Indepedent 1

The Independent's CRM Strategy

Publishing Excellence Awards
Best Use of Data

The Independent has overhauled its onboarding and 'in-life' customer journeys to combat subscriber churn. Today, a fully automated and segmented CRM programme, built around the end-to-end customer lifecycle and with behavioural data at its core, is live and delivering results.

Prior to the launch of the new CRM programme, The Independent’s average monthly churn rate was 7.7%. A particular area of concern was the trial completion rate - the % of subscribers who move from trialists to the tenured base in month 4 – which was 57%. Subscribers weren’t sufficiently onboarded – the process of highlighting subscription benefits to drive early habit-forming behaviour.

Communication was also sporadic throughout the subscriber’s lifetime and focused more on win-back after cancellation.

Limited capacity within the CRM team led to prioritising short-term, ad-hoc campaigns, and restricted exploration of the email tools data and segmentation capabilities.

The CRM programme now includes seven lifecycle stages:

  • Develop
    • Reader enters the stage upon registration
    • Focus on nurturing engagement by recommending articles / newsletters based on browsing behaviour
    • Once reader is classified as ‘engaged’ (through website / email interaction data) they progress to ‘convert’ where exposure to subscription offers begins
  • Convert
    • Converting ‘the right’ readers (based on engagement) is key to churn prevention
    • Website visits / newsletter open data continually checked for 29 day period
    • If negative reader moves back to ‘develop’ stage where re-engagement activity prevents them falling into the ‘disengaged’ segment
  • Onboard
    • Takes place within the subscribers’ first 30 days
    • Critical as disengagement during onboarding creates high probability of churn
    • Subscribers prompted to sign up to key engagement drivers - newsletters / apps
    • Stage concludes with a NPS survey to provide insight
  • Early life
    • Between days 31-90, subscribers are segmented into ‘promoters’, ‘passives’ and ‘detractors’ based on the onboarding NPS
  • score
    • ‘Detractors’ are nurtured by our Customer Success Manager to address issues raised
    • Stage concludes with second NPS survey
  • In-life
    • Starts from day 91, throughout lifespan of a subscription
    • ‘Engaged’ subscribers receive regular article / newsletter recommendations based on behavioural data
  • Keep
    • Runs alongside the ‘early’ and ‘in-life’ journeys
    • Targets ‘disengaged’ and ‘long-term disengaged’ subscribers / anyone who has turned off auto-renewal payments
    • Aim to re-engage subscribers before they churn
  • Grow
    • Subscribers who remain ‘engaged’ for 90+ days are targeted with upsell messaging. eg Premium subscribers prompted to take top-tier package

Harnessing email opens and frequency and recency of website visit data has enabled The Independent to spot the early signs of churn and deliver relevant messaging to increase engagement. This approach has had a profound effect on churn.

There has been a 22% decrease in the average monthly churn rate – 7.7% in 2020 vs. 6.0% in 2021. 22% of the subscriber base equates to £465k in revenue that would have otherwise been lost over the course of a year. Outside of the primary objective of churn, improvements have been seen in NPS. The insights gathered have helped drive improvements to the subscription proposition. This virtuous circle has produced an improvement in NPS – -33 in January 2021 to -8 in December 2021.

Improving the relevancy and timing of communications has also led to 7% pts improvement in the size of our ‘engaged’ subscriber base between March 2021 and December 2021.

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