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This 49 message thread spans 2 pages: 49 ( [1] 2 > >     
Improving Site Subscription Renewals

 12:42 am on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have an education-based subscription site with 6- and 12-month subscription periods. I have a highly satisfied customer base. 98% of my feedback is positive. I have carried out members surveys on all the things I worry about and the results come out overwhelmingly positive, but my renewal rate is something like 15% which is less than half what I was expecting.

I send a mail to everyone who hasn't renewed within a week offering them a discount on renewal and just checking in that everything was to their satisfaction. I've only had one mail back in a year saying, "I didn't renew because your site isn't satisfactory."

I know, people don't always tell the truth but I think the bigger problems are:

1. users moving on to other jobs away from education
2. download-based service means people strip the site dry and this lessens the need for renewal
3. some have said they'll come back in 6 months when there is more new stuff to download

I could increase my level of new materials to reduce the effect of reasons 2 and 3.

What do others do to maximise renewals? I'm painfully aware that every member that doesn't renew is a member I have to find again using Adwords or some other method. If I could get renewals up to a third, I'd be happy. 15% just seems low.

BTW, might be relevant...my fees are $30/$50 for 6/12 months.



 1:02 am on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Can you have it automatically rebill them if they do not cancel before the end of their current subscription?

Would your business model allow you stagger the contents?

[edited by: David_M at 1:12 am (utc) on Sep. 27, 2006]


 11:02 am on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

David, yes, I've tinkered with that idea of automatic renewals. I just suspect I would get a huge increase in chargebacks and grouchy customers, even if I specified the terms and conditions very clearly. I don't want to waste half my days responding to angry "I didn't want to renew" e-mails and losing money through chargebacks.

One thing I have recently introduced is a "Lifetime Membership" which has had a surprisingly good rate of uptake. It's only double the 12-month rate so it's a great deal and takes the whole question of renewal out of the equation.


 11:07 am on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Do you send out renewal reminders as printed letters, as well as emails?

hth, a.


 12:27 pm on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

No, my membership script sends out a mail three days before memberhip runs out.

Then I manually go through every month sending the "special offer" mails to those who haven't renewed.


 1:31 pm on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Automatical renewals *may* count as "inertia selling" and be illegal in some places...




 4:59 pm on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

I would suggest sending out printed reminders by snail mail, I know for sure that many of our customers (we're a subscription business too) change their email address during their subscription period. So our printed renewal reminder is the only one that gets to them.

best, a.


 5:31 pm on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

There are some automatic renewals that I appreciate as a customer because they give me one less thing to do, but they always have two things in common: I specifically signed up for automatic renewal (it was opt-in, not opt-out), and I get an email a week or so ahead of time reminding me of the renewal and saying that unless I tell them otherwise, my account will be billed on [date] etc., so I have a chance to cancel if I want before my account is billed (which saves charge-backs and, hopefully, angry members).

Regarding the "stripping the site dry" problem, do you contact non-renewing members 6 months or a year later to remind them you're there and that you have a lot of new content? Or would that be seen as spamming? [ETA: andye's suggestion of snail mail reminders might be an idea for this.]

You say you could increase your level of new materials - IMVHO this would be essential to get renewals. Not just more new materials, but also more frequent additions (even if that means slightly decreasing the amount you add each time). They have to be afraid they'll miss something if they don't renew.

[edited by: Beagle at 5:37 pm (utc) on Sep. 27, 2006]


 6:30 pm on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I know I need to up my new materials and I will look to do this.

I am seriously looking at auto-renewals but I would want to do it the "right way", as Beagle says, something like opt-in auto-renewals. I use amember and I don't believe that to be a feature.

Mailing a week before renewal is something I can do, even inside amember. I don't feel comfortable with auto-renewals but if done right, it could be my best option.


 2:38 am on Sep 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I don't feel comfortable with auto-renewals but if done right.....

I despise many/most auto-renewals, and especially the way many are handled; certainly any that are rolled over on a 6 or 12 month basis. I do allow, on a case by case basis, selected monthly auto-renewals, provided that I am not gouged for the 'privilege' of renewing monthly; in part, because it is easier for me to auto-renew things that I simply wish to retain each month; plus it's much easier to keep an eye on a monthly renewal and make the decision to let it continue, or to pull the plug. If your customers will go for a monthly renewal, that might be the way to 'do it right'. They constantly have the option of giving your content the thumbs up - or not. Of course, that is the last thing that most 'elective' services want to risk!

I will no longer tolerate an auto renewal on a 6 - 12 term - for anything. Can't remember that last one that I saw that was handled well. Typically, the longer the term, the lower the ethics. If the service is valuable enough to me, I will renew. If not.....

The best yearly account that I subscribe to makes a big, big deal out of how they absolutely will not auto-renew. The login screen has the date of expiration, and I see it at every login. I love this!

