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5 Surefire Ways to Grow Your Subscription-Based Mobile App

By Nat Robinson | November 2, 2015
Nat Robinson was formerly Head of Marketing and Growth at MileIQ in San Francisco. His focus is on driving subscriptions of MileIQ’s mileage tracking mobile app by educating users on earning more valuable reimbursements. Learn more about Mobile Hero Nat. We’re all familiar with the idea of paying a recurring monthly fee for some kind of service in our lives. The concept has been around as long as most of us can remember. Each month we happily pay for things like cable, an Internet connection, and electricity. All of these make sense because we enjoy the benefits of each service – entertainment, access to the web, lights, air conditioning, etc. – and at some point get so used to them that we can’t live without them. Mobile subscription-based app (SaaS) providers aspire to achieve this same level of embeddedness within their users lives, but it’s not always easy to cross over from nice-to-have to must-have in the minds of your customers. Nice-to-haves are downloaded and often never used again, must-haves are used daily or weekly and provide value each time. Want to make sure your subscription app is a must? Follow these five rules to ensure your customers keep their subscription going. #1 Make it easy The service you’re providing should be “orders of magnitude” easier for the user to produce results with than what they were doing prior to downloading your app. For MileIQ, we automate the detection, logging, and calculating of deductible or reimbursable business miles. This saves users a minimum of 4 hours a month in manually logging their miles and provides accurate record keeping. Prior to MileIQ, many users were manually logging miles or guesstimating their annual mileage deduction based on the current IRS mileage rate and losing an average of $6,500 per year, with some losing much more. #2 Take it from zero to one When users download your app they’re undoubtedly thinking you do something better than what they have already. Ideally, you’re not replicating what they already have in a digital format, but advancing their ability to do something they can’t do without your app. MileIQ automatically logs a user’s drives and presents them in cards that show the drive details. All users need to do is classify their drive by swiping each card to classify – left for personal, right for business. This is an action that users love to do. Not only do they see all their drives, but they delight in seeing their miles turn into money when they swipe right. Many users tell us it actually makes mileage deductions fun. Imagine that! #3 A recurring subscription necessitates recurring value If you’re fortunate enough to build a mobile subscription-based app that fits into a user’s view of must-have and they’ve decided to pay you a recurring fee for your service, you’re on the right track but you can’t stop there. You need to provide recurring value for your recurring fee. At MileIQ we provide this value in a number of ways:
  • Weekly and Monthly reports that show the user the value of their drives.
  • Frequent product releases with features that make the users experience better and more tailored to their needs. This always results in high user engagement.
  • Commitment to design that makes the app intuitive, helping the user quickly achieve their goals.
  • Free support with a two hour response window is the bar for service at MileIQ. If something is wrong with the user’s experience, we want to fix it quickly.
Whatever you provide, make sure your users understand the value of your service and are reminded of this as often as possible. #4 Go beyond You’ve contracted with your user to provide a valuable service, but why stop there? Delight users with unexpected value and they’ll not only thank you, they’ll tell their friends. Some of the ways we do this at MileIQ are:
  • Running quietly in the background on a user’s smartphone and working away without demanding attention from them. New users are pleasantly surprised when they find that MileIQ has been remembering to log their drives and preserving their value, even when they forget.
  • Providing free blog posts and e-books that help users learn more about mileage tracking and tax deductions.
  • A secret menu of delight when users achieve hidden levels or actions within the app (think In-N-Out secret menu but for miles, drives etc.).
Your users will also find ways to delight you by discovering ways to use your app that you never anticipated. For MileIQ, it’s things like “remembering where my car is parked” or “proving I was there and getting paid as a result.” #5 Listen & Interpret For anything-as-a-service, it makes sense to listen to customer feedback and there’s nothing better than being able to start your latest customer communication with, “You asked and we listened…” That’s not to say the customer is always right, but sometimes they are. The trick is interpreting what they’re asking for and turning it into something they actually use. The last time we did this at MileIQ was with Auto-Resume. Users wanted to pause drive tracking at will, a reasonable request, but it caused them to miss important drives when they forgot to un-pause. In anticipation of this, we created Auto-Resume that lets users pause drive tracking but set it to Auto-Resume at a date and time of their choosing. Showing customers that you’re listening is important, but giving them exactly what they ask for isn’t always the best solution. Getting new users “over the hump” of paying for a mobile subscription-based app can certainly be a challenge, but with timely engagement, well-communicated benefits, and an above and beyond approach to customer success, that “hump” is easily surmountable.