Tuesday, 16 October 2018 16:17

Nearmap and Zuora: how business models can be transformed through the monetisation of data

Don't worry, I'm the one who put Nearmap's logo on the Opera House, no need to call radio broadcast Alan Jones Don't worry, I'm the one who put Nearmap's logo on the Opera House, no need to call radio broadcast Alan Jones

Nearmap's aerial mapping product offerings disrupted the aerial imaging market, but to accelerate its progress from start-up to the beginnings of a true global player, it used Zuora's subscription service to map a new course to provide "reality as a service" on an ever widening scale, as you'll discover in this email interview below.

I was offered an email Q&A interview with Seth Ephron, the Global Commercial finance manager at Nearmap and Iman Ghodosi, general manager APAC at Zuora.

At its Australian website, Nearmap describes itself as offering "Current, clear aerial imagery as a service for Australian businesses", allowing you to "cirtually inspect locations from anywhere, turning digital maps into a powerful project management tool".

Meanwhile, Zuora's site states that the company is "powering the subscription economy", and that it "creates cloud-based software on a subscription basis that enables any company in any industry to successfully launch, manage, and transform into a subscription business."

So with that, let's dive straight into the questions and answers, with Ephron from Nearmao and Ghodosi from Zuora's answers denoted accordingly.

Could you tell us a bit about Nearmap?

Ephron: Nearmap provides up-to-date, high resolution aerial imagery of urban and regional metro areas in Australia, the US and now New Zealand.

We make our content available via a subscription service, which means our customers can access current and historical imagery remotely from any device at any time. We work with a wide range of organisations, from urban developers, government agencies, large construction and engineering companies all the way to small business operators like solar panel installers, roofers etc.

Use cases of our product expand from remotely inspecting a site, right through to planning and monitoring large development and infrastructure projects, which ultimately saves our customers time and money spent on site visits and gathering location data.

With our business model, we have been able to rapidly expand into new markets and deliver enhanced product offerings to our subscribers, becoming one of the top ten largest aerial imagery companies in the world. We now have over 9,000 customers globally, 75,000+ users and a total annual contract value portfolio of over $66m.

How is Nearmap embracing the Subscription Economy?

Ephron: Nearmap has disrupted the aerial imagery market in the same way that the likes of Spotify and Netflix have disrupted theirs. We provide subscription access to frequently updated aerial imagery of what is on the ground. Effectively we provide reality as a service.

Gone are bespoke captures of a defined area, which take a long time to deliver and are very expensive. We’ve turned this model on its head, and in doing so have enabled access and adoption for a much wider range of businesses. As a matter of fact, about 80% of our customers had never used aerial imagery before they subscribed to Nearmap.

As we were growing as a business, we partnered with Zuora, who’s billing platform has allowed Nearmap to scale from an Australian start up to a global aerial image provider. And, it’s this subscription business model that is key to our competitive advantage in the global market.

Ghodosi: Zuora has helped Nearmap to rapidly expand and scale its aerial mapping products, offering its services to a wide variety of industries that would otherwise have remained untapped. The company is a true Aussie innovation success story that is now reaping the rewards that a flexible business model offers.

Could you talk us through Nearmap’s relationship with Zuora?

Ephron: Like most start-ups, Nearmap began as a simple concept – using a payment gateway, before integrating a Salesforce platform. We have experienced rapid growth over the past ten years and as our business changed, so did our need for scalability and complex billing.

Given the complexities of recurring subscription billing, Nearmap chose Zuora because of its reputation for offering a scalable solution capable of supporting global business expansion. We wanted to offer our subscribers the best possible user experience and we needed to have the right systems in place to provide a seamless customer journey.

An added bonus was the fact that Zuora’s system easily navigated the tax requirements of the new markets we were entering i.e. the US, further eliminating our barriers to entry.

Ghodosi: Scaling a subscription-based business is not without its challenges, particularly when you want to expand into overseas markets. The right critical system must allow a business to deliver exceptional customer service regardless of the customer’s location.

Nearmap chose Zuora as the cloud-based subscription management platform of choice due to its ability to scale and process new customers within a matter of hours rather than days.

Zuora also allows Nearmap to offer flexible pricing and packaging, bundling and add-ons, while easily supporting international payments and recognising revenue across multiple geographies.

Subscription metrics deliver insights into what Nearmap customers are actually doing and help the company to action this data in terms of delivering innovative, product offerings.

The company recently reported having over 8,800 global customers with a group average revenue per subscription of $7,473, which just highlights the value of a subscription-based approach to business.

What are the benefits of the subscription model?

Ephron: Nearmap captures 88% of Australia’s population, 70% of the US population, and 72% of the New Zealand population multiple times a year, ensuring that our imagery is always current.

Combined with our patented technology, which enables us to capture at this large scale efficiently and economically, providing access to the content via subscription creates multiple benefits.

For the customer, the cost to access imagery is reduced, including the entire gallery of current and historic imagery, meaning greater accessibility to our product for a wider audience.

For Nearmap, we experience the powerful benefits of recurring revenue inherent in the subscription business model, enabling continued innovation and product development, which is key to maintaining our market leading position and meeting the continually evolving demands of the market. Unlike traditional businesses, the point of sale in a subscription business marks the start of the relationship with the customer rather than the end.

The customer is at the heart of everything we do, at all steps along the subscription life cycle. If we succeed in providing a positive customer experience, we are rewarded with increased customer loyalty, maximising the life time value of the recurring revenue stream.

Ghodosi: From a commercial point of view, businesses love the certainty that subscription offers through recurring revenue and new ways of measuring their business performance.

Additionally, subscription models enable companies to focus less on the nitty gritty details of running their business and allow the executive team to instead focus on constant innovation, learnings and improvement.

Businesses are thus in a better position to develop and commit to longer term strategies knowing just how many subscribers they will have next month and next year. From a customer point of view, subscription offers flexibility and democratises access to services such as aerial imagery and remote mapping that were previously inaccessible to many due to cost alone.

What do you think is the key to success for companies adapting to this new business model?

Ephron: Businesses need to consider the agility of their existing models. Flexibility is key to surviving in this new economy where customers expect fast outcomes and a fully personalised user experience. At Nearmap, we realised early on that what’s really important is to continuously evolve the relationship with our customers based on their needs and expected outcomes.

Ghodosi: This new era brings with it a new business imperative - to turn customers into recurring subscribers. In order to thrive in the Subscription Economy businesses need to prioritise customer happiness and satisfaction which requires constant iteration.

If a company or business isn’t continuously improving upon its products and outcomes, it clearly isn’t listening to what its customers actually want. A business model based on an in-depth understanding of your customers and the relationship you have with them ultimately leads to growth.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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