What is a paywall?

Glossary What is a paywall?

A paywall limits access to certain features or content within a freemium app, requiring users to make a purchase or subscribe to unlock the full functionality or content. This monetization strategy is prevalent in various verticals including news, gaming, streaming, and lifestyle apps, among others.

How do paywalls work?

When a user engages with a mobile app that employs a paywall, the journey typically unfolds as follows:

  1. App install: The user downloads the app and begins using it (the install). Initially, the user has access to basic features or a limited set of content for free, which serves to introduce the user to the app's functionality and value proposition.
  2. Encounter with paywall: Once the user engages with a trigger event, they encounter the paywall. Examples of common triggers include:
    • Scrolling to a certain depth on a page. (i.e. a news app user scrolls past the fold to read the full article, which is blurred as it is ‘locked’.)
    • Spending a given length of time in-app. (i.e. a streaming app user has reached the end of a 30-day free trial.)
    • Accessing a specific number of pages. (i.e. a gaming app user reaches level 5.)
    • Attempting to use premium features: (i.e. a sleep app user taps on a locked sleep story.)
  3. Decision point: Faced with the paywall, the user must decide whether to continue with the free version of the app, if this is an option, or to unlock the full experience by making a purchase or subscribing. The app may offer various incentives or previews of premium content to encourage the user to make this transition.
  4. In-app purchase (IAP): If the user decides to access the premium content or features, they will select a subscription plan or make a one-time purchase.
  5. Access to post-paywall content: Once the payment is processed, the user gains access to the premium features or content behind the paywall.

Implementing an effective paywall strategy

Throughout this journey, the effectiveness of a paywall in converting free users to paying subscribers often depends on the perceived value of the premium content or features, the user experience in navigating the paywall, and the ease of the transaction process.

Here are three considerations when forming your own paywall strategy:

  1. Optimize the timing of the paywall trigger: Introduce the paywall at a strategic point in the user journey where engagement is high. Avoid introducing it too early, which might deter users before they've seen the app's value, but also don't wait too long where the user might feel disrupted or surprised by its introduction. Most importantly, do not introduce it right when a user opens the app for the first time–they downloaded a free app over a paid app for a reason, and do not expect to immediately have to pay for its use.
  2. Offer a degree of value before asking for a monetary exchange: Provide users with access to basic features or a preview of premium content to showcase the value of your app.
  3. Provide flexible pricing options: Offer a variety of subscription plans or one-time purchase options to cater to different user preferences and price sensitivities. This could include monthly, quarterly, or annual subscriptions, and possibly a trial period that allows users to experience premium features before committing financially.

Paywall examples

Here are a few real-world examples of these paywall strategies in action.

Paywall examples from mobile apps.

Adjust and paywalls

As noted above, one of the key components of a successful paywall strategy is the timing of the placement. A mobile measurement partner (MMP) like Adjust is critical in offering unbiased data on in-app events. By measuring user engagements within your app, you can pinpoint exactly which triggers to set up (and when) to boost your conversion rates. Plus, you can A/B test the effectiveness of messaging, design, and more of your paywall with the help of reliable analytics to back data-driven decisions.

Request a demo to see how Adjust can help you optimize your mobile marketing strategy.

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