In the past couple of years, we have noticed a significant decrease in the subscription renewal rate for Bergens Tidende. We needed to find a way to increase engagement to encourage renewals and secure revenue for the upcoming years. So we set out to reinvent how we welcome new subscribers and improve our onboarding process.
Our hypothesis was that by introducing a shorter, more customised onboarding based on interests and segments, more subscribers would become activated earlier — leading to increased activity in the first 30 days and a higher likelihood of them staying with us longer.
What we changed
Some of the challenges identified in our previous onboarding were lack of personalisation, promotion of irrelevant products, insufficient display of editorial content, and a lengthy onboarding process that did not necessarily provide the reader with relevant content until the end of the period. The communication was done primarily through e-mail and traditional CRM channels without considering the subscribers’ interests and usage.
Our primary goal was to increase the renewal rate, especially during the first two months of the subscription period. We also focused on reducing churn rate, increasing activity on bt.no during and after the onboarding, assisting readers in using the product, and showing the value of the product and content. Finally, we encouraged app downloads and usage, subscription sharing, and newsletter subscriptions.
Our insight phase revealed that it was challenging to engage users under the age of 40. We also found that sharing subscriptions could boost usage and prevent cancellations. However, only 30% of our subscribers shared their subscriptions. Users who actively used the app tended to be more engaged, and new subscribers who started using the product early on were more likely to continue engaging with the content in the future.
A new approach to communication
We focused our communication on guiding the readers efficiently and delivering relevant messages through different channels, both within and outside of the product. The timing was of the essence; we needed to promote messages at appropriate times depending on their content. It was essential to prioritise the main drivers for customer loyalty and use customer segmentation and personalisation to deliver targeted messages to specific groups of customers.
The first test of our new onboarding lasted about six months, from August 2022 to January 2023. We divided our new subscribers into three segments to compare and evaluate our work better and to test both the length and the communication of the onboarding.
Our results after the testing period showed us that the short and customised onboarding helped us establish an emotional bond with our readers early in their trial period. After launching our new onboarding, we experienced an average of 15% increase in the renewal rate during the first six months.
Furthermore, we found that the timing and frequency of the messages played a crucial role. By communicating messages at specific times when the reader was more likely to engage with the content, we experienced as much as a 43% increase in the click rate for our e-mail communication.
We also found that using different channels to communicate the content, both in-product and out-of-product, helped us increase engagement rates and led to a 30% lower churn in the months following the launch of our new onboarding.
Finally, our communication created a spike in subscription sharings by 7%, which we know is a primary driver for loyalty.
What we learned
Reinventing our way of welcoming new subscribers was a successful project for Bergens Tidende. We established an emotional bond with our readers early on by focusing on the first 12 days of a reader’s subscription and creating short and customised onboarding experience based on interests and segments.
Our new onboarding has so far outperformed the previous onboarding regarding stop and renewal rates, and has increased reader engagement and retention rates.
BT has increased the number of sales per year for a long time, so even a slightly better renewal rate will help us impact the revenue in the long run. The average increase of 15% in renewal rate in the months following the launch of the onboarding is a huge step in the right direction.