Billing experiences are built for merchants who are managing expenses, reviewing bills, and taking actions on charges. These experiences should feel honest, useful, connected, clear, and consistent.
When it comes to money, transparency is key. A great billing experience takes the guesswork out of the merchants’ bills by providing the right financial information, in the right place, at the right time. This lets merchants focus on what matters most—growing their business.
Since managing expenses is a critical part of running a business, it’s important to create billing experiences with merchants’ own perspectives in mind.
Getting new merchants up and running with confidence
New merchants often have little experience and limited capital. Before they launch their business, they need to figure out which ecommerce platform to use and how much it will cost. They often don’t know where to begin, and look for advice from more experienced entrepreneurs about choosing a platform they can trust.
Enabling merchants to understand and manage bills effectively
When merchants interact with bills, it’s often reactionary: they’re responding to a bigger issue, such as receiving a charge they don’t recognize, missing a payment, or confirming that they’ve been charged the right amount. To answer their questions, merchants need to sift through many layers of information on their bills.
Some parts of running a business require merchants to pay special attention to their expenses. During tax season, merchants need to figure out what information they need for filing their tax return, and then gather it from various sources (both inside Shopify and out). In many cases merchants also need to share this information with an accountant, who might use a separate platform to file tax returns on their behalf.
Helping merchants optimize their bill to fit their budget
Most merchants experience unpredictable financial circumstances at some point while running their business. In a given billing cycle, one merchant might not have enough money for their subscription fees, while another might have so many orders that they’re struggling to pay their suppliers.
Each stage of a business’s life cycle can present different challenges for managing expenses. As their business grows, mature merchants have to manage a complicated billing ecosystem. They could be reviewing bills across several stores, each one with a different group of charge types. Merchants who are closing their stores look for confirmation that they’re covering all their outstanding bills, and won’t be charged for services after they stop selling.
The billing principles are inspired by the billing experience. Based on the Shopify experience values, they help Shopify and our Partners to create billing experiences that are honest, useful, connected, clear, and consistent.
Use ethical practices by providing merchants with accurate information up front.
Merchants want transparency about how much they have to pay, why they pay for it, and when it’s due. Information should clearly communicate their billing history and what to expect down the road. For merchants, anticipating costs may be critical for their plans and budgeting.
Support merchant learning by clarifying complexity.
Finances can be hard to manage, and merchants contact Shopify Support to get help understanding their bills every day. Billing experiences should support merchants as they learn about the ways that Shopify charges them for the services they use. Include off-ramps for educational resources (like the Shopify Help Center) and provide context for the more difficult concepts.
Help merchants connect the dots by showing them the right information at the right time.
Merchants use billing information differently depending on their business needs. It’s important to provide them with the right level of detail. From a quick glance at the monthly total to a deep dive into app charges, it’s essential to offer both a summary of critical information and a more detailed section full of context.
Help merchants understand business impact by showing them how the numbers add up.
When Shopify does math for merchants, it’s important to show the work behind the totals. Keep it simple, but provide the opportunity to look below the surface. Whether distinguishing between credits and debits, or understanding the nuances of variable rates, billing periods, and usage-based charges, merchants shouldn’t need to be accountants to make sense of their billing.
Make it easy for developers to picture how capabilities can be reimagined.
Developers add to Shopify’s value when they build great applications that improve the platform’s capabilities. Make sure that APIs and supporting documentation are designed and written well. When developers clearly understand Shopify’s capabilities and limitations, they’re more confident about what’s possible and leverage the platform to help merchants.
Merchants reach different levels of maturity over time, from a beginner striving towards their first sale to an expert managing multiple stores. These guidelines provide a foundation for building and designing billing experiences for any merchant as they grow their business.
Content and information should be laid out clearly to help merchants make informed financial decisions. When possible, offer them personalized insights that help their business.
Ask: What do merchants expect when they’re looking for information? Will the information that we provide meet their specific business needs, like categorizing expenses or filing tax returns?
Support and learning
Support merchants with contextual learning patterns that give them the information they need, and provide opportunities for education when necessary. This can help them build financial literacy, which leads to greater confidence about spending decisions.
Ask: Are we empowering merchants to understand their expenses? Are we enabling them to learn more?
Context and action
Show both the big picture and the details to make sure merchants have the financial information that’s most relevant to the task at hand. Be transparent about upcoming charges, especially when merchants are making big changes like choosing a new subscription or closing their account.
Ask: Are we helping merchants gain a genuine understanding of their billing? Are we surfacing details in appropriate places?
Make it easy for merchants at each different stage of business growth to complete the actions required to keep their finances on track.
Ask: Are we allowing merchants to perform simple tasks and manage their stores? Will this experience work well for both new and experienced merchants?