How to A/B Test for Subscription Growth in Video Streaming
What started as standard royal entertainment via tapes and documentaries blossomed into a full-blown on-demand streaming service devoted to Royalty worldwide.
In 2018, True Royalty TV started a direct-to-consumer play, eventually growing globally into six markets, with a major portion of its customer base in the U.S. The transition from a royal recording to a digital streaming product required better, faster tech, so they partnered with Recurly.
Allan Wills, Head of Operations at True Royalty TV, provides great insights into how the company combats churn and improves retention rates through strategic testing.
Phase 1. Understanding where you fall
For Wills, getting a share of the B2B wallet is “basically piping content into a black box.” You don’t own the customer nor the billing relationship, but you understand that the big streaming companies like Amazon Prime, Comcast, Roku, and Cox bring the volume.
To stay competitive, Wills deploys two strategies:
Work the B2B play. Deemed “consumption TV people,” these consumers go a one-click checkout and receive the product. True Royalty TV gets a high revenue share, spends more marketing money, and hopes for the best.
The D2C play takes care of everything else. It can become your gifting shop, annual plan shop, and add-on shop–innumerable options at your disposal. According to Wills, “when you have the customer, and you retain them well, as we are, you can get them to do a lot of other things.”
Phase 2. Analysing and reducing churn
Recurly checkout vs. in-app checkout
True Royalty TV has two checkout options–one is available in all the app stores through in-app purchase and the Recurly checkout, where approximately three-quarters of its customer base sit.
With in-app purchases, there are huge limitations to what a business can do and commission structures. On the contrary, customers who checkout with Recurly show a much higher lifetime value than in-app transactions.
Before joining Recurly, True Royalty TV dealt with high involuntary churn due to a lack of decline management services like account updater and dunning campaigns. Thanks to Recurly, the involuntary churn rate has dropped to about 4% to 5%. Taking it a step further, Wills has deployed a win-black plan to regain 15 to 20% of subscribers who do leave.
His tactic includes sending these consumers to another checkout and offering an upsell from a monthly plan to 50% off an annual plan, for example. This level of customisation is not available in app store purchases. In fact, compared to in-app transactions, the churn rate of app customers is two to three times higher than that of Recurly customers.
Retargeting & reassuring with retention ads
Retention retargeting ads, as opposed to acquisition retargeting ads, is a strategy that works well for Wills, namely on Facebook. Every time subscribers are on social media, they’ll see a True Royalty TV retention ad (a video clip) that reinforces that they've made the right decision.
With a low cost of 2-3 pennies per click, Wills is also leveraging this strategy on Amazon. Keep reassuring subscribers they've made a good choice to retain them through cost-effective advertising.
Understanding subscriber behavior & showing sympathy
The best complement to a subscription management and recurring billing solution is human insight: closely observe your consumer data. For example, Wills noticed a sudden spike in credit card declines. He realised that in January, wallets are light after a spendy holiday season.
In response, Wills set the credit card grace period to 45 days so Recurly can extend its intelligent retry period to reach February for the next pay cycle. True Royalty TV managed to prevent a possible mass churn event.
Additionally, churn picked up after lots of subscriber activity during the pandemic. Customer support learned that economic stress as a result of the pandemic was forcing people to end their subscriptions to True Royalty TV, so the company changed its policy.
If someone tried to cancel because of COVID, customer support extended their billing cycle to alleviate COVID struggles and keep them in the service, which most customers appreciated.
Coupled with Recurly’s flexibility to change billing dates, this generated goodwill with subscribers and helped True Royalty TV retain customers who would’ve otherwise churned.
Phase 3. Experiment and adjust to drive growth
Testing acquisition strategies: From free trial to paid subscriber
True Royalty TV A/B tested free trials and no trials, discovering that KPIs were better with trials off and a monthly plan framed against multi-month plans.
According to Wills, “if you present as a premium product, people will expect to pay. And there's this weird psychology where something's free, it might not be worth it.”
In the beginning, True Royalty TV offered free trials–its streaming catalog at the time was not big enough to forgo this option. However, as the business grew and improved–a better catalog and better branding–Wills has turned to tactics outside of free trials to bring in customers, like gifting. As a result, cost per acquisition went down and retention rates went up.
Removing frictions: Rethinking cart abandonment
Retargeting kicks into action when a cart is abandoned–Wills offers these customers another three-month plan option.
With this strategy, the company can retain about 15% to 20% by simply offering a different checkout method with a different plan–a different experience that helps them start anew.
Part of the philosophy behind this tactic is to get a sense of what subscribers are willing to pay for and understand their threshold to conversion.
Boosting loyalty: Offering gift subscriptions
While the idea of gifting started strong, Wills learned True Royalty TV didn’t have everything it needed to reach this ideal state. So with Recurly’s flexible integrations, the team built a custom response around Recurly’s API: a flow where customers can buy a gift subscription that then becomes a standard subscription.
The next challenge was getting the idea of gifting a subscription in front of the right people–the gift-givers. True Royalty TV added an option at checkout to let someone know you want a gift. “With Recurly, you can build all this stuff pretty easily, and you can build these flows, and, with a bit of insight, you can build targeting so that you can target the person who wants the gift,” shares Wills.
Staying relevant: Following subscription trends
With so much in the pipeline for the True Royalty TV team, Wills is keeping his eyes on up-and-coming trends in the subscription space. Bundling and ad-tiered subscriptions are just two of the many things Wills’ and his team are working on.
For now, Wills is focusing on planning for next year. For True Royalty TV, the big events are next year’s coronation, the return of Netflix’s The Crown season five, Harry Styles’ book, and more. With Recurly, True Royalty TV is prepared to handle every royal situation.