Exploring the Fusion of Recurring Growth and AI

Exploring the Fusion of Recurring Growth and AI

“Subscribed Connect Stockholm,” hosted by Zuora, united innovators and industry frontrunners to discuss the ever-evolving realm of recurring growth and modern business best practices. This dynamic event was brimming with valuable insights and showcased the latest technologies helping businesses to establish and expand in the modern landscape.

Designed for business leaders, Subscribed Connect Stockholm was the perfect networking opportunity for those who are ready to redefine their approach to business operations and embrace digital services that are shaping the future.

A foreword from John Phillips

As the General Manager for Zuora in Europe, I had the pleasure of setting the stage for an engaging and insightful discussion about the evolving world of subscription-based business models. To start, we kicked things off with a strong focus on modern business practices, highlighting essential points that underscored the significance of adapting to the dynamic landscape of the subscription economy.

I shared how the traditional concept of ownership is gradually giving way to a new era of customer-centric business models, emphasizing the concept of usership over ownership. And we covered the remarkable journey of the subscription economy over the past decade, aptly referred to as “The World Subscribed.”

This journey marked a transformative shift from the conventional practice of selling products to the more contemporary approach of providing services and experiences to customers, reshaping the very nature of businesses and consumer interactions.

Of course, we couldn’t expand on the future opportunities without first addressing the pressing challenges associated with current market saturation, particularly prevalent in industries like streaming and software as a service (SaaS). The intensifying competition has prompted companies to reevaluate their strategies, highlighting the critical importance of retaining existing customers in order to thrive in this new landscape.

It was then my pleasure to introduce the intriguing concept of the recurring growth flywheel. Highlighting the need for businesses to craft distinctive, customer-centric offerings and deliver personalized experiences to nurture strong and enduring relationships with their clientele. This strategic approach is designed to maximize customer lifetime value (CLV) as the cornerstone of sustainable growth.

Next, our attention turned to the pivotal role of monetization technology in enabling and sustaining recurring growth. We explored how the right technology can serve as the linchpin, seamlessly aligning customer needs with value, thereby fostering robust and enduring customer relationships that are instrumental in driving business success.

With this foundation in place, the stage was set for an engaging and thought-provoking discussion on the future of modern business, and to expand on this, we gave attendees a chance to dive into topics more deeply. Several breakout sessions unraveled the intricacies, challenges, and opportunities for 2024 and beyond…

Breakouts

To kick things off, we had an enlightening discussion on how AI is changing the future of subscription business strategy, personalization and processes. Here are some of the key takeaways:

Putting AI to work

  • AI can now make personalizing user experiences, optimizing customer journeys, and segmenting audiences more effective than ever before, leading to increased conversion rates through dynamic offers.
  • Effective use of data is essential for guiding new offers, tracking consumption, and retaining/acquiring subscribers.
  • AI enables businesses to identify subtle patterns in user behavior. Jonathan Harris (Sub (x)) highlighted that with the help of AI, intricacies we never thought possible can be identified. It’s now feasible to predict if and when a user is likely to churn, how long a free trial period should be to have the best chance of converting users, and even what offers are most likely to entice a particular audience segment to subscribe.
  • Clear focus areas and data-driven action are crucial for successful AI adoption.
  • AI simplifies complex data analysis, enhances productivity, and aligns AI strategies with financial and marketing objectives.

Next, we had a session on subscriber-led growth, where our audience gained valuable insights into how a customer first approach significantly enhances customer lifetime value and helps to refine strategies for modern businesses.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

Subscriber-led growth

  • The subscriber-led growth strategy focuses on five fundamental capabilities: personalized offers, enhanced user experiences, flexible payment options, streamlined operations, and robust technological infrastructure.
  • A customer-centric mindset and iterative growth strategies are key to safeguarding a business’s future. Building long-lasting customer relationships through user experiences and personalized offers is essential.
  • Iterative growth, driven by customer satisfaction, leads to better retention and the creation of brand advocates, which aids in acquisition.

In a culminating moment, James Henderson, SVP, GTM Innovation, Zuora, moderated a panel discussion that further demonstrated the significance of prioritizing customers and harnessing data (utilizing the recurring growth flywheel and the appropriate technology) as the key to enduring success. Here we had the opportunity to see how real businesses are tackling future innovations. The following are some of the discussion points from the panel:

Our panel:A wealth of insights

1. Subscriber-oriented models unlock new capabilities, but there are some challenges

The panel discussion underscored the imperative shift from brand-centric strategies to a customer-centric approach. It highlighted the significance of harnessing user data and technology to gain a holistic understanding of customer behavior, with the objective of delivering personalized, value-driven customer experiences. 

Mirela Miculescu from Visma shared insights, shedding light on the intricate nature of their software business. They are currently amalgamating subscription technologies into a unified platform to facilitate the creation of innovative products while obtaining a 360-degree customer view.

Fredrik Schjold, representing Schibsted, reinforced the importance of this transition. His project is an ambitious endeavor, seeking to streamline operations and enhance customer experiences by consolidating various technologies into a single platform serving 10 brands and 1.5 million subscribers. He emphasized the necessity of establishing a center of excellence and fostering organizational adaptability when embarking on a subscriber-oriented model to ensure a successful transformation throughout the business.

