Since 2012, the subscription economy has grown over 435%. As companies offering subscriptions to everything from wine to meal kits to cosmetics have thrived, the publishing industry, in particular, set records for digital-only subscriptions in 2020, with media mainstays like The New York Times and Dow Jones both seeing their highest-ever growth.
At Wizeline, we specialize in optimizing subscription management for our clients through the entire customer journey from acquisition to renewal. In fact, for one global publisher, we developed a customer experience solution that increased conversion rates by over 600%!
Based on what we’ve learned working with leading brands in this space, I want to share our point of view on how to optimize subscription management from acquisition to renewal.
Key Challenges & Solutions for Successful Subscription Management
To get us started, let’s do a rapid-fire overview of some of the key challenges facing subscription-based companies and offer some high-level solutions for them.
Challenge: Standardize and optimize data management for both existing and new subscribers.
Solution: Develop a robust customer data platform that captures all relevant information about subscribers so it is easily accessible for data manipulation with proper data governance in place. Using flexible cloud-based architecture, the platform will be able to scale as you grow.
Challenge: Leverage huge volumes of subscriber data for personalization and the acquisition of target customers.
Solution: Within the data platform introduced above, segment customers into different buckets based on preferences, demographics, and other qualifying factors. Build a data pipeline to your customer relationship management (CRM) so marketing has access and can run targeted campaigns to each segment. You can also leverage these segments to find lookalike customers and run personalized campaigns for people who aren’t even customers yet.
To take it a step further, expose the data to an AI system that reads it and serves up personalized offers and notifications based on analysis. For example, when it’s time for a customer to renew, the AI could send a targeted email or display ad to the customer a month before the deadline.
Challenge: Improve and synchronize the user experience across all owned brands.
Solution: For multinational corporations like News Corp and Conde Nast that each hold their own family of media brands, navigating between brands and subscriptions needs to be intuitive and offer a similar look & feel for the customer. You can accomplish this through sound user experience design that maintains unique branding to foster trust with the user, but also offers a familiar experience as your other brands so it’s easier to navigate content and manage the account for a user who, for example, has been a long-time subscriber to one of your offerings and just signed up for something new.
Challenge: Enable a uniform account management experience where preferences and account administration are accessible in the same place and across brands.
Solution: Similar to the last solution, user-friendly design is key to solving this challenge. One example we’ve seen is a disconnected experience between preferences setting and account administration, where the user must navigate to and manage entirely different parts of the website or application to manipulate these.
The solution is standardizing and consolidating user flows and settings as much as possible across brands, preferences, and accounts. Ideally, the user will be able to control every aspect of their subscription(s) from one place, from their administrative info (credit card, address, etc.) to their preferences (opt-ins, notifications, interests, etc.). Not only is this kind of consolidation great for the user experience, but it can also help you get organized with data management.
Challenge: Cut down on the need for and cost of live customer service.
Solution: Many out-of-the-box commerce platforms claim to support each and every possible situation, but we often see unsupported cases end up in costly interactions with customer service. For example, simple actions such as reporting a complaint, changing an address, or updating a credit card should be easily handled within the platform.
The solution is to prioritize and incentivize self-service as much as possible in your platform. Implement chatbots or live chat to cut down on calls and invest in deploying great UX design that anticipates user needs, then back it all up with a technology solution that can keep up with your complex business rules.
Optimizing the Acquisition Journey to Capture New Customers
Another way to think of the ideal platform is by what it enables from a customer acquisition/marketing perspective. Which features and offers are going to attract new customers, and which ones are going to retain your existing subscriber base?
To attract and convert new customers that fit your target audience, the right subscription management solution will make it easy to optimize the customer acquisition journey by serving the following special offers to the right person at the right time in the right channel:
- BOGO offers
- Customer loyalty offers
- Sign-up bonuses and branded gifts
- Free print versions to complement digital subscriptions
- Subscription gifting to friends and family
- Customer referral bonuses
This kind of customer-facing digital platform enables your business to bridge the gap between advertising and customer relationship management, as this critical connection facilitates the acquisition of your target customers in an effective way.
Improving Renewal Rates & Taking Advantage of Cross-sell Opportunities
For existing customers, the right subscription management solution will enable you to spend more time focused on your content or product offering and less time worried about how technology is impacting your success. We recommend you consider implementing the following next-generation features in a unified digital platform for all your media brands:
- Consistent, intuitive user experience across all offerings
- Offer & customer experience personalization based on data & preferences
- Digital payments & one-click checkout
- Cross-branded content & recommendations
- Gifting & referral program
- Customer onboarding & tutorials
- Language localization
By connecting your brands, customers, and their data, you can begin to realize the future of the omnichannel customer experience coupled with data-driven personalization that drives increased conversion and retention for your business.
How to Get Started
So there you have it: the ins and outs of how rethinking your subscription management technology can solve your biggest challenges around customer acquisition, data management, and user experience. While this blog focuses mostly on optimizing subscription management in the media space, many of the takeaways should be relevant across all industries working in the subscription economy.
If you’re interested in learning more about our thinking on subscription management and digital platform development, please contact us to start the conversation. Your subscribers will thank you!