Getting people to download and install your app is hard. Getting people to make a first purchase is challenging. Getting people to become subscribers… can feel impossible.
Alright, I’m exaggerating a bit but the truth is, subscription apps can be tricky. In an admittedly slightly old study (2017, sorry) it was found that app marketers already suspected: getting users to convert to subscriptions is harder than getting a first purchase. The install-to-subscribe rate was found to be just 2.73%, while the install-to-purchase rate for games or shopping apps was found to be on average 8% and 5.9% respectively.
And because it’s expensive and challenging to get users to subscribe, there’s more pressure placed on subscription app marketers to ensure that the users they acquire are high-quality and that they will remain subscribers for a substantial amount of time. As the VP of Marketing at 8fit, I’ve been faced with the same challenges, which is why I’ve been focused on developing a user acquisition strategy that optimizes towards high-LTV users and retention.
What’s great about working towards retention at a fitness app is that my goals as a marketer and the goals of our users align; myself and our app users want a valuable app experience that will encourage users to stay subscribed and stay motivated to work towards their fitness goals.
Although I’m far from having everything figured out, in the hopes that it will be useful for other marketers, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned while building our user acquisition strategy to attract subscribers who are in it for the long-term.
The first encounter is key
This may be surprising, but what I’ve seen lately is that users who come through paid channels have higher rates of subscription conversion than users who come through organically. Why might that be? My belief is that because we use our ads and content to showcase our value and prime new users for our subscriptions (I will go more into detail regarding the first-touch messaging in the next section).
If a new user converts on our ads or content, it’s a strong indicator that our messaging is resonating, and because the user has already essentially “converted” once, it will be easier to continue to guide them towards our upgrade offer. In contrast, our organic users might download the app after making a generic search for fitness apps and downloading a few to test out at random, with no idea about what we offer specifically.
For that reason, your first touchpoint with new users is the perfect moment to onboard them with an impactful idea, demonstrate your apps value proposition and engage with audiences that will resonate with your product.
Align user expectations with your product’s long-term goals
In the age of click-bait ads, paid social followers, and fraudulent installs, it can sometimes feel like marketers have a devil and angel sitting on each shoulder; one pushing for quantity at all costs, and the other advocating for quality.
For fitness apps like 8fit, there’s a lot of “clickbait” and negative messaging out there being used to get installs. I am sure you can think of a few weight loss ads you’ve seen recently- an unflattering gif of a woman sadly grabbing a so-called “muffin top”, images of 0% body fat fitness models flexing, or promises of making you “bikini ready” in under three weeks.
Unfortunately, those emotional triggers and attention-grabbing messages are used because they work, at least on some people and at least in the short term. But aside from promoting body shaming and negative messaging, ads like the examples above skew people’s expectations and implant the discouraging ideas. New users begin to believe they will see immediate results, or that health means doing a two-week gym challenge and then going back to old habits.
In order to optimize our messaging and product towards long-term results for our users, we’ve had to work hard to avoid the clickbait, and opt for honest messaging. Making promises that fat is going to melt away isn’t realistic or a long-term view of health, and we don’t want to be promising “short-term” solutions to get a few more downloads from people that are not going to have their (false) expectations met.
A healthy lifestyle takes time to cultivate, and because our app is geared towards helping keep people motivated towards their long-term fitness goals, our messaging has to align with those principles.
Refine your subscription model and pricing
Because of the pressure on subscription marketers, I’ve seen a tendency among some to get caught in the trap of focusing on tiny optimizations while chasing a 2% uplift on conversion rate, when many still don’t have the basic organization of their subscription model right yet.
At 8fit, a huge contributing factor to the app’s success was that the team wasn’t afraid of making big structural changes to the subscription model early on, in order to discover the optimal model and create a powerful subscription offering. The content and features available to users on the free and paid versions were changed and monitored. And by paying close attention to user behavior, 8fit was able to identify the features and content that users valued most, and created a freemium business model that offered subscribers real added value for their subscription conversion.
The result of this has been that our subscribers are the most engaged users of the app. And by becoming subscribers they not only get a much more valuable app experience, but the monetary “buy-in” provides an additional psychological incentive to continue to use the app and “get the most” out of their subscription. Another big win-win for the subscribers looking to get a lot of use out of the app and for the 8fit business model of long-term community building.
By building a user acquisition strategy to attract users who understand our product and resonate with a long-term and sustainable view of their health, you also get closer to your business goals and grow your community of app users. They are simple principles, but when applied on a decision-by -decision level, they can dramatically change what your user acquisition looks like.
Saulo Marti is the VP of Marketing at 8fit and a distinguished Mobile Masterminds contributor. Read Saulo’s interview here and get to know the minds behind the insight.