Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: buckworks

Message Too Old, No Replies

Improving Site Subscription Renewals



12:42 am on Sep 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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.


6:43 pm on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Without having looked into amember - I'll note that the same rules apply to subscription systems as well as webshops.
Usability: Big visible [SUBSCRIBE] buttons and few clicks to the target will be able to up you a noteable amount.

You have a very visible ripping problem - that you need to address:
1. Give the users a reason to stay using the website even though they got all the content.

2. More content.

Definately you should go for the recurrent billing, with the option to select paying every period by "hand".


8:35 pm on Oct 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

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.

WebmasterWorld uses PayPal subscription service. I just looked, and I don't see any way of unsubscribing if I wanted to. No unsubscribe link in WebmasterWorld, and no cancel subscription link in my PayPal account. And no heads-up that it's about to be renewed either. So, yes, auto-renew can definitely improve subscription renewals. ;-) I don't know much about PayPal subscriptions--maybe they are something that only the vendor can cancel?

As a consumer, I think the value of an auto-renewal depends upon the service. Domain names, for example, I want on auto-renew. If I don't renew them, I will lose them. It may be similar for magazine renewals, but I still prefer to manually renew those. Web site subscriptions are another matter. If my membership lapses, it's just a matter of renewing. I haven't lost anything as I would were I to lose a domain name.

I think the best thing is to give people a choice of auto-renew or not. It can be a default but I think it should be a choice so that the consumer can decide what's best for them.

After all, keeping the consumer happy will do more for maintaining a relationship with them than trying to slip under their radar with an auto-renewal they may or may not want.


7:42 am on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

ccDan - that's true. Customers can cancel their subscription but it usually involves finding the recent payment, then clicking through a tiny link to the original subscription before finding the cancel subscription button. Most of course don't manage it.

I've been contemplating putting a 'cancel subscription' button on MY site, which does nothing more than send me an email so I can cancel it for them. I suspect subscription custom is quite a low priority business for paypal, as the service offered is pretty basic, but it's still the only option I've been able to find on the market.

There may/should be an API to allow me to hook in to let customers unsubscribe directly from my site, but I haven't been able to work that out yet. Anyone know of available options there?


10:31 am on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I believe aMember allows direct PayPal recurring payments cancellation directly from the members' pages, but 2CO is a little more complex and "e-mail the webmaster to cancel membership renewal" seems the best solution at this point.

I'm going to set this up at the weekend so I haven't really got my hands dirty with it yet, so I'm not sure about it but it seems as though PP is pretty straightforward, others less so.


1:21 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

On our site, we provide a "Cancel Subscription" button that takes you directly to Paypal and makes finding the subscription easy and thus easier to cancel. About 94% of the people who cancel with us are able to do so without any additional assistance but there's always going to be the few who can't do something without being hand fed the process. I do find it strange that Webmasterworld doesn't have a "Cancel Subscription" link.

Regarding subscription management, we use our own scripts to do it. Integrating it into IPN is the only way to do. IPN allows immediate updates and cancellations and doesn't require the customer to wait for you to stop answering e-mail and update their account. BTW, that's another thing Websmaterworld doesn't do for unknown reasons.


2:01 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

woop01 - do you manage to link straight through to the cancellation page or just through to the paypal website? If the former could you explain (or PM) how you do that?


2:52 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I faced a similar problem, people would intentionally renew 6 months after the subcription expired and expect all the information they had missed out to be sent for free. In such cases, it is better to charge per download or limit the download. Does any one have any idea how to increase subscription renewals if the payment is done offline?


3:03 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

musicales, I can't seem to find it on the Paypal site right now but here's the basic code...

<A HREF="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_subscr-find&alias=[YOURACCOUNT]"><img border="0" src="https://www.paypal.com/images/cancel_subscribe_gen.gif" width="139" height="21"></A>

That takes them to a login page for their Paypal account. As soon as they login, Paypal searches for any subscriptions with your site and lists them so they can be cancelled. It prevents them from having to look up the subscription themselves which seems to be the biggest stumbling block without that link.

