Financial Times expands digital subscription services with cloud billing platform

The Financial Times (FT) has deployed Zuora’s cloud billing platform to improve management of its subscription services and widen the range of digital products offered to customers.

The organisation has invested heavily in its digital strategy in recent years amidst a declining print market, helping increase total circulation 13 percent year on year to 677,000 during 2014, two thirds of which are online subscribers. It has also seen growth in mobile, accounting for 50 percent of overall traffic.

According to FT chief technology officer, John O’Donovan, the software as a service (Saas) system has helped provide flexibility in terms of pricing and bundling of subscription products, enabling the company to concentrate on where its 126-year old business can add value – the creation of content.

“We are a content business so the most important thing we want to do is to promote that,” he told ComputerworldUK.

“Zuora manages billing for us, the subscription relationship and it gives the right capability to build different packages and have more flexibility.”

For example, the software as a service (Saas) system has allowed the FT to offer customers more choice, such as providing access to subscriptions of its FT Weekend publication independently of its main product.

The company began moving data across from its mix of legacy and in-house billing systems in 2012, going live with some customer data the following year. It now plans to complete the migration of all of its B2C customers by the end of the year.

O'Donovan said the Zuora platform has also helped improve the FT's understanding of customers by integrating with other cloud platforms that the FT has deployed, such as its Salesforce customer relationship management system. This has helped personalise customer service.

“The key thing you want is your marketing and customer services team to have the information they need in order to deal with them as effectively as possible,” said O’Donovan, who joined the FT in 2013, having previously been employed at the Press Association and BBC.

“So when somebody calls up customer services we know who you are, what things you like, and how to respond well to whatever your issue might be.”

The subscription information also feeds into the FT’s Amazon Web Services Redshift data warehouse, which replaced its legacy systems earlier this year.

“We take data from all of our systems and push it into that – so we have a single point of truth for customer data. We can also look at usage, advertising and lots of other things and combine them.”

“It is not about big data – that phrase should slowly die – it is about actionable insights.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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