Aftenposten convinced more people to stay by making it easier to leave

By Mia Baglo Skotte

Schibsted / Aftenposten

Oslo, Norway


In 2018, Aftenposten tried to make the journey to cancellation a friendlier experience.

We wanted to be helpful and let subscribers downgrade rather than cancel before they were presented with the cancellation button. We even tailored their downgrade option to their reason for leaving. If you cancel because you feel you get too much paper on your doorstep every day, we offer a weekend combination subscription so you don’t get so much paper.

We were pretty pleased with this, but over the years we saw that almost everyone who enters the cancellation flow ends up cancelling their subscription, and only one in 100 end up retaining or downgrading their subscription throughout the flow.

We also realised that our cancellation flow had what CX calls “dark patterns” where users are prompted with disingenuous UX to do the opposite of what they set out to do. Around the same time, the consumer protection authority in Norway determined that cancelling should be as easy as subscribing.

At Aftenposten, we strive to be consumer-centric, and we decided that we wanted to make some changes toward a better and healthier customer experience.

We’ve also tried to convince subscribers who have cancelled to undo their cancellation by emailing them five days before their subscription expires with an amazing offer. This is very effective but only works for 40% who open these emails. The rest? Well, they don’t even see the offer.

A simplified cancellation flow reduced the number of steps from five to three.
A simplified cancellation flow reduced the number of steps from five to three.

The solution: simplified flow

We decided to make the anti-churn flow shorter than ever. We reduced the number of steps subscribers go through from five to three. We cut all unnecessary steps and questions that might confuse them. And contrary to all intuition, we made the cancel button available on subscribers’ “my page,” so they see it immediately when they go there.

Because so few made the choice to downgrade, and the holdback offer was quite effective, we decided to present cancelling subscribers with the holdback offer instead of downgrade options.

When initiating their cancellation, subscribers are first met with information that they’re sharing their subscription with a friend and that their friend will also lose access if they cancel. (This only applies to those subscribers who share their subscriptions.) We know from previous analysis that this is a strong incentive to stay.

In the next step they will immediately be exposed to the holdback offer: “Can we convince you to stay with us for a little while longer?” The offer we’ve seen the best results with, in terms of volume, retention, and income is three months for the price of one. They are then presented with two choices: stay or continue unsubscribing.

Subscribers who stay get a short confirmation. If they continue, they are asked to choose between four reasons for their cancellation, amongst them an unspecified option to reduce the mental load, and afterwards, they get a confirmation.

After implementing the new flow, Aftenposten has seen a 50% lift in “rescued” customers on a daily basis.
After implementing the new flow, Aftenposten has seen a 50% lift in “rescued” customers on a daily basis.

The results

Six months later, we’re happy to see great results. In the period before we implemented these changes, we convinced around 600 subscribers per month to stay. Now we “rescue” almost 900 subscribers every single month, a whopping 50% increase.

In six months we convinced over 5,000 subscribers to change their mind after starting the cancellation process, accounting for an estimated €320,000 (or US$344,000) in yearly revenues.

About Mia Baglo Skotte

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