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Why You Should Never Use a Cart To Sell Online Subscriptions

Updated: Mar 10

Once you’ve decided to embrace a reader revenue strategy, how do you sell digital subscriptions?

E-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento have created powerful tools for setting up online stores and they’ve designed experiences that are now the standard for online sales and check out.

Researching your competition is an integral part of the product design experience, so it’s tempting to repurpose features, like a digital cart, from the ecommerce world.

The bad news? This can seriously mess with your subscription flow.

Your competition is other subscription businesses, not e-commerce companies

It makes sense why you’d choose a cart. You’re selling what was once a physical product after all.

In reality, however, your competition is not e-commerce platforms.

Your competition is other subscription platforms. You’re competing with companies like Netflix and Spotify who’ve designed subscription flows so smooth that parting with credit card information is a breeze.

So how do you compete with these companies who’ve had what seems like ages in internet years to perfect their workflows?

You learn from their experience and keep the following best practices in mind when designing your subscription flow.

Design a smooth but familiar user experience

Image: Request the bare minimum amount of informed needed to get your subscription flow up and running (Pexels)

“The bar for an excellent subscription experience has already been set, and publishers have to meet it or exceed it,” explains our COO and co-founder, Andrew Morris. “If Netflix or Spotify doesn’t request a piece of information to land a subscription, then your publication can probably skip it, too”

Design your sign up process in a way that eases visitors through the subscription logic they’re already familiar with.

Your subscription flow should allow your subscribers to do the following:

  1. Select a plan, create an account, and make a payment without leaving the page they were on

  2. Limit the number of fields presented per page

  3. Break down the subscription steps so that information is requested piece by piece

Offer dynamic billing and invoicing

Image: Make it as easy as possible for potential subscribers to pay. (Pexels)

Your billing and invoicing process affects both your short-term and long-term success.

In the short term, your billing process impacts whether you’ll convert visitors.

“The goal is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to pay you,” says Michael Ghattas, Pelcro CEO and co-founder. “You should be able to accommodate their preferred payment method, including checks, and process several currencies.”

Finally, you should be offering an auto-renewal function. This functionality has an enormous impact on your long-term recurring revenue streams. In fact, the auto-renewal option increases renewal rates by 87 percent.

Your paywall should be able to offer all of these functionalities, while adhering to the “keep it simple” philosophy of a smooth subscription flow.

Treat your journalism like the valuable product it is by gating content sooner

Your journalism is a valuable product, not a commodity. Emphasize that value by gating content sooner, rather than later.

A big misconception among publishers is that gating content loses readers and potentially even more subscribers.

But did you know that in one case study when 50 percent of visitors received 3 free articles, there was a 78 percent conversion rate?

On the other hand, when that same percent of visitors gets 5 free articles, the conversion rate plummets to 33 percent?

One potential explanation is that if your content is good and readers consistently come up against a paywall, they’re motivated to pay. Whereas if you’re giving your content away for free, readers will take as much as they can get.

Put up a paywall sooner and enhance the overall value of your materials.

Want to learn more about designing a smooth subscription and payment experience? Get in touch for a chat with the Pelcro team.


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