How to setup recurring billing for Secure Zone membership

Updated on 20-October-2016 at 10:16 AM

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Recurring billing refers to the process of charging subscribers on a periodical basis for accessing regularly updated high-value content within a Secure Zone. Rather than charging a one-time fee (or offering free access) you can configure Secure Zones to charge on a monthly basis. You can use the interface to configure a cycle of payments to monetize the high value content that is provided behind a Secure Zone. This system includes the ability to automatically collect the membership dues.

In this article, you'll learn how to set up recurring billing on a site. You'll also learn how to use the features in the Customers section of the Admin Console to manage payments and subscriptions. The instructions provided assume that you've already created a Secure Zone. If you'd like information on how to set up a Secure Zone, read Creating a basic members only area .

If you'd like more information about what Secure Zones and how they work, see Introduction to secure zones .

How to set up recurring billing

After you've set up recurring billing, visitors can register online and pay for access to a password-protected Secure Zone using an interface on your site. The system will process their credit card payment and grant them access to the selected Secure Zone for a specific period of time. While the membership remains active, members can visit your site and login to the Secure Zone. The system automatically manages the recurring bills to ensure subscribers are automatically charged at a specific interval in order to extend their access to the Secure Zone.

The screenshot below shows an example of a subscription form that enables visitors to sign up and pay for access to a password-protected area:

The recurring billing feature can also be used as a billing system to automatically collect membership dues for clubs and associations that use this system to host their websites. Club and association members can sign up online with a credit card. Thay way, the system can automatically debit their credit card when membership fees are due (which could be set on a payment cycle, such as quarterly, half-yearly or yearly). The system also generates an invoice that reflects their payments and sends it via email to each subscriber to alert them of the charges.

Note: Some payment gateways do not support recurring billing. Review the list of payment gateways to get more information. The payment gateway used for a site must support recurring billing in order to use this feature.

Workflow for implementing recurring billing

You'll perform the following steps to set up recurring billing for a Secure Zone:

1. Create a Secure Zone.

2. Define the Recurring Billing Details (such as price, and recurrence period)

3. Create a sign-up form that enables visitors to subscribe and pay their first installment to access the Secure Zone.

Considerations when creating a Secure Zone

Follow the instructions provided in the article titled Creating a basic members only area to create a Secure Zone, if you haven't already created a password-protected area for the site.

There are several things that must be set up and configured properly in order to implement a Secure Zone with a subscription membership.

Begin by choosing Site Manager > Secure Zones.

The list of existing Secure Zones is displayed. Select a Secure Zone in the list to add recurring billing. After selecting the name of the desired Secure Zone, the Secure Zone Details page is presented.

1. Double-check that subscribers who login to the Secure Zone will be presented with the correct landing page within the password-protected area. Use the Landing Page drop-down list to select the page that will load first after the subscriber has logged in.

2. At the top of the Secure Zone Details page, click the Secured Content tab to see the next screen.

Verify that the correct pages of the site are added to the Secure Zone. Select the desired page(s) and click the top right-pointing arrow button to move page names from the left pane to the right pane. Any pages listed in the right pane are automatically added to the Secure Zone. (To move all of the items from the left pane to the right pane, click the double right-pointing arrow). Pages listed in the right pane can only be accessed by subscribers who have logged in to the Secure Zone.

3. Choose Web Pages from the drop-down list to view the list of pages. Verify that all of the pages within the Secure Zone are linked from the landing page, so that subscribers who log in can access the pages. This is important because if you create orphan pages within a Secure Zone, subscribers will not be able to access them.

Defining the recurring billing details

In this section, you'll set up the frequency and cost of the access, using the interface in the first tab of the Secure Zone Details page. If you are following along with the steps in the previous part, you can click the Details tab to return to the first screen.

Otherwise, choose Site Manager > Secure Zones, and then select the name of the Secure Zone from the list that appears to access the Secure Zone Details page.

