You’ve Lost a Subscriber, Now What?

Before you continue on the path of subscriber decline, there are some steps you can take to flip the fate of your brand around.

You’ve Lost a Subscriber, Now What

If you’re down one, ten or a couple hundred subscribers, you’re probably facing some pressure to improve conversion rates and reduce churn. Not sure how to help your brand do more than just barely cling onto its survival and climb the ladder of success? Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

We know that losing a subscriber is frustrating — and we also know that your situation isn’t hopeless. It may actually be a blessing in disguise, because you can use your learnings to prevent more churn from taking place. This is your chance to make your platform’s subscription and retention rates better than ever.

A researcher from International News Media Association (INMA), Grzegorz Piechota, explains how “the subscriber journey doesn’t end with the purchase.” 

After subscribing for content, users embark on an entirely new journey.

Unfortunately, Piechota adds that “publishers don’t really seem to be very much focused on monitoring [the] health of the relationship after somebody subscribed.”

If media organizations don’t understand what causes a user to unsubscribe, how can they know how to prevent more churn in the future?

Before you continue on the path of subscriber decline, there are some steps you can take to flip the fate of your brand around. To help, we’ve broken down the process of understanding why your subscriber churned, and how to prevent it from happening again. 

1. Determine How Engaged Subscribers Were Before Unsubscribing

Instead of predicting reader engagement just with the number of clicks on your articles, you need to understand your reader habits on a more granular level. 

As stated by the Local Media Association, “regular reading habit is the single biggest predictor of subscriber retention.”

Dig into your data to determine if, based on their behavior, your lost subscribers were actively engaging with your platform.

Have they recently become passive consumers, logging in only once in a blue moon to read content? Or did they flag any toxic comments before unsubscribing? 

Anything you can learn about the time period before they churned will shed light into why they unsubscribed.

2. Assess Lost Subscribers Through Your Front-End Tools

By now, you may be well informed on the value socially immersive engagement tools can add to a platform. If you do have engagement tools on your website, you have access to critical, first-party data related to your subscribers. Not to mention info on those who have churned. 

Gather as much intel as possible on your churned subscribers by looking to how much they were interacting with your tools. You may be able to learn something important. For instance, are subscribers churning once engagement with your community-building tools drops? If so, your readers may be failing to form meaningful bonds to your platform due to a lack of moderation or real-time commenting.

Look to engagement-specific metrics for deeper insights, like the time spent in comments, engagement velocity and civility trends.

It’s also worth investigating the workflow between your engagement tool and paywall providers. If they’re properly talking to one another, your paywall provider should be alerted when a subscriber’s engagement level tapers off. This would allow you to predict and prevent churn before it ever happens.

3. Send Personalized Offers That Encourage Re-Subscribing

You may have lost a subscriber, but they may not be lost forever. When a user unsubscribes from your services, you have the opportunity to wow them with offers. 

Consider sending them content suggestions that are highly in line with their interests, which can be identified from your first-party data. This may convince them that your content is valuable enough to resubscribe. 

Alternatively, you may want to send them a special discount on the subscription cost. 

If you’re sending these offers via email, it’s worth using an actual person’s email address instead of a generic sales or marketing one. 

One publishing executive tells Digiday that “since more often publishers are landing in the promotions folder, an email coming from a different email address… is really effective in reengaging people.” 

4. Apply Your Insights to Cohorts of Users With Similar Behaviors

While a single unsubscription isn’t the end of the world, disengaged behavior patterns throughout your audience highlight inefficiencies on your platform. 

It’s important for media organizations to use their data to identify these inefficiencies and improve them by building loyal habits for audience members. Every detail you can gather on why a user unsubscribed will help you identify and stop others who may follow suit in the future. 

For instance, some individuals who unsubscribe may log into your platform less and less frequently. Keep an eye on user log-in frequency to make sure that your audience members are visiting and engaging with your content regularly. If they aren’t, it may be time to send them a personalized offer. 

The Globe and Mail, for instance, has developed a highly sophisticated five-step process that aims to keep subscribers engaged with its content based on behavioral data. If a user doesn’t log into the platform for a 30-day period, they’re sent a personalized email with relevant content. 

Take a look at your user data and ask yourself this: are your users unsubscribing because of a high subscription cost, irrelevant content or are they disengaging from the community socially? The answer will help you make improvements to your platform. 

At the end of the day, the value of data from a lost subscriber outweighs the value of the subscriber itself. This is because the insights you gain from unsubscribers can be used to greatly enhance your retention strategy.

RELATED: You Got New Engagement Tools, Now What? 

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