Subscription Metrics Defined

Vertical SaaS

Adopting a subscription business model means making changes. That’s not just about how you price your products and how you interact with your customers.

You also need a new way to relate to subscription metrics. With subscriptions, KPIs are no longer simply about conversion rates.

But how do you define subscription metrics? And how do you ensure they correspond to the subscriber journey? Finally, how do you use reporting on your subscription metrics to derive meaningful insights?

Subscription Metrics 101

Subscription metrics are a set of measurements focused on your developing long-term customer relationships and building a stream of predictable revenue. These metrics are jointly owned across an organization, meaning the Sales team, the Customer Success team — even the CIO — help meet strategic KPIs.

There are many subscription metrics to be aware of, but we’ve outlined the most critical subscription metrics to track.

  • Monthly recurring revenue
  • Churn rate
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Customer acquisition cost

Want more metrics? Download Mapping & Measuring the Subscriber Journey 

Monthly Recurring Revenuemonthly recurring revenue subscription metrics

A calculation of your subscription revenue amortized by month. It is the most important metric your subscription business needs to calculate.

MRR = Amount paid / Number of subscription months 

Churn Ratechurn rate subscription metrics

The rate at which customers are canceling their subscriptions.

Churn rate = Number of customers who canceled in a billing period / Total number of customers at start of the billing period

When it comes to addressing the churn rate, the focus is usually on voluntary churn. This occurs when a subscriber willingly cancels a subscription. It’s important to consider involuntary churn, which occurs without action on the subscriber’s part. Many times, this occurs when a credit card expired or due to loss or theft. Luckily, there are revenue retention strategies available to prevent involuntary churn that utilize a strategic, multi-step approach.

Tackling churn by focusing on retention can significantly boost your online revenue. Read our guide to learn more best practices on customer retention.

Customer Lifetime Value

An estimate of the average total value of a customer over their lifetime (from signup to churn). This is one of the most difficult metrics to calculate, but is vital to getting a better picture of the overall health of your business.customer lifetime value subscription metrics

CLV = (ARPA x Gross Margin %) / Customer Churn Rate

ChartMogul does an excellent job of explaining how customer lifetime value can be estimated, how to respond if it is low or high, and why one that fluctuates over time can be a sign of instability.

Customer Acquisition Cost

customer acquisition costs subscription metricsAn estimate of the costs to acquire a customer.

CAC = Sum of all sales & marketing expenses / # of new customers added

Building Subscription Metrics Into the Subscriber Journey

The subscriber journey documents the touchpoints your buyer may experience on their way to their decision to purchase. The subscriber journey powers your ability to understand your customers: where they start, what challenges they’re facing, and how fast they’re moving. It’s important that your metrics are in line with the journey of your subscribers and that they center on recurring revenue.

Your subscription metrics should help you answer key business questions like:

  • How quickly are customers adopting your product/service?
  • Does your customer experience allow your organization to hit revenue targets?
  • Knowing that no single buyer journey is exactly the same, how do you model the sales cycle?
  • With an eye on recurring revenue, are your numbers telling you whether your customers committed?
  • What do renewals look like?

Considering the subscriber journey as you measure your subscription program forces you to pay attention to your customers’ behavior to prevent losing them. It will also help you to avoid the pain of churn by watching for red flags. You’ll also know how to engage with your users at critical points in their subscription lifecycle – trial, subscribe, renew and upgrade.

Bringing more value to customers is more important than ever, and you cannot risk them churning away. Get more tips for attracting and acquiring new subscribers.

Reporting Subscription Metrics

Subscription-based reporting is a powerful tool for identifying trends, measuring customer satisfaction, and improving the health of your business. Combining key subscription metrics with the right reporting provides important business insight. If metrics show customers are losing interest in your product, then reporting will alert your team to the issue. Reporting provides the insight to identify the potential loss of recurring revenue and to put preventative measures in place.

Maintain a current view of your business by reporting on monthly recurring revenue, churn, customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs. Then run all of these metrics through your ERP tool. It’s even possible to connect the billing tools your team uses most for more accurate analytics — regardless of where your data sits — and then run customer-centric subscription reports that can be presented to the board or across your organization.

Use these reports to answer your most important questions: Which customers are past due on their billing? Which marketing channels send us the most valued customers? How much revenue are up-sells contributing to our bottom line?

For further details, look at how we integrate with ChartMogul to offer real-time subscription analytics specifically for subscription businesses.


Running a subscription business requires a shift in thinking about your customers, your products and your metrics. Reporting on subscription metrics helps you build a better, more predictable business. It also makes it easier to forecast future revenue and provide visibility into the health of your business. All this will make your business more responsive to customer demands. Moving quickly to respond to those demands cements strong and long-term customer relationships, which are the foundation of growing recurring revenue.

Andrea Bailif-Gush is the Product Marketing Manager at cleverbridge