Schibsted focuses on retention, value proposition for loyal subscribers

By Siri Holstad Johannessen

Schibsted Norway

Oslo, Norway

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By Katrine Sørum

Schibsted Norway

Oslo, Norway

Schibsted’s subscription newspapers have seen amazing growth in the number of subscribers over the past years. As many other companies offering subscriptions experience, most new Schibsted subscribers enter through a trial offer.

As previously noted, Schibsted is trying to reduce repeated campaign purchases by optimising the digital purchase flow. Just as important is building an internal culture to focus on loyalty instead of sales alone to drive subscription growth.

One incentive offered was access to digital magazines without an auto-renewal feature.
One incentive offered was access to digital magazines without an auto-renewal feature.

We want to share how we worked toward our goal of reducing churn amongst subscribers least likely to churn — the most loyal subscribers. We started by asking ourselves this question: How do you make loyal subscribers feel so valued they would rather remain a customer than repeatedly purchase campaign offers?

With this in mind, we looked at different ways to test rewards and incentives. A few questions we kept in mind were:

  • How do we work across all of Schibsted’s subscription brands with the entire range of product offerings and segments?
  • How do we measure the “feeling” of being a subscriber and other parameters that are hard to quantify, especially in a segment that already has a low churn rate?
  • How do we ensure the subscriber king in a sales-focused culture?

How we worked

Our hypothesis was that each subscriber segment would value different incentives and rewards to increase the subscription value. To collect data, we tested a range of incentives and rewards for different subscriber groups in each segment.

Additionally, a reward-related project at Schibsted investigated what rewards have value for subscribers. It came up with the following criteria for an attractive award:

  • Exclusive.
  • Easy to understand.
  • A connection to the brand.

Based on this criterion, we arranged a workshop to brainstorm rewards living up to the criteria. We ended up with 81 ideas.

Based on insight from the reward project, we grouped the ideas into five categories:

  1. Anniversaries.
  2. More content in exclusive formats.
  3. Early access.
  4. Random acts of kindness.
  5. Price and subscription content.

Testing

Though we wanted to test 81 ideas, that obviously wasn’t possible with our set timeframe and the number of people involved. To limit the number of cases, we added them to a matrix containing all of Schibsted’s subscription news brands, products, and larger segments based on age to ensure we ended up with tests covering the entire product portfolio, brands, and age groups. By using the matrix, we ended up conducting 12 experiments.

Experiment examples

Early access

Some of Schibsted’s media brands arrange movie premieres and events. The goal was to offer our subscribers access to these events 24 hours before everyone else. We tried different kinds of events, including events with an editorial focus and exclusive pre-screened movies with special features, such as having the director speak about the movie.

Interestingly, even people who did not attend the events found the offer valuable, meaning just getting an e-mail invitation added value to the subscription.

As a random act of kindness, Schibsted sent its Morgenlevering service to 700 loyal subscribers.
As a random act of kindness, Schibsted sent its Morgenlevering service to 700 loyal subscribers.

Breakfast

Morgenlevering (morning delivery) is a Schibsted company delivering fresh-baked goods and breakfast to your door using Schibsted’s already existing distribution network. We decided to celebrate some of our subscribers’ one-year subscription anniversary with us. We had Morgenlevering deliver breakfast with our Friday magazine, A-magasinet, and a thank you note from the newspaper brand to 700 subscribers.

Importantly, we wanted this to be a true act of kindness, so Morgenlevering was not allowed to do targeted marketing to these customers after the activity. We wanted our subscribers to know how much we appreciate them and make them feel special, not feel like it was a part of a sales campaign.

Free digital magazines through Christmas

A part of Schibsted’s portfolio of products is the app MAGASIN+. This app gives subscribers unlimited access to the magazine selection in the app. We gave a selection of customers free access to the app as a Christmas gift. Again, it was important for this to be something extra and not a camouflaged sales offer, so they received access for three months without auto renewal. This means there was no need to stress about forgetting to cancel the subscription once the free trial was over.

Conclusion

During the course of the project, one of the key takeaways was putting loyal customers first was put on the agenda of forums when it wasn’t in the past.

Also, it is very hard to quantify and measure these initiatives. We were aware of this before starting and relied on questionnaires for a lot of the feedback. Based on this feedback, we know our customers appreciate the initiatives we tried.

However, the end game here is reduced churn amongst loyal subscribers. Because the churn is already so low, we need to continue monitoring the dashboards we made for a while to reveal significant data that we can base future anti-churn activities on.

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