We recently described how active management of the print/digital relationship is critical to planning for the likely and eventual transition to a digital-centric future of the newspaper industry.
In this post, we will cover the fourth component of the seven-lever digital subscription framework: the customer experience (CX)/value proposition.
CX is the foundation for driving a successful customer journey from discovery to engagement to conversion to retention. At each stage, publishers should seek to nudge audiences in ways that maximise the ultimate monetisation of each audience viewer.
For audience in early stages of the customer journey, the experience should be one that drives increased engagement — either in the form of article recirculation, return visits, reduced bounce rates, social follows, or newsletter sign-up.
Further down the funnel, the experience should focus on conversion tactics — aggressive calls to action, registration and pay offers, acquisition marketing, and a frictionless checkout flow.
Lastly, CX is the most critical for subscribers. Creating the best experience for subscribers through careful onboarding and subscriber management will drive habitual engagement that reduces churn.
In addition to CX, publishers need to think through the value proposition of subscription. To build the value proposition supporting subscription conversion and retention, the content, product, and marketing teams must be aligned. They must ensure the product is one that delivers meaningful value — not only at the time of conversion, but on an ongoing basis, to maintain a strongly engaged subscriber base.
While the topics of CX and value proposition are too extensive to cover here, we will focus on a few key areas that can produce meaningful results.
How do on-site assets (buttons, modals, toasters, etc.) encourage or drive customer behaviour?
Publishers’ on-site assets can drive behaviour through visual nudges toward audience goals. Most publishers will put prominent subscribe buttons using bright, differentiated colours to ask users to subscribe on the home page and article pages. While that is a good start, there are opportunities throughout a viewer’s session where on-site assets can drive desired behaviour.
Modals to sign up for newsletters can more aggressively interrupt a session, while sticky widgets and inline assets can push calls to action for subscription, newsletter sign-up, or article recirculation. The most advanced publishers can provide dynamic experiences based on a custom user segment. For example, if it’s a user’s first time to the site, a modal offering newsletter sign-up is more likely to be successful than an offer to subscribe.
How easy is it to navigate the site? How does advertising play into the user experience?
The advertising experience is a tradeoff all publishers need to navigate. Digital advertising plays a key role in most publisher business models. Since most publishers only monetise 1%-5% of audience as subscribers, a heavy digital advertising experience optimise monetisation for those who will never subscribe, which is clearly most digital audiences.
However, site-heavy advertising can cause a poor user experience with crowded pages, distracting the user experience and resulting in slower load times. Reducing advertising loads and balancing the user experience for subscribers and those who have at least some propensity to subscribe can help both conversion and retention.
Is the process to subscribe and check out on-site seamless?
One important metric for publishers to track is a key performance indicator called payflow efficiency. Payflow efficiency measures what percentage of visits to the checkout flow ultimately result in a conversion to subscribe. Most publishers fall in the range of 1%-20% on payflow efficiency. This is a wide range that results in a meaningful difference in conversion rates across publishers.
To improve payflow efficiency, publishers should focus on reducing required information needed to subscribe, minimising the number of steps for product selection, increasing the number of payment options, and improving the mobile checkout experience, particularly since most publishers have a mobile traffic share of 60% or more.
What is the product and offer bundle matrix? What kind of behaviour does it encourage or nudge?
The product and offer bundle matrix can be as straightforward as a single product or offer, or it can represent multiple options. Many publishers offer print options on their checkout flows. Some publishers offer specific verticals outside of the core news subscriptions. Others offer premium versions, which have incremental features like e-edition access, ad-free browsing, or other value-enhancing benefits.
The product matrix will differ by customer. For most publishers, offering an array of products that fit different audience needs and wants will be the revenue-maximising decision. The key is to promote the features and price the various products accordingly to driver users toward desired selections, whether those are the core product, an annual subscription, or a special offer for those who may be most price-sensitive.
Does the subscriber onboarding process successfully manage subscribers and encourage them toward a strong and habitual user experience?
Once the hard work of conversion is done, the customer experience isn’t over. In fact, publishers are often so focused on conversion, the onboarding experience is one that gets less attention than it should.
All publishers should focus on onboarding — whether for newsletter sign-up, registration, or paid subscriptions. An onboarding journey should focus on the first 30 days or longer and encourage engagement at each step. Whether this is a transaction confirmation, e-mails from the editor, nurture campaigns, or upsell opportunities, publishers should define the post-subscription sign-up journey that maximises retention and keeps new users engaged.
The CX and value proposition for publishers is a multi-faceted area requiring attention not just from the product team, but editorial, marketing, and even advertising. This ensures publishers are in lock step and nudging audiences toward the decisions that will drive the highest monetisation at each stage of the customer journey.