On the 5th episode of The Subscription League, Olivier Destrebecq and Nicolas Tissier sit down with Eveline Moczko, Head of Product Management at Blinkist, an app offering 15-minute explainers of the most memorable insights from non-fiction books and podcasts. Eveline is passionate about A/B testing and has driven innovation at Blinkist to increase mobile app subscription and retention.
The episode covers many aspects of working on a subscription app including the impact of different onboarding approaches and trial periods, and how to cope with subscription anxiety. Eveline also talks about how the brand combined big bets and extensive A/B testing to optimize the subscription flow and launch a new content type.
Eveline explains how being transparent by sending a reminder of a forthcoming charge to users on a free trial can actually increase conversion. She also talks about increasing app engagement, which she describes as the biggest challenge of working with a subscription-model app.
Please listen, subscribe, share, and leave a glowing review!
For noteworthy quotes and key takeaways from the episode, read the article - Using transparency to increase your conversion rate with Eveline Moczko.
Episode Topics at a Glance
- Love for A/B testing and its limitations
- Examples of A/B testings and big bets
- Simplifying onboarding process
- How to cope with subscription anxiety
- Hard paywall vs soft paywall
- How to achieve long-term habits with users
More about Eveline Moczko
Currently Head of Product Management at Blinkist, the leading destination for lifelong learners, Eveline has been responsible for maximizing conversion and optimizing subscription funnels, playing a key role in growing the app’s user base to 20 million. Prior to joining Blinkist, Eveline launched and managed products in the e-commerce and food delivery space. She’s now dedicated to bringing to life the big vision of inspiring people to keep learning.
Eveline Moczko’s Links
- Eveline on LinkedIn
- Blinkist signup: Enter promo code “subscriptionleague” for a free 3-month subscription to Blinkist! This promo code can be only redeemed on this web page https://www.blinkist.com/nc/friends
[00:00 Welcome to the Subscription League
[00:22] Eveline Moczko & Blinkist Background
[01:18] Love for A/B Testing and Limitations
[02:13] How do you measure success without A/B testing?
[03:48] Examples of Proxy Metrics
[04:32] The Impact of A/B Testing & Bigger Bets
[06:41] Things to Avoid with Subscription Flows
[08:37] Impact of Removing the Hard Sign Up
[09:36] How do you adapt the subscription flow to each market today?
[11:55] Addressing Subscription Fear from Users
[14:15] How do you achieve long-time habits with users?
[16:20] How have your personas translated into Blinkist?
[17:58] Which motivation does Tim Cook fall into?
[18:12] The Impact of Apple Features of Blinkist
[19:03] Where to Learn More About Blinkist
[19:38] Thank You for Listening
[00:00:00.970] - Olivier Destrebecq
Welcome to the Subscription League, the podcast by Purchasely. Listen to what's working in subscription apps. In each episode, we invite leaders of the app industry who are mastering the subscription model for mobile apps. To learn more about subscriptions, head to subscriptionleague.com. Let's get started.
[00:00:22.530] - Olivier Destrebecq
Welcome, everybody. I'm super excited because today we have Eveline Moczko with us. She's been at Blinkist for about five years, maybe six now, actually, we'll have to ask her.
[00:00:31.530] - Eveline Moczko Six already.
[00:00:32.270] - Olivier Destrebecq
Six already? Awesome. She's been the first product manager over there, and she's mostly worked on conversion and growth, which is exactly the topic that interests us. Eveline, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe about Blinkist, too?
[00:00:45.020] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah. I've been at Blinkist now for six years in product management, overall for almost 10 years now, which is unbelievable to me. Yeah. I live in Berlin. I love karaoke. I love table foosball, which is, I think a given when you work in a Berlin startup.
[00:01:00.130] - Eveline Moczko
Blinkist is the number one destination for lifelong learners. Our core product, I would say, is what we call our Blinks. They're basically short form summaries of nonfiction books. We also have a second content line now, which we call Shortcasts, which is summaries of podcasts.
[00:01:17.910] - Olivier Destrebecq
Nice. One thing you didn't mention but that I picked in your LinkedIn bio is in there, you say that you're passionate about data and weirdly in love with A/B testing. Can you tell us more about why you love A/B testing so much, and what limitation do you see to A/B testing, if any?
[00:01:32.720] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah, I always get asked about this. I think it's maybe a bit weird phrasing, but yeah, I just love A/B testing because it really helped us and enabled us to really crack basically the conversion problem for us. I think it's a great tool to optimize funnels, to optimize flows. Yeah, it just really shows you exactly what works, so you don't get more real life in terms of testing than an A/B test.
