In January 2018, we wrote a blog post about the work we had been doing on retention through automated onboarding and how good use of correct data can help you improve communication to your subscribers. In that post, we showed good results through our implementation. We also wrote about where we wanted to go from there. This is the story about where we went.

One of the main challenges within most subscription businesses is to make sure your customers engage and use your product enough to see the value and feel the need to renew the subscription, month after month. With more than 250,000 new subscribers coming in every year, it is critical for Schibsted to make sure the value is evident to as many people as possible from the start of the subscription period.

In April 2018, we launched a new project called Onboarding 2018. The main goal for this project was to increase engagement and retention from our newest subscribers. In addition, we wanted to boost the awareness around the “onboarding” challenges beyond our commercial department and build a common process and methodology for how we can work across disciplines to solve customer experience challenges.

The last couple of years we have had a strong focus on developing and optimising the onboarding process. We went from having a standardised series of e-mails with almost no personalisation to an automatic and data-driven onboarding process with a high degree of individualisation. To further develop the customer journey, we established a project group consisting of representatives from our newsroom, product and technology, and commercial teams.

We began with a workshop, which led us to a total of 42 different ideas we wanted to test over a period of four to five months. In the end, we had to cut that list in half to have a chance of working our way through all the tests and experiments.

An initial list of onboarding ideas needed to be cut significantly at the beginning of the process.
An initial list of onboarding ideas needed to be cut significantly at the beginning of the process.

The experiments were spread across four of our brands — Aftenposten, Bergens Tidende, Stavanger Aftenblad, and Fædrelandsvennen — and best practices and success stories will be scaled to all brands.

To avoid making this more of a book than a blog post, we will only elaborate on three of the 20 tests done in this project: newsroom onboarding buddy, meet our journalists, and instant newsletter sign-up in purchase flow.

Newsroom onboarding buddy: New subscribers were given a choice to select one of our renowned editors or journalists as a guide through the onboarding period, all completely automated. In collaboration with three of our editors and journalists, we created a personalised omni-channel onboarding journey addressing all of the factors we see have an impact on churn. The communication given from the “onboarding buddies” is connected to the different topics they cover and related to their personal preferences within news media.

Having an automated onboarding buddy helped personalise the onboarding process.
Having an automated onboarding buddy helped personalise the onboarding process.

Instant newsletter sign-up after purchase: By offering an easy and instant way to subscribe to our editorial newsletters from the receipt page after buying a subscription, we were able to increase our newsletter sign-ups extensively over a period of only one month.

Meet our journalists: New subscribers are invited to special subscriber-only events aimed at building relationships and creating emotional links between our brands and our subscribers. These meetings are now done on a regular basis monthly and quarterly within the different topics. They are very popular.

Encouraging subscribers to meet the journalists created an emotional link with the brand.
Encouraging subscribers to meet the journalists created an emotional link with the brand.

Overall results

  • 14 out of 20 implemented tests resulted in a significant improvement in engagement and/or churn.
  • At the most, we achieved a 5% decrease in churn and 30% increase in digital engagement in various target groups. We are now seeing positive developments in churn from our new subscribers.
  • 12 of the 20 tests implemented were in collaboration across four different news media brands and across the newsroom, product and technology, and commercial teams in only five months.
  • The project has gained a strong foothold within Schibsted, and the project group for 2019 brings together even more diverse competence than in 2018. By using common work processes and tools across the departments, we were able to share procedures and results effectively

Next steps

We are still building on the results uncovered in this project. Awareness around the onboarding phase has increased immensely, and we are now increasing the activity across the departments to further develop our customer journeys at the start for every new subscriber.

The outlined timeline for the project was due in December, but because of the success, we are taking Onboarding 2018 into 2019. Phase 2 started in early January, when we were able to gather representatives from the newsroom, product and technology, and commercial teams at a workshop to discuss new ideas on how to increase renewals.

Due to a lot of new, different ideas, we are now voting to see what new onboarding processes we want to develop, test, and implement across our brands.