Channels, conversions, and churn: Why better mobile UX is key for subscriber revenue

Publishers attempting to unlock new sources of reader revenue (most notably through subscription models) are understandably honing in on device usage, particularly when there are an estimated 5.1 billion (via Hootsuite) unique mobile users around the world that could be paid subscribers.

Chartbeat data between May 2018 and April 15 of this year shows that mobile continues to dominate device-based engagement across the world, with between 55% and 60% of readers engaged through this channel, followed by desktop and tablet. This trend is also reflected across North America, where approximately 57% of readers prefer mobile devices to consume content.

However, simply possessing the analytics to know whether readers prefer your mobile, tablet, or desktop experience is only step one. The next and crucial step is understanding the sources of retention and churn.

Therefore, we wanted to take a closer look at the relationship between devices and subscriber behavior, specifically where subscribers most often convert or churn. From there, publishers can uncover the solutions that will improve subscriber retention rates.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in Digital Content Next.

Analyzing subscriber conversions by device

We began by analyzing subscriber status changes (i.e., conversions or churns) that took place across publishers in January. In order to be included in the dataset, a user* would have had to visit a site on their device at least once in the last quarter of 2018 and at least once in January.

*Quick note: Why do we refer to the data population as “users”? Since we don’t track individuals across devices, it’s possible for a single person to appear multiple times in the data if they’re accessing a publisher’s site on multiple devices.

Subscriber patterns

Our findings show that while tablets have the most subscribers (as a proportion of total audience size on each device), they are also the most likely to convert, as indicated in the chart below. This is followed by desktop and mobile, suggesting on first impression that publishers should be focusing their web conversion UX efforts on tablet and desktop.

bar graph on subscriptions by device

You can also see that the churn/conversion ratio is highest on mobile (which also has the greatest number of users), followed by desktop and tablet. This suggests that the mobile web subscription and/or login experiences on websites is simply not up to par with their desktop counterparts. This could potentially take the form of slow loading speeds or difficulty navigating through form fills, for instance.

(More from the Chartbeat blog: What we thought we knew about mobile readers)

What can publishers do to improve subscriber experiences?

Chartbeat’s analysis demonstrates that publishers will want to shore up their mobile UX and subscription flows, thereby improving the likelihood of subscriber conversions and retention while reducing churn. This is particularly important on mobile devices, given that those sites are now the predominant way new users experience a publisher’s website, but through which so few are being converted.

We also think it’s worth noting here that this slice of data does not include app users, which tends to be where mobile loyalists congregate. That said, we see a good opportunity for experimentation—publishers can analyze the impact of tailoring experiences towards acquisition, engagement, and conversion on the mobile web versus re-engagement and retention on the mobile app.

All publishers need to take a deep dive into new and churned subscribers over various time periods, their reading patterns by device, and whether their user journey flow would encourage, or turn off, a potential subscriber from converting.

So how can publishers accomplish the first step of better understanding their subscribers’ device-based usage? In our case, publishers on Chartbeat can access new subscriber analytics to have a clearer idea of the connections between audience engagement, loyalty, and more paying subscribers.

See how you can easily integrate subscriber analytics across your Real-Time Dashboard, Big Board, and Chartbeat mobile app.

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