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Building a subscriptions business: how to empower your organisation with data

Identify who your subscribers are

To grow your digital subscriptions capabilities, you need to identify who your customers are and develop strong customer-centric data capabilities. This is particularly true for publishing businesses where potential subscribers are a very small subset of the total audience, so these need to be identified, tracked and analysed across different platforms and devices.

Breaking data silos to unlock your true subscriptions potential

A comprehensive and segmented view of readers is critical to identifying and activating key triggers across the subscriptions lifecycle (Grow, Engage, Convert, Retain). But left with a mix of legacy, in-house and third-party systems, many companies struggle to build an efficient architecture where data is centralised and easily accessible. Data silos often stand in the way of a unified view of users, and as a consequence disrupt the development of advanced engagement and conversion techniques

The good news is that tools in the field of customer data management and analytics have become much more accessible over the last few years. Integration with legacy systems and other platforms, however, remains a challenge. How can you build your path to subscriber-centric data capabilities without finding yourself stuck in the middle of years long architecture projects with uncertain ROI?

4 practical steps to embed data in your organisation

We too often see companies whose progress is hindered by colossal data projects that paralyse the entire organisation.

We believe organisations that want to thrive at subscriptions should take an agile and iterative path when building their data capabilities. The key is to focus on building capabilities instead of systems, and bring value to the organisation from the very beginning:

  1. Start small, leveraging off-the-shelf tools whenever possible. Start breaking data silos by building a central repository including important behavioural data and basic modelling capabilities. You need to identify which data has the most value at the various stages of the subscriptions lifecycle. Be hypothesis-driven and don’t be afraid to make hard choices!
  2. Gather insights from the very beginning that bring tangible value to the business and demonstrate the power of data. Who are your potential subscribers? What do they value? What behaviour correlates with conversion? Retention? Answer the business's most critical questions, including ones that no one asked. Resistance to data will be high in some parts of the organisation and the only way to overcome them is bringing practical and actionable insights.
  3. Use those insights to inform your next steps and create a data roadmap. Based on the value they can bring to your business, you should be able to identify what the most critical data is to include, and what the most important platforms are to connect to your central data lake.
  4. Democratise data: Once those core capabilities have solidified, build or acquire the tools that will help embed the power of data in your organisation. Work with teams to understand their key challenges and develop with them practical solutions that fit into their workflows

Remember, don't treat this as a linear process!

A data platform is key, and a good place to start, but if you want to keep your organisation moving and your data capabilities growing, be hypothesis-driven and focus on value to iterate and grow.

About the author

Lou Gautier is a Senior Consultant at FT Strategies. Before joining the FT, Lou was a Manager at Bain and Company for eight years, and Managing Director of websites product lines at Solocal. A woman of many talents, she also has a Masters in industrial engineering and operational research at the University of California.

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