Best Practices Highlights
Launching, evolving and scaling a digital business involves so many factors and variables that
require expertise to thrive for the long-haul. Piano is stocked with industry experts and benchmark data to
accelerate and sustain that success, which is reflected in our Best Practices Highlights — snapshots into strategies
and tactics you can use to make your team and business be best-in-class.
Using subscription propensity for user targeting
subscription websites rely on a single measure — article views — to decide when to ask
users to pay. That's a blunt instrument that blocks users who are unlikely to subscribe. And at the same
time, some users who probably would pay are allowed to keep reading. A better tactic is to use machine
learning that tunes to your website and audience, and predicts who's going to subscribe and who won't.
Test LTc tactics with low incremental cost first
Piano’s likelihood to cancel (LTc) algorithm sorts visitors into high- and low-cancellation risk buckets.
Since some tactics can negatively impact revenue, it's worth starting with an approach that has no or low
incremental cost (i.e. if cancellation is highest in the first month, consider a subscriber premium (a
physical good, event ticket, competition for prizes, or similar) that provides more reason to get through
the first renewal).
Notify churned users that their subscription is no longer active
When targeting your "churned users" segment, you'll want to start by touting your normal paid offering
rather than a discount. You may eventually need to provide a discount to get additional churned users to
re-subscribe, but a simple message telling the churned user that their subscription has expired that directs
them to the standard offerings can have high conversion rates.
Target subscribers with auto-renew disabled
Once auto-renew is disabled only a small fraction of visitors will re-enable it without a reminder, so
remind them. One way to retain them is offering a free upgrade to premium tier products (assuming there is
no incremental cost).
Use LTc targeting to retain users post-trial
Piano's likelihood to cancel (LTc) algorithm sorts visitors into high- and low-cancellation risk buckets.
Trial period users have higher churn risk overall, with free trial users more likely to churn than paid
trial. Reduce that risk by using onboarding campaigns aggressively during that trial period, to make sure
users know their subscription benefits, and get engaged and using the site and those benefits.
Onsite Content Recommendations
Get editorial support for personalization
The most common barrier to personalization is getting the editorial team sold on the value of technology.
starting with article recirculation widgets and potentially automating section fronts below the fold. Then
can try incorporating these features into homepage elements and other premium digital real estate.
Main factors to consider when building content recommendation experiences
Instead of focusing on which algorithms to use or targeting content recommendations too narrowly at the
outset, we recommend focusing more on decisions like where on your page. Widget location has a significant
impact on lift, with more prominent widgets driving more engagement.
Primary use cases for content recommendations
How should you use content recommendations, you ask? One way is to give exposure to a wider set of
This can help your audience discover hidden gems that never got enough promotion, giving those articles a
chance to find an audience and increasing discoverability on your site.
Suggested content recommendation placements
While content recommendations can be used anywhere that content is promoted, some locations perform better
than others. The right sidebar is an area to consider replacing an existing "trending" or "most read" widget
with a more sophisticated set of four or five articles with images stacked.
How to effectively use split testing
Don't use too many variants when split testing. For subscription conversions, which tend to be lower in
volume, it can often make sense to just have one or two new variants and a control in order to get
statistical significance as quickly as possible.
Run tests on your subscription landing pages
On most sites, the highest conversion rates and largest volume of new subscriptions happen on the
landing page. So it's important to optimize performance there first. Test price, number of offers,
benefits language, design and more.
Don't allow ad-blocking visitors to dismiss whitelist request messages
When minimizing ad blocking, a hard lock is recommended because such messages perform ~10X better than dismissible messages.
"Disable ad blocker or pay" offers can increase ad-block disablement
Having an offer that allows visitors to either disable their ad blocker or pay can be effective because it will often result in increased ad-block disablement rates.
When to use a regwall
First, assess the value of registrations to your business overall. They could be anything from collecting user identity and tighter management of a metered paywall to setting user expectations about your content and site value. To get deeper tips on how to use a regwall, say email@example.com.
How to use email to increase subscriptions
Your email list is chock-full of prospects you can tempt with subscriber-only content, special offers and new features. The most effective conversion tool is the content itself. Send editorial emails that drive consumption and entice users with premium, locked articles, rather than simply sending subscription promotions.
Strategies for lowering active churn
Since long-term subscriptions retain better, add more long-term options. Many sites oﬀer a 20% discount to annual vs monthly purchasers. Bigger price differences between annual and monthly — in the range of 30% or 40% — can push more subscribers towards annual.
Strategies for lowering passive churn
Among the easiest and most effective tactics for lowering passive churn is re-attempting to charge a customer after an initial payment failure. After implementing 30-day grace periods, many publishers can successfully charge 30-40% of initially failed payments simply using retries.
Watch out for "price cliffs" in your subscription business
Every product has psychological price thresholds above which demand drops like a cliff. They tend to occur at round numbers -- like $5 or $10 for monthly, $50, $75 or $100 for annual.
How to get customers to accept higher prices
Consumers have set ideas about how much to pay for different products called mental accounting. Associating with a higher-priced category can help make higher prices seem fair. Peloton charges $39 per month for access to its videos because the main mental reference is a $36 SoulCycle class (which makes $39/mo feel like a deal) rather than a streaming service (which makes $39/mo feel like highway robbery).
What’s the right price for your product?
The right price depends on your strategy. Do you want to maximize the number of subscribers, revenue, brand perception or some other metric? A well-designed pricing survey can help identify user price sensitivity and willingness to pay.
Offering both annual and monthly subscriptions improves performance in most cases
Monthly subscriptions have worse retention rates than annual, yet offering monthly in addition to annual often boosts total subscriptions and total revenue. The trick is getting the conversion lift from monthly without cannibalizing too many annual sales.
How a "decoy offer" boosts paid conversions
Adding a third, more expensive package to annual and monthly subscription offers -- called a decoy -- can create a significant performance improvement. Clients that have split-tested this have often seen their conversion rates and revenues increase over 50%.
Increase mobile conversion by eliminating friction
55% of paid offers are shown on mobile but account for only 29% of conversion. A big reason for low mobile conversion rates is the hassle of creating an account and entering payment details. Eliminating this friction is the key to unlocking the revenue potential of mobile audiences.
How long does it take for a customer to subscribe?
"41% of subscribers convert on their very first active day. That said, the vast majority of these converters have more than one pageview prior to conversion — making it critical to design pathways to conversion that allow for deeper engagement before payment.
How much metered paywalls reduce pageviews
Much of pageview loss is from very high-frequency users who won't ever convert. While this results in significant potential pageview loss, there is usually only a percentage or two loss in unique visitors.
Make it easy to subscribe
A big chunk of conversions comes from users who visit sites with the intent to buy. Make it easy for visitors to give you money by making the subscription button easy to see.
Freemium often outperforms metered
Under freemium models, you will often have articles that vastly out-perform others — with individual articles driving thousands of conversions in some cases. Those runaway successes help the editorial team understand which articles to produce more.
Ask enough visitors to pay
One of the biggest mistakes publishers make is not promoting subscriptions to enough of their audience. That could be because a metered paywall is set too high or in a freemium pay model there aren't enough locked articles, or they're not promoted in high-traffic site locations.