In the business of subscriptions, one thing is guaranteed: Business growth is at the center of all our goals. To gather insights on how some of the biggest names in subscription are achieving this, we sat down with some of the industry's leading brands for a discussion on scaling subscriptions, particularly internationally. 

Joining the conversation were Nini Diana, Director of Consumer Marketing at Harvard Business Review, Nils Kernell, Product Manager at Epidemic Sound, and Namrata Suri, Director of Product at TIME. Keep reading to learn about the biggest topics of discussion.

The subscriber economy and content

With traditional advertising taking a back seat, there comes a shift in what and how things are communicated to customers in the subscription world. To even have the option to scale, businesses must adapt to the new expectations and needs of subscribers.

Subscription businesses thrive on a regular cycle of engaging content. Not only this, the way content is circulated on websites and promotional channels must evolve, too. While a strategy change requires a lot of work, “it's also really freeing because [we] can really be... speaking to…customers in the way that we want and in the way they expect to be,” says Nini.

For Namrata, her KPIs changed from page views and traffic to the number of users and engagement, with a strong correlation between the level of engagement and the likelihood of subscribing. At this point, data dictates decisions on what content leads to conversions.

Advice on international expansion

Scaling globally adds layers of complexity to your business. “This is where having good partners comes in because…I don't think it's feasible for [a] company to manage all this complexity by themselves,” Nils shares. In fact, partnering with Recurly is what helped TIME go from a U.S. launch to an international launch in just three months. While Recurly manages payment gateways, localized payment methods, and regulations and compliances, our customers are able to focus on creating the best customer experience in a new market. 

Ultimately, new markets demand localized experiences in the form of language translations, payments, pricing, user demands, and content. In Nils’ pricing example, Epidemic Sound learned that a YouTuber in Europe will make less than a YouTuber in the U.S. on the same video subject with the same number of views. Subscription affordability comes into play, and businesses must think about creating a pricing model that appeals to the local audience.

Acquisition to retention: Combating churn

Combined with efforts in scaling globally, combating churn requires a more thoughtful approach. Fortunately, one of the most proven retention methods still applies no matter where your customers are in the world: Your product or service must be relevant and prove valuable.  

Understanding customer needs is key to minimizing voluntary churn. What content engages the customer initially, and what content keeps them coming back? How do customers best perceive value? At Harvard Business Review, a robust subscriber engagement program is in place to constantly remind consumers of the most valuable aspects of their subscriptions, such as exclusive quarterly webinars. Nini shares that her team is “trying to get to people before they're even approaching a [expiration] date with onsite messaging and… recommended reading that will… keep them engaged beyond their next charge date.”

Additionally, a diverse marketing strategy with targeted tactics makes for a more comprehensive churn strategy that allows businesses to counter various reasons for ending subscriptions, says Namrata. At TIME, the teams deploy three strategies:

  • Retention journey: A series of emails sent to subscribers to reinforce the benefits of their subscriptions and re-engage with personalized story recommendations.

  • Win-back journey: In the event of an expiration or cancellation, subscribers receive a new pricing offer or messaging in hopes of winning them back.

  • Renewal pricing: Using data to assess engagement levels and pricing preferences, this tactic ensures that, for example, subscribers who begin with a low price point aren’t rattled with an extreme price jump the following year that challenges their commitment.

Lastly, involuntary churn becomes more manageable with tools like Recurly’s Account Updater, intelligent retries, and dunning management to help reduce involuntary churn to 1%.

The future of subscriptions

In the coming years, we can expect to see more digital and personalized experiences in the subscription world. This includes videos, podcasts, and app experiences to answer the questions surrounding subscribers’ unmet needs and how to provide a more localized experience. 

While the focus is typically on delivering value to subscribers, the actual customer experience still stands at the forefront of subscription success. This may come in the form of more personalized experiences, different types of subscriptions, or even the option to make use of cryptocurrency and NFTs. 

If you missed the live webinar, you can watch the recorded discussion here.