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Designing for Subscription Success
Providing a great subscription experience within your app makes it easier to acquire new subscribers. Learn how to more clearly communicate the value of your subscriptions, streamline your sign up flow, and make subscriptions appealing and effortless.
Hi, my name is Lauren Strehlow. I'm a design evangelist, and we're going to be talking about designing for subscription success. Subscriptions are the fastest growing business model on the App Store. But why is it almost every time you're ready to sign up for some awesome new service, or subscribe to some new, exciting content, this is the feeling that you get? That’s because it's all too common for subscriptions to feel complicated, confusing, and just take too long to sign up. So for a great user experience, make your subscription effortless, transparent, and engaging. In other words, make it easy to subscribe.
Let's focus on each of these principles to improve the user experience and design for subscription success. What does it mean for your subscription to be effortless? First, it means people should know that you have a subscription. They shouldn't have to look for how to sign up. So be visible, get out there, and don’t be shy! Let people know that you have a subscription and ask them to sign up. One approach would be to persist a subscribe button in you app’s interface. So here, in the New York Times app, they persist -- tastefully -- a subscribe button that is visible across all of their articles, and this is done really well. It's not annoying or pushy because it families together with their interface. Don't present your subscription like an a pop-up ad or notification, because ads and notifications are intended to be dismissed, and you don't want people to dismiss your subscription. Another way to be visible would be to present your subscription when a person has shown interest in a feature or piece of content that you offer through your subscription. This is the dating app, HER, and as a category, dating apps have been in the subscription business for a long time and they do it really well. So let's just say you are swiping through a few profiles and accidentally pass on someone who is cute, so at that moment you attempt to rewind. Well, the app HER tastefully presents an option to subscribe, because the rewind feature is a part of their subscription. It's an appropriate time to present this offer because you've shown interest. And HER does a great job presenting the values of their subscription offer right here with this beautiful, light animation. So make it easy for people to sign up, make sure they know you have a subscription. Be visible, so you can choose to present your subscription when a person has expressed interest or tastefully persist an option to subscribe. But no matter which option you choose, all subscription apps should include a way to sign up from Settings or Account from within the app, because that's an intuitive place where people would go to look to sign up. Also, to make your subscription effortless, you need to remove friction. Friction is asking for too much effort by asking for too much information and requiring too many steps to sign up. But how do you know when you've asked for too much? Well, this data should help. This graph represents a snapshot of one month of data from the top three entertainment video streaming apps in the U.S. While their names have been removed, the important data here is the clicks to conversion ratio. A subscription flow with three clicks led to a 61 percent conversion rate, and a subscription flow with four clicks led to a 48 percent conversion rate. However, nine clicks... the conversation rate drops significantly to seven percent. Now, while this is just a sample, it's clear that you should only ask for what is absolutely necessary because quite literally, less is more. Less clicks, less friction, will equal more conversion and more subscribers. Focus people on singing up first. Personalization, favoriting, and requesting additional personal details can all wait until after someone has signed up. By being visible and removing friction, your app’s subscription will be effortless and easier for people to subscribe. Next, let's talk about your subscription being transparent because transparency is the best policy, and you need to provide clear terms, so people understand what they are signing up for. Strive to be glanceable; in one view and in just a few seconds, people should be able to clearly understand what your subscription offer is and how to sign up. When making your subscription offer, always include a concise value proposition, a strong call to action, a place to login for existing subscribers, the ability to restore a purchase if someone has a new device, and a place to sign up that includes clear terms and pricing, and always offer multiple tiers, because somebody may want to sign up for a day, a week, a month, or two years, so try offering three or four different subscription tiers to figure out what works best for your audience. And be sure to follow App Review guidelines to ensure that your subscription offer is within policy. People have to have the ability to easily see terms and conditions when they're asked to subscribe. The MLB At Bat app does a great job and offers all of this in one easy-to-understand, glanceable view. And all of this is important because most of us are signing up on our phones. So please, keep it simple. By providing clear terms, people will be able to make an informed decision to subscribe. All right, I saved the best for last. Your app needs to be engaging from the start before people subscribe. And the best way to engage them is through experiencing your app and all of its wonderful contents. Being able to experience and try before you buy is a part of how we all make purchase decisions today. From trying on clothes to attending an open house or even test driving that car before you buy or lease it. People are able to experience before they have to make a purchase decision, and the same principle applies to your app. There are three ways to engage people through experience and that will make it easier for them to subscribe. First is a free trial, where people can try out the entire app for free, for a limited time. Free trials work best for established brands, when people already have an idea of what is included with the subscription. So if you have an established brand, a free trial is a great way to let people engage with your app and experience it before they subscribe. You can also make the majority of your app available for free and offer a premium feature as a subscription. For example, in the app Sleep Cycle, you can use most of the features for free, but the Trends feature -- shown here -- is only available to people who have subscribed. Sleep Cycle makes it really easy for people to sign up right from here, and this is a great technique to offer people a peak of the content behind this blur, as it gives people an idea of the kind of data they would see as a subscriber. Third, sampling content is a great way to engage people through experience. Sampling helps people understand what type of content they would have access to as a subscriber, and this works well for a majority of apps. In the New York Times app, you're able to read 10 articles free per month as a non-subscriber. This is a great sampling experience because the New York Times lets people have control over what they sample, and it allows people to find the content that they're interested in. In turn, that helps them better understand the value of the overall subscription. The objective here is to let people experience and become engaged with your app's content, and that content and that experience will make it much easier for them to subscribe. So no matter which option you choose, make sure it works for your audience. Think about their current user experience and the type of content that they currently have available in your app and how adding a subscription could impact that current experience. So design your subscription to be effortless by being visible and reducing friction to sign up, be transparent with your terms and pricing, and engage people before they subscribe through a rich experience of your app. Then, it'll be easy to sign up.
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