[00:01:54.050] - Eveline Moczko
But, yeah, you already alluded to it. There are definitely limitations to A/B testing, I think. What I always say is A/B testing is great for optimizing, but never for really big bets for big innovation. Those big jumps that really lead you towards your big vision will never be able to A/B test.
[00:02:13.830] - Olivier Destrebecq
Interesting. It gets you to a local maximum and then you have to make a bigger bet to keep moving. On those bigger bets, what do you do? How do you measure success since you can't A/B testing? How have you approached it?
[00:02:25.060] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah, it's a very tricky question. What you do when you go away from A/B testing is you flip the script. When you A/B test, you basically go where your users go and the product follows. But if you want to go with these big bets, it is the opposite. Whatever you implement is supposed to influence the behavior of your users. Of course, that's really hard to measure.
[00:02:46.610] - Eveline Moczko
What I definitely recommend to every company is to have a North Star metric that really the whole
company is working towards. It usually should be an engagement-related metric in subscription businesses, even more so. That metric should basically lead the way. But of course, oftentimes with these metrics, they can be very lagging.
[00:03:05.260] - Eveline Moczko
I can give an example from Blinkist. Our North Star metric currently is what we call power customers. You count as a power customer if you have four content interactions within a month.
[00:03:14.920] - Eveline Moczko
It kind of translates into a weekly habit, but if you only have four interactions in one week, then you will also count as a power customer because we believe that it's just you have to get into this habit. If it's like a monthly or weekly habit, it doesn't really matter. Four connections definitely gives you enough value.
[00:03:30.520] - Eveline Moczko
Now, of course, if you think about it, four interactions per month, that's super lagging. If you want to test something, you cannot wait months to see if that was actually influenced. For that, definitely I would say you have to find those leading metrics which correlate with your North Star metric. We call them proxy metrics here at Blinkist.
[00:03:48.900] - Olivier Destrebecq
Okay. What are example of proxy metrics that you guys use?
[00:03:52.490] - Eveline Moczko
One, for example, is because I already mentioned it translates to a weekly habit. That is a very obvious proxy metric as a stand in, especially in the beginning of the subscription. We have a seven-day trial in the beginning, so for us, it's almost a given that somebody will have a content interaction in their trial. But then the proxy metric we use to actually predict if the user become a power customers is do they come back after the trial, in the week after the seven days?
[00:04:18.370] - Olivier Destrebecq Interesting.
[00:04:19.300] - Eveline Moczko
That's just super quick to measure. Within two weeks, you can basically conclude an A/B test.
[00:04:25.290] - Olivier Destrebecq
As you said, during the trial, there's very high chances that they will try the contents. But do they come back?
[00:04:31.660] - Eveline Moczko Exactly.
[00:04:33.140] - Olivier Destrebecq
You've talked about how you love the A/B testing, and there's the need for bigger bets and metrics to measure those bigger bets. I'm curious, the combination of A/B testing and bigger bets, how has that impacted the Blinkist subscription flow?
[00:04:46.830] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah, quite a lot. I think one really big bet that we tried in the subscription floor was the seven-day trial. Before that, you just came into Blinkist. You just had three days free without actually having to give a credit card or anything. Then you needed a prompt to actually subscribe after those three days.
[00:05:05.330] - Eveline Moczko
I think it was in 2017 when we started really testing all of these different sign up flows, and we tested a lot, also really big bets. We started out with actually a hard paywall, so you really couldn't enter the app without giving us your credit card and starting a seven-day trial. Yeah, that's also a
recommendation. I think you always start with your riskiest bets first. One of our founders once called this disaster-driven development. It was really quite funny.
[00:05:30.650] - Eveline Moczko
We actually did A/B test this big bet. But of course, you will have to adjust your metrics. For example, before our metric was day 3 purchase rate. Once you have a seven-day trial, that doesn't make sense anymore. It's really hard to compare in the end, which is what makes it a big bet. There is no real comparison when it comes to that.
[00:05:49.170] - Eveline Moczko
That was definitely one of the bigger bets. But once we landed on this flow, which has, we call it soft paywall. You can enter the app, take a look around, but then you will have to start a seven-day free trial. Once we saw, yeah, this is really big, then we started optimizing through more A/B testing. Shortened the funnel, we changed our messaging, we changed where we actually show the paywall. In the end, it's a really successful flow that we actually still have in the app.
[00:06:14.350] - Eveline Moczko
But then there's also other big bets that you really cannot A/B test. For example, I mentioned in the introduction that we also have Shortcasts, which is short form podcasts. That was a really big bet. How do you A/B test that? It's a completely new content format, of course. It's like a vision that we've built towards and it's even hard to really A/B test our way to this vision because in the end you need a certain amount of content in the app too. You have to just believe in that vision and work towards it.