The last terrible service that I looked into had only a 12 month option, and automatically cutoff service the moment of cancellation, and it was a whole lot of trouble to drag this out of them.

On the whole, porn services probably come the closest to getting it right, having learned the most from doing things wrong and having a deservedly terrible reputation to overcome. Cancellation processes are typically easy to find, easy to use, and even if the user goes and cancels the service the very next day, they still get the benefit of the full term for which they paid.


 12:39 pm on Sep 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

You could do what Amazon does for their free trial of Amazon Prime:

Set it to autorenew, but let the user turn autorenew off in their account control panel.


 3:05 pm on Sep 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have the opposite problem: High renewal rate, low new customer rate but that's a different thread.

Don't take this the wrong way but are your customers just bored with the site after one year? Could it be that they have learnt what they wanted to learn and now see no need to resubscribe?

You need to keep evolving the site. Add new features, new functions, and continually update your existing features to make them more user friendly.

If you do that then when it comes to renewal time there is more desire for the customer to renew.


 7:13 pm on Sep 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yes, I suppose that's possible. There's always more of what was there originally but it's true I could start to branch out in other directions.

I'll have to give that some thought.


 9:01 pm on Oct 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

I know others have said it but auto-renewal is by far and away the best way to improve your renewal rates.

90%+ of my income comes from automatic renewal subscriptions. I can only imagine how annoying it would be for my customers to have to go through the payment process every single month they remain with my sites. It would absolutely destroy our renewal rates. We also offer a mail in option for customers who arenít comfortable paying online and the biggest problem with have with them is they get upset when their subscription level drops at the end of the term because they arenít on auto-renewal.

You claim the main reason you donít want to use auto-renewal is the chargeback issue. Why would you make it more difficult for your valuable customers to continue paying you just so you could avoid dealing with a few idiots who donít read directions?

If you want to avoid them, make it clear that your subscriptions automatically renew and give your customers detailed directions on how to cancel them. We use Paypal for most of our subscriptions and between Paypal and our own pages, users are told six times during our subscription process that they will need to cancel their subscription if they donít want to be billed again.

I will no longer tolerate an auto renewal on a 6 - 12 term - for anything. Can't remember that last one that I saw that was handled well. Typically, the longer the term, the lower the ethics. If the service is valuable enough to me, I will renew. If not.....

Have you heard of this site? [webmasterworld.com ]

The bottom line is asking how to increase online subscription renewal rates without automatic renewals is like asking how to make your car go faster without starting the engine.


 9:39 pm on Oct 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

My product is advertising. Once they have had a year they *tend* to know whether continuing is worth it or not. Churn minimisation is always a major issue in this game, and you need a few strategies. We started offering a discount for early renewals about 6 months ago: if they renew ONLINE [eg not requiring a human to sweet-talk them into it...] >= 30 days before expiry, there's 10% off. This has worked brilliantly so far. Yes, a little less revenue per advertiser [we'll fix that with a price increase shortly], but the person who did the renewal calls is now freed up to more time finding new prospects. It is a win-win so far.


 9:41 pm on Oct 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

Have you heard of this site? [webmasterworld.com...]

Yeah, very low ethics, lol!


 10:47 pm on Oct 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

How far in advance and how often do you send renewal notification emails? I get very busy and will often tell myself I'll "do it later" only to forget about it. 2 or 3 gentle reminders each a week apart might help. I know it's worked on me!


 10:50 pm on Oct 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

How far in advance and how often do you send renewal notification emails? I get very busy and will often tell myself I'll "do it later" only to forget about it. 2 or 3 gentle reminders each a week apart might help. I know it's worked on me!


 11:39 pm on Oct 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

well, I use a membership script now which sends out a reminder a week before and then another a week later if they haven't renewed.


 12:09 am on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've joined a few subscription sites because there was just one thing that I needed and once that was downloaded I had no need to remain a member.


 12:11 am on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

"inertia selling is illegal"
Geez how does this site you are right now work. Automatically rebilled, through Paypal, after 6-12 months.

Called a "subscription service" and I sell text links and subscribe to several services that way as well.

Can't see the forest through the trees!


 1:07 am on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've joined a few subscription sites because there was just one thing that I needed and once that was downloaded I had no need to remain a member.

This is my problem which I alluded to before. Mine is a download-based service. I add new materials all the time but people know they can rip through the site in a few days with a scorched earth download binge...then do the same 6 months later when their membership is a week from ending. What incentive then exists for them to renew?

It is certainly reduced.


 1:29 am on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

This thread is very interesting to me in that I'm looking into launching a subscription site, having worked on the print side. We are finally getting past that "everything has to be free on the web." To heck with that.

