Behind the scenes – Part 1 – eCommerce subscription service for Sure Trading

We take an in-depth look at the eCommerce subscription system that was developed for the Sure Trading website.

Sure Trading provides educational training and content related to trading the stock exchange

In a recent case study detailing how we designed and developed the Sure Trading website, which allows the company to operate online in a more automated fashion, a big factor to the success of the website was the eCommerce subscription engine.

In this article, we take a deeper look into the approach and various factors that needed to be considered when implementing this subscription functionality.

To quickly re-iterate how the website works: members can sign up and pay monthly in order to get access to the customer portal where they can access all the training videos and other features available to paying members.

We knew we had to make the “sign up” really simple and fast for users, we wanted to avoid asking too many unnecessary questions. The sign up is a two-step process, with the bare minimum in terms of their personal details being required as the first step. Step two was the payment part and this is where the fun began for us as the web developers!

We did quite a lot of research into the various payment gateways and how they handle and process subscription billing payments. We needed to find out the limitations and restrictions and how they handled certain exceptions and failures. We eventually decided to use Peach Payments as the payment gateway as they satisfied our needs and provided solid documentation with good support.

One big deciding factor was that we wanted to integrate with the payment gateway via API as we didn’t want to implement a solution where the user is redirected to the payment gateway’s website as this is not a great user experience (UX). We had spent loads of time meticulously designing the site to ensure users stayed on the site by making the brand really stand out throughout the full signup process.

When it came to the initial subscription there are quite a few interesting things that needed to happen when the member was signing up, unbeknownst to them. The initial payment of the subscription is actually treated as a once-off payment because we needed to deduct the money there and then to allow the user to access the member portal straight away (because a valid membership is required).

With the processing of this initial payment, we also needed to do an additional check to verify if the member’s card is 3D secure or not (3D secure is an authentication procedure to secure online payments). The reason for this check is that we needed to validate the card with the user, using 3D secure at the initial sign-up and payment stage. (We do this so that when we run the processing of future payments, the card has then already been validated and doesn’t need to be validated again in future.)

Once all of this is done (in a matter of milliseconds), the user’s payment is processed and they have access to their account. The subscription is also set up within our system and cleverly automated procedures bill the member each month in the future for the membership, interesting hey?

Subscription Processing

Once a member has signed up implemented additional checks and balances for their monthly subscription processing.

If the member signed up on the 29th, 30th or 31st of the month, we adjusted their billing date to the 28th of each month, to ensure that they are in fact processed each month.

There are many reasons why cards cannot be processed for their subscription payment, for example, insufficient funds, the card has expired, their card is not set up for recurring billing, etc.

We added intelligence to the website to check and cater to these scenarios. If their card failed due to insufficient funds, we tried to process the payment on two other subsequent days.

If the payment could not be processed, we paused the membership and the user had limited access to their profile.

In their profile, they could make a payment manually and load a new card. This works the same way as the signup process, including the 3D secure checks and once-off payment processing. This again allows the member to self manage their account and in turn, allows Sure Trading not to have to hassle overpayment issues, processing payments manually and dealing with queries. The website does this is all for them and really well too we might add!

Should a user have a new card, they can also enter this card’s details into their member profile and allow them to have seamless and instant access to the educational material without having to wait for a human to process the card and reactivate their account. That’s right, it’s all automated and works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If members want to cancel their subscription, that’s also really easy to do. No complicated forms to be completed, signed, scanned and emailed, but rather a simple cancel subscription button on their profile that again allows them to cancel their subscription with ease.

Once cancelled, the member still has access to their profile and all the content until their subscription period lapses. The custom developed website and underlying subscription system takes care of everything and will prevent access once the subscription is expired. Members can obviously re-subscribe which is as simple as deactivating their account by making a payment, they don’t need to go through the sign-up process again.

The famous saying “less is more” is definitely what we undertook and achieved with the entire subscription system for the Sure Trading website. It really is quick and easy to use from an end-user point of view but also packed with loads of functionality under the hood which does all the complex checks and processing, making both the members and Sure Trading’s lives much easier.

To be continued…

This wraps up part one of looking deeper into the bespoke development of the Sure Trading website. Stay tuned for part two which looks at the member portal and how we took this from a concept to fully rolling out the final product.

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Having been established in 2005, in Cape Town, South Africa, Elemental is primarily focused on providing web development services and digital marketing campaigns.