As a funding partner for over 8000 app businesses, Braavo has seen numerous app growth hacks in practice, and we have the data to support what works. In this month’s Office Hours, Braavo’s Founder in Residence, Alanna Harvey, and app marketing expert, Steve Young of App Masters, explored the top growth hacks for app businesses to experiment with in 2023. From paywall optimization, to conversion benchmarks and dynamic pricing, we discussed it all. Here’s what we found:
1. Show users your paywall
“The more paywall views you get, the more revenue you’ll get, too.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that showing your paywall to more users will have a positive impact on your app’s bottom line. Steve emphasizes that, “Anywhere from 60-80% of your new subscribers will end up buying from that first time user experience. Showing your paywall during that onboarding experience helps.” With the majority of users subscribing during your app’s onboarding, it’s important to make your paywall compelling enough at the beginning of the user’s journey.
Anywhere from 60-80% of your new subscribers will end up buying from that first time user experience.
It’s also worthwhile to find ways to show your paywall to users at regular intervals when they return to the app. Steve points out one example, Headway, which shows a promotional offer on the paywall every time a user returns to the app after their first time. “The number one metric you should be paying attention to is how many times your paywall is viewed. The higher the view count, the higher your revenue.”
2. Optimize your first screen during user onboarding
The very first screen a user sees should remind them what your app does, and you can achieve this with a powerful header and a compelling visual. For example, Blinkist’s onboarding headline for new users is: “Books. Key ideas in 15 min”. Users may not remember what your app does, so reiterating the clear value proposition in your app’s first page can make a positive difference on getting them through that onboarding barrier.
Make sure your value proposition articulates what your users came to your app to do — if there’s one place this should be stated clearly, it’s on that first screen.
3. Explain to users how their trial is going to work
Steve offers another example from Blinkist: their trial paywall. Blinkist’s trial paywall is uniquely designed to show a timeline to users illustrating to them when their trial will end and how the trial experience works. Contrary to a more deceptive practice of hoping users will forget to cancel their trial, Blinkist addresses this head on by stating when the user’s trial will end, and reminding users a few days before. Using this format, Blinkist saw an improvement in new trial conversions, push notification opt-ins, and even an increase in subscription conversions when the trial ended.
In an article written by one of the product designers at Blinkist, she noted why some users appreciated this experience over others. “It makes me feel like you’re not trying to steal my money or be deceptive,” one user said.
4. Understand what your conversions mean for your business priorities
“Your paywall is a marketing problem. But people who convert on your paywall and then cancel their trial, that’s a product problem,” Steve says. When, exactly, is it a problem that should be prioritized, though?
Your paywall is a marketing problem. But people who convert on your paywall and then cancel their trial, that’s a product problem.
Steve states that an app should optimize its trial conversions to be around 5-10%, and its subscription conversions between 30-50%. If your app isn’t falling within these benchmarks, it could be a marketing problem (paywall optimization), a product problem (features, UX and UI), or a combination of both. Find out where your app lies on this spectrum to determine where your development and design priorities should be.
5. Experiment with a longer paywall
If you need to put your energy toward paywall optimization, consider a longer paywall, Steve says. “People will read what they want to read,” and he suggests that providing more information and context to your users (similar to Blinkist’s trial cancellation timeline) will lead to more conversions. To achieve this, Steve recommends opting for a longer paywall, as he’s seen it perform better than a short paywall that doesn’t scroll.
The advantage of a longer paywall is that it offers more opportunities to highlight the benefits, features, and provide social validation for your app. “Make sure your subscription plans remain above the fold. Don’t make me scroll to see the price,” Steve warns. “With a longer paywall, you can include 3-4 benefits, a pricing table with features, and social proof like user reviews.” Given that 60-80% of your subscribers will convert during onboarding, a longer paywall can provide more context as to why they should subscribe before they’ve even seen the rest of your app.
6. Price your app according to the market
“Look at the competition,” Steve recommends. Sometimes, apps priced too low could be perceived as less valuable. Offering a higher price point could give a greater indication that your app is worth the investment. “I think anything below $20 for the year is too low,” Steve says, “but you also have to take your demographic into consideration.”
To figure out your app’s optimal price, look to the market, your competitors, and complementary apps to get a pulse on what prices might be working. Steve also suggests looking at the pricing table on App Store product pages to understand how different price points perform (which Apple even orders by popularity on an app’s product page).
7. Your annual subscription may have the highest LTV
“Monthly plans tend to have the worst LTV,” Steve says, supported by evidence that most monthly subscriptions are kept for only 3-4 months. If your subscription is $10/month, that’s only $30-$40 in Lifetime Value (LTV), whereas a yearly subscription could be worth as much as double that amount. Steve suggests that offering multiple subscription options, like a low, middle, and higher plan will allow users to compare pricing and come to a conclusion on the best deal. He recommends that offering a middle-tier 6-month subscription can help guide users to select the yearly subscription, knowing it’s a better deal.