The Secure Zone Details page includes an option to Sell Membership Access to this Secure Zone. Enable this option by checking the checkbox as shown below:

After enabling the checkbox, a set of related options appears.

  • Use the Membership Cost Currency menu to select the currency that used when charging for the membership subscription
  • In the Membership Cost field, enter the fee (in dollars, or the selected currency) that will be charged for each period
  • Use the Frequency of Membership Renewal menu to set the frequency members will be charged; the options are:

Once

Daily

Weekly

Every two weeks (Fortnightly)

Monthly

Quarterly (every three months)

Half yearly (every six months)

Yearly

After making your selections, click Save at the bottom.

Creating a registration form to subscribe members to a Secure Zone

When charging fees to access a Secure Zone, you'll need to create a registration form that enables visitors to enter their credit card details. If you've selected the frequency of Once (as described in the previous section), the system will charge their credit card a single flat fee. If you've selected any of the other frequency options, the system will charge their card for the first period of usage. For every period of usage thereafter, the system automatically uses the recurring billing feature to charge the subscriber's credit card and extend the length of access for the subscriber to ensure they can continue to log in.

To get step-by-step instructions on creating web forms, see Basic Web Form Guide . This article does not cover every aspect of making new forms; it is focused on setting up a simple recurring billing web form.

As you create the form, select the fields that will be included. In order to use recurring billing, be sure to add the following fields:

Title, Firstname / Lastname

Email Address

Username

Password

Credit Card Processing

Image Verification or Recaptcha

When you enable the option to Sell Membership Access to this Secure Zone, you enable the subscriber to select the subscription plan they wish to sign up. You can create multiple Secure Zones and set the membership fees to varying amounts and payment cycles. The system tracks all of the Secure Zones you've created internally.

The registration form displays a list of radio button options automatically, based on the site's internal data. The subscriber clicks one of the options to sign up for the desired Secure Zone as they are completing the web form. The options shown will depend on how many Secure Zones with different payment plans exist on the site. After the subscriber selects the desired plan, the web form populates the field indicating the charge to be debited from the subscriber's credit card (at the bottom of the registration form).

Subscribers can review the charges that will be processed before submitting the form and initiating payment.

Creating the Secure Zone login form

In this section, you'll learn how to create the login form that paid subscribers will use to enter their user name and password to access a paid Secure Zone.

Note: You must place the login form on a public page of the site (so that it exists outside of the Secure Zone). For example, you can insert the login form on the site's home page, add it to a template, or create a special login page that contains the form. You have complete control over where you publish the form, but be sure not to accidentally insert it on a page that is inside the Secure Zone, because then subscribers won't be able to log in.

Follow these steps to add the login form to a public (non-password-protected) page:

1. Choose Site Manager > Pages. Select a page from the list of pages that is displayed or create a new page.

2. The Page Details page appears and the selected page is displayed in the editor.

3. Click the Site Modules button in the Toolbox of the editor and select Secure Zones... to launch the Toolbox.

4. Click the Sign In Form option:

5. The Toolbox updates to display a drop-down list to select the Secure Zone from the list of Secure Zones that exist for the site. Use the drop-down list to select the name of the Secure Zone. In this example, it is named Member Only Area.

6. Click the Insert button to insert the form at the location where the cursor is placed on the web page.

8. The form appears in the page. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Publish button to push the updated page live.

Using the Customers section to configure recurring billing

Using the Customers section of the Admin Console, you can set up and manage recurring billing. Follow these steps:

1. Choose CRM > Customers.

2. In the list of customer names that appears, search for (or simply select) the name of the customer that you want to update.

3. The Contact Details page appears, displaying the customer's information. In the navigation bar, click the Orders tab.

4. Click the Edit button at the bottom, and then click the Recurrence/Direct Debit collapsable heading:

Use the interface in the Recurrence/Direct Debit section to manage the recurring billing settings, as shown below:

Cancelling memberships

If a subscriber decides to cancel their membership, the workflow is as follows:

1. The suscriber will contact you via the contact form on your site (or via a phone call, if you've provided your number online). Note: If desired, you can create and publish a Secure Zone cancellation form on your site for this specific purpose.

