Publishers see subscription growth in tests with Amazon Pay

Amazon has pivoted away from selling content subscriptions on its own platform. But some publishers are turning to Amazon’s mobile payments product, Amazon Pay, to convert subscribers on their own sites and like what they’ve seen so far.

Amazon Pay lets site visitors enter their credit card information with a couple of taps rather than typing all the information in manually. Using Amazon Pay “significantly” reduced friction and improved conversion, said Chris Taylor, The Telegraph’s chief information officer. The Seattle Times, which recently added Amazon Pay through Zuora, already sees Amazon Pay as “essential” to increasing retention, said Curtis Huber, The Times’ senior director of circulation and audience revenue.

While publishers have their reservations about Amazon’s growing content and experiential ambitions because Amazon retains the data about the customers that publishers send its way, they also see potential to leverage its enormous consumer base. More than half of all American consumers begin an e-commerce search on Amazon, and Amazon Prime has over 100 million members. Some publishers earn up to 80 percent of their commerce revenue through Amazon’s affiliate program, Amazon Associates.

With Amazon Pay, the publisher keeps the customer’s contact information — though not the credit card number — enabling it to maintain contact, renew and upsell customers later.

“People think of Amazon as an e-commerce vendor, but that’s not their success,” said Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of subscription service platform Zuora, which integrated Amazon Pay into its service Thursday; both The Times and The Telegraph are Zuora customers. “They have a one-to-one relationship with their customers.”

Amazon Pay has been around for over a decade. In 2016, it revealed that 33 million people in 170 countries had used Amazon Pay to purchase something.

That penetration might be relatively modest for Amazon, but publishers eager to improve their mobile conversion rates are willing to try anything. Across all industries, mobile commerce conversions are just over 2 percent, about half the conversion rate (3.8 percent) seen on desktop, according to Monetate data.

A majority of American consumers expect that mobile wallets will replace the ones in their pockets by 2025, according to research published this spring by Synchrony. As that happens, subscription publishers will have to integrate as many payments providers as they can to maximize their conversions.

“The content provider that does the best job of managing the back end so that the user can concentrate on the quality of content being offered is going to win,” said Jim Fosina, the founder of subscription marketing agency Fosina Marketing Group.

Note: This story has been updated. An earlier version said Amazon Pay has increased retention 30 percent for the Seattle Times. Zuora was responsible for that increase.

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