UX Techniques While Designing a Subscription Model Product

Aug 20th, 2018


Hosting, cloud storage, video streaming and plenty of others services are based on subscription model now. Have you ever wondered how you can design them well?

What’s better than making a customer pay? Making them pay multiple times. It’s an amazing way of capturing customer loyalty while increasing their LTV (LifeTime Value).

Subscription model businesses are on the rise and they’re here to stay! Some of the techniques you can use to improve the user experience on the product are as follows.

Provide a trial period

Subscription products are usually intended to be used for a long term. So, the buying decision process is long and difficult. It is imperative to let the users feel comfortable about their purchase. They shouldn't feel they are taking a blind plunge. A trial period allows the users to experience your product risk-free. When possible, allow users to experience the product completely without any limitations.

That will give the user a better idea of what they are getting for the price.

Have a couple of plan options

A choice of clearly defined packages helps users make an informed decision. Try not to have a single pricing plan. Give them options.

If your product is not catering to a niche market and can be used by anyone, then it is advisable to have a plan that has a free version.

That way, even if a certain user cannot purchase he/she could refer the product to their friends and family.

For example, most of the email service providers have a lifetime free plan.

Applications that increase user’s task productivity are better suited for subscriptions

You need to have a clear idea of what problem your product is solving.

If the product solves a long-term problem and thereby increases productivity, then the product is an ideal fit for subscription.

These productivity applications usually help users in completing certain tasks. Some of the examples for productivity apps include ones that provide design tools, business email subscriptions, analytics.

However, luxury apps are different. They may have a limited shelf life.

Mobile games make a good example of luxury apps.

You cannot expect a user to keep paying for a mobile game for a long period of time.

Instead of a subscription model, it is best to charge an amount upfront after a trial service for the product.

User will expect new features frequently

As the users keep using the product, they’ll start expecting new features.

You must be in a position to periodically provide updates and upgrades. Have a clear-cut plan for the long-term product features and UX strategy.

Keeping the users engaged is critical.

Your product has to be kept alive with frequent interactions with the users. This is key to designing subscription-based products and retaining users for the long term.

When users keep receiving updates, they feel that they are receiving a higher value for their money.

Performance and functionality outbeat design in the long term

If your product is being continuously used for a long time, your user will become an expert at finding advanced interactions, inner columns, etc..

You wouldn’t have to worry anymore about the hiccups that happen during the initial phase of the learning curve.

At this stage, adding features that are hidden within categorizations would be good.

Your users not only would be able to discover them but also be glad about the improved features and functionalities.

But, one thing that is better than new features is adding these features with better product performance.

When you keep adding advanced features that perform better, it is likely to delight the users.

Performance optimisation activities always have to be undertaken in parallel to working on advanced features.

Part of an elite group.

Within your product or outside, make the users feel part of an elite, premium group.

If there is a free version of your app, make sure that the paying customers distinctly feel that they’re being valued more by the company. Providing access to a special group or additional spaces in your product is one way to get this done.

For example, Users of articulate get access to a community where the users interact with each other, get free downloadables, live sessions, etc..

Privacy, Security, Storage, Performance or Support as value additions

Another UX technique to delight your paying customers is to encapsulate privacy, security, storage, performance and support as value additions. By highlighting these benefits and packaging them as unique value propositions, users feel special.

For example, when packaging 24/7 support as a unique benefit, users assume that they are getting more value from their money. Adobe Creative Cloud does a good job of packaging their support & privacy as a value addition.

Start collecting & displaying user reviews and ratings

In the buying process for a customer, social proof acts as a big purchase influencer.

Especially when it’s a long-term solution like a subscription product, user reviews and ratings are important.

Users look for reviews within the product and outside as well. Within the product, make arrangements to collect users’ reviews and ratings. It’ll go long way in increasing your user base.

Do not have any hidden costs

Users take time in getting adjusted to a particular price.

Once they are convinced of the price, they move to the checkout page. If on the checkout page, they see additional charges on top of the initial amount, there will be bad experience.

When possible, show all the additional fees and taxes upfront. This level of transparency helps.

Even if the breakup is not displayed upfront, the all-inclusive final price may be displayed.

Have an automated subscription system

Users are ready to pay. Good! But, how do you make their payment experience better?

Get it automated.

Users should not be required to subscribe and pay each time.

Having a discontinued experience will lead to a loss of users. Notifications and messages should be sent to communicate subscription information. This will ensure that the users are always on the loop.

Unambiguous transaction system design

Your transaction system needs to be uncluttered and unambiguous to the users. Invoices, upgrades, downgrades and other features need to be clearly designed to prevent a bad experience.

Users need to clearly see the opt-out feature, should they require them. Charges related to additional features need to be specified up front and any attempt to conceal such payment information will result in a dissatisfied experience.

User support system has to be solid

Having a 24/7 support team that can be contacted via any medium can help solve user objections.

Knowledge base, FAQs or documented tutorials can help solve a lot of user confusion.

It can be a repository of valuable information about the product that the users can always refer to.

Having a huge repository of information is not just enough. You need to make it accessible.

This is where you can make the most out of Chatbots, AI bots and an intuitive search bar.

In Conclusion

Yes, subscriptions model products are here to stay. Lot of big players are getting into this model quickly. Putting these techniques into practice will most certainly improve your UX considerably.

After all, there is nothing more important than keeping your customers happy!


Userfacet CEO Tanuj Shah

Tanuj Shah

CEO at Userfacet

Formally educated in HCI, Tanuj is adept at understanding user experience patterns and creating solid technological solutions around them.

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