Adapting Your Subscription Communications to Coronavirus

As COVID-19 continues to change people’s everyday reality, it’s more important than ever for brands to ask themselves, “Are we helping, or not?”

At a time when customers are experiencing high levels of uncertainty and anxiety, the last thing you want is to be remembered as another stressor in their lives during a crisis. However, through thoughtful messaging that prioritizes consumers’ needs, it’s possible to become a source of trust during this challenging moment. In that spirit, Movable Ink is sharing industry-specific insight for subscription brands to offer value and support to customers.

Amid social distancing practices and shelter-in-place orders, consumers are looking to make life more comfortable and adjust to a new normal while they stay at home. Naturally, this has led to shifts in behavior and spending habits. And while these shifts have posed challenges for some subscription businesses, others have experienced increased demand. In particular, media and technology initially saw subscription growth rates increase, with 7x for streaming services, 3x for digital news and media, and 1.4x for communication software. Now, as we enter the next phase, it’s all about making your subscribers’ investments count and highlighting the value of their subscription service. Here are a few effective ways we’ve seen companies adapt their strategies to audiences’ evolving behaviors and needs during this unique time.

Demonstrate value through personalization

Consumer behaviors are changing rapidly in response to the pandemic. In order to stay relevant throughout this constant flux of change, brands are doubling down on personalization efforts to drive relevant content and, ultimately, engagement. There are several ways to approach this, two of which include: a) 1:1 recommendations based on a subscriber’s previous behaviors, and b) contextual personalization, which changes content in real-time, based on environmental cues like time of day or day of week.

The latter ensures content is as relevant as possible at the moment of engagement. For instance, a streaming service might show news programming in the morning, then offer binge-worthy shows in the evening when customers are likely looking for an escape. The beauty of both tactics is that they can be adapted and applied across industries, as well as automated and scaled across multiple campaigns.

In this email from Rent the Runway, the company pivoted to showing feel-good content that highlights at-home fashion inspiration and emphasizes wellness. Meanwhile, a dedicated home decor section focuses on curated bundles to help people spruce up their living spaces as they spend more time inside, aligning content personalization efforts with products that fit our new paradigm.

Reduce churn by offering flexibility in subscription package

As consumers’ budgets tighten during the pandemic, many organizations have seen a spike in requests to suspend subscriptions. However, by offering the option to change subscriptions, some have been able to significantly reduce churn rate to under 20% (compared to an increase of over 30% for companies who didn’t offer the option). Additionally, services that allowed customers to pause and resume subscriptions saw a lower churn rate than their peers who did not. This tactic can be targeted to subscribers that may have a high propensity to churn, offering empathy and providing relief during a challenging time.

Reach new subscribers with relevant promotions

A number of subscription-based companies have responded to COVID-19 by announcing paywall removals, pricing discounts, product offers, or free trials to help people transition into the new reality. Given that subscriptions aren’t tied to any one product, businesses can get creative here and be flexible in price and/or offering to give customers choices tailored to their current circumstances. Whether providing coronavirus-related content or an escape from current events, promotions give platforms a way to both retain current customers and acquire new ones by driving broader audience awareness and access to meaningful content that speaks to their needs.

In response to increased demand for news content at the start of the pandemic, Sling TV offered viewers free access to ABC News Live along with on-demand content. Goodwill gestures like this build trust and loyalty among existing and new audiences alike.

As time went on and more people sought an escape from coronavirus news, Sling offered their Sling Blue package for free from 5 p.m. to midnight, when demand for entertainment channels was highest. Tailoring the package type and access time to the shifting needs of customers kept their behaviors front-of-mind and, in turn, made Sling’s value really shine.

About the author

Naveen Wall

Prior to joining Movable Ink, Naveen worked at multiple brands that are creating innovative marketing experiences for media and tech services, including Shutterstock, Time Out North America, and Global Radio. She joins Movable Ink from SiriusXM, where she ran the brand’s engagement newsletter and supported the roll-out of their recommendations engine that displays real-time information on live ‘now playing’ content.