Guest post by Victoria Greene, e-commerce brand marketing consultant and freelance writer. Edited by Nichole.
Subscription-based businesses have to stay relevant, continually deliver value, and basically – give their customers every reason to stay. It’s a tall order. And yet, SaaS companies like Spotify, Adobe, Akamai and Shopify nail it.
I took a deep dive into the key features, benefits and strategies that make these tools so great – ideas any founders can apply to strengthen their startups.
Freemium models aren’t for everyone – in fact, many experts advise against them. But when your product is effective and addictive, Freemium can really work. Especially if the free version includes a ‘success gap’ that can be overcome by spending a reasonable amount.
Spotify does exactly that. It’s effective at delivering what music lovers wish for – an enormous variety of music from every country and every era, and the ability to curate custom playlists. But when you’re using Spotify to set the mood for your dinner party, meditation session, or to get in the zone for concentrated work – ad interruptions are painful.
(BuzzFeed published an aptly titled article: 18 Reasons Spotify Ads Are Worse than Dying a Horrifying, Painful Death)
When you introduce a bit of pain that can be easily removed (with the swipe of a credit card) to enjoy nothing but the perks? Freemium models work very, very well.
But a big part of Spotify’s success is that addictive quality – which doesn’t happen by accident. The company records, analyzes and uses a tremendous amount of user data to generate suggested tracks, create mood-themed playlists, and create new platform features. Take heed of their example and look for ways you can respond to your user’s onsite signals.
- Try a freemium model if your product is effective and addictive, with a subtle element of easily removable pain.
- Mine user data for potential new add-ons and service features your users will love and that will set you apart from the competition.
Adobe products, like Photoshop, used to come in a box, and once you bought that version, you owned it forever. Well, that model stopped panning out (too many pirated copies?), and they went subscription-based. After they’d already established themselves as an industry ‘must-have’ tool.
What makes Adobe Creative Cloud a ‘must-have’? Not just the fact that so many people grew up using it, but also because the file types are widely accepted. And, with the subscription model, every update adds strength and functionality, which calms some of the irritation from those who’d rather buy once and own by constantly adding value. They make those monthly fees count.
Now anyone, regardless of whether they use a Mac or PC, can access the latest digital design tools for one price. You can even save your design presets across multiple devices, allowing you to jump right in from wherever you are.
The key takeaway from the Adobe model is its usability across a range of devices, without compromising on performance. Take steps to level the playing field in the same way if you want to become a household name.
- Syncing is important — if you become the industry standard, you’ve nailed it. And becoming the industry standard isn’t necessarily about your branding, UI, or UX — it could be down to things like compatibility with other devices and file types.
- Abode strongly pushes creative partnerships, showing support of their artists and creators. Make sure your marketing inspires and engages your target market.
Akamai (Hawaiian for clever) has been a stalwart in the tech industry since its conception (despite the death of one of its founders on 9/11). One-third of the world’s top 500 companies use Akamai systems to protect and distribute their data, but content distribution networks like Akamai also give small business startups access to the world stage, providing customers in different continents with super speedy, responsive sites.
For example, at the 2008 Olympic games, Akamai brought high-quality live streaming of all events to 225 networks worldwide. And for Airbnb, Akamai helps users feel at home with personalized language and location-based content.
- Focus on developing early partnerships with brands, as they could become super valuable referrals in the long run. Landmark customers and partnerships such as BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Nintendo, Airbnb (and even Adobe) give Akamai prestige.
- Akamai has been slowly expanding their offerings as their market matured. They are known for their quality and security — sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
In comparison to other shopping cart services, Shopify offers high levels of customer support, and Shopify has been largely successful at creating a community around its SaaS product.
Its extensive range of apps allow users to set up automated marketing, inventory management, and recordkeeping tools. This makes the process of creating an online store seem almost fully automated — and they put a lot of money and effort into serving the ecommerce entrepreneurs of the world. A vibrant user community like the one Shopify enjoys helps solidify ties between the brand and its users.
Shopify has also harnessed the latest tech to expand their product offering. Kit, Shopify’s AI marketing coach, offers customer-success oriented advice on topics like composing Facebook posts and effective email marketing.
- The critical takeaway from Shopify is that customer service matters if you want to stand out. You can attribute more value to your product by merely letting people in on the ‘tips and tricks’ of the trade. Good customer support is also a great way to build a thriving community of users who are in it for the long haul
- Be on the lookout for ways to expand your product offering by filling in customer success gaps. What do customers need to know to be successful with your product?
As well as looking inwards at your own processes and brand, opening up your eyes to the wider SaaS world is a wise move. Keep an eye out for emerging brands as well as household names in order to give yourself the best possible chance of success.