Anti-Churn is retention. How do we secure a unique experience for every subscriber?

Two people planning in workshop

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By Niels Vestergaard

Last week I had the pleasure of experiencing my colleagues Jonas Juul Jeppesen and Anders Sørensen in conversation with subscription experts Marie Lykke Lützhøft from TV2 Denmark and Rasmus Lindstrøm from StoryTel. Fortunately, this conversation was recorded for Subscription Talks, our Danish podcast that you can find here.

Here, we talked about the eight areas in focus in connection to reducing churn. The eight areas are:

  • Data analysis
  • Engagement and use
  • Pricing
  • Strengthening the value offer
  • Unintended churn
  • Loyalty
  • Customer Journey
  • Onboarding

Today, I’d like to dig a little deeper on loyalty, onboarding and data analysis. Also, I will namedrop some of the world’s best within each area, so you can be inspired by the best, just as we do here at Subscrybe.

Community is a strong loyalty-driver

Nothing creates more motivation to keep a subscription than the opportunity to be part of a community. If you succeed in creating a community around your subscription product, it’s not just a matter of reason, when a subscriber is considering churning. It then becomes an emotional decision, whether you’re ready to leave a community that you’re already a part of.

Members of the cycling services Zwift and Peloton very rarely say goodbye to their workout buddies, Strava users don’t want to lose the opportunity to share results with friends and family and members of World of Warcraft never really say goodbye to the game that they share with all of their friends. If you leave Rent The Runway, you are no longer part of the community created around renting, sharing and talking about the latest fashion pieces. It means that you are no longer part of the club.

In other words, it’s a retention method that cannot be compared with any other. It’s not about monetary benefits, convenience or other regular subscription metrics. It’s about relationships – and they are hard to say goodbye to.

Subscription companies who are experts at community:

  • Zwift
  • Peloton
  • Rapha
  • Rent The Runway
  • World of Warcraft

Loyalty is also an effect of how high the cost is by switching

When speaking about retention, as a subscription company, it’s all about becoming such an indispensable part of the subscriber’s life that it gets too expensive (emotionally or financially) to say goodbye. We also call this switching costs and this is about the cost of cancelling a subscription or moving to a competitor.

Note: This doesn’t mean that you should make it difficult for the subscriber to cancel a subscription with you! It’s about strengthening the relation so much that the subscriber couldn’t dream of ever breaking it off.

In order to ‘make it expensive’ to make a change from your subscription, you have to collect historical data and present it to the subscriber in the right way. At Spotify, they do this through AI-generated content such as Discover Weekly and other recommendations, but they also do it through their yearly ‘Spotify Wrapped’ recap which shows what you listened to and how much you listened.

Not only is Spotify Wrapped an especially popular service and members love to share their music year with each other, it’s also an opportunity for Spotify to tell the subscriber: “Just look how much you use our service!” – and that’s the real value driver here. You can find similar initiatives at StoryTel, Headspace and other popular subscription apps and this is not a coincidence. Underlining your own value is not just valuable as an individual, but also as a subscription.

Subscription companies who are experts in switching costs:

  • Spotify
  • Strava
  • Headspace
  • Duolingo

Retention starts with a warm welcome

At Subscrybe we preach that a reactive approach to retention is antiquated and will result in a difficult dialogue with customers, who are moving away from your business.

That’s one of the reasons why the retention work starts in the same second the subscriber signs up for your subscription. And just as the best defence, is a good offence, a great onboarding is very, very healthy for the long-term retention.

There are several parameters in great onboarding. One of them is what we call Customer Success, which is all about securing that the subscriber understands the full value of their subscription and includes presenting benefits and features in the best possible way. This is especially important for B2B subscriptions where the assessment of value is especially critically.

Furthermore, focus on a fundamentally great customer communication (especially in your welcome flow e-mail) is extremely important. This is where you need to put yourself in the role of the subscriber and try to meet challenges and questions. Here, it’s extremely important that you make sure that the customer can contact you, since this is a great opportunity to demonstrate your company’s equity and expertise and that you care about the subscribers getting a comfortable starting point.

In time, the focus on onboarding has become more important and some subscription companies are investing heavily in this area. The New York Times has 10 employees who work exclusively with creating the perfect onboarding experience. I’ll let that sink in for a moment…

Subscription companies who are experts at Onboarding:

  • Hubspot
  • The New York Times
  • Monday

Data is the backbone of the most important retention efforts

It becomes obvious that the above-mentioned areas become easier to perfect, if you’re good at collecting customer data. Spotify’s Discover Weekly is based on a very sophisticated AI-setup and it gets easier to design the right onboarding process if you know how subscribers use your service, what the typical challenges are and which areas of your product that is especially popular.

A focus on customer data can do wonders for your churn prevention, because you will be able to predict churn behaviour and be able to intervene, before the customer cancels their subscription.

A customer data setup is also the prerequisite for delivering gamification and collecting historical data which make it hard for the subscriber to say goodbye. We as subscription companies can learn a lot from the market leaders who have a specific focus on data collection right from the start.

If you don’t collect customer data, you are losing the number one opportunity you have to get insights into why your customers churn. And this turns out as operational gold, when you apply the data you’ve collected.

Subscription companies who are experts in data:

  • Netflix
  • Youtube
  • Spotify
  • Tinder
  • Amazon Prime

A little note…

When all of this is said and done, it’s important to note that the best retention comes from practicing Subscription 3.0. It’s about letting customers pause their subscriptions, not forcing too many offers in their face and utilizing customer data in a responsible and transparent way. The Danish subscription startup ‘The Champagne Box’ are running a relatively simple subscription setup and they have long waiting lists for their subscription box – completely without the use of customer data and gamification. And this is because the subscription is valuable, transparent and oh yeah – they have an amazing community!