Balancing Acquisition & Retention Strategies

Adam Sherman's article in the Publishing Partners Guide 2016

By Adam Sherman

Print, digital, multichannel – the shifting publishing environment brings both growth opportunities but also increased competition. The cost of acquiring subscribers means retention deserves as much focus as acquisition.

Providing excellent service throughout the customer journey should be at the heart of your acquisition and retention strategies.

Perhaps naturally, acquisition is emphasised. There is much you can do to make sure that, having attracted consumers to your publication and website, they subscribe. With mobile outpacing desktop browsing, our experience is that having a fully mobile responsive website is crucial for conversion. Keeping the subscription process straightforward avoids frustration – for example, a simple secure payment process accompanied by broad payment options, such as PayPal for mobile devices. One client saw an overall increase in orders of 40% following a pilot using our new Next Generation E-commerce Platform.

This statistic always surprises me: 84% of all online shopping baskets are abandoned before completion (VE Interative, 2014). We developed a pro-active Abandon Saves solution to counter last minute concerns and distractions if consumers attempt to leave before concluding their order. It has already improved conversion rates by over 10% for one client. Live Chat also provides cost effective real-time help - 81% of end consumers who have rated our chat feature gave it an ‘excellent’ rating.

Yes, acquisition is hard but the intelligent use of best of breed technology will give you the edge. Moving to retention, we know that sometimes subscribers simply don’t want to renew. Again smart tools and trained staff will support continued subscription. We developed a Telephone Cancel Saves solution which, for one client, retained 42% of subscribers wishing to cancel and even upsold packages.

But ask yourself, what is the point of sophisticated acquisition if your publication fails to arrive? Barry McIlheney, CEO of the PPA said: “As an ex-editor, there is nothing worse than producing your magazine and then getting emails from readers saying that they never got them. If the mailing (the final part of the chain) is poorly handled, everything else is wasted.”

I believe efficient delivery should be at the heart of your retention plan. Data shows that 3.2% of subscribers fail to renew because of distribution issues and they certainly notice good service. We carry out Mail Monitors to give clients peace of mind about service quality. While tempting, choosing distribution on price alone will cause long-term damage to both your subscriber-relationship and your brand. This understanding of brands and relationships is vital, which is why we have been a strategic partner of the PPA since 2010.

My message is that acquisition and retention strategies need to be balanced. Using a combination of intelligent technology and old-fashioned customer service is the path to growth.