The Complete FastSpring Review
When it comes to payment providers and ecommerce platforms, online businesses have never had more choices. There are hundreds of options to choose from, each providing slightly different features, pricing, and functionality. However, an area of online sales that doesn't have as many choices is software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies and those that sell digital, non-tangible goods. FastSpring steps in to fill this gap.
FastSpring is a niche ecommerce platform with more features than most, but with a price tag to match. The company primarily caters to digital goods sellers/software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. We’ll explore if those extra features justify what they’re charging, and let you know what you can expect if you use FastSpring as your ecommerce and payment provider.
FastSpring in its Own Words
“Finally, an ecommerce platform that enables purchases & subscriptions across web, mobile, and in-app experiences. Accept global payments with a localized experience, remain secure and compliant by outsourcing all your back-office operations to us, and get back to focusing on what you do best.”
FastSpring Fast Facts
FastSpring has been around for just over ten years, and is headquartered in Santa Barbara, CA. It was established in 2005 and serves thousands of clients around the world. It was designed as an ecommerce solution for the software industry and is the number one ecommerce solution for Mac software publishers.
FastSpring has a wide range of clients, mainly in the technology space, including Adobe, Toshiba, Flexbits, Smith Micro Software, Flowbreeze, and more.
FastSpring Payments Features
FastSpring provides extensive payments functionality for ecommerce vendors. You can expect recurring billing options, payments in more than 20 currencies, in-app purchases, and more. Let’s take a look at the payments features in more detail.
Recurring Billing and Subscriptions
FastSpring has recurring payments and subscription billing built in. It’s mainly designed for month-to-month billing of Software as a Service (SaaS) and similar ongoing subscription models. FastSpring offers customizable subscriptions that can be set for specific amounts, subscription length, or frequency. You can set up free or paid trials, offer discounts, and set promotional pricing. Additionally, you can create on-demand subscription services that charge customers as they use your product or service.
You’ll have flexibility to add one-time setup fees or create installment payment plans. You can also pro-rate payments, combine subscriptions, and more.
Related Article: How to Set Up Recurring and Subscription Billing.
Currency and Language
FastSpring natively supports multiple languages and currencies, making it easy to localize payment services and provide easy-to-use ecommerce services for international customers.
The system converts product and service prices to a customer’s local currency, handles international payments in multiple currencies, and include built-in tax calculation and collection for international, national, state, and sales taxes, including VAT.
FastSpring supports approximately 20 currencies — U.S. Dollar, Euro, British Pound, Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Chinese Yuan, Czech Koruna, Japanese Yen, Swiss Franc, Danish Krone, Hong Kong Dollar, New Zealand Dollar, Polish Zloty, Russian Ruble, Singapore Dollar, Swedish Krona, Indian Rupee, and South African Rand.
It also provides localized information and interfaces in over 20 languages — Arabic, Chinese (traditional & simplified), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.
FastSpring allows embedded, in-app purchases to maximize the chances of making a sale to an app user. The embedded store software development kit (SDK) allows developers to build a customized way for users to purchase from you. It’s less expensive than traditional app store platforms that can take up to 30% of your revenue, and allows integration with trial products to let users try before they buy. Custom styling options ensure the purchase process is seamless to the end user.
Payment Methods for Your Customers
Customers can pay for your products and services through FastSpring in a variety of ways. They can choose credit and debit cards (including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and JCB), bank transfer, purchase order, money order, check, PayPal, or Amazon Payments. Additionally, your customers can make payments in any of 19 currencies mentioned earlier.
FastSpring is completely PCI compliant and secure, and adheres to PCI DSS regulations. Fraud screening is built in and uses algorithms to identify and eliminate potential fraud.
Related Article: PCI Compliance Requirements for Business Owners.
Receiving Payments from FastSpring
Getting your money out of FastSpring is important to any business owner, and they provide several methods for transferring funds.
Payment transactions typically clear through FastSpring in 6 to 10 business days, though the company states that most clients choose to receive funds from FastSpring twice a month. FastSpring can make payment into your bank account via direct deposit, ACH, physical check, or PayPal, and have the ability to transfer money into bank accounts in any of 35 countries.
You can also receive payment via a wire transfer for a $15 fee, or credited to a Payoneer prepaid Mastercard for an additional fee.
FastSpring Ecommerce Features
Collecting payment isn’t the only part of running a successful ecommerce business. FastSpring offers a number of features designed to make the online shopping process easier for customers while providing you with the tools and data to continuously improve. FastSpring offers a short video explaining its services:
Customization and Design
FastSpring allows for a very high level of customization so you can tweak the ecommerce and shopping cart features to meet your business’s exact needs.
Customized order pages to show and collect the information you need, while customized shopping cart pages can be pre-populated with customer information. You can brand each page to match the style and design of your website or ecommerce store and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) control the look and feel.
You can also set up specialized mobile ecommerce and payment pages for smartphones and tablets.
FastSpring provides multiple options for ecommerce sellers to test, analyze, and improve their website to maximize conversions. FastSpring offers complete integration with Google Analytics to provide insight into how people are using the various aspects of your ecommerce store, checkout, and payment processes. You can also integrate with Omniture, WebTrends, and Google AdWords.
