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Anton
Anton
May 16, 2023
20 min read

Best-performing Paywall Examples for Subscription Apps

Paywall is a key element influencing the purchase and the user's decision to use the app. Whether a new user becomes a loyal user depends on the effectiveness of the paywall.

Best-performing Paywall Examples for Subscription Apps

The mobile subscription market is growing, subscriptions are bringing in more money, but at the same time, the market is becoming more competitive.

Revenues for apps in different categories are extremely unevenly distributed. The best apps have metrics that are many times better than the average for their category. Therefore, we need to continue to work on product value, and that includes optimizing paywalls.

Payment screens can be in many different places in the app, but the most important in terms of conversions and sales is of course the main paywall, which is shown to new users immediately after onboarding. This is the screen where most purchases are made.

Therefore, this article will talk mostly about the main payment screen.


Paywall Structure

Let's take a look at the components of an app paywall, the static and dynamic elements, the number of products, and their possible combinations.

So what does a typical app paywall consist of?

Most common paywall elements:

  • Closure element
  • Background (simple/complex, static or dynamic)
  • Graphic element at the top of the screen (image, carousel or video)
  • Headline
  • Product benefits
  • Subscriptions list/options
  • Call-to-action button
  • Terms, privacy policy, restore purchases logic

Close Button/Link

Close buttons and link examplesClose buttons and link examples

Usually, if it's in a small image with a cross, developers try to make it less conspicuous and put it in the upper left corner (it's harder to reach with your finger there).

Also, a less popular option is a link below the buy button. The most popular text in the case of this solution is 'Maybe later'.

There are also so-called hard and soft paywalls. A soft paywall is a screen that has a closing element (in the form of a cross or link under the call-to-action button).

You want to use the hard paywall if you don't want to give the user the possibility to try some features for free (except for the trial period feature).

Hard paywalls should be used with caution, it can significantly reduce conversion to payment and also cause questions from store reviewers.

Background

Background examplesBackground examples

Monochrome with a pattern or gradient, image or video is an advanced option.

The background is an important element of the screen, it translates the design/styling of the application, but can also serve as an additional selling factor.

For example, you can place a nice looping video in the background that shows the benefits of the application.

Popular background types:

  • Monotone/pattern/gradient
  • Image
  • Video

Media Item (teaser)

Teaser examplesTeaser examples

A teaser is an image or a video at the top of the app paywall. The visual element increases user engagement with the product, builds trust, and allows you to showcase the additional social value of premium features.

In addition to a single graphic element, you can use a carousel or gallery of media elements with auto-scrolling or left-right swiping on the component.

What is some good content for images? Depending on the category of the app, a photo of real people or showing the features of the app might work well.

If we're talking about video, we need to keep in mind that video needs to be tailored to the specifics of viewing on mobile devices. For example, many users have muted audio on their devices, so it's worth adding text descriptions/notes within the video. Also, based on best practices in advertising creatives, we know that the user needs to be hooked in the first 3 seconds of viewing, and the video should not be too long (15-30 seconds).

Compared to text, an image or a video is faster for our brains to read, which means the user can understand the benefits presented in a visual format more quickly.

Headline

Headline examplesHeadline examples

The purpose of the headline is to communicate the main value of the application or to get the user to take a specific action, in our case, a purchase.

It is an extremely important and eye-catching part of the page header, so it must be well-edited and tested in different ways.

The text in the header is most often encouraged to get the full functionality of the application. A better example is the text that communicates the value of the app and lets the user know that they will be able to solve their problem or improve themselves with premium features.

Best paywalls have a headline, that briefly describes how premium users can get more value from the app.

Examples of popular headline texts:

  • Go Premium
  • Learn a new language with alerts
  • Follow the plan to reach your goals
  • Get your personal plan now
  • Choose your personal plan
  • Get unlimited access
  • Unlimited access to all features

Description of Benefits

Description of benefits examplesDescription of benefits examples

Another important part of the paywall is a block detailing the benefits of the paid subscription.

It can be in the form of a short text (less frequent) or as a list of features/benefits, complete with nice markers or icons.

The amount of text that can be comfortably read on mobile devices is very limited, so you need to think carefully and use this space wisely.

For example, you can add 5-star reviews from satisfied users in storefronts - this is important social proof and can serve as an additional selling point. You could also include a short FAQ, mention the app's awards (if any), or add a short comparison chart of the features of the free and paid versions.


List of Purchases

List of purchases examplesList of purchases examples

The block that no paywall can do without is the list of purchases and subscriptions. In fact, before discussing elements that should incline the user to our side, we are already making a direct offer in this block.

The most popular formats are:

  • Individual buy button for each product
  • Product list (selectable items) + call-to-action (CTA) button

If there's only one product on the app paywall, then the price is simply written in text above or on the single button.

