Our Partnership Manager, Thomas Janssens, recently sat down with Madeleine White, Audience Conversion Specialist from our partner Poool, to discuss how engagement and conversion can be combined to increase ARPU (average revenue per unit) and optimise the publisher’s conversion funnel.

You can watch the replay of their conversation HERE.

Qualifio, the European leaders in interactive marketing and data collection, have been working with major European publishers and media companies for the past decade, helping them to monetise their audiences thanks to data collection and engagement.

Poool are audience conversion specialists, who offer simple and dynamic paywall solutions that are integrated into their users’ websites and allow them to test marketing strategies and develop close relationships with their readers.

Optimising the publisher’s conversion funnel

conversion funnel
During their conversation, Thomas and Madeleine discussed how one of the main objectives for digital publishers in today’s market is to optimise their conversion funnel, by attracting new audiences and moving these users down the funnel so that they become paying and profitable subscribers.

Digital publishers have a tricky balance to strike between engagement and frustration when moving users down their conversion funnel: cause too much frustration by blocking content with a wall and your users will leave and find content elsewhere; but leave too much content open and you won’t manage to monetise your content.

Qualifio and Poool are complementary tools that can be combined to ease this process and reduce the frustration to a maximum.

Attract audiences and collect compliant consent

Having quality content on your website is already a great first step in attracting visitors, but adding interactive formats will encourage these visitors to stay for longer and to interact with you (i.e. share their data), will reduce bounce rates and will increase the chance of them returning on a frequent basis.

ngroup traffic boomLet’s take the example of our customer NGroup, a French-speaking group of Belgian radio stations, who rolled out interactive formats across their platforms at the start of the Covid crisis and saw an exceptional boom in traffic. They launched a series of quizzes around the Harry Potter saga being broadcast during lockdown, and these formats attracted over 670.000 participants. A significant number when you consider the overall population of the French-speaking Belgian region is only 3.6 million!

Once you’ve attracted an audience to your website, the next step is to collect compliant consent from them, through a CMP. This is vital in order to be able to monetise your users, as well as analyse data and track your marketing campaigns.

Cookie consent rates have been falling recently, due to tightening regulations across Europe. These data protection laws are brilliant for user privacy online but not so great for publishers who can’t monetise their content because users are increasingly declining cookies. Cookies are also due to be phased out in the coming months (download our ebook here to find out more!), so having in place a comprehensive data collection strategy that focuses on acquiring first- and zero-party data is going to be essential.

Qualify and segment to increase audience engagement

At this stage in the conversion funnel, users may have given you their consent, but they’re still unknown, so the next step is to start qualifying these audiences and building audience segments.

vocento electionsThe editorial team at Spanish media group Vocento (check out their success story here) have been using Qualifio’s data collection platform by adding interactive formats into their articles. They published a series of quizzes across their articles about the Spanish election campaign for example. These formats not only increased engagement but also provided them with valuable information about the user: their first question was about their opinion on the elections, and their subsequent questions were about age and gender, thus collecting invaluable data points to further inform the publisher’s strategy.

A great example of balancing engagement with getting value in return. The data collected can then be added to a DMP, in order to enrich audience segmentation and increase advertising revenue through retargeting.

Soft conversion strategies can also be implemented at this stage, such as newsletter walls, to further increase engagement. These walls block content and ask the user to sign up to a newsletter in order to continue reading. This strategy will mean that your readers form a regular content consumption habit. It also allows for email data collection that can be used in marketing campaigns, such as lead generation for sales teams. And it educates your audience on the concept of value exchange.

Content is far from free to produce, but the move from paper to digital has outdated the idea of paying for content, when it should actually be normal. Just as consumers will willingly pay for a newspaper or magazine, they should give value in exchange for digital content.

De-anonymise your audience

You now have a pool of engaged users that you know a bit more about, but they’re still anonymous. So the next step in the conversion funnel is to convert them into members, and this is a hugely valuable step for both your subscription and advertising business model.

