Aftenposten has a long history with its loyalty programme for subscribers, which is called A-kortet. With unique offers on events, concerts, and theatre performances, as well as special discounts on high-end brands in a newly launched Web shop, the loyalty programme has generated more than NOK12 million (approximately US$1.3 million) in the past year alone.
Over time, there was a growing interest in A-kortet’s food and drink events, especially wine tastings. In addition, A-magasinet, a popular feature magazine in Aftenposten, has a very popular wine journalist named Ingvild Tennfjord. Her wine recommendations were so popular that when they came out on Fridays, the wines were often sold out at several wine stores the same day.
These two factors became the basis for the idea of selling an extra product to subscribers who are interested in wine.
Creating a niche product
Aftenposten Wine Club started in 2017 and was NOK249 (about US$25) a year. The product was a niche newsletter for those interested in wine who wanted to increase their subject knowledge. In addition, we also wanted to give members Tennfjord’s wine recommendations before everyone else so they could buy the wines she recommended before they sold out.
The concept was simple: We would use the editorial content we already had by offering the core audience the wine recommendations earlier to give them something worth paying extra. In addition, we created the monthly newsletter with longer professional articles on wine, recipes, and wine recommendations for food and wine pairings.
The Aftenposten Wine Club quickly gained new members through a Christmas campaign in 2017, but we did little marketing or product changes after the launch. The number of members remained stable through 2018. Even better, the product had remarkably low churn — only 2.3% in 2018.
A unique target group
We also saw members were affluent and mature (58 years old, on average), which is relatively high compared to other additional products Schibsted sells. They had a lower churn score than the average subscriber, and they already had high knowledge about wine. A user survey showed members mostly wanted inspiration for new wines to buy and more information about grapes and districts, as well as more information on food and wine pairings.
Therefore, in 2019 we made it a priority to increase the membership base and give the whole product a new visual profile and Web site. The goal was to increase the membership base by 240% during 2019 by creating a new Web site that collected all the newsletters and gave them more wine articles from the Aftenposten archive.
Advertising alcohol forbidden
In Norway, advertising alcohol it is not allowed. Period. The rules are so strict you can't even show a wine or beer glass with content in any marketing context. However, there is one small exception within these rules, because there is a hard line between advertising and editorial content.
When journalists write professional articles about wine, they are allowed to show a wine glass with content or the actual bottle they are writing about in that article. So we are allowed to show alcoholic content in our newsletters and on the Web page as long as it is written by a professional journalist. But we are not allowed to market the editorial content if it contains alcohol.
Therefore, to market the Wine Club in commercial channels like Facebook, programmatic, print, and other paid channels was next to impossible — but we tried. However, the combination of undescriptive pictures, a lot of text, and a price you did not know the value of generated very few sales. After extensive testing during Q1 and Q2 in various sales channels, we actually discovered e-mail marketing works best, which we were obviously very pleased about as it is completely free.
Increasing the average revenue per user (ARPU) without any market spend
Since the target goal for 2019 was to increase volume, we tried an introductory offer where members could try the service for NOK1 (US$0.10) for three months before continuing on at full price. After all, we knew we had a very low churn rate and trusted the offer would convince them to stay.
After the first e-mail promotional offer, only 13% churned after the trial period ended. The rest (87%) stayed and paid full price for the product.
The Aftenposten Wine Club has had several campaigns since. After a slightly rocky start, we’ve seen more than a 133% increase of new members so far this year with a total churn in the base of 2.5%. With three e-mail offers left to send before the year is over, we are pretty close to reaching our target goal for the year.
The most successful aspect of this club is that it does not cost us money to market and we still manage to increase the ARPU on subscribers who are already loyal. If we reach the 2019 target, we will have added a net worth of NOK747,000 (US$75,000) to the bottom line.
In addition, members of the Aftenposten Wine Club read more Aftenposten articles than non-members in the control group of subscribers. Increasing the number of articles subscribers read each month is something we know decreases churn. We cannot say this is solely because of the Wine Club, as they are already very loyal subscribers, but we do see a great potential in creating similar niche products within other themes, resulting in more income and happier Aftenposten subscribers.