There are some very good ideas here, but a key point that has been made that I'd like to stress is start asking for the re-up early. Real early. You should subscribe to something from Rodale Press and then watch how they go after you to re-up. They are recognized as the best in the print world.

It does sound as if you have some content issues that you're ready to address, but it also sounds like the honeymoon with your site lasts several months. That's speaks well of your expertise.

So, as soon as they subscribe-six to eight weeks--have a sale for "select customers only." 20 percent off for one year, or two years for the price of one. (The lifetime membership is too cheap. Kill it.) Make certain you have quick drop-dead date on the offer; make them act NOW. Tell them what is coming up when you mention this that "they will not want to miss."

Overall, take a look at your web site's promotion potential. Are you telling your customers what content is in development? What is coming up soon? Do you have ads on your site? If so, buy some space from yourself. If not, put some promotional ads on the left and right sides of the pages about upcoming attractions.

Do you have a board like this one for members? Ask anyone here, these boards are addictive. Like WW, you could have a free area and a "supporters" area. The free area would be a place attract those on the outside, in.

I would bet that you expect your fine product to speak for itself. Sorry, that will not work. You need to do a little marketing.

Idea for the moment: Spend some time on NYT.com and read how wonderful NYT.com is. They will tell you. Steal their ideas.


 3:44 am on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have to agree with the others, auto-renewal is probably the best way to retain the subscription. At least that is they way that I would prefer a subscription, with an option to opt-out.

When I read that you send an email just three days before the end, I thought that was a short amount of time. Could be there's not time to deal with it right now, or maybe the funds just aren't available until next week.

How about a reminder at 10 days and then another at 3?

Do you track the frequency of their visits? If they only visit once a month, maybe your reminder should go out while your site is still fresh in their minds and send renewal notice even if its like 30 days out.

How about when they are signed in, can they see a date when their subscription will end? Something like a notice that their time is running out.

Just rambling, take my thoughts as a subscriber, not as a webmaster with subscribers.


 10:22 am on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

A couple of good ideas there. Two ideas I will implement today:

- TWO pre-expiry mailings, one at two weeks, other at one week. Possibly third at 1 day. Hey, maybe people will renew just to shut me up!

- Header notice will "days to expiry"-type countdown.

A couple of people have alluded to "content issues". I would say it's the one thing I'm really confident about, although I suspect I could add new materials quicker. I have a testimonials page (yeah, I know...cheesy or what!) and every single testimonial on there is authentic.

I can say with some confidence that my offering on the pay site is the best in its niche. I didn't want to launch a pay site until that was the case.

I am currently looking into auto-renewals so we'll see what happens with that.

I'm interested in the suggestion to get rid of the lifetime membership. I've had a good sign up rate to that in the last month since I introduced it. Maybe because it's "too good a deal" I hear you say. Perhaps. I was thinking of raising the price of it.

My thinking was - 85-90% of people aren't renewing because they've downloaded everything there is, I may as well get double the money out of them from the start and offer lifetime membership. If I make it 'five years', it doesn't really change anything. I'm in a business in which most people stay for 1-4 years anyway.


 10:48 am on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

paypal is the only service I now that handles fully automated annual subscriptions, and the main problem I have with it is customers find it very difficult to cancel - I usually have to do it for them.


 12:22 pm on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

It should be noted for the record that the print industry has been moving to auto-renew, following the success the web has had with it.

The WSJ.com uses auto-renew, so it's not seen as too slimy anymore. It was interesting when they increased their subscription rate I called to cancel. At the time, I wasn't using it that much. So, I called. They were ready for me, offering me the old rate, which I accepted. I cannot say for certain, but I had the feeling they had my stats in front of them and knew I wasn't a heavy user. That was a win-win. After all, the customer is who determines value.


 2:36 pm on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

I see no problem with auto-renewing subscriptions so long as they are described as such and you'll refund the renewal if a customer complains. If the customer signs up, he knows he's subscribing "until further notice" and will cancel when he wants to. It eliminates the arbitrary end period.

I personally prefer it this way. I don't want to have to remember or deal with renewing things all the time. If I review recent charges and see something I no longer want, I'll cancel and expect a refund simple as that.


 3:28 pm on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am in the autorenewal corner.

As a provider I only have autorenewed subscriptions - monthly only. Yoou get a constant feedback on how you are doing by the rate of people dropping out or staying.
You tell exactly trhat to your clients and they feel they are in the driver's seat!

As a customer: the services I want I do not want to have to think about all the time and I like them monthly. The yearly discounts are just a way so you forget .. which I hate I wnat to get an email from paypal, when I pay or get paid and only look at the one's that say, cancelled ..


 4:24 pm on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

all these people employing "auto renewals", what membership scripts are you using? Or something created for your site?

This 49 message thread spans 2 pages: 49 ( [1] 2 > >
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