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How Aria Customers Polaris and ANWB Sustain Subscription Growth in an Ominous Economic Climate

Ruth Bennett

24 May 2023

On the heels of last year’s successful inaugural user conference, Aria again gathered European customers, partners, and special guests – this time in Amsterdam – for a day of collaboration, networking, and insights-sharing. Among the day’s highlights, Aria clients ANWB – the leading provider of roadside assistance in the Netherlands – and Polaris – one of the largest publishing houses in Norway – joined Aria CIO Brendan O’Brien for a lively panel discussion on “Subscription Trends in an Era of Economic Uncertainty.” These are the top takeaways from the informative and timely session:

Subscriptions are subject to re-evaluation, but not necessarily cancellation

During times of economic uncertainty, it would stand to reason that subscribers of consumer services might be cancelling their subscriptions in droves. So far, however, this has not proven to be the case. While many probably have more streaming services than they need, not all subscriptions are luxuries as some deliver services that consumers might not otherwise be able to access. That said, the current economic climate certainly has consumers reconsidering their catalogs of subscriptions, with many choosing to retain only those that offer the greatest convenience and value for money.

With threats and challenges come opportunities

Across all industries, the stresses of the economy pose a churn threat to subscription providers. But there are also opportunities to develop new products or variations of existing ones. In response to increased pressure on revenues coming from departing traditional print subscribers, Polaris seized on the opportunity to convert their more mature users to digital services where they can continue to consume content, even if at a discounted level. ANWB has used the downturn to successfully introduce new services, including a dynamically priced energy proposition, that have offset pressures on other parts of the business and have sustained the company’s overall revenue, all while appealing to different types of new users.  

Customer care and catering to all buyers are critical churn repellants

Combating churn and meeting subscriber expectations during critical times means enhancing customer support and removing all frictional barriers that might prevent a customer from consuming a product or service in the manner they desire. Providers need to cater to each conceivable buyer by opening up the product catalog, allowing customers to choose from any number of paths to purchase, and accommodating their preferences for engaging customer service. It’s not just about simple or consumption models anymore; insulating against churn means considering everything in between.

Subscription fatigue is not always what you think it means

“Subscription fatigue” is often used as a general term to refer to customers cancelling their subscriptions for any reason. However, this fatigue refers just as much to the frustration consumers feel when trying to manage all the different subscriptions they carry. Consumers are desperate for a centralized and organized ability to manage all their subscriptions – which includes adjusting payment methods, usage levels and bundles – in one place. At the very least, they want to be able to manage individual subscriptions better, with the ability to scale up and down as their requirements change, and consumption options to give them more control over their spend. Until these tools exist, consumers will continue to shed their subscriptions.

Capitalization on the marketplace explosion

Marketplaces make it easier for consumers to find what they are looking for in one location. Joining or forming a marketplace can enable subscription companies to unlock new customers and circumvent the fatigue death toll. Providers eager to capitalize on the marketplace opportunity must determine if they should be part of another provider’s market and have their services bundled alongside others, or become a marketplace in their own right. In either case, it will require stretching beyond natural boundaries and moving outside of comfort zones.

Data-driven personalization on the rise

Subscription companies generate copious amounts of data that informs new product development, improves operational efficiency, and drives pricing strategies. This data can and should also be leveraged to personalize both service and product offerings and customer journeys. Polaris pulls data from different sources to deliver personalized offers for differentiated products and services such as family sharing and automatic credit card renewal. ANWB leverages data to personalize the customer service experience, helping the call center team to suggest the most appropriate service when a customer calls in. Data can ensure the right message is delivered to the right customers at the right time. It’s a delicate dance, however, as personalization is valuable when done well but can be intrusive when done poorly.

Watch the full Subscription Trends panel discussion

Ruth Bennett

Director of Content and Digital Marketing, Aria Systems. Ruth leads Aria’s content strategy and oversees the distribution of content via various digital channels. Ruth has 8 years of experience in the billing and monetization space, and previously spent several years in the publishing and education industries.

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