Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
6 mins read

Stop the churn: Improving subscription retention rates

10 ways to combat churn and improve subscription retention rates 

To thrive in today’s competitive media landscape, publishers must make subscription retention a priority. 

Subscription businesses rely on recurring revenue from loyal customers, but many publishers struggle with churn, where a high percentage of subscribers cancel before the end of their subscription term. Reducing this is critical for sustainable growth.

In 2022, 53% of subscribers to digital publications canceled at least one subscription during the first half of the year, while 29% planned to reduce the number of subscriptions they held. Losing as many or more subscribers as you gain is untenable, with retention being crucial for growth and success.

Image sourced from superoffice.com

With these alarming churn rates and the increasing competition for subscribers’ attention and dollars, publishers must implement effective retention strategies. 

Here are 10 ways to combat churn and improve subscription retention rates:

1. Personalize User Experiences

Using subscriber data to personalize interactions boosts engagement and loyalty. Send tailored content recommendations, promotions, and newsletters based on subscribers’ interests and behaviors. Track content consumption, too, to see what they respond to, and use this data to customize their experience.

To achieve the best results, publishers must utilize the right tools and technologies. Drupal platform, for example, is a powerful content management system that enables publishers to deliver personalized experiences to subscribers. With Drupal’s robust capabilities, publishers can collect subscriber data, analyze it, and use it to create customized experiences that keep subscribers engaged and loyal.

Remember, tailored experiences are not mass-produced. Personalization at scale requires technology, but human touch and care for building relationships are still vitally important.

By making every interaction personalized, publishers can build trust, deepen engagement, and ensure long-term success in attracting and keeping subscribers.

2. Offer Flexible Subscription Plans

Offering flexible subscription plans is an effective strategy to improve customer retention and reduce churn.  Flexible plans provide more options at different price points, allowing customers to choose a plan that truly meets their needs.  They also make it simple to adjust plans in the future if needs or budgets change. 

This personalization and control give customers more value for their money while building trust in the relationship.  Customers appreciate this flexibility and see the company as listening to them. Flexible plans minimize requests for special accommodations and streamline operations, improving customer service. 

Overall, flexible subscription options lead to happier, more satisfied customers who renew for longer.  When customers feel their needs are being met fairly at the right price, they become loyal, lifelong subscribers.  They continue finding value in optional add-ons, storage increases, extra features, and other upgrades available through more flexible plans.

3. Improve Your Onboarding Process

Improving your onboarding process is one of the best ways to stop churn and boost subscription retention.  A high-quality onboarding experience establishes the right expectations, builds customer loyalty, and ensures satisfaction with your service that keeps subscribers engaged for life. 

Onboarding new customers badly leads to confusion, frustration, and disappointment, which fuel churn.  Without a clear understanding of how your service works, associated fees or commitments, available features and functionality, and who to contact for help, many new subscribers will cancel within the first month.  

In contrast, a carefully designed onboarding journey will help new customers get up and running quickly. This might include progressive disclosure of information, educational materials, guided tutorials, FAQs, and so on. 

The idea is to assist customers with useful information at the right time, gradually building their knowledge and confidence in using your service and ensuring it delivers maximum value.

4. Monitor competitor offerings

Monitoring competitors’ subscription offerings helps improve retention by ensuring your plans remain competitive and continue to provide value for customers.  When competitors launch new or innovative plans, it highlights opportunities to improve your own offerings and better meet customer needs. 

Regularly reviewing competitor plans will help you identify key features, price points, flexibilities, or other factors that influence customer choices. You can then evaluate how your existing plans stack up and make adjustments as needed. This might mean adding new plan options, increasing specifications, improving terms or conditions, dropping older plans, or any other changes required to stay up-to-date. 

If competitors’ plans seem significantly more compelling, customers will start to question why they’re paying for your service. It only takes a few unhappy customers complaining on social media to damage your brand reputation and, worse, lose more subscribers. 

Frequently reviewing and adapting your subscription plans based on competitors ensures you always have something customers want and can win back those at risk of leaving.

