Imagine you are on your way to a date. And not just any date; it’s a date with your all-time crush, who you always wanted to go out with. This is your one chance to impress and show your best side.
What would you do? Would you arrive late? Would you talk all night long about yourself? Would you dress in your oldest clothes?
Of course you wouldn’t! Not if you’re interested in building a long-term relationship.
Perhaps this is a bit of a weird comparison, but at Zeit Online, we want to enter into a long-term relationship with our subscribers. We want them to come back after our first date and our first impression.
With this metaphor in mind, let us tell you why the first day of the subscription is our first date with our subscribers – and why it’s so crucial.
Facing the challenge head-on
The challenge we face is that engagement drops on the first day and subscribers lack orientation.
Every day we, as a product, have hundreds of “first dates.” That’s a pretty big advantage if you want to work on your first date performance. So we took a deep dive into our data and we found something interesting:
New subscribers make heavy use of their subscription on the first day. Beginning on day two, however, engagement already levels off and leads to lower retention in the trial phase. So we knew that we were not quite making the right first impression, but we didn’t really know why.
We wanted to find the reasons for this engagement drop after the first day, so we decided to talk to our users and discovered a key problem in our onboarding: Most subscribers are highly motivated to explore their subscriptions within the first day. However, the high number of articles and options then overwhelms them, causing frustration.
We had just made the biggest mistake in dating: We had our crush right in front of us and talked way too much about ourselves. In the end, we didn’t have enough empathy to understand what was interesting for the other person. So we came up with a new key objective to give our dates a better experience.
Objective: We want to make better use of the high engagement on the first subscription day and provide better guidance for new subscribers.
Helping subscribers get started
To meet that objective, we introduced several approaches designed to solve the problems of our subscribers. Here’s a quick overview:
- First-step guide. New subscribers find a first-step guide on the very first article opened after subscribing. The guide features five tips to get started with the new subscription and ensures a positive start.
- Personalised subscription start. By asking subscribers about their personal preferences directly after they complete their order, we are able to recommend one of our apps and one of our newsletters for a better start to the subscription. In addition, the recommendations of the survey help users to develop their own daily routines.
- Confirmation e-mail. We added initial suggestions on how to make the most out of the subscription (e.g., by linking our apps) to our regular confirmation e-mail, which is sent out directly after the subscription sale is completed.
- Zeit Online app. Our Zeit Online app is a strong driver for engagement and retention. That’s why we’re not only trying to convert more subscribers to the app, but we also completely redesigned the app for a fresh, more user-friendly interface. We anchored a subscriber section in our new app to give new subscribers a better point of orientation. This new area features all subscriber-only articles, games, and sections.
The results speak for themselves. Our overall achievements include:
- Increased engagement on the first days of the trial phase by 10%.
- Increased retention rate by 12% (conversion from trial to paying subscriber).
- More than 7,000 new paying subscribers per year.
What we learned
We concluded that we should try to impress readers on the first days of their subscription — and don’t overwhelm them.
So overall this isn’t rocket science. We just tried to better understand our subscribers and have empathy for their experience of our first date. These interventions led to an increase in engagement in the trial phase and ultimately to higher retention. We tried to focus on some key messages we wanted to deliver.
Now our dates last longer and we have enough time to really get to know each other.