Handelsblatt Media Group improves subscriber retention with new Web onboarding flow

By Katharina Starke

Handelsblatt Media Group

Düsseldorf, Germany


In 2022, Handelsblatt Media Group launched a cross-functional funnel team specifically for engagement. For the first project, the team decided to tackle the outdated onboarding for new Handelsblatt customers, predicting the changes would positively impact user engagement. 

This was needed because conversions from trial to full price were declining. Our original “thank you page” after the checkout was several years old and no longer up to date. The click rates for the app and the newsletter were 7% and 4%, respectively. We didn’t want to settle for that; we were sure more was possible.

Our goal was to reduce the churn rate the moment the €1 trial ended, increase the subscription lifetime of our subscribers, and improve awareness of our products. We decided to design a concept from scratch with the help of a design sprint and make it happen with our own resources — from the technical implementation to the tracking dashboard.

Our hypothesis was that subscribers who go through our new Web onboarding flow are more active on the Web site and app right from the start than users who do not — and their activity and retention are better as a result.

We went through various steps together over three days: Understanding the problem and users, generating ideas, and deciding on a solution. In the end, we had two prototypes that we later tested with users.

Creating a solution

We discovered our solution: an optional onboarding flow with four steps. It boasts a user flow in a modern, clean Handelsblatt design with easy-to-understand user guidance, lots of white space and clear CTAs.

After users have completed the checkout process and purchased their subscription, we welcome our subscribers and introduce our most useful products and features so that they can explore the Handelsblatt world independently.

Handelsblatt created a new welcome page with optional onboarding offering tips on how users can get the most out of their subscription.
Handelsblatt created a new welcome page with optional onboarding offering tips on how users can get the most out of their subscription.

To annoy our users who come from the paywall and often want to read an article directly after the purchase, we offer optional onboarding and provide the option to go back to the article on every page. And yet, 55% of the users choose to start the onboarding journey, which looks like this:

  • The first tip encourages users to download iOS or Android apps. The idea is that more regular app usage increases the chance that trial subscribers pay full price and stay longer.
  • In the next step, we present users with newsletters they have not yet subscribed to.
  • In the third step, we present readers’ top topics, which can be followed directly (“My News” service).
  • As a final tip, we suggest further interesting content that users can bookmark to read later. We started with the Web onboarding in July 2023 and were able to analyse the first effects in February 2024.

The newsletter offers article recommendations to activate subscribers.
The newsletter offers article recommendations to activate subscribers.

Improved usage intensity and retention

User interactions with the various offers on the pages were promising, especially those on the My News page (44% of subscribers who come to this page interact here).

In addition, we achieved our goal of increasing newsletter registrations and app downloads (with 6% for newsletters and 9% for app clicks). We found that 34% of the users who start the flow go to the end and then switch to the homepage or the article they came from.

The high interaction rates were also reflected in our KPIs, which (almost) all increased: except for PIs/visit, which remained the same, the proportion of active days or the number of visits by Web onboarding users improved compared to the control group (who saw our old thank you page).

However, the number of users who switched to a full-price subscription after the trial phase was even more impressive. An increase of 2% was measured here.

The task now is to optimise the good results further. Our next goal is to increase the number of users who start the onboarding flow.

About Katharina Starke

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