Google Checkout Adds Subscriptions

by Russ Jones on March 20, 2009

in Ecommerce Payments, Google Checkout, Russ Jones, Subscription Management

Russ Jones - Glenbrook Partners

Google Checkout has just moved a “subscription” capability into beta. This is welcome news to many online sellers, as the ability to charge buyers on a regular basis, without the buyers’ active involvement has been missing from Google Checkout since its inception.

The new capability, as described by Google, appears to be somewhat advanced, with two different modes of operation.

  • With “Google-handled Subscriptions”, the seller defines the subscription and then leaves it to Google to take care of each recurring payment. This mode is for sellers that want to charge a consistent amount each period, and need little ability to adjust the ongoing subscription other than to cancel it.

  • With “Merchant-handled Subscriptions”, the seller defines the subscription but then has the responsibility to trigger Google to charge the buyer each time payment is due. While more work, this approach lets the seller vary the amount as needed to reflect service usage during the period or to create interesting service plans. The seller could, for example, provide two months of free service before starting to charge the buyer $4.95 a month.

In both cases, Google appears to have done a nice job of messaging the buyer so things are very clear with regards to what is being charged against their card. And, consistent with the Checkout model, buyers can simply return to their Checkout dashboard — not to the seller’s web site — to cancel subscriptions.

This could be an interesting option for subscription-based services if Google is using best practices in their own backoffice to keep payment card data up to date and to retry failed transactions. They’re not talking about the details, of course, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for any clues that might indicate what retry practices they have in place.

5 Responses to “Google Checkout Adds Subscriptions”

  1. Steve Klebe says:

    It does appear on the surface that this feature would be good for small merchants if their shopping cart/ecommerce system does not have its own method. Of course, it puts a lot of extra steps and messaging in between the consumer and the merchant. And presuming only a small percentage of any merchant’s customers have their Google check-out wallet set up, that means yet another step to set that up first. For the merchant, it means their customer service people have to manage a different set of procedures for each of the e-wallets they choose to support. Is the consumer going to remember, 6 months down the line, that if they want to cancel they should go to their Google wallet rather than to the merchant? Will this ever come out of Beta, or be like G-mail, in Beta for its entire life? :-)

  2. Tom Cannon says:

    this could be a tremendously successful service if policed properly and I have every reason to be impressed with Google People as high standards and ethics. I know that major card issuers are plagued with false fraud under auspices of “for your convenience we have charged your new year (usually % increase –conveniently) to cardholders and the first the cardholder knows of it, is if they happen to catch in on their statement. I believe the practice as I described is borderline criminal and definitely wrong costing Card Issuers a pile of money processing charge backs and inquiries. I can also envision many expansion plays for Google. Great move and my congratulations for a Solid Addition to Google Checkout.

  3. Robert Brady says:

    I currently use a simple html form for taking charitable donations online for my charity group. What do I do for simple implementation (convert the XML to standard HTML) to allow the subscription based transaction.

    GraceResources.org/Donations

    If someone can email me the code, that would greatly appreciated. robert.brady AT graceresources.org

  4. Edward Snook says:

    I am in the exact same boat as Robert. I manage a humane society’s website and my executive director has directed me to start a monthly giving program. I have been waiting a long time for Google to start offering this service and am so happy but was once again befuddled and bewildered with the fact that wading through a bunch of API and xml gobbily guck is required. I could spend a lot of time on it and perhaps piece my way through but why can’t Google create a user-friendly interface like their other Checkout features? It’s not cutting edge technology here.

  5. Marco says:

    Anybody knows if Google offers now “subscription payments services” on its google check out?

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