If there are 2-3 products, for example, individual buttons are made, each with a description of its purchase. This option allows a single tap on the desired product to activate the purchase, but it looks more clumsy and is not the most popular.

The most common multiple-product selection options are the active product toggle and CTA buttons. The product description bars themselves can be placed either one below the other or in a single row, it doesn't matter.

On average, there are two products on the paywall - a default one that the developer wants you to purchase, and an alternative or special "downside" subscription that highlights the benefits of the default purchase.

The preferred default purchase is often marked with a "Best Value" or "Popular" badge or something similar to emphasize that the selected default product is the most advantageous to purchase.

If there is a product selection on the badge, it's a good idea to highlight the most valuable or expensive subscription.

The design of the badges is not prescribed in any way, so use your own taste. You can also use words like Best Value, Most Popular, etc. that really impact conversion rates.


Call-to-Action Button

CTA button examplesCTA button examples

The last step before the purchase and the standard system payment screen is the button pressed by the user who has decided to make a purchase. That's why it's pointless to talk about the importance of this element, as it directly affects the conversion into a purchase.

Popular texts here are either a call to action such as 'Start free trial' or there is also the option 'Continue'. Why does the latter work so well? First, psychologically, 'continue' is not as scary as 'make a purchase'.

In addition, the 'Continue' buttons are often pressed during the onboarding process, so the user is more likely to press 'Continue' for the Nth time and buy. A kind of this is also a trick, some kind of dark pattern.

Variations of texts on the button:

  • Start free trial
  • Start N days free trial
  • Subscribe now
  • Free trial, then $X.XX per/period
  • Free trial and subscribe
  • Start free trial and plan
  • Activate trial subscription
  • Try N days free
  • Continue

Trial Switcher

Trial switcher examplesTrial switcher examples

Some time ago it became popular to offer the user a choice of trial. The secret of such an element is that the user can choose and configure the subscription for himself.

When a person feels that he can influence how much he will pay for the value he wants, then the decision in favor of the application is made more easily.


Legal Information

Legal information is an essential part of the payment screen that you can't do without.

The old approach is to write a bunch of text with the terms and conditions of the checkout and unsubscribe below the CTA button. In the past, Apple required that all information be summarized directly on the paywall.

This resulted in the lengthy text taking up unnecessary space at the bottom of the screen and prevented app developers from implementing a better way to place more useful information about their product.

Fortunately, those days are gone, and today you only need to place the most necessary links on the paywall:

  • Terms of use
  • Privacy policy
  • Restore purchase

It's enough to place all these elements at the bottom of the screen in the form of small, neat links.

Note that it's critical to place a "restore purchase" link because the user may have made a purchase previously and then, for example, changed devices. The ability to continue using the previously purchased functionality on the new device is a must (in iOS 15+ purchases can be restored automatically).

So, we've talked about the components of a quality pavilion. Now let's take a look at some popular paywall patterns.

One Product

Paywall examples with one productPaywall examples with one product

Two Products

Paywall examples with two productsPaywall examples with two products

Three Products

Paywall examples with three productsPaywall examples with three products

What About Onboarding?

Of course, it is incorrect to consider the main purchase screen in isolation from onboarding screens, because it is the tutorial that explains the benefits of the app, communicates the value, and prepares the user to subscribe or begin a trial period. In other words, onboarding and paywalls are practically the same in today's apps.

In this article, we won't dive deep into what the ideal onboarding should look like.

However, we will provide some practical tips:

  • The design, layout, and overall logic of the screens should be coherent and consistent. Some screens flow logically into others without breaking the overall chain of familiarity with the app.
  • The onboarding should be informative. You don't want to add these screens just for window dressing and accompany them with poor, unimpressive information, relying only on a high-quality paywall.
  • Pre-sales of the product, such as social confirmation or personalization of the offer before the purchase, can be done harmoniously with the help of tutorial screens.
  • And in general, design the entire user activation funnel as a whole, onboarding + tutorial.

The Apphud Paywall Gallery has hundreds of onboarding examples and paywalls for review, even a video is available!


Good and Bad Paywalls Practices

We've looked at the trends in paywalls, but there are also tips on how to create an effective paywall from the charts themselves. In particular, let's take a look at Apple's recommendations for subscription apps designed for the App Store.

Much of what follows is also true and applicable to Google Play.

Useful App Store guidelines:

  • Emphasize the benefits of subscriptions
  • Offer transparent pricing
  • Clearly communicate all subscription options
  • Clearly communicate the trial period
  • Avoid ambiguity in the CTA button
  • Do not mention the auto-renewal terms of the subscription (no longer required)

Practices to avoid:

  • Magic switches that confuse the user and result in them buying the wrong subscription
  • Descriptions of non-existent benefits and features
  • Tricky pricing, such as $0.02 per day, etc.
  • Missing or incomplete terms and conditions, privacy policy
  • No way to restore the purchase

Possible consequences for violating the policy

If a problem is found during the review process, your app will simply not make it to the App Store.

