintree, etc. If the need arises, you can use any of the payment methods individually or use them all together as you see fit. 

For example, if you do business in different regions with different preferences for payment methods – with Zenskar, you can easily cater to their needs.

Customers in Europe can pay via SEPA bank transfers, while US customers can use ACH or credit cards along with payment gateways like Stripe, Paypal, or Adyen. If you decide to expand to Asia, support for local payment methods like Alipay or WeChat Pay can be quickly added to Zenskar without disrupting the existing billing process or affecting customers’ experiences.

Stripe's revenue recognition capabilities are limited

While both Stripe and Zenskar help you stay compliant with ASC 606/IFRS 15 standards, create journal entries automatically, post them to the general ledger, and generate revenue reports, Stripe's revenue recognition capabilities are rather limited.

Stripe's revenue recognition module is explicitly tailored for subscriptions and simple usage-based pricing models. It falls short when it comes to supporting more complex pricing models, like prepaid subscriptions with overages or tiered prices with prorated adjustments, etc.

Stripe automatically amortizes revenue evenly (by the millisecond) throughout the service period. For example, if customer pays $1200 for a year-long service, Stripe will, by default, recognize about $0.0038 of revenue every millisecond over the course of that year ($1200 / (365  24  60  60  1000) = $0.0038 per millisecond)

While Stripe allows you to define custom revenue recognition rules for products, customers, or invoice line items, they can't be modified on a case-by-case basis. To recognize revenue differently for a specific invoice item or product bundle, you have to manually import the recognition dates for Stripe to use.

Moreover, due to Stripe's limitations in real-time usage tracking that we mentioned earlier, revenue can't be recognized automatically as usage grants are fulfilled. It can lead to discrepancies and manual work for your finance team.

Zenskar, on the other hand, not only offers greater flexibility in pricing, but it also provides more flexible revenue recognition and accounting features than Stripe.

With Zenskar, you can create custom revenue recognition rules tailored to your business needs. Our platform automatically breaks down contracts into performance obligations and recognizes revenue as these obligations are satisfied over time.

Following double-entry accounting principles, Zenskar automatically creates debit and credit journal entries for accrued & deferred revenue, accounts receivable, payment gateway expenses, and more based on your contract terms and milestones.

It unburdens your finance teams from manual grunt work and makes month-end audits a breeze. With Zenskar, your finance team can focus on strategic initiatives rather than getting bogged down in tedious data entry and reconciliation tasks.

Stripe is built primarily for engineers, not finance/sales team

Stripe is known for its exceptional developer experience, detailed documentation, and easy-to-use APIs. They also offer fantastic features to make developer's jobs easier – from a full-featured React component library to a robust webhook system.

While this makes Stripe a favorite among the engineering community, it can sometimes leave finance and sales teams feeling left out in the cold.

Making simple pricing changes or implementing new pricing models can take significant back-and-forth between the sales, finance, and engineering teams. It costs time and hinders your ability to adapt quickly to market demands.

While Zenskar also offers an excellent developer experience, our idea of providing a great developer experience is to minimize dev involvement from billing as much as possible.

During the migration, the Zenskar team helps you every step of the way. We migrate data, connect with your existing dashboard, and even build custom features to serve your needs. It ensures minimum bandwidth from your developer team. 

Once the initial setup is done, your sales and finance teams can handle pricing or billing changes through the Zenskar dashboard. It allows your teams to experiment with different pricing strategies, negotiate custom plans, and close more deals – all without relying on engineering bandwidth.

At Zenskar, we believe everyone should be able to do what they're best at. Your engineers build the core product, your sales and finance teams handle monetization, and Zenskar takes care of the rest. This approach helps your company stay agile and responsive to the market.

Stripe's customer support falls short by a mile

Stripe provides support primarily via email, which can be slow for businesses that need quick resolutions to their billing and pricing issues.

It's not uncommon for customers to wait days or even weeks for a resolution, leading to 

errors, lost revenue, and unhappy customers. 

In contrast, Zenskar takes a white-glove approach to customer support. We understand that billing is a critical function for any business, and any disruptions can have serious consequences. 

That's why we work closely with our customers to ensure smooth onboarding and provide ongoing support to help them get the most out of our platform. Our team of experts works as an extension of your team, helping you configure contracts, create custom rules, migrate data, and integrate with your existing tools and workflows. We also build additional features and integrations on-demand so you can tailor Zenskar to your specific needs without burdening your engineering team.

What sets Zenskar apart is our commitment to being there for our clients every step of the way. We provide support via multiple channels, including Slack, email, and Zoom, so you can reach us whenever you need us. 

To learn more about how Zenskar compares to Stripe for usage-based billing, check out our detailed comparison here.

Wrapping Up

As businesses increasingly move towards usage-based and hybrid pricing models, having the right billing infrastructure becomes crucial to scaling operations effectively. While Stripe is incredibly powerful for subscription-based pricing models, its linear data model and limitations can quickly become constraining as pricing complexity grows.

Zenskar, on the other hand, is purpose-built to handle even the most intricate usage-based billing scenarios. Its graphical, node-based architecture empowers teams to construct sophisticated pricing contracts without writing a single line of code. 

Moreover, Zenskar bridges the gap between technical and non-technical teams. With its intuitive point-and-click interface, sales and finance teams can independently experiment with pricing strategies, apply discounts, and adapt to market demands quickly without relying on engineering resources.

For companies looking for a future-proof billing solution that can scale with their evolving needs, Zenskar emerges as a compelling choice. Its robust feature set, seamless integration capabilities, and cross-functional accessibility make it an ideal platform for businesses striving to unlock the full potential of their complex pricing models.

If you're considering a move to usage-based or hybrid pricing or looking to streamline your billing processes, schedule a demo with our team to see how Zenskar can help.

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