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Subscription journey

Re-designing our subscription experience to move away from legacy systems.

BACKGROUND

The goal of this project was to redesign the Economist website subscription experience, and specifically our offer pages, for the launch of our back-end website re-platforming.

I came on to this project in the middle of it– many of the customer journeys, including the checkout flow, had already been mostly defined. I was brought on specifically to redesign the splash pages (top of the funnel) and bring the entire experience together under tight deadlines – we had about two weeks to design the experience and win stakeholder buy-in.

To start, I got in touch with customer service and collected as much existing user feedback as we had about our existing subscription journey. I also evaluated our existing journey, noting existing issues and pain points.

Role

Lead product designer in charge of liaising with stakeholders. Led a cross-functional team including one UI designer.

Challenge

The website subscription journey was built on legacy systems that were inflexible & difficult to build on, making simple improvements almost impossible to implement

Results

  • 110k+ new subscriptions since launch in December 2020, on track for highest ever volume of subscribers by EOY

  • 28% uplift in subscriptions vs 22% forecasted, resulting in the most profitable campaign in the history of The Economist

  • 86% satisfaction rating among 5,352 new subscribers surveyed between Dec 2020-Jan 2021

ORIGINAL JOURNEY

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  • The entire journey was not visually aligned with our design system.

  • Offers and terms were split into two steps on desktop, and seven steps on mobile, making the checkout journey exceptionally long.

  • Subscription builder step led to significant abuse, with users often playing with the pricing to select the lowest-priced offer.

  • Pricing was unclear to users until arriving at the second step – this led to significant drop-off when seeing the full-price after intro offer

  • Users had the ability to checkout as a guest – however, this made account creation confusing, with customers having to activate their subscription manually.

  • We didn’t offer flexible payment options, such as checkout witH Paypal or other providers.

  • The credit/debit card iFrame was overall old-fashioned and seemed untrustworthy to users.

  • We didn’t offer customers worldwide a regionalized checkout form, and the form had several accessibility issues.

  • The terms of our auto-renewal were unclear and placed in a location that wasn’t obvious for users to read.

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DISCOVERY

After evaluating our existing subscription journey, I conducted extensive competitor analysis to benchmark our subscription offers against other publishers and assess how to best present these.

Defining business needs

One of the biggest challenges about this project (and splash pages in general!) was finding a way to clearly and succinctly communicate information about our offers and pricing. The main ask on the business side – particularly from the Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Product Officer, and Managing Director – was to present all of this information in one step, with the overall purchase journey not exceeding three pages.

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WIREFRAMES

Because we were working under such tight deadlines, I leveraged Figma’s sharing capabilities to quickly wireframe potential solutions and share them with the CMO, her team, and engineering on a daily basis.

I developed 13-15 potential approaches, which I sent through for Feedback and iterated on until we narrowed it down to four options to user test.

Collaboration with stakeholders and engineers

This exercise helped to ensure that we were evaluating solutions that had not only been tried and tested in the market, but that also aligned with business goals and that were technically feasible in the given time-frame.

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USER TESTING

We went through several rounds of user testing with ~30 users until we narrowed it down to two options.

 

In this process, senior stakeholders were grappling with a question around our offers – should we launch with four offers without a clear anchoring around an offer, or should we launch with three offers and move one of our most profitable offers to a second page to anchor around annual digital?

Focusing on the user

To drive these conversations, I framed the discussion around our users

and their comprehension on the page. We found that users took longer to decide on an offer when we presented four, but overall found both pages equally easy to understand. As a compromise, the business decided to launch with four offers and conduct A/B testing with alternate design approaches later on.

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"The page is well structured with clearly laid out options. Costs are well defined and easy to understand."

User tester

Appreciated our pricing transparency by allowing users to compare all of their options on one page.

PRE-LAUNCH UAT

Now it was time to bring it all together! The checkout and registration journey had already been put into the development – so once the offer pages were built, we put everything through pre-launch user acceptance testing.

Documenting Jira tickets

I organized a UAT study with 20 non-subscribers to test the full journey and identify any potential improvements pre-launch. We ran hour-long moderated interviews where we asked users to complete tasks such as purchasing and canceling a subscription.

 

I wrote up the results in a full report – we made improvements pre-launch and documented all other insights in tickets for the BAU teams’ backlogs.

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SOLUTION

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RESULTS

This project was incredibly fast-paced, with the entire journey being designed, built, tested, and launched in ~2 months. I learned that the most important thing was communication & setting expectations – with stakeholders, engineers, and beyond.

 

Although the result wasn’t perfect, we’ve now been working on launching A/B tests to optimize the splash pages, leveraging our newly acquired data from the backend re-platforming

110K+

New subscriptions between Dec 2020-Jan 2021, on track for highest ever volume of subscribers by EOY

+28%

uplift in subscriptions vs 22% forecasted, resulting in the most profitable campaign in the history of The Economist

86%

satisfaction rating among 5,352 new subscribers surveyed between Dec 2020-Jan 2021

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