8. Show a hard paywall
“We increased revenue from nothing to over $10,000 in one month by introducing a hard paywall,” Steve explains, referring to one app he acquired where he turned the business around by introducing a hard paywall. A hard paywall is when an app is free to download and log into, but users are faced with a paywall that prevents them from experiencing the app’s features without subscribing.
We increased revenue from nothing to over $10,000 in one month by introducing a hard paywall.
Using a free 7-day trial with a hard paywall works well, Steve points out, since users would have to opt into the trial if they want to explore the app’s features. “If you’re niche, there’s higher intent, so the hard paywall may work really well for you.” Steve suggests that, in some cases, apps within niche categories may benefit from a hard paywall over those in a broad category with more competitors.
9. Focus on subscribers to improve active user retention
Some developers might shy away from tactics to drive up subscriptions, concerned that free users will churn too quickly and user retention will decline. Steve says that’s not always true. “One of our clients saw an increase in revenue and retention,” when they focused on improving paywall conversions during onboarding, Steve explains. He highlights that users will pay more attention to the apps they’ve purchased, suggesting that focusing on tactics that increase revenue could lead to higher retention as well. “People who pay, pay attention.”
10. Put the paywall before signup
Another strategy that could help improve subscriber conversions is to introduce your onboarding and paywall pages before asking the user to login. It seems like an obvious consideration, given that a portion of users churn before they even login; however, it’s not common practice. If you take this approach, do it in a way that provides users with a compelling UX and UI that they read through your paywall (or take Blinkist’s example from above, with their trial timeline) and you might see an improvement in both subscriber conversions and logins.
11. Offer a free trial
Should apps offer a free trial? Absolutely, says Steve. It converts more effectively (remember: 5-10%), and provides users a window into your app’s premium experience with less commitment. But how many days should you offer your trial? “You can offer anything from three to seven days for new subscribers. I haven’t seen fourteen-day trials offer any added benefit, so seven days tends to be the sweet spot.”
12. Consider dynamic pricing
Another trend Steve suggests developers consider is pricing their subscription based on certain factors, like the time of day, day of the week, or even type of device. “Think about airlines, for example. Depending on the day of the week or time of day, they’re constantly changing prices,” Steve explains. “So let’s say on a certain day of the week you know conversions tend to be lower, try offering a lower price point that day.” Experimenting with different prices according to various factors like these could help you see a boost in conversions.
13. Offer promotions on subscriptions when there’s intent
If a user selects a subscription but doesn’t complete their purchase, that’s a great time to offer a discounted promotion to them. In one example, Steve explains, a user selects a subscription then exits out of it, and the app prompts the user with a winback promotion.
“This app offers a subscription for 70% off the annual subscription, and you only see it after you’ve selected a book to buy, meaning you’ve already shown higher intent to make your purchase.” Steve points out that this is the third most popular subscription for this app, which illustrates how capturing the user’s intent at this moment is a great opportunity to offer a promotion.
14. Use email to re-engage with users
If your app requires users to login, that likely means you’re capturing their email address. “Re-engage with your users by email,” Steve says. He highlights that you can use email to send promotional offers that give users a sense of urgency (for example, a 3-day promotion ending soon), and it’s also a way to reiterate positive information about your app, like user testimonials, reviews, and other forms of social proof.
You can even use email to communicate with your users on a weekly basis, like sending a weekly summary email that shows users their progress in your app, which Steve says the Zero fasting app does very well. Email is a great way to re-engage with your users outside of your app, and also to test which engagement content performs well in other formats.
15. Try using an external checkout page
Another app trend gaining popularity is offering a separate checkout page outside of your app, where users can subscribe (for example, using Stripe). Not only does this save developers from Apple’s 15-30% commission, but you can use an external checkout page through an email marketing campaign or on your user acquisition campaigns. How should you do it? “It could be a simple Typeform or quiz with a Stripe payment at the end, but make sure the backend works out so that the user’s email address is connected to their subscription when they login,” Steve warns. He also highlights that while an external checkout could be tempting, be aware that it may have a negative impact on your App Store ranking if your App Store earnings decline as a result.
Steve P. Young is an app marketing expert and founder of App Masters, an app marketing agency that helps app businesses grow downloads and increase revenue. Steve is also the creator behind the App Masters YouTube channel, where he provides tons of guidance and growth hacks for app businesses to over 25,000 subscribers. Steve’s expertise include App Store Optimization, Apple Search Ads, Google Ads, paywall optimization, and more.