[00:06:40.160] - Olivier Destrebecq
Yeah, that's great. Are there learnings that you can share with us on your subscription flows, like things to avoid, maybe?
[00:06:46.850] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah, things to avoid. One thing that I would definitely avoid is to believe that once you tested something, it becomes the truth forever. This was a really big learning for us. One example, I already mentioned, it was the seven-day trial. When we tested it, we of course tested it basically globally.
[00:07:02.260] - Eveline Moczko
But even though it was kind of a success in Germany, our German users weren't really accepting of it. We got a lot of negative feedback. People thought that this trial is like a trap, that we want to scam them. We rolled it out in the whole world except for Germany. But then times change. Your audiences change, circumstances change.
[00:07:23.330] - Eveline Moczko
After two years, Netflix and Spotify really gained huge adoption in Germany. These subscription models just gained more acceptance in Germany. Two years later we tested it again, and yeah, it turns out after that it was a huge success. Now we finally have our subscription flow consistently over the whole world again.
[00:07:40.860] - Olivier Destrebecq
It probably makes your life a lot easier now.
[00:07:42.300] - Eveline Moczko
Oh, yeah, Jesus Christ. Always having this Germany, in Germany we say [inaudible 00:07:46]. That was definitely a pain. Another example I can give was our onboarding. This was also something that we tried to crack for years. We always want to have an onboarding where we ask users their interest, their intent and then personalized experience based on that just to give also a very more personalized trial experience.
[00:08:05.750] - Eveline Moczko
But for some reason, it always hurt our conversion rates when we introduced an onboarding like this. But then after, I think, two years of experimenting here and there, of course, with breaks in between,
we decided to remove our sign up step. Before, to enter the app, you really had to create an account. We removed that and suddenly creating onboarding worked.
[00:08:23.020] - Eveline Moczko
It wasn't just enabling us to personalize the experience, but it actually also helped with conversion rates because we had this space to really convey our value propositions to the users before they even see the subscription screen. That was another great example that things change.
[00:08:37.360] - Olivier Destrebecq
Interesting. Having a hard sign up or having a soft sign up that happens later is a debate that we've talked about with a few guests, actually. I'm curious that removing that hard sign up, did it change the longer term metrics that you might have, or did it only improve the metrics that you guys were measuring?
[00:08:55.560] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah. Of course, you will have to think about the trade-off that you are taking. If you get emails early on from users, you always have possibilities to reach them via email, maybe to upsells later. Also, it helps with the engagement.
[00:09:08.230] - Eveline Moczko
In the end, once we removed it and we saw the numbers that we get from users, I did like a calculation. What happens if we cannot get any lagging conversions through emails anymore? That included Black Friday and everything, and it was still a success in the end. It was still like more money in the bank than without it. Yeah, it was actually a huge success even in that direction.
[00:09:29.920] - Olivier Destrebecq Interesting.
[00:09:30.430] - Eveline Moczko
But again, things change. So who knows?
[00:09:32.320] - Olivier Destrebecq
Yeah, and it's different per market and per segment and all that good stuff. You alluded earlier that Blinkist is present in multiple markets, and initially, in Germany, at least, you weren't doing the trial subscription part. Now that everybody has the same subscription model, how do you adapt the subscription flow and maybe even the subscription offering to each market today?
[00:09:53.710] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah, so we basically have two major localisations that we do. One is language. In the app, we actually have German and English as languages. Only if you are like in a German speaking country, you will get basically the German content. This is the number one for localisation. But of course, for Germany, that doesn't just mean we translate American authors and American books, call it a day.
[00:10:17.060] - Eveline Moczko
We also have German authors and the German books. We have German podcasts. For us, the localisation in Germany, means so much more than just translating. I think this is also the key to our success in Germany. Germany is like in terms of engagement, for sure, our most successful market.
[00:10:33.910] - Eveline Moczko
But then, of course, there's the other part, which is the pricing. We did price test, I think, in 2018, which really helped us find the correct price point for each market, which really is super important. But we also saw that pricing is definitely a necessary condition to force success in the market, but it's not sufficient. We saw that we can make like small bumps, especially the emerging markets, through price, but it's not all.
[00:10:57.880] - Eveline Moczko
If I think about, for example, Brazil, it's like a huge market but I think without Portuguese as a
language, I don't think that we will be able to really crack it. Thinking about India, there's like this really thriving nonfiction book scene, especially in the business book market.
