If you want more paying subscribers, invest in identity

By Steven Rees-Pullman, GM EMEA, Auth0 & Tomi Ruotimo, CEO, Houston Inc.

Almost every industry has been touched by digitisation but perhaps none so much as media and entertainment. Thanks to technology (and a lot of human effort and planning), it has transformed from a network of products to a network of services. Media and entertainment customers now enjoy media and entertainment wherever they are. CDs, DVDs and newspapers are all out and replaced by mobile apps, streaming subscriptions, and connected devices. News, music, games and video are at users’ fingertips, wherever they are, whenever they want them.

Steven Rees-Pullman
Steven Rees-Pullman

But that same convenience has also created the dreaded login box.

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Now, media companies must provide a frictionless login experience in addition to creating content and delivering increasingly personalised experiences. Growing an audience means not only winning new customers but hanging onto them for the long-term. It requires meeting (and exceeding) customer expectations — often by marketing to them on a one-to-one basis. And all of this has to take place while minimising data breach risks that might compromise sensitive user information.

Look to the Nordics for inspiration

One key feature of the new media models is a large user base with a lot of free users versus paying subscribers. Some markets, however, are doing better than others. The Nordics, in particular, stand out: the European Commission ranks Denmark, Sweden, and Finland as the EU’s most advanced digital economies, with the highest levels of digitisation.

Auth0 and Houston have worked with several companies in the region, including Finnish media giant Alma Media, who they helped achieved 30 percent total savings by providing seamless access across their brands. The key for Nordic companies is understanding the need for a clear roadmap toward turning their free users into paying subscribers. How do they do it? The answer is always: with a good user experience

The UX Gateway

The login box is a user’s gateway to a brand. It’s where they start directly interacting and sets the baseline for all further interactions. Making it as easy as possible for people to sign in is the first step toward conversion to a paying subscriber: Get this wrong and you can lose them at the first hurdle. In the case of multi-brand media companies, users should also be able to securely switch between brands or services without having to sign in a second time.

From a technical point of view, merging customer information from different brands and login types into one customer profile is typically the biggest challenge and will require verified emails. Then, on the front-end, the focus should be reducing friction for the user. Implementing Single Sign-On (SSO) across brands and features like social login can simplify registrations and logins for end users.

Learning through login

Identity is a great tool for learning about your users, while also complying with data privacy regulation. The key is first-party data, collected directly from the user, with their consent. This doesn’t mean asking for a user’s life story right away. Customers are turned off by a long sign up form: 86 percent of users will quit at registration if the form is too long while reducing form fields from 11 to four increases conversion rates by 120 percent.

Tomi Ruotimo
Tomi Ruotimo

A more user-friendly and effective approach is “Progressive Profiling” which allows media companies to collect information over multiple interactions. The first time a user signs in, you might just ask for their name and email but you could ask for their location the second to improve the experience, and so on. Ultimately, a more complete user profile is created, allowing for a more personalised experience without pushing users away.

Make the data work for you

To make the most of this data, identity solutions should be integrated with marketing or analytics platforms, so they can deliver personalised experiences.

Media companies can also use identity data to identify frequent users, and offer them a premium experience or simply message them in a different way. In a similar way, media companies that appeal to a wide demographic can tailor their experiences for different audiences, and make sure they’re collecting the appropriate data for each age group. People will want to use your service more if you provide the right content. Netflix and Amazon do this well.

Look at your business needs, and ask: should I build my own identity platform, or invest in a ready-made product? There is always an opportunity cost to committing your own resources to identity management. If you choose to buy, find a partner who understands your business and processes, and can validate the right approach to the service, both at the technical level and in the user experience.

The bottom line: if turning free users into subscribers, and monetising interactions with those subscribers is the goal, then identity is step one.