2. After receiving notification, choose CRM > Customers to access their record, as described in the previous section. Click the Recurrence/Direct Debit collapsable heading to see the Recurring Order Details, as shown in the screenshot above.

Use the Recurring Status menu to change the setting from Enabled to Disabled.

Next, follow the steps provided in the next section to manually unsubscribe the customer from Secure Zone.

Updating a customer's records to unsubscribe them from a Secure Zone

Once an existing subscriber indicates that they want to cancel their subscription, follow these steps to unsubscribe them and remove their access to the password-protected content.

1. Choose CRM > Customers. In the page that appears, either select the customer's name from the list of customers or search for the customer record you want to update. The Contact Details page appears.

2. In the navigation bar, click the Subscriptions tab.

3. The Subscriptions page appears. Uncheck the checkbox next to the Secure Zone that you want to disable access for the selected customer. In the screenshot below, the customer was previously subscribed to the Member Only Area Secure Zones, but the checkbox next to Member Only Area has been unchecked to unsubscribe their access.

Note: You can also use this section to manually subscribe new members to a Secure Zone. If the customer is not currently subscribed to any Secure Zones, tick the checkbox next to the Secure Zone that you want to grant access.

Handling failed payments for recurring orders

If a payment fails, the system will automatically send you an email notification with information about the order that has failed.

The system will not automatically cancel the recurring order, so that you or the business owner can contact the customer to determine if they wish to unsubscribe or maintain the recurring order.

After following up, if the customer wishes to cancel their subscription, complete the steps outlined in the section titled Updating a customer's record to unsubscribe them from a Secure Zone.

Considerations when creating Secure Zones

It's important to remember the following details when working with Secure Zones:

This system enables you to create an unlimited number of Secure Zones, and each password-protected area can be configured to use a unique payment plan (or some may be free to access). You can set one Secure Zone as a trial (to provide a 30-day free access to protected content) and then create another Secure Zone with duplicate content that visitors can subscribe to on a monthly basis after their trial has expired, in order to continue accessing the premium content.

You can customize the invoice that is generated by the system and sent via email to customers. To update it, choose Site Manager > System E-Mails. In the list of system email notifications that appear, choose Invoice: The invoice template that formats the email message invoice sent to customers. You can edit the text content and the layout formatting, by toggling the HTML tab of the editor. If desired, you can copy the code into another HTML editor, such as Dreamweaver to make the changes, and then paste the edited source code back into the HTML tab of the online editor in the Admin Console. Be sure to click Save before leaving the page to preserve your changes.

Every time a new order is created as a result of the recurring order feature, a new invoice will be generated and sent to the customer.

Each customer can be subscribed to any number of Secure Zones. They can subscribe by registering online using a form on your website. Customers can also be manually subscribed by an admin user, using the Customers section of the Admin Console as described in the section above titled Updating a customer's record to unsubscribe them from a Secure Zone.

By default, a few of the payment gateways supported by this system require the customer's billing address in order to process online payments. The majority of the supported payment gateways allow you to disable this option. However, if the payment gateway that you use requires the customer's billing address, you'll need to update the registration form to include fields to capture each customer's billing address as they sign up and submit their credit card information. Once the subscriber has registered, their billing address is stored in the system and will be used when processing transactions for recurring bills. If you are in the United States and your site uses a payment gateway such as PayPal, it's necessary to add client-side validation to ensure that the customer's billing address details are formatted correctly, so that the payment can be processed. Check with your payment gateway to find out the formatting requirements. For example, PayPal will only accept a 2-letter state code, such as CA for California. If the billing address is submitted without the required formatting for the payment gateway, the online payment transaction will not be completed.