A/B split testing lets you measure variations on the ecommerce, checkout, and payment experiences. You can test multiple versions of pages to understand what combinations lead to the lowest abandonment rates and best conversions. You can experiment with discounts, pricing, form fields, style elements, and more. Additionally, you can optimize cross-selling and upselling on particular items and recommend them to customers, based on your criteria. You can also include specialized bundle discounts.
Lastly, you can ‘remarket’ by email to customers who abandon their cart partway through the purchase process, helping encourage a return visit and decrease overall order abandonment.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
FastSpring has several features to make CRM easier, including Mailchimp integration so you can build email lists and manage campaigns for people who have purchased from you. (Mailchimp also integrates with WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Twitter, and Salesforce for more powerful CRM.)
Secure customer pages are automatically generated and shared with each customer and provide payment information, updates, subscriptions, and billing history. You can also customize communications schedules and emails for purchasers, issue reminders for regular billings and subscriptions, let people know when their trial period is ending and when they will need to start paying for a product or service, and issue surveys to customers to find out about their ecommerce store and purchase experience.
Personal Support for Shoppers
FastSpring can also handle customer support for people who have purchased from you. It includes complete customer support for the ecommerce, shopping cart, and purchasing experience, with a guaranteed responses to customers within 24 hours. (Most responses are made in an hour or two.)
Order Fulfillment and Distribution
FastSpring also handles the order fulfillment part of your business and has various methods to get your products and services to your customers.
FastSpring can send custom email notifications after purchase, provide links for customers to download software, files, and other electronic items and automatically send out license codes to allow for activation of software. Additionally, you can use registration code generation through Digital Rights Management (DRM) providers like AquaticPrime, ByteShield, CryptoLicensing, SoftwareShield and more
For physical products like CD and DVD fulfillment, FastSpring can send physical copies of media to your customers by request.
One area where FastSpring really shines is in providing documentation and support to developers. With the very wide variety of functionality and processing in the app, it’s essential to have the right resources to make the most of the platform.
The administrative user interface written in simple, understandable language and designed for speed and ease-of-use while an integrated help desk to allow developers and others to get help quickly. Additionally, you can expect fast, easy setup, either “out-of-the-box” or as a customizable implementation.
Pre-launch testing allows tweaking of order forms, inputs, payment processing, integrations, and shopping cart, while data migration option makes getting info from other providers and databases to FastSpring easy.
How much does FastSpring Cost?
FastSpring’s functionality does come at a hefty price. FastSpring charges “per transaction” that you process through their platform. You have two pricing options:
- Option 1 — An 8.9% flat fee on the total value of the transaction.
- Option 2 — A fee of 5.9% of the value of the transaction, plus 95 cents for each transaction processed.
This is more expensive than flat rate processors like PayPal or Stripe (who charge 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction) and considerably more expensive than competitive interchange plus processors.
FastSpring does not charge any sign-up, setup, add-on, or hidden fees. There is also no minimum contract terms and you are not locked into an agreement. Pricing includes FastSpring features, payment processing, fraud protection, management, support and more.
However, for these costs, it’s important to make sure you actually need and will use all of FastSpring’s features. Otherwise, there are significantly lower cost options that will still provide customization and a seamless payment experience for your online store. General online retailers and those who don't need services like activation codes may not find enough benefit to justify the cost.
FastSpring does not work with “high-risk” businesses including adult services and products, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, gambling, and others.
Now that we’ve gone over the features, what do users think? We’ve explored reviews of FastSpring from across the web and here’s what clients say. The company has a profile on the Better Business Bureau’s website, and has been extensively reviewed at G2 Crowd.
Better Business Bureau
FastSpring has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 2009, and currently has an A+ rating, the highest available. It has one positive review, but 29 complaints. The positive review states that the customer service is excellent.
The complaints allege that customers cancelled but were still charged after cancellation, that they were charged for products not ordered, and that activation codes for software purchases were not sent out. In some cases, the complaints are from end-user clients, not the ecommerce client website owners. FastSpring responds to complaints directly on the Better Business Bureau’s site in an attempt to resolve the issues.
47 reviews, 4.8 out of 5 stars
Users of G2 Crowd really like FastSpring. In particular, they were delighted at how easy it was to set up and get going on the platform. They found the API integration easy to use and customize, and developers were able to integrate the app with other services. Other users praised the built-in subscription models and the automatic fraud checking, which did save some people from fraudulent transactions. Others cited that FastSpring automatically calculates and collects sales tax and appreciated the built-in DRM functionality, while some reviewers praised the rapid customer service and support.
There were not many issues with the service or suggestions for improvement. Those who did comment said FastSpring should make it easier to setup product pages for a store. Others highlighted that the user interface can be confusing, due to the large number of features. Some reviewers said that it can take a lot of time and effort to tweak FastSpring to look identical to the rest of the store.
FastSpring does have a vast amount of features and functionality, and its users really like the platform. However, you need to decide if all of those features and that functionality is worth paying a premium. Look carefully at how much you might need to pay if you use the platform, and ask if you would make the most of all their features. If you're selling digital services, software, and similar products, FastSpring could make a lot of sense. If you’re a more traditional ecommerce store, there are many less expensive solutions that could give you the functionality you need.
That said, it’s completely free to setup and use a FastSpring account, until you start to process transactions through the service. You can sign up, login, and play around with the functionality yourself to see if it's right for your business.
If you’ve used FastSpring yourself, let us know in the comments below!
Paul Maplesden is a writer specializing in business, finance, and technology. He finds research and writing about money deeply interesting.