Increase customer retention by offering subscription pause

Substack Substack retain


Substack prompts customers to pause their subscription for one month rather than cancel when trying to cancel. This leverages the default bias, as the default option is to automatically re-activate the subscription after one month.
a screenshot of the retain flow explaining how to Increase customer retention by offering subscription pause

Business Outcome

Customer Retention Rate

Increase the percentage of customers who remain subscribed to the newsletter over time. By offering a pause option instead of immediate cancellation, Substack aims to retain more customers who may have otherwise canceled permanently.

Reactivation Rate

Increase the percentage of customers who resume their subscription after the one-month pause period. Monitoring this KPI helps assess the effectiveness of the pause option in encouraging customers to continue their subscriptions.

Behavioral Outcome

Reduced Cancellation Impulse

By presenting the pause option as the default, Substack aims to reduce the immediate impulse to cancel and instead encourages customers to take a temporary break, increasing the likelihood of them returning after the pause period.

The Behavioral Science

Default Bias

The default bias is a cognitive bias where individuals tend to stick with the default or pre-selected option when presented with a choice. This bias suggests that people are more likely to go along with the default setting, even if it may not align with their initial preferences or intentions.

In the context of subscription-based services, leveraging the default bias by presenting a pause option instead of immediate cancellation can influence customer behavior. By making the pause option the default, it becomes the path of least resistance, and customers are more likely to choose it over the more definitive action of canceling.

How It Works

Substack's cancellation flow presents the "Pause Subscription" option as the prominent, default choice. The pop-up window clearly states that pausing will "stop all charges and paid subscriber benefits until you resume," framing it as a temporary break rather than a permanent cancellation.

By pre-selecting the pause duration of one month, Substack makes it easy for customers to accept this default option without requiring additional effort or decision-making. The "Pause subscription" button is prominently displayed, while the "Cancel Subscription" option is less visible, further encouraging customers to choose the default pause option.

Once the one-month timeline expires, the subscription default to active, further leveraging the default bas.

How It Might Backfire

Frustration with Recurring Charges

If customers forget to cancel after the pause period and are unexpectedly charged, they may feel frustrated or misled, leading to negative sentiment towards the service.

Perception of Manipulative Tactics

Some customers may perceive the emphasis on pausing rather than canceling as a manipulative tactic to retain their subscription, leading to a loss of trust and potential backlash.

Increased Customer Support Inquiries

If the pause option and its implications are not clearly communicated, it may lead to increased customer support inquiries and complaints from confused or dissatisfied customers.

How To Test

A/B Tests

Run an A/B test comparing the current cancellation flow with the pause option against a version that offers a straightforward cancellation option. Monitor metrics such as the cancellation rate, pause rate, and reactivation rate to assess the impact of the default pause option on customer retention.

User Interviews

Conduct user interviews or surveys to gather qualitative feedback on customers' perceptions and experiences with the pause option. This can help identify any potential issues or areas for improvement in the cancellation flow and communication.

Frequently Asked Questions

To enhance a product-led growth (PLG) model using Substack's retention tactic, implement a subscription pause option as an alternative to immediate cancellation. This approach leverages the default bias to encourage users to take a temporary break rather than permanently leaving your service.

In your PLG model, integrate this tactic at critical touchpoints where users might consider canceling. For example, when a user attempts to cancel their subscription, present a pre-selected pause option as the default choice. Clearly communicate the benefits of pausing, such as retaining access to certain features or avoiding the hassle of re-subscribing later. This can help reduce churn and increase the likelihood of users returning to your product after the pause period, ultimately supporting your product-led growth strategy.

To improve conversion rate optimization using Substack's retention tactic, implement a subscription pause option in your cancellation flow. This approach can help reduce immediate cancellations and improve overall customer retention rates.

When users attempt to cancel, present the pause option as the default choice, leveraging the default bias. Clearly communicate the benefits of pausing, such as maintaining access to certain features or avoiding the need to re-subscribe later. A/B test different pause durations and messaging to find the most effective configuration for your audience. Monitor metrics such as cancellation rate, pause rate, and reactivation rate to assess the impact on your conversion optimization efforts. By reducing permanent cancellations, you can improve your overall conversion rates and customer lifetime value.

To optimize your website using Substack's retention tactic, incorporate a subscription pause option throughout the user journey, particularly in areas related to account management and cancellation.

Implement a prominent 'Pause Subscription' button or link in user account settings, making it easily accessible. When users navigate to cancellation pages, present the pause option as the default choice, leveraging the default bias. Use clear, benefit-focused copy to explain the advantages of pausing over canceling. Ensure that the pause process is simple and user-friendly, with pre-selected duration options to reduce decision fatigue. By integrating this tactic, you can optimize your website to encourage user retention and reduce permanent cancellations, ultimately improving overall user engagement and satisfaction.

To A/B test Substack's retention tactic, create two versions of your cancellation flow: one with the subscription pause option as the default (version A) and one with a standard cancellation process (version B).

In version A, prominently display the pause option with a pre-selected duration, while in version B, offer only the option to cancel. Randomly assign users to each version when they attempt to cancel their subscription. Measure key metrics such as cancellation rate, pause rate, and reactivation rate after the pause period. Additionally, track user behavior within each version, noting how often the pause option is chosen in version A. Complement this quantitative data with qualitative feedback through user surveys to understand the perceived value and satisfaction with each approach. Analyze the results to determine which version leads to better retention outcomes for your specific product and user base.

Substack's retention tactic improves user experience by offering a more flexible alternative to cancellation, reducing the cognitive load associated with making a definitive decision to leave the service.

By presenting a pause option as the default choice, users are given an opportunity to take a break without permanently losing access to the content they value. This can alleviate the pressure of making an immediate decision and provide a sense of control over their subscription. The pre-selected pause duration simplifies the process, making it easy for users to accept the default option without additional effort. This approach can lead to increased satisfaction as users feel their changing needs are accommodated, potentially improving their overall perception of the service and increasing the likelihood of their return after the pause period.