Time in a Bottle: Retention, Rebills and Rejoins

Ayrora Temple
If you ask a salesman what the best product is to sell to make a profit, you might hear many things, ranging from real estate to insurance to just about any big-ticket item you can imagine. And while they might disagree on some of the specifics, one answer that could be frequently heard from the more experienced merchant is "consumables."

Put simply, consumables are items that the purchaser consumes, or "uses up." Examples for our purposes would include everything from food to gasoline, toilet paper to trash bags — any item that by its nature "forces" the consumer to become a repeat customer.

While some might opine that items like automobiles are consumable, I want to focus on smaller-ticket items that require less expense, thought and effort and whose purchases occur much more frequently — like buying a new pair of socks because there's a hole in your old pair.

In this example, for the merchant that satisfactorily provides quality socks conveniently and at competitive prices, using as simplified a purchase and delivery process as possible, a growing base of repeat customers almost is assured. Of course, you can take that last statement and substitute the word "socks" with the name of just about any consumable item, and have the basic recipe for successful sales.

"But what about an adult connection?" you might ask. "Is there an adult item that is consumable, in demand and readily monetized online — besides condoms and lube?"

Absolutely, and it's the most precious commodity in the world: time.

Although many operators lament the declining popularity of paysite subscription sales, for those legitimate operators not into billing games and overly aggressive marketing, it is the recurring membership subscription fees that typically account for the lion's share of the paysite's profits. In other words, it's not the trial membership or first month's sale that makes a site its money; it's the rebills accumulating over time that add punch to the bottom line.

Key to earning these rebills, of course, is the concept of customer satisfaction — and in adult, that can take on a very literal meaning. The main point here is that if the customer doesn't find enough value in your site, he or she will cancel the membership quickly, rather than come back again and again for more — paying all the while for the privilege.

Or so it would seem on the surface.

One of the realities of recurring subscriptions is that customer procrastination more often than not is the real reason for the rebill. For example, a surfer buys a one-week trial membership to a paysite that converts to a monthly recurring membership unless he cancels within the allotted time. Of course, he forgets to cancel, or never understood that he had to cancel and simply thought the trial was self-canceling. Whatever the reason, he's now a regular member — regardless of whether he ever revisits your website. The bill comes in the mail, and he means to call and question the charge. But once again, too much to do and not enough time to do it takes its toll, and he has recurred another month — the bill for that latest transaction sufficiently motivating him to cancel his subscription, roughly two-and-a-half months after first signing up.

Ever hear that number before? It's often quoted as "the average member-retention rate" — and now you know why. And if you can keep members recurring for longer than that average, then you're doing something right.

But even if you do everything right, it still may not be enough.

Increasingly, more experienced, cost-conscious members (especially those who are not overly impressed with the frequency of your site's updates) are opting to cancel their membership after downloading all of your content — and then coming back perhaps months, even years, later to consider rejoining to download all your updates. Someone who really likes your content but not your monthly fees might come back to repeat this process over and over again.

The trick is to make a website that is worth rejoining for the member and profitable enough for you to bother with.

And that's where the focus of all this is going: In days past, it was good enough to build a site that would get a member to join; then it became all about getting him to stay. Now it's about leaving him with such a good impression that he's willing to go through the signup process all over again — and to do so fully knowing what you have to offer.

Attaining that level of desirability will become ever more important as adult consumers' porn purchasing habits continue to evolve, but for companies built on fat recurring fees, there's little choice other than to try to establish a compelling addiction to their content.

This isn't simply about increasing adult paysite subscription sales, either, as these basic principles apply to any time-based transactions, such as video-on-demand and live audio/video chat services — any business model in which time is a consumable quantity.

The bottom line is that for those running paysites, money matters, whether it comes in the form of joins, rebills, rejoins — or yes, even upsells and cross-sales.

The common denominator to all is them being a satisfied customer who believes in your offer and also believes that your product reflects your offer — or in other words, the customer believes that your members area delivers what your tour promises.

Let's work to make that belief a reality.