The subscription economy is experiencing massive growth. It’s a profound shift from ownership to outcomes. And it pushes companies to design their offerings for consumer flexibility and freedom.
The 2021 Subscription Economy Index published by Zuora, a subscription technology platform, reports a 21% increase in subscription revenue growth in Q4 2020 compared to the previous quarter.* It’s an impressive trend and one that has seen subscription revenues increase 6X over the last nine years.
But cashing in on the boom requires publishers to do more than build the capabilities to deliver a subscription service they can sell as a one-time transaction to readers. Zuora’s report also advises marketers to cultivate the creativity to design and customize offers that allow customers “to tap into any time, anywhere, to whatever extent that they choose.”
Fulfilling this expectation demands that marketers also embrace the tools and techniques to enable using real-time data about how customers interact with content. Savvy marketers harness these insights to personalize paywalls, customize offers, and recommend content to keep us coming back.
Drawing from behavioral and analytics around what subscribers view, value and enjoy has helped fuel impressive growth at Shahid MBC. The leading Arabic language video-on-demand service, globally known for the largest library of Arabic movies, shows, and dramas (including two Emmy-nominated series*), also uses these insights to stop churn before it starts. In this scenario, the company delivers contextually relevant communications to subscribers at critical moments and then sweetens the offer with a sneak peek into content that plays into an individual’s FOMO.
“Contextually relevant communications convince many subscribers to think twice and then press resubscribe,” says Sasha Kurdiuk, Head of Customer Experience at Shahid MBC. Appearing as a guest on the Reimagine Growth podcast series, Kurdiuk explained how the fast-growing streaming service customizes communications to appeal to an addressable Arab-speaking audience of nearly 500 million people. He also discussed how working with CleverTap to deliver personalized incentives and content previews to subscribers has “reduced voluntary cancellations by more than 20%.”
What do you do when your audience makes the conscious decision to cancel? Just before the subscriber exits, marketers might show an apologetic pop-up emphasizing the desire for a second chance. This is also the cue for CRM systems to prep equally apologetic emails or deliver messages via the app or SMS asking for a second chance.
It has all the appearances of a sound strategy – but there’s one major catch, Kurdiuk says. Providers are delivering this nudge after subscribers have decided to exit.
Rather than frame this as a problem, Shahid frames this as an opportunity to grab subscriber attention with an offer they can’t refuse. “Rather than a pop up asking you not to go, which is a message that could enrage you if you are determined to cancel, we asked ourselves what might happen if we showed you a bit of the top content you haven’t watched?” Kurdiuk says.
In addition to previews of relevant content that subscribers are bound to love, Shahid also signals customer service to connect with the subscriber at the right moment on the right channel. “We asked ourselves what if we actually provided you with a direct line to contact customer service right now, and then a person picks up in seconds to try to help you with your tech issue?” Kurdiuk recalls.
The results of this experiment have struck gold. “We have seen that this new flow has reduced voluntary cancellations significantly,” he says. “With data-driven product changes, you can do wonders.”
In a market where competition for subscriber mindshare and wallet share is fierce, the ability to adapt marketing and messaging to customers’ requirements is critical. “Put simply,” he says, the customer experience is the currency of the Subscription Economy.” This raises the bar for providers such as Shahid to be consistent and relevant across all touchpoints.
“Customer experience is making sure your customer is happy throughout the entire journey,” Kurduik says. “It’s not only about customer support or digital touchpoints, it’s from the very first contact during acquisition to the very last communication the customer may receive from us.”
For this reason, Shahid follows the so-called Pirate Framework (Activation Acquisition, Retention, Revenue and Referral) to map the critical stages in the customer lifecycle. “We use CleverTap because it’s a very good marriage and combines an analytical platform with marketing campaign tools. And we can use all the real-time content events — whatever is happening with the customer right now, right at this touchpoint — to fuel effective communication.”
It’s also a boost to customer segmentation that ensures Shahid engages and never annoys subscribers. “For example, we don’t want to speak to dormant users too often. That user is dormant; they don’t have time for you right now. So, you don’t need to shout every day, come back, come back, consume again.”
The more significant focus should be on how frequently your existing users consume content and then how you can use these insights to discern patterns and shape habits. “We also try to look into frequency of consumption: somebody consuming every day, somebody consuming every week, somebody consuming every month. Then you need to adjust your communications to a frequency that acknowledges the normal life of human beings. You don’t need to do it on the first, seventh, and fourteenth day after some event. You don’t need to do it one day after something happens. Look and figure out when this particular person might be responsive to your communication.”
For Kurdiuk, the communication needs to be helpful, and the metrics must be relevant to your service. Rather than look at retention rates at Day 1, Day 7, and all the other standard stages, Kurdiuk prefers to examine lifecycles. “We are subscription-based, with customers paying us on a monthly basis. So, let’s work not on how much you watched on Day 7, but rather: have you converted to a second month or bought in for the third month?”
And why do subscribers return? Relevant messaging is essential, Kurdiuk says, but so is a superior product and great content. His advice: Deliver an experience in order to ensure a pipeline. “Make sure that whatever subscription business you are in, that you have the next product your customer would like to buy ready because a subscription is about buying products continuously.”
In the end, the success that Shahid is experiencing boils down to anticipating what the customer wants or needs and then showing them how the subscription service adds value. So even when a user decides to unsubscribe, this approach to customer engagement can oftentimes persuade a customer to stay on. By consistently providing users with relevant communications that are timed based on when the customer might best want to interact, and by ensuring every touchpoint leads to a delightful experience, they’re set to win more viewers in the future. And we’re glad to be a part of that success story.
To learn more about how the team at Shahid is reimagining growth, tune into the entire interview below.
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