Future proof your subscription business
Take advantage of new tools to improve your business today and tomorrow
If you’re a regular follower of our Medium channel, you know that we’ve been focused on helping you improve your subscriptions business. We’ve talked about everything from building a subscriptions business for all seasons (by yours truly) to using behavioural economics to convey the value of paid app subscriptions. And, while there are many tools and features you can take advantage of today, some of which I’ll recap in this post, I also want to talk about how you can future proof your subscriptions business on Google Play.
Less code, more features
The first and most obvious is to integrate with the Google Play Billing Library, and I mean right away! We originally launched the Google Play Billing Library last fall. It simplifies the development process for Google Play Billing, allowing you to focus your efforts on your app rather than billing implementation. Currently you can use the library for things like setting up purchases, verifying purchases, processing data in your app, and getting in-app product details.
Integrating with the billing library will set you up for success in the future because API updates are automatically picked up when you update your build dependency file the next time you compile your app. And many new features will only be available via the billing library, including two of the features we announced at I/O, upgrading a user to a different SKU while keeping the same renewal date and mandatory price changes of existing SKUs.
As you can see we really recommend you integrate with the Google Play Billing Library because it comes with so many advantages. But don’t just take my word for it. Joe Birch, Android Eng Lead at Buffer & Google Developer Expert, said in his Medium post:
“I recently had a chance to try out the new Play Billing Library from Google and it’s a dream come true for in-app billing.”
Be in the know
We launched real-time developer notifications, which give you immediate notifications when a subscriber state changes (e.g. a user renews or cancels) last fall. Today, we send you a notification when you get a new signup or when a user successfully renews, so you know right away when you have an active user to whom you should grant or maintain entitlement. (But remember, with real-time developer notifications, the notification only tells you that the subscription state has changed. You must still query the server API to get the full state of the subscription and know exactly what action to take.)
If you’ve implemented account hold (and you really, really, really should), real-time developer notifications will tell you when to block entitlement and when to grant it back after the user recovers. This is especially important if you have a service that runs on other platforms such as the web.
Real-time developer notifications also tell you immediately about a voluntary cancellation, where a user chooses to cancel. As my colleague Laura discussed in “How to win back subscribers who cancel”, there are many ways to message the user and try to win them back before their subscription expires, such as telling the user about upcoming changes or features they might not know about, or offering them a discount. And, if you’ve enabled subscription restore, you can send the user a deep link to the subscription center for them restart their subscription with one click.
All of that you can already do today. Using real-time developer notifications really changes the way you operate your subscription business on Play, especially in regards to minimizing subscriber churn. Over 1/3 of top subscription developers have already integrated with real-time developer notifications, including music-streaming service Anghami, who said:
“We are now able to predict churn before a subscription actually ends by getting all users’ cancellation in real-time without having to wait until a subscription ends. We’re hence able to quickly react and have the possibility to target each user who cancels his subscription on the spot.”
And while we’ve seen great ways developers are taking advantage of this functionality now, I’m most excited about how developers will be able to use it in the future. For example, you’ll be ready when we launch the functionality to let the user temporarily pause a subscription instead of cancelling, or to reactivate an expired subscription. By integrating with real-time developer notifications and checking for entitlement, you’ll automatically be good to go once we turn on these features.
Lastly, I want to highlight the launch of the new subscriptions center in the Google Play store. The subscriptions center is a one-stop shop for subscriptions on Google Play that allows users to do everything from updating payment methods to restoring a cancelled subscription.
There are two ways this benefits you in the future. The first is that we’ve heard from users that anxiety about not being able to cancel a subscription or losing track of all of their subscriptions creates a barrier to signing up for your subscription apps. With the new subscriptions center, we make it easy for users to see and manage all of their subscriptions, and cancel a subscription if need be. This will give them peace of mind when signing up for your subscription apps.
Secondly, if a user cancels through the subscriptions center, they’ll get a cancellation survey to ask them why they’re cancelling.
This information is available to you by querying our server side API. Not only does this give you additional insight into why users churn, but, like real-time developer notifications, it allows you to do something about churned users, like contacting them and offering a special discount. And if you have real-time developer notifications set up, you’ll know to query the server when a user cancels and can check if they’ve responded to the cancellation survey.
At Google, we’ve always believed that if we focus on the user, all else will follow. Because of this new user-first experience to easily manage subscriptions, users will trust our store and engage more with your apps. With the subscriptions center, we will also be able to deliver more capabilities to you.
As you can see there is a lot happening for subscriptions on Google Play and we continuously aim to make it easier for you to build great subscription products that users love. Make sure to get on top of important features like the Google Play Billing library and real-time developer notifications to set yourself up for success like the many developers that are already using these features. We are really excited about all the additional functionality we will be able to offer you in the future. And for more information on our latest feature launches, check out the session Grow and optimize your subscriptions with new Google Play features or read our recap blog post.
What do you think?
How are you getting your subscriptions business ready for the future? Let us know in the comments below or tweet using #AskPlayDev and we’ll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play.