Guide to Net Dollar Retention (NDR) – Definition, Calculation, Tips

Businesses, especially those that are subscription-based, constantly search for metrics to measure their retention performance.

And people often think that committed monthly recurring revenue (CMRR) is the single metric for such businesses.

Or that it is the foundational metric VC looks for investment.

But forget about it all. 

Net Dollar Retention (NDR) is the most important metric you need to track!

Now, let’s talk about and elaborate on how you can use both metrics to track the success of your business.

What is Net Dollar Retention (NDR)?

what is net dollar retention (NDR)

Net dollar retention (NDR) or Net Revenue Retention (NRR) is a SaaS metric to see the fluctuations within the existing revenue base. NDR is used to further describe the changes in recurring revenue over time according to upgrades, downgrades, and churn. In other words, NDR tells you how much revenue growth or churn you have in a period of time from your existing customers.

It’s a crucial metric that shows you your success in achieving growth without acquiring new customers.

Yes, CMRR is crucial and it tells a lot about the success of your business but if you want an all-around understanding of your success, then you should not only be focused on CMRR.

For example, you may have a month in which your CMRR is contracted but your NDR grew. This can happen because many people fail to renew but the people who stayed on upgrade their accounts in that specific month.

Let’s elaborate on what CMRR is and then further move on to talking about how you can calculate your net dollar retention rate.

What is Committed Monthly Recurring Revenue (CMRR)?

Committed Monthly Recurring Revenue (CMMR) measures the flow of subscriptions in a SaaS company. Recurring revenue is what fuels the business, so you certainly need to know if you are on the right track. Before moving on to CMRR, we need to learn the jargon and other metrics that matter in SaaS businesses that make the CMRR calculation possible. 

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) calculates the monthly subscription revenue.

Simply, if you have 100 customers that pay $50 per month in subscriptions, your MRR is $5000.

You only need to consider the recurring portion of the revenue and leave aside the one-off payments or other charges. And Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) is the annualized version of MRR. You can calculate it by multiplying MRR by 12. 

Both ARR and MRR give insight into your business’s sustainable income stream.

With ARR, you can see the yearly progress of your company, thus make long-term planning and create road maps. On the other hand, MRR shows the monthly growth of the company in more detail and helps you measure the new pricing strategies immediately.

You can see consumer behavior at different times of the year and develop different strategies. You can use this data to forecast the yearly revenue and plan what to do with it. Further, CMRR is derived upon MRR. For a SaaS business, CMRR projects MRR in the future period by taking into account the revenue expansion and anticipated churn.

Here is its formula:

CMRR = MRR + Guaranteed Expansion MRR – Downgrade CMRR – Churned CMRR

CMRR is a future-oriented metric so it only applies when calculated for the future periods where further expansion and churn haven’t happened.

Also, keep in mind that both Committed Monthly Recurring Revenue and Contracted Monthly Recurring Revenue refer to the same thing, CMRR.

PS: Better user onboarding is the key to improve retention.

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How to Calculate Net Dollar Retention (NDR)

Here is the math behind it. It is calculated through the following equation:

NDR = (Revenue at the start + upgrades – downgrades – churn) / Revenue at the start

net dollar retention calculation

All numbers are in dollar amounts and the final figure is a percentage.

Let’s dig deeper into the equation and learn what expansion, downgrades, churn means, and their roles in changing Monthly Recurring Revenue(MRR).

MRR may increase by newly acquired customers or by an increase in usage within the existing customers. An increase in the price of a subscription may cause this. 

MRR may decrease by churn, customers leaving your service, or by downgrades in usage within the existing customers. Customers who downgrade their premium subscription to a basic one would fall into this category. 

For example, company X started with $100,000 in recurring revenue. It added $25,000 expansion revenue, had $10,000 downgrades and $5000 in churn.

After plugging in the proper figures, math would look like this:

($100,000 + $25,000 – $10,000 – $5000)/$100,000 = 110% NDR

Woooow, it’s over 100% so it must be good!

you might say to yourself.

Well, you’re partially right, let’s see what a good NDR looks like:

What is a good Net Dollar Retention rate? 

A good Net Dollar Retention rate is as follows:

If NDR is over 100%, there is an increase in revenue is from existing customers. It means that your company can grow without gaining new customers.

Otherwise, if NDR is less than 100%, it means that there is a decrease in revenue is from downgrades and churn. In this case, you need to make changes in your business; focus on customer support and customer success.

Top-performing SaaS companies have 120%+ NDR and the approximately median is 106%. So anything above 100% means you’re on the right track.

what is net dollar retention

Why is Net Dollar Retention Important for SaaS Businesses?

Overall, companies with good NDR that is over 100% growth rapidly and are more cash efficient relative to the ones with lower NDR.

They are more attractive to acquirers and VCs.  

NDR shows you how sticky your customers are, how long do they use your service. It illustrates your companies’ value proposition and overall customer satisfaction. In other words, it shows your companies’ customer lifetime value and gives insight into the growth of your business. 

By both tracking MRR and NDR, you can more clearly see the changes in growth over time. Sometimes it is possible to have net recurring revenue growth even if your customer base is decreasing. It happens when the revenue from newly acquired customers exceeds the reduction in revenue from existing customers. 

For example, a company may start the month with $100,000, books $50,000 in new subscriptions but don’t have any change in expansion revenue, $20,000 in downgrades, and $5000 in churn. 

Here, MRR increased from $100,000 to $125,000 but NDR is %75. 

This means you have a hole in your business that you’re leaking money from!

NDR enables you to gain insight into such situations and keep the situation under control.

Net Dollar Retention vs Gross Dollar Retention

Both Gross dollar retention and Net Dollar Retention are very important metrics to track the success in achieving growth but there is a fine difference between the two.

Gross dollar retention shows you how much of the customer you keep year over year without taking the upgrades into consideration.

It is calculated:

ARR — downgrades — churn all divided by beginning

Net dollar retention, on the other hand, includes upgrades and that’s the main difference between the two.

The Takeaway

  • You need to track your company’s bookings in detail. All of the downgrades, cancellations should be tracked. It will help your business to get organized and you will be accountable for your investors. 
  • Increased retention will help you in the market.
  • You need to measure NDR on different periods such as monthly, quarterly, and yearly. 
  • You can have different cohorts and see how certain segments are responding to your business. 
  • If you are looking for investors, VC’s love a growing front-end and a back-end. 

And that’s enough talk, go get the dollars!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you calculate customer retention rate?

You should keep in mind that Net Dollar Retention and Customer Retention are different metrics. The customer retention rate is calculated as follows:

[(CE – CN) / CS] x 100CE – the number of customers at the end of the period measured

CN – the number of new customers during the period

CS – the number of customers when the period started

Does Net Dollar Retention include new customers?

No, it does not. NDR focuses on the existing revenue base.

Does Gross Retention include downsells?

Yes, it does. By definition, Gross Revenue Retention focuses on the starting revenue of your business minus any revenue you lose through downsells or churn.

net dollar retention

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Mert Aktas

Mert is the Marketing Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that 7000+ companies trust in their user onboarding.

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