Choosing an eCommerce System for selling your Licensed Applications

By Mike Wozniak | General Licensing Tips

Apr 01
e-Commerce

Although the primary focus of the SoftwareKey System is Electronic License Activation and Management, we have many happy customers also leveraging the capabilities of our integrated eCommerce system. But while our SOLO Server integrated eCommerce is a great system for the demands of many software companies, it is not the only eCommerce option for selling licensed applications.

We’ll look at the features of the two options we offer in this post, but first let’s do a refresher on the benefits of online sales.

Setting up eCommerce for your software products is an important part of your business as a publisher. You want a sales process that includes:

  • The instant gratification and around-the-clock convenience to customers that the Internet affords
  • Methods for capturing new leads and sales from a global marketplace
  • A very simple and user-friendly online purchasing system
  • Systems to automate license delivery
  • Systems for renewing license maintenance and securely selling upgrades to licensed customers
  • Capabilities for selling various licensing models such as subscription-based licenses

With these processes in place, you’ll save oodles of time, you’ll increase revenues, and you’ll be selling while you sleep. Gotta love that!

With SoftwareKey, you have several choices for selling your software, and this post will help distinguish between them – and also get you thinking about what to look for when shopping for an eCommerce system.

Once you have chosen an online purchasing system, the basic automation of license delivery is straightforward:

  • If the customer does not have your software installer at the time of purchase, they should be able to download the full version immediately after purchase.
  • It is very common for software applications using a licensing system to start out as a trial version. When using technology such as online product activation, the customer only needs to enter in some type of serial number or license credentials to convert the trial version into the full version.

Most modern shopping carts can handle the automation of license delivery and software download, but you will want to ensure that the solution will meet all of your needs.

13 things to consider before selecting an eCommerce solution

When looking for a solution to sell your software licenses online, you may want to consider the following questions:

  1. Does the license management solution you are considering offer integrated eCommerce capabilities or connectors to well-known eCommerce service providers or to the eCommerce service you may already be using?
  2. Will your company benefit more from a single, integrated eCommerce / license management solution or two different systems offering best-of-breed for each application area?
  3. Do you need customer registration data to be passed from the eCommerce system to the licensing system in order to assist with future customer service inquiries? Note: Customers may lose their license key after purchase, so being able to quickly provide this information can be helpful.
  4. How will downloads and serial numbers / licenses / keys be delivered after an order is completed? Will a list of serial numbers / licenses / keys be generated in the licensing system and uploaded into the eCommerce system or will they be created on demand when an order is processed?
  5. If the customer purchases a quantity greater than one, will they receive multiple licenses or one license configured with multiple activations? There are advantages to both approaches.
  6. If software maintenance is being sold with the license, where and how will this be verified throughout the lifetime of the relationship with the customer? Benefits of verifying the “lifetime of the relationship” include:
    • Save costs by having support staff validate active maintenance before providing support.
    • Encourage upgrade or renewal purchases by only allowing customers with active maintenance to download software updates.
    • Increasing revenue by notifying customers when software maintenance is due.
  7. Do you want to sell software maintenance renewals or software upgrades where prerequisite conditions must be verified before a purchase is allowed? How flexible are the rule validations for this process?
  8. How complex is the product catalog that you want to display to the user? How many different ways do you want to license your software? For example, gold/silver/platform editions, features/modules, standalone versus network licenses, etc.
  9. Do you also want to ship physical products along with your software licenses?
  10. Does your marketing department plan to offer simple or complex promotions for product pricing?
    • An example of a simple promotion is offering a percentage or fixed price off when a promotional code is entered in the shopping cart.
    • An example of a complex promotion is “receive $25 off if certain products are purchased in combination.”
  11. If a subscription license is being sold, how will the eCommerce system and licensing system stay synchronized so that only active, valid subscriptions are allowed to continue running or receiving maintenance?
  12. When using a separate licensing and eCommerce system, what is the total cost of processing orders for licensed software? Will there be any support challenges when multiple vendors are chosen?
  13. How important is speed of receiving payments in your bank account? If your own eCommerce merchant account is used, payments will typically clear immediately; whereas if selling through a 3rd party store using their own merchant account, payments are likely sent in batches when thresholds are passed.

While each licensing and eCommerce solution will address these aspects differently, listed below are some of your options when using SOLO Server from the SoftwareKey System.

Consider an Integrated Solution

The SoftwareKey System helps simplify the sales and distribution process by integrating eCommerce and licensing, and includes the following features:

  • Shopping cart and storefront with custom branding
  • Electronic Software Delivery and license delivery
  • Shopping cart rules validation
  • Custom renewals and upgrades processing
  • Software maintenance sales and renewals
  • Customer license portal for license management
  • Recurring billing engine for subscription management

SOLO Server’s integrated eCommerce covers the most commonly requested needs for selling software and licenses, and you simply need a compatible merchant account and payment gateway, such as PayPal.

If you need an eCommerce solution focused on selling software licenses, SOLO Server may already have everything you want, including a competitive rate.

Consider 3rd Party eCommerce Solutions

While the SOLO Server integrated eCommerce option is a great system for the demands of many software companies, it is not the only eCommerce option for SOLO Server. It is possible to bulk-generate software licenses to upload into an eCommerce system and there are also web service endpoints to perform more direct integrations with other systems.

Advanced eCommerce through FastSpring

FastSpring

We are happy to announce an advanced, automated integration between SOLO Server and FastSpring eCommerce. While integration with many other shopping carts is possible, we chose the full integration with FastSpring due to their service popularity and customer demand.

Through our partnership with FastSpring, customers who have demanding eCommerce requirements can leverage the strengths of both companies without sacrificing capabilities.

Starting with SOLO Server build 1.15.2.4, a direct integration between FastSpring eCommerce and SOLO Server allows for:

  • On-demand license creation when an order is placed
  • Immediate customer registration with SOLO Server when an order is processed
  • Synchronization between the licensing system and shopping cart for subscription licenses
  • The ability to cache licenses locally for disconnected users and periodically validate and refresh licenses online

View the FastSpring integration instructions in our manual topic. As a dedicated eCommerce solution, FastSpring has a variety of powerful eCommerce features that you may want, while SOLO Server would still provide the robust Electronic License Activation and Management capabilities.

Summary

Having flexible options has always been a priority for the SoftwareKey System, as we know that each customer’s needs are different. Whether you want an integrated system that includes selling software online or you want to go with the best of breed solutions for each category of service, with the SoftwareKey System’s SOLO Server as the center point of your license management solution, either approach promises to benefit your bottom line.

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About the Author

Mike Wozniak is one of the co-founders of SoftwareKey.com and responsible for marketing, content and product strategy. When he isn't plotting new ways to help customers solve licensing and business automation challenges, he likes to travel and entertain guests who come to visit the Orlando area. He also writes most of the licensing tips here.