A registration wall can be added to your content in order to successfully convert as many of your users as possible into members by blocking access and asking users to create an account on your website in order to continue reading.

By using a registration wall you’ll be increasing your ad revenue, as you’ll now be able to target your adverts and increase engagement by personalising the user experience. And most importantly, by passing through this wall, you’ll be creating a customer reader ID for your users and gradually collecting their first- and zero-party data over time as they interact with your website and content. You’ll be able to find out about their interests and where they’re finding value in your content, in order for you to put this to use later on when presenting them with a paywall at the right time and with the right content.

vocento ssoVocento uses Qualifio’s account creation forms before their interactive content, with users needing to create an account or log into their account before participating. 50% of their SSO account creations currently comes from their interactive formats – proving once again that it’s all about establishing a value exchange with your audience.

Convert your users into subscribers

By now, you’ve put your engagement skills to good use and your readers are now registered and logged in to your website. So now what?

At this stage of the conversion funnel they’re much more likely to subscribe, as you can see on this graph, showing the enormous jump in conversion rates from members compared to anonymous visitors.

conversion funnel

Now is the time to establish a recurring and predictable revenue stream by converting these users into paying subscribers. A subscriber has the same ARPU value as 20 members or 300 anonymous users, so this is the most sustainable business model for digital publishers.

conversion funnelIn order to achieve this, a paywall can be added to the engaged member’s journey, blocking content and asking them to subscribe to gain access. But you can’t just place a paywall on your website, leave it there and expect it to magically convert your members into subscribers! It will require continuous work to optimise it.

A great example of this is Elle, who are continuously changing the design, to match the season, the sales period, the holidays, … This technique has proven to reignite conversion rates and reduce habituation settling in.

Interactive content can also prove very effective at this stage in increasing conversion rates, especially when the formats are personalised to the user’s profile, as demonstrated by Bonnier.

bonnier subscribers

Upsell and monetise to retain your subscribers in the conversion funnel

Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of the conversion funnel! At this stage it’s crucial to remember that the funnel doesn’t end here, it’s much more valuable and less expensive to retain an existing subscriber than it is to acquire a new one, so engagement should be kept up long after conversion to ensure your subscribers will keep coming back.

elle newsletter wallAt Qualifio there have been many examples of this, with brands and media groups monetising their interactive content as a driver for advertising revenues, offering advertising space on their formats to their sponsors and commercial partners.

This campaign in Elle magazine is a great example: they used a personality test for users to discover their perfect holiday, in collaboration with Pierre & Vacances who provided their readers with discount codes and promotions based on their results. Not only did this strategy mean that Elle saw an increase in page views and ad impressions, they also collected data and newsletter opt-ins for themselves and for their sponsor.

Conclusion: the never-ending conversion funnel

Once you’ve implemented all of these strategies by combining engagement and conversion strategies, it’s important to remember that the conversion funnel doesn’t end here and that engagement shouldn’t be forgotten once you’ve converted your audience to monetised subscribers.

The engagement loop is never-ending and should be maintained at all levels to keep your audience engaged and make sure they’re still returning to your content and sharing their data with you much further down the line. A great way of doing this is with loyalty programs.

Qualifio Loyalty is Qualifio’s brand new platform that allows you to set up creative and innovative loyalty programs that are based on interactivity and engagement, rather than only on purchases, allowing you to reward your audience for all the interactions they have with you.

Qualifio Loyalty gives full autonomy back to publishers and allows them to start small with their loyalty plans, getting their program(s) online quickly. They’ll be able to plug their Qualifio Engage campaigns into their program with no complicated development needed, and then build up their programs from there. The flexibility of the platform allows them to add components, rules and modules as their audience grows and evolves. And as with Qualifio Engage, Qualifio Loyalty integrates with any marketing tools that our customers are currently working with. Find out how it works!