One of the core strengths of StudyMode that enticed my joining with the company was the sheer diversity of global traffic amongst the over 20 research document destinations in the network. While StudyMode domestically is the heart of the brand and the revenue driver of the company the majority of global network traffic comes from sites such as Buenas Tareas that services Latin America, Trabalhos Feitos in Brazil, Etudier which covers French speaking countries, and a network of smaller sites around the world. Each of these sites were grown organically and 100% bootstrapped with growth via organic search.
Looking at our global traffic these sites accounted for 77.3% of Traffic yet were providing $0 of subscription revenue to the business. Monetization of these territories are extremely nuanced and have failed in the past due to economic considerations, contextual payment options, as well as value proposition as the sites allowed users to unlock full content access with 1 file upload rather than an ongoing subscription in our StudyMode and Etudier properties. Here we have a large network of free sites that make up the largest potential of growth.
In attempting to roll out paid subscriptions to legacy free sites within multiple countries, and currencies I broke down the process into analyzing the following core areas to inform the most elegant integration.
- Market Analysis
- Payment Options and Market Share
Here we set out to come to a better understanding of the validation of the general territory potential on a country by country basis. This included elements such as the general cost of living in each country and their college aged demographic balanced against lifestyle accessibility. Known payment types used by our core demographic in these countries, what they spend their money on, and how that relates to US pricing parity are all critical for success.
Brazilian Online Subscriptions
Take Brazil for example, below answers the question of that do people pay in for online subscriptions that could compare in features?
|Type||Price (0.38 USD to 1 Real)||Price versus US|
|Leading internet subscription||R$80 per month||25%|
|Cloud Storage (Dropbox)||Price at parity to US||0%|
|Online Music (Spotify)||R$14.90 per month||0%|
|Online Surveys (suveymonkey)||R$49.90 per month||5%|
|Online entertainment(Netflix)||R$19.90 per month||-18%|
|Antivirus subscription (Terra aintivirus)||R$19.90 per month||0%|
Here we find fixed costs to the market and the price comparison to United States benchmarks to the same demographic. That derived our pricing strategy and the initial offering which represented a 85% price discount over the US.
- R$14.90 (~4.59 USD) for a monthly pass
- R$49.90 (~15.38 USD) for a semester pass
Being that any existing user of the international free sites had full access to the application we had to then balance the transition from free to paid for those users to optimize conversion as well as manage the brand experience. I came up with a strategy for those users to allow a one time 50% discount that would expire after 30 days allowing for an easing transition. Any new user who lands into our conversion funnel will receive new pricing but legacy users received the expiring bonus.
- R$7.45 (~2.30 USD) for a monthly pass
- R$24.95 (~7.70 USD) for a semester pass
Payment Options and Market Share
Now that we know what to charge, we need to make the decision of how to promote the best ways to charge customers. In analyzing Latin America for our site Buenas Tareas, traffic is disperse across 25 countries all of which have their own economies and payment behaviors. Take the below for example:
- Credit card usage among students is ~80%
- 20% use PayPal and/or non-Visa/MC branded debit cards
- Cross border credit card auth rates are 65-70%
- Local Entity ~10% lift, saving 5-6% fee on cross border
- Credit card auth rates will be ~80-82% best case.
- High prevalence of fraud and credit card theft.
- Credit card usage among 18-22 demographic is ~40%
- 40% of market uses cash based payment method SafetyPay
- 20% of market uses PayPal.
- Credit card auth rates will likely be ~70% without local presence.
With credit card analysis done and pricing in hand we now moved into integration with multiple vendors which provided the best contextual support in various countries that we deemed convertible (take Venezuela for example, their economy would never make our model work).
We integrated with the following vendors and were left with an array of payment options in multi currencies that we could strategize around.
- Digital River - BRL
- WorldPay - EUR, CLP, PEN, MXN
- Recurly - USD, AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, NZD, SGD
Instead of plugging in payment vendors based on a site by site basis we employed a location aware model allowing for us to optimize cross country traffic. For example, for StudyMode US traffic accounted for 40% of site traffic but we now could monetize the slices of inbound traffic from countries which we could match a payment provider too.
|Country||Payment Processor||Credit Card||Additional Types|
|Mexico||World Pay||Visa, MasterCard, Diners, Discover, Aura, Hipercard||DineroMail, Paypal|
|Brazil||Digital Rivery||Visa, MasterCard, Diners, Discover, Aura, Hipercard||Ebanx Boleto|
|United States||Recurly||PaypalVisa, Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Discover||Paypal|
|France||Recurly (Chase Paymentech)||Chase (Vantiv), PaypalVisa, MasterCard, Discover||Paypal|
Benchmarking Domestic purchase rates internationally based on the same user purchase funnel with the consideration of economics in each respective countries. This created a Baseline of success to track growth over time and anything outside of the upper and lower bounds or what is considered normal.
So what did this get StudyMode? This integration allowed for an additional 7 localized currencies and countries we could monetize with a growth path for additional countries representing a decreasing ROI but still valuable in absolute numbers.
Subscription Growth - Legacy Payment Sites
Had we not integrated the international payments model we would have been trending at 50k paid subscriptions globally.
Subscription Growth - All Sites
With this integration we now were trending at 115k global subscriptions and growing. This constitutes a 130% increase in active subscribers since releasing paid subscriptions to the convertible territories within our major sites.
Revenue - All Sites
With the economic price disparity between the US and Latin America and Brazilian economies the increased volume of subscribers at a fractional US price contributed to a ~10% increase in overall company bottom line. Again this is all based on free SEO traffic and strategically integrating features from our firehose of traffic.
As with any product rollout, there were many learnings and adjustments along the way, notable talking points were below.
- Always hire professional translation services
- Insulate your pricing based on market fluctuation
- Control UI as much as possible
- Prioritize API development for scalability
- Basement pricing for volume, price test up
- Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate with vendors
Overall, the process has diversified the company and made it a much stronger investible asset while keeping year over year growth moving up and to the right.