Anonymous users, freeloaders, annoyances. Let’s be honest, we’ve all done it. When all you want to do is read an article but you keep getting asked to register or subscribe. Granted, it’s annoying, and quite frankly, the last thing I’m going to do is pay for something when I can get it for free, obviously. But then at the same time, if I feel like the content on offer is worthy, I’ll have no hesitation paying for it, as will others. What’s incredible is that over 98% of visits on websites are anonymous, and the task for a publisher is to move these anonymous users into the funnel to become registered users and eventually paying subscribers.  There are many schools of thought on how to transform anonymous users into subscribers but personalised and targeted content has proven to return dividends for a number of publishers. Sounds tedious right? You’d be surprised.

Seeing that we’ve previously touched on segmentation, personalisation, and converting anonymous readers into paying subscribers, we’ll be focusing on why users tend to behave as secretly as possible, and understanding how as a publisher you can bypass alienating anonymous users.

 

Secrecy

I’ll be honest, if I can access some material without filling out a form handing over personal information, then I will. Unfortunately for publishers, my views are reciprocated along with a lot of other web users. The main reason behind this behaviour is quite simply privacy. I don’t want to go around giving every single person who asks for my email address, gender, and date of birth. A comparison I like to make is: as if you were out shopping, and every single time you entered a shop you’d have to register your details. It would get pretty annoying by the end of it, right? Well unfortunately, this is exactly what’s happening online.

As a collective unit, we can’t exactly blame publishers wanting to gather as much data as possible, as there is no such thing as too much data. A rich pool of data equates to better segmentation and personalisation.

Nevertheless from a consumer’s point of view, handing over personal information is becoming a delicate situation. Every other week it seems like there’s an online security breach. In late March, and early April, Yahoo, McDonald’s Canada, and the IAAF all suffered from security breaches. And just last week, 99 countries were affected in a mass ransomware infection.

It could be as simple as signing up for WiFi when you walk into a coffee shop, or entering your email to read that one article, one breach could compromise your details. But not to fear, we’ve previously covered how to stay safe online. Despite this however, as a connected web user, you will hear about these stories, and it will undoubtedly make you question handing over your details for that one article.

 

Identification

So as a publisher, you’re probably reading this thinking “How do I identify someone and convert them into a paying subscriber, without getting their details?”. The short answer: trust. By gaining your readers’ trust, you can in turn ask them to subscribe, and the conversion rate is much higher when it comes to turning them into paying subscribers.

If an anonymous user accesses a website with Evolok’s software, they will be instantly identified and tracked. Even if they access the same page from a different platform or device, we’ll know it’s the same user. Now when I say building trust, I mean by not bombarding the user with a form every-time they access the website. And example of trust building is the framework used on The Spectator’s paywall.

This paywall allows users to read 3 articles for free, and if a user keeps coming back then they clearly like the material. The Spectator then asks if they’re willing to register their details, and then grant the reader 5 more articles free of charge. By this stage, The Spectator and the user have built a little rapport with each other, and the probability of turning that user into a paying subscriber using this method is much more likely.

They didn’t attempt to turn the user into cash the first time they accessed the website, and this is the trust I was speaking about. It’s clearly working for The Spectator as they’re raking in 400 new paying subscribers a week.

This then leads us to a second example of trust building, conducted by The New Yorker. The tactic used here is very similar to The Spectator, as they allow you to access a certain number of articles before asking a user to register their details. However, what’s smart from The New Yorker’s strategy happens when a reader reaches the limit for free articles and to subscribe.

When an anonymous user has reached this limit, they’ll be met with a pop up containing a specific image. What’s neat about these images is that each is tailored to a specific individual. If a reader has a keen interest for sports articles, then the image on top of the pop up will be sports related. If another user halfway across the country has an interest in art related articles, then the image shall be art related. Bear in mind, this is all before the user has registered any data.

The New Yorker have understood the aspect of building a relationship with users and done some research on this to come up with the image idea. This tactic clearly gives them a higher chance of converting anonymous users into paying subscribers.

As a consumer, we all enjoy a bit more subtlety when trying to be sold something. I personally think that there are too many publishers that instantly try to convert anonymous users into paying subscribers, and that’s not how it works unfortunately. A too aggressive approach can end up alienating a reader, and that’s possibly the worst thing you can do.