Media super retainers thrive with value-driven offers, dynamic packaging

By Chris Petitt


London, United Kingdom


Can subscription businesses achieve record growth and low churn rates even in challenging economic times?

Enter media super retainers.

What, exactly, are media super retainers? To find out what some of the leading customer retainers in the publishing industry were up to, we took a look at Zuora customers who have demonstrated remarkable growth and exceptionally low churn rates. We’ll delve into the unique characteristics contributing to the success of these thriving subscription businesses, shedding light on the trends that set them apart from others.

To define “super retainers” in this context, we examined the data of Zuora’s media customers over the past 12 months and identified two key criteria:

  1. Super retainers must have the lowest churn. We selected the bottom 30th percentile of media customers based on average account churn rate.
  2. Super retainers must have the best average revenue per account (ARPA) growth. We considered the top 30th percentile of media customers in terms of ARPA growth.

With these criteria established, here are the results and some of the key findings from our analysis.

Media super retainers have fewer product offerings but faster growth.
Media super retainers have fewer product offerings but faster growth.

What do industry leaders do to become super retainers?

Key finding no. 1: Product catalogue balance — fewer offerings, but faster growth

From the analysis of these super retainers, we found these businesses tend to have smaller product catalogues compared to other media companies. Over the last 12 months, super retainers maintained an average of 59 products in their catalogues, while all other media customers had an average of 83 products.

It seems that super retainers have achieved better control over their business models by relying on a smaller number of distinct offerings to drive their exceptional results. This could be a result of better audience understanding, and therefore more targeted offerings. Or, it could be that these super retainers are bundling more products together.

Key finding no. 2: Stronger retention

Media super retainers have found ways to increase the number of products used per subscriber. On average, our findings showed that super retainers saw an increase from 2.09 to 2.22 products per subscriber compared to the previous year.

This again indicates that by offering packages and experiences tailored to user needs, subscription businesses not only experience faster growth, but also enjoy greater retention and engagement from their subscribers.

Key finding no. 3: Strategic discounting — less frequent, yet competitive

A striking discovery from this analysis was that, over the past 12 months, super retainers offered discounts to only 5% of their active subscribers, while all other media customers provided discounts to 10% of their subscribers. Essentially, super retainers discounted half as often as their peers in the industry.

While that might sound counter-intuitive, less frequent discounting emphasises the importance of prioritising value first. By aligning perceived value with user expectations, subscription businesses can reduce the need for frequent discounts. While pricing remains an important factor, cost alone is not the sole determinant of whether a user cancels their subscription or signs up for more.

Unraveling the insights

In summary, three notable trends emerged from our analysis of retention:

  1. Bundling and dynamic or intelligent packaging may be the key to attracting new subscribers. Instead of constantly developing numerous new products, focusing on core audiences and testing which bundles and products work best for them appears to show positive results.
  2. Greater retention shows a clear link to offering packages and experiences that cater to user needs. When products match what users are looking for, they use more of the service, resulting in faster growth, increased adoption, and improved customer retention.
  3. Prioritising a user’s perceived value over frequent price discounts appears to play a significant role in user decision-making. If users perceive value in the subscription offering, discounts may not be as necessary to retain them. While pricing strategy is important, users still seem to be more likely to stay subscribed when value aligns with their needs.

In conclusion, the success of media super retainers demonstrates that achieving record growth and low churn rates during challenging economic periods is indeed possible for subscription businesses. By leveraging a focused product catalog, enhancing user experiences through tailored offerings, and emphasising value over frequent discounts, these businesses are carving a path to exceptional performance in the industry.

About Chris Petitt

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