What Is The Pay-As-You-Go Business Model? The Pay-As-You-Go Business Model In A Nutshell

The pay-as-you-go business model enables consumers to make a one-time purchase of a product or service without having to subscribe to a regular payment. The pay-as-you-go business model has become an important companion and alternative, to subscription-based business models. Where users that don’t want to pay regularly for a service, can opt into a pay-as-you-go-plan. For cloud business models, an hybrid (subscription and pay-as-you-go) is often the standard.

Understanding the pay-as-you-go business model

For whatever reason, many consumers are reluctant to migrate to a subscription plan from a free product. Unless the product is supported by a revenue stream such as advertising, there can be little scope for the business to make money.

One alternative is the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) business model, which minimizes costs for the consumer since they only need to pay when they require access and can afford to do so. As a result, this model may appeal to budget-conscious consumers who are infrequent or temporary users of a product or service.

There are two ways this model can be implemented:

  1. The customer purchases a certain amount of credits for a fee, with the credit balance decreasing as they use the product or service. Once the credit balance reduces to zero, the customer no longer has access and must purchase more credit. 
  2. The customer is billed for the number of resources they use over a predetermined period. Resources may be data, user, feature, storage, or time-based.

Note that some companies will utilize a mixture of both approaches.

Examples of the pay-as-you-go business model

Consumption-based pricing models can be found in many industries, including:


Most smartphone and internet providers offer prepaid data to consumers for a fee. Once the data has been used, some providers revert to dial-up speeds or require the consumer to purchase more.

Internet advertising

Google and Facebook make money by selling prepaid advertising credits for their respective pay-per-click (PPC) platforms.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS)

These platforms tend to charge clients based on the resources they consume, including the number of messages sent or the amount of storage used in gigabytes.

Cloud infrastructure

Similarly, companies selling access to cloud infrastructure may charge based on storage costs, API calls, or bandwidth, among other things.


Power and water companies bill customers according to how much power and water they use. Some may also offer consumers credit to put toward future bills if they pay the current bill before the due date.

Strengths and weaknesses of the pay-as-you-go business model

There are several clear and important strengths of the pay-as-you-go business model for consumers and businesses. These include:

  • A smaller barrier to entry – for the low-income consumer, the model makes products and services once out of their reach more accessible. Accessibility is also increased for the consumer who prefers not to commit to a subscription. For the business, this increases the size of the total addressable market.
  • Better tracking – since the consumer is only paying when they use the product, the business can better manage its cost-per-use. Products and product features that deliver the best returns will become evident over time and the business can gain a deeper understanding of consumer buying and usage patterns. 

Let’s now take a look at some of the weaknesses:

  • Lack of customer retention – by its very nature, the pay-as-you-go business model does not favor customer retention. Without an established and consistent opportunity to build a relationship, the business may find it difficult to keep consumers engaged. 
  • Unpredictable revenue – it can also be problematic to predict revenue because consumers are purchasing the product or service on their schedule. Revenue may fluctuate to such an extent that cash flow may be impacted.

Key takeaways:

  • The pay-as-you-go business model enables consumers to make a one-time purchase of a product or service without having to subscribe to a regular payment.
  • The pay-as-you-go business model is found in many industries, including telecommunications, advertising, software-as-a-service, cloud infrastructure, and utilities.
  • The pay-as-you-go business model lowers entry barriers for consumers and enables the business to determine the products delivering superior ROI. However, the model does not favor customer retention and revenue is difficult to predict.

Read More: Cloud Business ModelsIaaS vs PaaS vs SaaSAIaaS Business Model.

Main Free Guides:

Connected Business Models

C3 AI is a cloud-based Enterprise AI SaaS company. It built a set of proprietary applications (known as the C3 AI suite) that offer its clients the ability to integrate digital transformation applications with fast deployment and no overheads. C3 AI makes money primarily via its subscription services and professional fees.

Microsoft Azure

The AI Ecosystem has generated a multi-billion dollar industry, and it all starts from data. Going upward in the value chain there are the Chips (GPUs) that allow the physical storing of Big Data (a dominant player is NVIDIA). That Big Data will need to be stored on platforms and infrastructures that SMEs can’t afford. That is where players like Google Cloud, Amazon AWS, IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure come to the rescue. At a large scale, a few corporations control the Enterprise AI market; while nations like China, the USA, Japan, Germany, the UK, and France have widely bet on it!

As you can see from the visualizations above, cloud players are manufacturing models and algorithms, that becomes an integrated part of their cloud-based offering and platform. This is what attracts more AI developers and companies to become part of the ecosystem, thus, in turn, consuming more cloud infrastructure.

Google Cloud

In 2019, Alphabet’s (Google) Cloud Business was an almost $9 billion unit within Alphabet’s Google overall business model; to gain a bit of context; Microsoft intelligent cloud netted nearly $39 billion and Amazon AWS $35 billion in the same year.

Amazon AWS

Amazon AWS follows a platform business model, that gains traction by tapping into network effects. Born as an infrastructure built on top of Amazon’s infrastructure, AWS has become a company offering cloud services to thousands of clients from the enterprise level, to startups. And its marketplace enables companies to connect to other service providers to build integrated solutions for their organizations.

IBM Cloud

Started in 1911 as Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), called then International Business Machines by 1924. IBM primarily makes money by five segments (cognitive solutions, global business services, technology services, and cloud platforms, systems, and global financing) with also innovative products such as IBM Watson and IBM Blockchain.
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational technology company. It was founded in New York as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911 by Charles Ranlett Flint. IBM is a diverse company with a similarly diverse portfolio of products and services. It produces and sells hardware, middleware, and software. It also offers hosting and consultancy services in nanotechnology and mainframe computers. What’s more, IBM has a strong culture in research and development, filing the most U.S. patents of any business for the past 28 years.
Scroll to Top