GDPR took our startup’s subscription rates from 92% to 6%. Here’s what we’re doing about it.

Photo by Nonsap Visuals on Unsplash

The European Union’s new and widely discussed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became fully implemented last week, after a two-year-long transition period.

When we changed our sign-up process at Vizzlo to conform to this regulation (i.e., we made sure to have the users opt-in to any non-transactional communication), we knew the subscription numbers would tumble.

Now that a few days have gone by, I can attest that GDPR is way worse than what we even expected.

So, if you know someone in email marketing and they seem to be running around in panic all day, this is the reason why:

“Before” is a cohort of all new users from April 2018, “after” is the May 23rd cohort. Value Projection chart made with Vizzlo.

Before the change, we had implemented the classic opt-out mechanism for our product updates newsletter and product assistance (automation) lists. Based on the April 2018 data, only 8% of our new users took the time to click the unsubscribe link to opt-out of getting those emails.

After changing the registration process, our users now have to manually opt-in to those emails. We simply added two toggles and a disclaimer to the registration dialog.

“Email preferences” we added to the registration dialog.

The results from the first full day after implementing these changes look devastating:

  • 94% asked not to be bothered at all
  • 4% are willing to read the monthly product newsletter
  • 2% agreed to get assistance via mail, but do not want the newsletter

That’s one hell of a drop! Essentially, nobody will be reading our non-transactional emails anymore.

Vizzlo’s email open rates typically hover around or above the “industry average” according to MailChimp. Our newsletters are comparable to those of other companies in our space. Thus, we’re definitely not in this alone and others will face these issues, too.

Where to go from here?

Being a SaaS product, this drop in subscription rates, naturally, makes it extremely hard for us to reconnect with unfrequent users. Our current ideas to alleviate these effects are:

  • Incorporating the “Tips & Tricks” content better into the actual product using pop-overs (Oh my, do you remember “Clippy,” Microsoft’s paperclip assistant?)
  • Running A/B tests to try different wordings for the registration screen
  • Have new users complete an interactive tutorial after registration to educate them quickly about the most important features of the platform
  • Asking users for the permission to send emails at a later stage, once they actually used the product and we gained enough trust
  • Offering them something in return (like a months worth of Premium features) for signing up to the product updates newsletter

None of those options will make up for the full gap. But I’m optimistic that the users that do sign-up now and in the future are more engaged than the bulk we had on the lists before.

Now that GDPR is here, how do you change your product and marketing? I’d love to hear from you!


Thank you for reading! If you have feedback, I’m
roblillack on Twitter. Also, Vizzlo helps you creating individual business graphics in seconds — for presentations, documents, web. Give it a try!

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In a world of GDPR, really nobody will see your newsletter anymore was originally published in ThinkGrowth.org on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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