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How to Personalise Subscription Journeys for Revenue Growth

Admin | 7 September 2021 | Read time: 13 minutes
Topics | subscription model, subscription economy

Personalised customer experiences were once considered little more than a handy feature that could be used to enhance a business's services. In recent years, they’ve become essential – particularly for subscription-based companies. In 2018, a survey by business experts Econsultancy found that 80% of companies they surveyed had seen an uplift in sales since implementing personalisation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. Many businesses were forced to set up online stores and had to rely on their websites and social media as their main way of doing business and engaging with customers. To keep the personal touch in place, which is so important in the real world, personalised user experiences have now become integral. 

The number of subscription-based companies is ever-growing, making the market more crowded, and the competition in turn becomes ever more intense. To survive and thrive, these companies must pay more than lip service to personalised subscription journeys. So, what exactly is a personalised user experience, and what are the best ways to use this strategy to increase revenue growth?

What are the benefits of a personalised user experience?

A personalised user experience tailors customer journeys and experiences to the needs and preferences of each unique customer. Services are individualised in real-time and are used to guide customers through the customer conversion funnel. These experiences can: 

  • help build brand loyalty, increase subscribers and drive sales. 
  • mean better value alignment.
  • lower churn.
  • increase customer lifetime value.


Done correctly, customers will enjoy a faster, easier and more memorable experience on your website or with your product. For publishers, personalising the experience for digital subscribers could include personalising the content offer, or localising news stories.

What is the purpose of personalisation?

Personalisation allows publishers to gain insights into customer preferences and intentions. The stronger the data you can gather through personalisation, the greater the knowledge of each reader’s needs. 


Without the option of a tailored experience, it’s so much harder to know your customers. In a crowded market, you’ll find that subscribers who decide not to renew have gone to other publishers who do offer such experiences. Making personalisation a key element in your customers' subscription journey can ultimately lead to loyalty, stability and overall revenue growth. 

Personalisation in publishing

Lots of companies have reaped the benefits of personalised experiences for years. Shopping giant Amazon’s product recommendations are one of the most famous and successful examples. Streaming platform Netflix is another. In 2017, the TV and movie service revealed 80% of its watched content is based on personalised recommendations alone.

The publishing world has been a little slower to catch on. That same year, online trade magazine Digiday reported that Mike Dyer, former president of American news website The Daily Beast, proclaimed ‘News isn’t Netflix’. Customers also weren't sure if they wanted personalisation. Among the slew of naysayers, one reader of The New York Times said ‘I don’t want curated news. This is creepy and disturbing. Please re-think it.’ 

However, a year later, the same site reported that well-known publishing companies such as Hearst were rethinking the concept. They began building a database of readers to target them with tailored subscription offers. The Boston Globe implemented a personalisation strategy to help it re-engage readers and reduce churn. As a result, the multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper gained a new lease of life and could afford to raise its subscription prices.

Although the pandemic has driven growth in the world of personalisation, it’s also had unpredictable effects and, as a result, consumers have developed three new behaviours. To understand this better, and learn about how to bring subscriber zombies back to life, take a look at our free eGuide.

How to personalise user experiences

For modern subscribers, experience is becoming the number one priority, and businesses know they need to cater for this. In a recent survey by Customer Relationship Management company SuperOffice, 1,920 business professionals were asked to share their number one priority. The clear majority, 45.9%, said customer experience ranked first. 

For publishers, personalisation is driven by bringing together reader intelligence with their experiences. To succeed, subscription businesses need to explore ways of personalising their service across each stage of a subscriber’s lifecycle. Here’s how this is done: 

1. It all starts with data

Every touchpoint in the subscriber lifecycle creates data that can be used to engineer personalisation, and first-party data is particularly important. This is gathered directly by companies from their customers and involves monitoring how they use their accounts and their behaviour on your website or app. It can also include information that isn’t digital, such as completed surveys. 

The data you gather holds everything that you need to create the personal touch. Some of the most successful companies, including Netflix and Amazon, use data mining. This is where data sets are examined to find patterns and anomalies. 

It’s thanks to data mining that they can make so many recommendations to customers. Aggregating the data across customer groups makes it possible to develop customer personas. Gathering first party data also helps publishers when calculating LTV and CAC (customer acquisition) metrics.

2. Personalised marketing

When it comes to personalised marketing, getting the right balance is key. Bombarding readers with spam emails and hoping for the best is not going to get the desired results – in fact, it might make them resent you. Customers need to feel that your communication with them is happening on their terms. 

However, email is still the preferred method when it comes to marketing. In 2017, Yes Lifestyle Marketing noted that emails with personalised subject lines generated 50% higher open rates.

Of course, should your data show that a different channel, such as online advertising, is more successful for you, then stick to that instead.

3. Be ahead of the game

How can a publisher expect to know what their customers want before they do? It might seem a tall order, but data mining and predictive analytic tools can be very useful in anticipating a customer’s next move. 

Businesses will find it useful to examine user rates and purchase history to gain a better understanding of their customer base. For example, if you discover that a customer makes the same repeated purchase, you can use that to generate personalised discounts on that product. This creates a memorable feeling of goodwill and could help to keep them on board.

4. Help customers to help themselves

Customers don’t like to feel dictated to. One of the main reasons why personalisation has become so popular is because consumers like to feel they are in control when spending time and money online. Helping them feel they’re in charge, as well as secure and looked after, makes them more likely to keep coming back to you. 

Digital publishing companies can achieve this by personalising their presence online through customer web (and app, if you have one) sessions. One of the world’s most famous publications, The Wall Street Journal, is as intent on creating a memorable user experience for existing customers as it is in bringing in new subscribers. 

Each user creates their own profile, listing their interests – for example, sports, politics, world news. The WSJ uses these insights to share targeted recommendations and point readers towards new content that will fit their tastes. Rather than being forced to scroll through news stories of no interest to them, users have their own personalised homepages with a curated news feed based on their past activity. And they go even further, suggesting different media formats with which content can be digested, including podcasts and in-app exclusives. 

Similarly, music streaming platforms like Spotify offer subscribers a curated playlist each week combining tracks that users have saved with new tracks they might enjoy based on their listening habits.

5. Implement a subscription experience platform

Being able to create personalised user experiences by implementing what we’ve set out above may sound like a long, difficult journey. Luckily, there are effective ways to implement all this and more, without writing a single line of code. 

Zephr’s subscription experience platform offers on-site user-specific personalisation, enabling publishers to develop deeply personal user experiences on a granular level. Our dynamic solution powers you with the ability to change offers, pop-up messages, sticky footers, overlays and custom emails in real-time, based on user attributes, behaviours and segments. 

One-size-fits-all no longer cuts it. For the power to create personalised subscriber journeys, download the Publisher’s Digital Subscription Toolbox.


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