[00:11:12.710] - Eveline Moczko
We have a lot of career optimizers that use our app. Without actually integrating these Indian authors into our catalog, I also don't think we'll really crack the Indian market, not even just that.
[00:11:25.750] - Eveline Moczko
It's also just think about what kind of phones users have. The Internet is really notorious for deleting an app after just a few taps. You have way less time to actually convince users.
[00:11:37.800] - Eveline Moczko
The reason for that is they have devices that have very little storage space. They're not convinced by an app. It doesn't linger around. They really delete the app immediately. Of course, that also means you have to think about the storage that your app would actually take up on this device, to make it even more enticing to download.
[00:11:54.330] - Olivier Destrebecq
Interesting. To get back on the subscription front, when I get a subscription, I know I usually take my phone out and go to Reminders app and add a reminder to cancel or check the subscription before the trial ends. I have to start paying, so I can review and redecide, whether I really care about that. Can you talk a little bit about subscription fear from some users and what you guys do about, what I do?
[00:12:17.980] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah, it's one of my favorite topics. This has really been a topic for us for years. We always try to keep a backlog of the user problems we want to crack and we get them snappy titles. This was always called Trial Anxiety. We saw the exact same behavior, users that do start the trial, cancel on the very first day, just a few minutes actually, after subscribing.
[00:12:38.340] - Eveline Moczko
But there's also a lot of users that never even start the trial, just because they have so much anxiety about being charged accidentally and oftentimes it already happened to them. There's history there that we need to overcome. It's totally understandable, who likes owner renewals? Who likes to be charged immediately?
[00:12:53.460] - Eveline Moczko
What we always knew that we wanted to do is basically, be fair and be transparent. It's like one of our company values too. In the end, we decided to implement a reminder on day 5.
[00:13:04.570] - Eveline Moczko
First, when we implemented this, we didn't even advertise this reminder. We just launched this push notification and email to users. On day 5, they got this reminder, "Hey, you will be charged in two days."
[00:13:15.110] - Eveline Moczko
People who have already canceled, also get a reminder for them. It's like, "Hey, your trial ends in two days. Maybe you want to resubscribe or make the best of your last two days." Basically, some encouraging messaging like this.
[00:13:27.320] - Eveline Moczko
What we saw is even thought advertising this reminder, that trial retention went up. Just like being transparent with these users already created this relationship to the brand. Also the user reminder really helped.
[00:13:40.920] - Eveline Moczko
But yeah, then once we started advertising it on the subscription screen, it was really huge success. Trial up in rate went up like crazy. I really loved that we were able to set this precedent of, "Hey, what's
good for your user is good for your brand too." It's good for your business.
[00:13:56.040] - Eveline Moczko
We're actually making more money because we are transparent with the users. I really love that. There's a lot of companies that are actually copying this screen. Yeah, that's also something I'm really proud of, that we could actually set this industry standard there.
[00:14:08.800] - Olivier Destrebecq
Yeah, we'll do our part in spreading the message around the messages.
[00:14:13.140] - Eveline Moczko Yeah, I saw.
[00:14:15.210] - Olivier Destrebecq
One thing that every business that's based around subscription, one is to keep their users as long time customer. You have to help your users form a habit in a way around your product if you want them to stay in your app for a long time. How do you achieve that with Blinkist?
[00:14:30.460] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah, this is definitely the hardest part of working in a subscription business, the long term habit. What we see with our most successful users right now, is that they have a lot of intrinsic motivation, and also this intrinsic triggers. I interviewed this one user and we asked, "When do you typically use Blinkist?"
[00:14:48.390] - Eveline Moczko
He said, "All the time, I don't understand the question. Hey, I have some downtime, I use Blinkist. I'm mowing the lawn, yes, I'm using Blinkist." For him, it was just so normal that any time where he has to use his hands, Blinkist is on in the background. He would just listen to Blinkist and learn something new. Both, of course, the users you want because they just get Blinkist. They just get all valuable position.
[00:15:12.120] - Eveline Moczko
They just get that every downtime minute that you have can actually, be time well spent. When you really learn something new, it can follow your curiosity. Of course, not every user is like that from the start. For us, it's important that we do this education that, "Hey, you think you don't have time to use Blinkist, but you actually do. All you have to do is have it stacking."
[00:15:31.810] - Eveline Moczko
Just like if you are going on the Uber, instead of listening to music, maybe you want to listen to Blinkist and really use that time pocket to learn something new. But education alone is definitely not enough because people also need triggers.