If you set up your paywall remotely and broke the rules to bypass the moderation process, the following may occur:

  • Your app won't be able to sell anything until you correct the changes.
  • Your app may be removed from the App Store.
  • Your account may be permanently suspended.
Remote paywall configuration is a common practice. The main thing is not to break the rules when testing these screens.

Paywall Analytics

We've looked at what an effective modern paywall should look like. Now let's talk about how to measure its key metrics.

What are the metrics that let you know if a paywall is doing its job and converting new app users into paying users?

The Basic Funnel of a Successful Paywall

Depending on whether we have a trial or not, paywall analytics are built in one of 2 ways:

  • New User → Paywall Displayed → Trial Started → Trial Converted → Subscription Renewed 1,2...N
  • New User → Paywall Displayed → Subscription Started → Subscription Renewed 1,2...N

The logic behind the metrics is simple - a new user sees the paywall, takes the trial (or buys right away), then converts from a trial to a paying user and renews the subscription.

The key metrics are:

  • Conversion to Trial
  • Trial to Purchase Conversion
  • Conversion to Purchase

Of the additional metrics, it makes sense to measure conversion to display a paywall (perhaps many users fall off during onboarding).

In general, a typical paywall conversion funnel might look like this:

The Conversions Chart in ApphudThe Conversions Chart in Apphud

It can take some time to find the best template and paywall design for your app.

To find the best template and paywall design, use the research on current paywalls in this article, as well as research solutions from competitors and other apps in related niches, including using our Paywall Gallery service.

Finding the optimal subscriptions and prices will require a series of experiments. In essence, we're talking about classic A/B testing.

Despite its apparent simplicity, split testing contains many pitfalls. In addition, a poorly executed test and misinterpreted results can lead to poor decisions that can seriously affect the application's bottom line in the long run.

To simplify the task of running A/B tests, at Apphud we have created our own solution for running experiments, tailored to the needs of testing paywalls and subscriptions


Advanced Paywall Funnel

We have understood the basic metrics of the basic funnel. Still, in addition to initial conversions, to understand the efficiency of an application and its users, it is important to see how much subscriptions will bring in the long term (180, 365, and beyond, over 2 years).

The long-term LTV of acquired users largely determines the scaling of marketing efforts; the higher the long-term margins, the more aggressive traffic buying campaigns can be executed and scaled.

This is where cohort metrics like ARPU, ARPPU, and ARPAS come in. And it makes sense to analyze them not only for the lifetime of the cohort but also for the N days of existence of the target user cohort.

For example, calculate the average revenue per user on day 7/14/30 after installing the app.

What is the difference between these metrics?

  • ARPU shows the average cost of each user (not necessarily a trial or paying user). This metric is good for evaluating the ROI of purchased installs, for traffic sources like Apple Search Ads (with optimization on installs).
  • ARPPU is a good all-purpose metric that works well for most applications with a subscription model. It reflects the value brought by the average paying user.
  • ARPAS is a relatively new and useful metric in its own right, showing the value brought by users taking valuable actions in the app (starting a trial or taking a subscription), or in other words, the average revenue per activated subscription.

Cumulative LTV

All of the metrics described above reflect the actual LTV for cohorts and differ only in how users are grouped. Ultimately, we use these metrics to look at a cohort's LTV growth dynamics and estimate its ROI over different time periods.

The Cumulative LTV chart is an excellent tool for this task. It allows you to estimate LTV dynamics up to 999 days of the user's lifetime.

It's important to analyze metrics not chaotically but as part of an overall performance funnel. Apphud's Conversion Graphs and Cohort Analysis can help with this.


Conclusion

We've taken an in-depth look at the paywall trends in 2023 and the metrics and analytics for in-app subscription effectiveness.

What findings can we draw?

  • Working to improve paywall effectiveness is critical to increasing primary key conversions to trial or purchase.
  • You must test different pricing and subscription combinations and determine the most appropriate design and layout for your paywall.
  • Only through a series of experiments, market research, and iterative hypothesis testing can you find the perfect paywall for your app. This takes time and patience.

Other improvements to your paywalls can be tied to their personalization.

For example, displaying the screen for different groups of users, separated by gender or other characteristics. This will help you communicate more effectively with each group of users and increase subscription conversion.

We wish you the most efficient way to monetize your subscription apps and create loyal users. If this article motivated you to launch new paywall experiments, sign up for Apphud and save your time on testing and analyzing. 

Anton
Anton
Head of Product at Apphud
10+ years in mobile. Anton started his career as a backend developer, last 3 years has been working as a product manager. He created a podcast dedicated to software dev. Successfully launched (and sold) his own apps.

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