5. Implement a Paywall Strategy

A paywall strategy limits the number of articles non-subscribers can access before requiring a paid subscription

Paywalls are an effective way for publishers to generate revenue, reduce the load on servers, and build engagement with premium subscribers. The best paywall approach to use will depend on your publication’s model and goals.

Soft paywalls allow non-subscribers limited access, such as a fixed number of articles per month or day. They aim to convert visitors into subscribers over time by exposing them to the value of paid content. 

Hard paywalls only allow premium subscribers access to content. They broadcast a message of exclusivity but can frustrate interested visitors looking to sample content first.

When effectively implemented, a paywall strategy can help generate revenue, reduce costs, build premium content, and craft an excellent subscriber experience. 

6. Provide Excellent Customer Support

Good customer service is key to keeping subscribers happy and loyal. Make it easy for them to get help with any issues and questions, respond quickly and thoroughly to support requests, and address complaints speedily. Consider offering chat, email, and phone support in case subscribers have a preference.

When subscribers have an issue, question, or problem, having premium support available 24/7 ensures their needs are met promptly and to their satisfaction.

Your company can integrate fully managed web hosting to support technical demands while providing a scalable and secure environment for your websites. Having managed web hosting means you can focus on providing around-the-clock support without worrying about the technical aspects of your hosting infrastructure.

Excellent customer support helps reduce churn, resolve issues satisfactorily, and gain valuable feedback for ongoing optimization.

7. Offer Exclusive Subscriber Perks

Providing exclusive subscriber perks is an effective way to build loyalty and foster goodwill. When subscribers receive special benefits and access to resources due to their paid commitment, it reinforces why their subscription is valuable. Exclusive perks also make subscribers feel seen, known, and appreciated as your most important customer segment.

By providing perks and features exclusively reserved for paid subscribers, publishers can strengthen their relationships, build trust and advocacy, and reward commitment. 

Exclusive subscriber perks turn paying customers into promoters and help drive long-term success and growth.

8. Monitor Usage and Engagement

You should also track how subscribers are using your platform to identify those at risk of churning. Look for decreasing usage, less frequent logins, or drops in engagement with your content and community. Reach out to re-engage these subscribers before they cancel.

For example, if a subscriber hasn’t logged in for two weeks, send an email to check in and ask if they need help accessing content or if there’s another reason they haven’t been active. Early outreach shows you value their membership and are willing to address issues to improve their experience.

9. Focus on Customer Retention

Keeping existing customers engaged and spending money with your company is far more profitable than constantly chasing new customers.  By focusing on retention, you can stop churn and improve your subscription retention rates. 

Firstly, you need to identify your most loyal and valuable customers.  Look at metrics like annual recurring revenue, length of partnership, engagement levels, etc.  High-priority customers should get all your attention and resources.  Provide them with personalized service, discounts, gifts, and so on to deepen the relationship between you.

Nothing makes customers happier than delivering on your promises. Ensure the products and services you offer continue to meet their needs and provide value.  Consistently exceed expectations through innovation, helpful features, superior quality, and a great user experience.  

It’s also important to understand how your offerings could be more useful or convenient for subscribers. 

10. Conduct Exit Surveys

If subscribers do cancel, conduct exit surveys to understand why. Ask questions about their reasons for canceling, what they valued most and least about their membership, and what, if anything, could have prevented them from churning. Use this feedback to make changes to improve the subscription experience and reduce future churn.

Exit surveys provide actionable insights to better understand and serve your target audience. While subscribers may still choose to cancel, their feedback helps ensure that this isn’t down to anything within your control.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, subscription churn is an industry-wide problem, but with the right subscription growth strategies and technology, publishers can significantly improve retention rates and build loyal, long-term subscribers. Reducing churn is key to sustainable business growth and success in the evolving digital publishing landscape.

Michael Yeon
VP Marketing, Admiral

By Admiral
Admiral helps digital publishers grow visitor relationships via adblock recovery, per-site subscriptions, multi-site subscriptions, email subscriptions, social subscriptions, privacy consent and more, powered by Admiral’s one-tag, one-vendor, one visitor experience Visitor Relationship Management (VRM) platform.