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Tracking Conversions for Subscriptions for SaaS

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# 1
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I am wondering if it's possible to track conversions for a SaaS business. A conversion is when a person converts their free trial account to a paid subscription and a payment transaction occurs. Here is the typical process a person goes through to sign up for a trial account and then convert to a paid subscription:
1) Sign up for a trial account on the main website (e.g.
2) During the signup process, users can specify their own site name, which is actually a subdomain of the TLD. So, if John Doe is signing up for a trial account, the sign up form lets him specify his own custom site name/subdomain, which might be something like Site names/subdomains are created dynamically/on-the-fly.
3) With the trial account setup, the user can go to and log into their account.
4) While in their account, they can become a paid subscriber. They can choose to pay using a credit card, ACH or Invoice (invoices can be paid via check or PayPal).
5) Users can choose to pay monthly, quarterly, twice a year, or annually.
6) No actual payment transaction occurs when users select their payment method and save their credit card or banking information (for ACH).
7) Actual payment transactions occur according to when the user has selected to pay. So if a user selects to pay monthly, their credit card won't be charged until a month later. Same applies to the ACH method. Payments are automated, meaning that, users do not click a button or perform any action to submit a payment. Their card or bank account is automatically charged/debited.
8) Users who choose the invoice method, will receive an invoice they can pay either via PayPal or by check.
Given these variables, is there a way to track conversions, that is, when an actual payment transaction occurs? I only want to count the first payment as the conversion. So, if a person chooses to pay monthly via credit card, I only want to count the first payment as a conversion and not subsequent charges. Same applies for ACH.
However, for users choosing the invoice method, how do I track conversion/payment transactions through PayPal? Again, I only want to track the first payment as a conversion, not subsequent payments.
Or, if the user chooses to pay their invoice with a check, is there a way to track that?
Payments received are recorded in our software, which is on a separate domain/server.
Not sure if there is an API that can be used or not, but any suggestions are welcome.
Thanks in advance for any assistance and/or suggestions.
Marked as Best Answer.
Accepted by topic author Andrew S
1 month ago

Tracking Conversions for Subscriptions for SaaS

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# 2
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Hello Andrew,


   This is a problem we have faced with some SaaS startups and here is my experience with these issues.


First let me say, and I would love to be corrected on this one, that Google Analytics is particularly ill designed an analytics solutions for SaaS businesses and I will try to explain why later.


  So if I understand your description correctly, there are 3 key events:


1. Registration event, when a visitor signs up for an account

2. Upgrade to paid subscription, when a registered user chose a subscription plan and enters his payment/billing details, and

3. Actual payment takes place, whether that is  through a credit card and some platform such as Stripe, paypal, etc.


For the first two, I suppose it is fairly trivial to set up events that you can track in your Google Analytics, as they are based on actions takes within your own system. The tricky part is what happens with the actual payments.


 In theory, the solution would be to utilize the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol, whereby you can send data to your Google Analytics account for each actual payment you receive.


  And this is where things start getting messy. The 3 key event mentioned above will typically occur over a span of a number of session. Now the problem is that Google Analytics is a session-based tool. What this means is that potentially all 3 would have different referral source. However, you want to, ideally, connect all these events to a single user, and therefore a single referral source. So for example if your visitor landed in you website via an Adwords campaign, you might want to attribute that campaign as the source of the resulting revenue (let's say you want to measure your CAC for customer for your campaigns and the LTV of customers coming from your campaigns).


The current  solution or hack we have used is to pass USER IDs as custom variables for every registration and then get these data from the Google Analytics API. Using the  USER ID custom variable as a mapping key, we pass these data back to our back-end database  (with attribution data such as source/medium, campaign, etc.). To complete the loop, we connect the user/customer data from our back-end to the payments received (where the account email is typical sufficient to connect these). 


In short we pass traffic attribution data and payment/revenue data to our back-end using a combination of USER ID custom variable and email to identify users/paying customer and conduct all analysis  from there.


 I hope this helps, but I will have to add again that I do not think that Google Analytics is designed or is suitable for SaaS business. It is great for e-commerce sites but not for businesses with recurring payments and subscriptions. As mentioned at the start, I would love to be corrected on that be guided through to a working implementation of GA for SaaS, but currently I think the best option is to look for solutions such as Mixpanel and/or Kissmetrics that are more of user-based (vs session based solutions).





Re: Tracking Conversions for Subscriptions for SaaS

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# 3
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Hi Aristeidis,


Thank you so much for your insightful reply. It really helped, and I agree that GA is not well suited for SaaS. I have been pushing the execs at my company to implement a product analytics solution like Mixpanel, but that's a whole other battle. In the meantime, I need to find a way to do everything with GA.


Can you tell me where I can find documentation on collecting and passing the USER ID? I need some technical documentation on how to do this. Or, if you are willing to share with me how you did it, or how you figured it out without sharing any sensitive or confidential data that would be great as well.


Again, thank you for your insight. Very valuable, and much appreciated.