When done correctly, subscriber-oriented models show clear promise. Synsam Lifestyle, for example, has transitioned from a discount-oriented approach to selling bundled value through subscriptions. Olle Söder, Managing Director Synsam Lifestyle, notes: “We were the first mover in an industry that never saw a subscription model when we were taking it from 2018. Up to now, we have grown from 0 up to 550,000 active subscribers.

This shift has allowed them to maintain close customer relationships, offer comprehensive eye care solutions, and move away from price-driven competition. Olle Söder attributes their success to having a unified team: “Our success has been down to having a very business-oriented team, including traditional finance departments, all within the same team, working together on business development.

The panel collectively strives toward shared objectives, which include introducing new products, acquiring a comprehensive customer perspective, enhancing flexibility, and reducing operational costs. Each panelist is a Zuora customer and is advancing their capabilities and adaptability by centering their strategies around customer needs and evolving their approaches accordingly.

2. Harness the power of data and technology for continuous innovation

Our panel also covered how data analytics offer invaluable guidance and help businesses make informed decisions, further elevating their user experiences. This data-driven approach allows businesses to unlock revenue potential and cash flow improvements while maintaining a delicate balance between delivering exceptional value and managing costs.

All speakers stressed the importance of accurate user data in shaping product innovation and enhancing the customer experience. Data-driven insights are crucial for building flexible and customer-focused products, and having the right technology to make full use of your data is key. 

This means having technology to collect data at crucial points in the subscriber journey, analyze vast quantities of that user data, and then condense those findings into actionable insights that inform decision making.

Mirela Miculescu reminded us of the importance of integrating technology effectively and choosing what’s right for your business: “It’s one thing to choose the right technology. It’s a completely different thing to think about how you actually prepare the technology in conjunction with your strategy, with your organizational capabilities, with your own DNA.”

For instance, Synsam, a leader in eye care solutions, credited a significant part of their remarkable growth to the technology infrastructure they’ve meticulously built and continually updated across their entire organization, including physical stores. This technology ensures they remain agile and well-equipped to meet the evolving needs of their customers while providing an outstanding user experience.

3. Beyond ARR: Essential metrics for predicting growth and market valuation

While annual recurring revenue (ARR) remains a fundamental metric for evaluating the current performance of subscription-based businesses, it’s crucial to recognize that several other metrics hold the key to predicting future growth and market valuation. 

One such critical metric is customer lifetime value (CLV), a powerful tool for assessing the long-term profitability associated with acquired customers. CLV provides invaluable insights for making informed decisions related to customer acquisition costs and the strategies needed to retain customers over time.

Our panelist’s discussion revolved around the concept of customer-centricity and the associated data challenges that come with its pursuit. Our panelists emphasized the pivotal role of CLV as a central metric for comprehending and delivering value to subscribers. 

They shed light on the imperative of aggregating data from diverse sources, including subscription systems, customer support interactions, and behavioral data, to construct a comprehensive and holistic portrait of customer behavior. 

Fredrik Schjold: ​​“If you’ve been a loyal subscriber, you’re a highly valuable customer for Schibsted. However, we only knew you were a valued customer when you reached out with an issue. Before, we couldn’t provide a comprehensive view of our customers. But now, we have a much better understanding of their interactions with our company, not just when they contacted us for support. This improved insight allows us to tailor our customer support and provide different levels of service, especially to high-value customers. It opens up a host of opportunities for us.

Despite grappling with the complexities of harmonizing various aspects of their businesses, such as subscription management, advertising operations, and marketplace activities, all our participants shared a unified focus on subscription value as their guiding “North Star.”

However, Fredrik Schjold, Schibsted, also acknowledged an important point about the role of customer activity and engagement in determining CLV. Notably, even passive customers can contribute to a favorable customer lifetime value, emphasizing that different segments of subscribers require tailored strategies. 

In essence, the conversation reinforced the critical importance of aligning these essential metrics with broader business strategies to effectively steer toward customer-centric goals. By embracing these metrics and navigating the challenges associated with data integration, businesses are better equipped to predict their growth trajectory and market valuation accurately.

Thanks to all our guests and sponsors

Subscribed Connect Stockholm owes its success to the esteemed guests and sponsors who supported the event. We express our heartfelt gratitude to Sub(x), checkout.com, Avalara, and all those who contributed to making this event an outstanding success.

The event’s focus on subscriber-led growth and the transformative power of AI offered attendees invaluable insights and actionable strategies for navigating the ever-evolving business landscape. A huge thankyou to our guest speakers Fridtjof Semb Fredricsson (Pareto Securities), Anton Wester (Pareto Securities AB), Jonathan Harris (Sub(x)), Julian Thorne (Sub(x)), Mirela Miculescu (Visma), Olle Söder (Synsam), Fredrik Schjold (Schibsted), Pål Malmros (Verdane), and many more!

Want to learn more?

Stay tuned for more updates and join us in our mission to redefine modern business in the era of recurring growth. As we bid adieu to Stockholm, we invite you to explore the exciting announcements from Subscribed Connect London, offering a deeper dive into the realm of subscription-based growth. Watch and share recordings of all the Subscribed Live keynotes, customer stories, and product demos from Subscribed Connect London here

To discover how Zuora can help your business thrive, connect with one of our experts today.

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