Four principles that build great engagement with your digital audience


Aug 2020

Arrow Icon

There’s that old idiom, "it’s cheaper to keep a current customer than find a new one," and it’s especially true for subscriptions. One of the keys to keeping these customers is engagement, since people stop paying for things if they don’t find them valuable.

The best thing about online engagement is that it’s measurable.

We can judge customer engagement by measuring whether they habitually check online content, how long they spend reading that content, how much time they spend onsite, whether they take breaks from their subscription, how they consume an article, what device they use and many other data points. This allows us to accurately understand our customer’s user behaviour, predict what personalised content will keep them hooked in the future, and how best to adapt our digital strategy to get the best engagement.

There are four principles to building great engagement with your digital audience:

1. Content is your most valuable asset

Understanding the articles, features, podcasts and other pieces that hook different groups of readers is essential for growing a loyal readership base.

For instance, The Financial Times is a global newspaper that has to hook people from all over the world. To achieve this, the home page adapts according to the user’s country. The stories a London-based professional is likely to engage with are different to the stories a professional in Bangalore would be interested in. Highlighting different content for different users allows the product to draw in different audience segments, from which the FT can track the performance of its content relative to different people.

Newsletters have also become a very popular and important tool to building engagement. In fact - subscribing to a newsletter is the New Yorker’s number one indicator of whether a reader will become a subscriber. Curating the newsletter list to target different interests and audiences is crucial to making sure a publisher’s content is reaching the people it is most likely to engage with, alongside measuring the referral rate and engagement traffic.

2. Start with a strong relationship

First impressions count, and are the best opportunity to prove yourself to your subscribers. If they’re willing to pay and/or register, they probably have a favourable opinion of your product. The trick is to use that opinion to grow their attachment to your news site. 

One way to do this is a solid onboarding experience. An onboarding process that treats the purchase like the start of a relationship performs much better than an onboarding process that simply confirms a purchase. For example, many news sites use a letter from the editor to welcome new subscribers, which is best practice, but Norwegian media company Schibsted takes it a step further by using its user’s preferences to guide the relationship. Subscribers choose their favourite journalist from a selection and are introduced to the product through that journalist’s words and image. This allows the relationship to be formed based on the users’ own attachment to the brand.

3. Collect demographic data

Audience segmentation is no easy task and requires many different data points. Demographic data (such as job title, gender and age) and behavioural data (such as engagement, device, visits by time of day) help understand which audiences are underdeveloped and build target audiences. Data collection at the point of registration and subscription is essential to build up this source of data. Publishers constantly attempt to balance “frictionless” registration with data collection, but the best way to understand what should be included is by understanding which data is most important to growing your audience.

4. Remind your subscribers of your value

It’s easy to “set and forget” once a subscription is bought, but fighting disengagement will help turn wavering subscribers into loyal ones who will stay for longer and withstand price hikes. There may be a variety of reasons why audiences no longer see the value in their subscription, from changing interests to simply forgetting their login details. Sending blanket emails to remind users to check their newsfeed will annoy the users that are logging in every day. It's similar to reintroducing yourself to a colleague you sit next to every day…unnecessary and a bit insulting. Find the subscribers at most risk of cancelling and figure out how to show them your worth.

For instance, Webflow’s re-engagement campaign tells customers how many other users are taking advantage of their services. It validates its worth by showing customers that other people find it valuable and the unengaged user could be missing out. Grammarly targets customers that have stopped using its services with a gaming inspired incentive (a “wrinkle in time” badge) to encourage them to use the site again. And PinkBerry uses deals to regain engagement from disengaged customers. It offers subscribers free yoghurt to remind them of their product’s worth and get them re-engaged.


How can companies use data to grow key commercial metrics?

7 ways to maintain audience engagement during lockdown

Get started

We've helped companies around the world future-proof their businesses - and we can do the same for you.

There's a lot at stake when you're creating a digital revenue stream - so naturally, you want to arm yourself with the best knowledge and expertise to make the correct decisions. Our team bring over 100 years of consulting rigour and world-class FT digital experience, to help you thrive in the new digital economy.

Get started