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Struggling To Keep Subscribers? 6 Ways Your Data Can Stop Cancellations

Woman sitting on her couch, wearing a striped shirt and listening to music on her headphones with a laptop on her lap / subscriber relationships
By making it easier for people to discover what they’ll like, you can improve subscriber loyalty. [Riska / Getty Images]

As more companies shift from the ad-driven model to subscriptions, finding ways to not only attract but keep subscribers will be key to success. The data you already have can help.

In recent years, many new media companies have shifted from advertising-based revenue models to subscription-based or blended models, following the success of brands like Spotify and Netflix. But as more companies use this method, the battle for subscribers has become more fierce. Businesses need to use the data they own to grow subscriber relationships for long-term stability.

U.S. consumers now average 12 paid media subscriptions. However, as in-person experiences returned and economic conditions declined, a new trend of “watch, cancel, and go” has emerged. Customer loyalty is declining amid stiffer competition and rising subscription prices. 

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Trying to not just attract, but keep subscribers is a hefty challenge. Deloitte research shows it costs $200 to acquire a new media subscriber, and it can take up to 15 months to recoup the investment. 

Deloitte estimates the U.S. streaming subscription churn rate is 38%, while Antenna estimates 19% of subscribers canceled three or more paid subscriptions in the past two years. The bottom line is subscriber acquisition remains critical, but nurturing current subscriber relationships is now of equal, if not greater, importance.

The data those subscribers generate can help you personalize experiences — and keep them on board. Here’s how you can best use your data to retain subscribers.

1. Deliver a personalized “year in review” campaign to subscribers

My favorite music streaming app creates a personalized year in review campaign each December that highlights my most listened-to artists, songs, and genres. It reveals how I listen to music compared with all other subscribers.

This December, my year in review was available via email and push notification. When I logged into the app, I learned I was in the top 0.5% of Coldplay listeners. My daughter was born this past year, and the reason I played Coldplay on repeat was because I would sing along to “Green Eyes” and “The Scientist” as I rocked her to sleep.

Seeing that Coldplay was my top artist this past year brought me back to those special moments with my daughter, growing my affinity for both the band and the streaming app.

People enjoy seeing (and sharing) these kinds of recaps, and it can be a fun way to stand out among your competition. By letting them see what books they read, movies they watched, or podcasts they listened to through your platform, you’re tapping into a bit of nostalgia to reward them for being a subscriber. 

2. Grow subscriber relationships through personalized recommendations 

I receive a weekly digest from one of my favorite publications. I subscribe so I can stay on top of trends and learn new insights for my job. 

Over time, my version of the weekly newsletter has become completely tailored to my interests. It’s populated with articles about tech, media, and the economy. I read almost every article in my digest because it contains the exact information I need.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can help you use your data to personalize your offerings and deepen subscriber relationships. For instance, Netflix estimates that 80% of viewing time comes from their recommendation system. They also found that people tend to lose interest after 60 to 90 seconds of browsing through a platform. 

By making it easier for people to discover what they’ll like, you can improve subscriber loyalty.

3. Re-engage dormant subscribers with reminders

Recently, I binged the first half season of a show over a weekend. That Monday, I traveled for work for a few days and was inundated with personal commitments when I got home. I completely forgot about the show I was watching. 

After about a week, the streaming service started sending emails and push notifications to “keep streaming.” These notifications drove me to finish the season I was watching. 

Notifications can be a powerful tool for subscriber retention, when used properly. Personalization is still key when you’re using these reminders. Companies who use targeted and segmented push notifications (as opposed to broadcast notifications) see better open rates and conversion rates. 

4. Inspire subscribers to upgrade during a moment of peak interest 

You can also improve subscriber relationships by rewarding power users with a discount or personalized offer.

I recently was binging a show on an ad-supported version of a streaming service, going through two seasons in two weeks. Based on my high engagement, the streaming service sent me a targeted email to upgrade to a premium, ad-free tier with an offer of 20% off for the first six months. 

I had five seasons to go in the series and was sick of ads. I decided to upgrade and haven’t looked back. 

To maximize subscription upgrades, you need to understand trends in subscriber activity.  Companies should set activity thresholds, and create upgrade offer triggers when subscribers exceed those thresholds. 

Thresholds could include a designated number of hours viewed in the past 2 weeks or if a subscriber logged into the platform 20 or more days in the past month. Monitoring this data can help you reward active subscribers, keeping them on your platform.

5. Send personalized offers for complementary products or services based on subscriber engagement 

I listen to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers – they’re one of my all-time favorite bands.

In the past, I had to search the web to find out about their upcoming shows and albums. But now, based on my high consumption, my music streaming service will automatically recommend upcoming concerts in my billing address’s city and send me offers for exclusive merchandise.

The last two concerts and the latest vinyl record I bought were through the app’s recommendations. Thanks to the streaming service, I no longer have to worry about missing pre-sale for upcoming concerts. 

When you’re able to deliver timely, personalized offers based on subscribers’ activities, interests, preferences, and previous purchase data, you are best positioned to monetize subscribers and grow average revenue per user (APRU).

In the mobile gaming industry, 64% of revenue comes from the top 10% of paying players — predominately from in-app purchases. Use your subscriber data to identify who your top 10% of subscribers are and find ways to reward them, offering items and experiences they’ll want. 

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6. Turn subscribers into advocates by rewarding them for their loyalty

I’m an occasional video game player, like when I want to unwind for 30 minutes. However, I recently enrolled in a gaming platform’s loyalty program, where I earn points for completing various challenges. These points can be redeemed for exclusive games and in-app items that elevate my gaming status.

Without realizing it, I’ve found myself going out of my way to complete the challenges to earn more points and prizes. The time I spent gaming tripled in the last few months since signing up for the loyalty program. 

Using tactics like gamification can help turn casual users into loyal subscribers. When you make it more fun to use your app or platform, you’ll keep people tuned in.

These all may seem like small things, but they add up to building long-term subscriber relationships.

How you can make your data work for you

The first step is to build a unified subscriber profile that combines all relevant customer data. This includes things they’ve shared about themselves, billing information, customer service data, commerce data, and engagement data. 

Once you have a unified subscriber profile in place, you can create hyper-targeted segments to deliver targeted subscriber journeys and personalize the messages you send. 

Second, you need the ability to personalize experiences at scale and in real-time using AI/machine learning and engagement triggers. These include last login date, hours of content consumed, and type of content consumed. 

Third, you should consider loyalty programs to reward your subscribers and build lifelong advocates.

With these capabilities in place, you’ll be on the right path to improving subscriber relationships. “Watch, cancel, and go?” You won’t have to worry about that any longer.

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Daniel Newman
Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman is a marketing strategist for the communications, media, and technology industries. He advises customers on how to build high impact marketing and CX strategies that address top industry and macroeconomic trends.

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