It's quite intuitive but we all know nothing it fool proof on the net. Like I said, over three years now, only 6% of our customers have needed any additional guidance and most of those were people who didn't realize "Edit Account Info" would be the page where that button was on our site.


3:18 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

To find and cancel your PayPal subscriptions manually you need to look in your PayPal account at My Account->History

Then in the search section use the drop down box beside Show: and pick Subscriptions. Then choose the date range to search i.e Within: The Past Year. Then if you find you have subscriptions that you want to change or cancel select their detail link from the search results.

Not very easy to figure out on your own, but the instructions were probably sent out from PayPal on the PayPal notification e-mail when you signed up.


3:20 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

woop01 - thanks a lot that's v. useful.


3:28 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Zamboni, the link I posted prevents them from having to go through that search. It automatically searches for them as soon as they login.


3:35 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

To find and cancel your PayPal subscriptions manually you need to look in your PayPal account

But what if you don't have a paypal account and just paid via card using their service?

IMO repeat subscriptions are a bit sneaky and rely on punter inertia to cancel the subscription.


3:40 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

You have to have a Paypal account if you want to do a recurring subscription. You can't make a single payment for a recurring sub with them.

How is something sneaky if you make it clear on every single page of your sign up process that the subscription auto-renews?

I'm not talking about in "Section III, Part 3, Addendum B" of a T&C. We make it abundantly clear on our site that our subscriptions auto-renew. Paypal states it numerous times above the submit/accept buttons on every page of the subscription setup process. How is that trying to sneak something through?


4:02 pm on Oct 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yes, woop01 your link is pretty handy. I was just posting the info for any PayPal users that might want to check to see if they have any subscriptions in their PayPal accounts.


3:42 am on Oct 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Esllou, have you tracked usage? Are your subscribers using your site right up to the time they let their subscriptions lapse?


10:03 am on Oct 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Suggest you think of ways of getting under their radar.
E.g. Ask me to spend more than $20, and I'll think twice. I tend to forget that it'll last 6/12 months.
But ask me to spend $5pm, and the answer is an easy "ok".
So, can you gear your payment process to take money monthly? If so, advertise a monthly payment.

Another bonus: people tend to forget the small monthly payments. This eliminates your having to ask them to "resubscribe". One decision point, no reminders.

I worked for the UK's largest telecoms company. They made millions in telephone rentals. It was the old cord type telephones. I asked myself: "What kind of people would willingly pay $5pm and more for an old clanked out telephone, when they can buy a new cordless one?"
Answer? Those who don't know they're paying for it. Most folk had paid for it for years and they no longer saw the item on their bills. Below their radars.
We learned the hard way. Each time we sent out letters to tell the renters about any changes, even if it was to decrease their prices - we got a flood of unsubsriptions - costing us a chunk of our market. So our lesson was to let our sleeping dogs lie.


8:15 am on Oct 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

small membership periods just wouldn't work on the site. I know my audience well enough. The whole service is based on downloads so people would sign up for a month, strip the site bare and perhaps come back six months later for another one month membership in order to be able to do the same. Heck, I would!

For the time being, I've implemented (well signposted) recurring billing but only for the 2 6-month membership packages that exist on the site. I've left all the others and will see what happens in 6 months' time with the first round of renewals.

I would be interested in looking into pay-per-download if anyone knows how that could best be implemented. Something like $1-a-download or $20 gets you 25 credits would work far better on my site as opposed to short term memberships.


8:27 am on Oct 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Essllou. Think you're overestimating the value folk give to their time. If you charge me $4.95pm, I'm not going to be in a hurry to strip and run. I'll take my time, as my time is worth a lot more than $4.95pm. I'll likely join and download a few, then have intentions to return later and never rememeber. Can you easily trial this?


7:41 pm on Oct 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You might think about limiting the number of downloads per month.

Just recently saw that implemented on a major news site for their archives.

Their subscriptions were something like:
$4.95 per article
19.95 per month w/ limit of 100 articles
100.00 per year w/ limit of 100 articles per month.

(Something along those lines.)

This 49 message thread spans 2 pages: 49

Featured Threads

Hot Threads This Week

Hot Threads This Month