[00:15:45.110] - Eveline Moczko
I'm not sure, if you're familiar with the hooked model, but this is something that is really helpful for us to really understand how habits are created. For this one user I talked about earlier, just taking out the lawnmower, that was enough as a trigger for them because this is where you want to get.
[00:16:00.410] - Eveline Moczko
But other users may need an external trigger. For example, one user said that he would probably forget about Blinkist, if it wasn't for the email. Every Friday, we send out an email with recommendations. Yeah, every time you find something super interesting there and that's the trigger to actually go back and use Blinkist.
[00:16:16.420] - Olivier Destrebecq
Yeah. There's a good way to remind them that you guys exist and provide lots of value.
[00:16:20.200] - Eveline Moczko
[00:16:20.620] - Olivier Destrebecq
It sounds like you've done quite a bit of customer interviews over the years. I'm sure you guys have built some personas probably at Blinkist. How has those personas translated into the Blinkist App?
[00:16:32.080] - Eveline Moczko
Yeah, so right now actually not using personas anymore. We work with motivation. Through all of these interviews, we identified three main motivations. One, I think I mentioned already is the Career Optimizing Motivation. Those users that really think that all of these nonfiction books can help them with management, with leadership, with success, and really start using Blinkist to advance their careers.
[00:16:54.060] - Eveline Moczko
Then we have another motivation, which we call the Life Optimizers. That's how to be a better parent, how to be more productive, how to eat healthier. Kind of like this more life optimizer idea.
[00:17:06.150] - Eveline Moczko
Then the third one is what we just call a Curious Explorer. They just want to broaden their horizons, broaden their knowledge. They're just curious about new ideas. Just use Blinkist to try to satisfy that urge for new ideas. In terms of how it influenced the app, we actually translated it into our onboarding tool.
[00:17:24.670] - Eveline Moczko
If you download Blinkist, which I definitely recommend, and go for the onboarding. You will see that at one point, we ask you some questions and we take them as a cue already to know who you might be.
[00:17:36.170] - Eveline Moczko
We ask what categories do you actually want to follow. If you say leadership and success, then you're more likely to be a Career Optimizer. If you choose more like psychology or personal development or biography, then you're more likely to be just a Curious Explorer. Based on that, we can definitely personalize your experience, give you the right content, all of that.
[00:17:59.140] - Olivier Destrebecq
Tim Cook is one of the most well known users at Blinkist. Which persona does he? Well, I guess not persona, motivation does he fall into?
[00:18:06.970] - Eveline Moczko
He's probably Career Optimizer. I would say he optimized his career quite well.
[00:18:10.630] - Olivier Destrebecq
You did a good job. That's true. On a more serious notes, Blinkist has been featured in multiple clients by Apple. How has that helped Blinkist?
[00:18:17.910] - Eveline Moczko
Yes, they have been really supportive in featuring and really helping us getting the message out. I think the number one reason or the number one thing that comes out of being featured is brand awareness. If an ad hits up a potential user on Facebook, if they've already heard of Blinkist because they saw it, for example, as featured as the app of the day. Now it gives them way more trust, "Hey, this is not some scammy app, but Apple actually mentioned them already and to recommends them." It really helps just to build that message and that trust in their brand.
[00:18:49.410] - Eveline Moczko
Of course, we also get like a lot of users from these features too. But because their knowledge is just such a broad targeting that in terms of conversions, it's maybe not the best tool to get more conversions in, but definitely for awareness.
[00:19:03.440] - Olivier Destrebecq
Great, those are all the questions that we have for you.
[00:19:05.920] - Eveline Moczko Awesome.
[00:19:07.120] - Olivier Destrebecq
If people want to learn more about you or Blinkist, where can they go?
[00:19:10.720] - Eveline Moczko
I would say to learn more about Blinkist, definitely just download the app and try it out. I actually have a code for you, so if you go to blinkist.com/friends and enter the code subscriptionleague, no dashes, everything minor, then you can actually try it for three months for free. Hopefully, you will do that. If you want to get in contact with me, you can find me on LinkedIn.
[00:19:31.850] - Olivier Destrebecq
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Eveline. Those were some great answers and we really appreciate you coming to talk to us.
[00:19:37.620] - Eveline Moczko Thank you.
[00:19:39.690] - Olivier Destrebecq
On behalf of the purchasing team, thank you for listening to the Subscription League Podcast. If you've enjoyed what you heard, leave us a five star review on iTunes or other audio platforms. To find out more about Purchasely and how we can improve your subscription business, visit purchasely.com.
[00:19:56.760] - Olivier Destrebecq
Please hit Subscribe in your podcast player and don't miss any future episodes. You can also listen to previous episodes at subscriptionleague.com. See you soon.