Want more app conversions? Pick the right paywall.

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Olivia Doboaca
Want more app conversions? Pick the right paywall.

Table of Content:

  1. What is a paywall?
  2. Paywall types
    • 1. Standard non-scrollable paywall
    • 2. Landing page paywall
    • 3. Modal paywall
    • 4. Trial paywall
    • 5. Trial toggle paywall
    • 6. Single-plan paywall
    • 7. Multi-plan paywall
    • 8. Offer paywall
    • 9. Donation paywall
    • 10. Personalized paywall
  3. Where it all comes together
  4. Conclusion

Mobile app paywalls. They're everywhere and in different forms—all done to convert users into paying customers. Choosing the right type of paywall that matches your app and audience will make or break your monetization efforts.

This short article will go over paywall types and how to capitalize on them the most.

What is a paywall?

A mobile app paywall is basically a gate. If you want full access to the app's content, you'll need to part with some cash. It's a way for app developers to earn from their effort and still deliver quality content to you.

For apps that thrive on free trials as their main user attraction, a trial-focused paywall is essential. It tells users what they'll get and why they should bother. For premium apps requiring persuasive selling, a detailed long-form paywall is better. For quick upgrades, you can just toss in an "offer" paywall. Mix and match as you see fit.

When developers use a paywall, they believe their content has value. So when you encounter it, you pay directly from your device to unlock what's behind. The top-notch paywall services give developers flexibility. They can set varying prices, offer trial runs, and even some promotional deals.

Here are the types of paywalls, in short:

  1. Standard non-scrollable. Everything's in front of the user. No scrolling, hence the name.
  2. Landing page style. Sort of the same as above, but more information outlined in the offer.
  3. Modal. These are popups. To move on, users either buy or close the popup.
  4. Trial. Offers a taste. Users get to test before they buy.
  5. Trial toggle. Like a trial, but with a toggle switch to opt-in.
  6. Single plan. One plan, one price. No confusion.
  7. Multiplan. Choices. Monthly, yearly, or something else.
  8. Offer. Sweet deals and discounts to tempt users.
  9. Donation. For the charitable heart. Users choose to pay or not.
  10. Personalized. Customized based on the user’s behavior or preferences.

Paywall types

Paywalls come in many shapes in flavors. Apps are not restricted to just one monetization model or type of paywall. Normally, you would encounter a carefully selected combination of various paywalls.

The usual flow is as follows: a taste of what the app has to offer with a gentle offer to review the subscription options (hint: here’s an article explaining how we would do it). Then, there is a limit to what you can do before encountering a hard paywall. By that time, it’s estimated that the users already have an idea if they like the app. So, let’s take a look at every type of paywall under the sun:

1. Standard non-scrollable paywall

These are obnoxious barriers you encounter on an app that prevents you from accessing the content beyond a certain point unless you cough up some money or take a specific action.

You can view a part of the content, usually the beginning. Once you scroll down or try to access more of the content, bam! You hit the paywall.

They're fixed in place, meaning no matter how much you try to scroll, swipe, or beg, that content won’t be showing up. This model lets users get a taste before they're asked to pay.

This is a very popular paywall model for all sorts of editorial and news apps. The New York Times and The Washington Post both will let you get a taste of the content once you run out of your monthly or weekly limit.

2. Landing page paywall

Unlike the typical "everything on one screen" deal, long-form paywalls stretch out. It’s like a proper landing page but within your app.

You can use a whole bunch of selling elements on this LP paywall, such as:

  • Social proof. Throw in stats about how many use your app, and show off those shining reviews.
  • Features. You've got space. Use it to spell out why your app is worth the user’s time.
  • Value clarification. Clearly highlight why shelling out money for the premium is worth it over the free version.
  • Address concerns. Throw in an FAQ section to cover the basics like data privacy, subscriptions, refunds, and all that. It matters.

The problem is finding the right balance. Too long, and users will bounce. Too short, they may end up unconvinced. This model is common for subscription services where the business model is predominantly based on member access.

3. Modal paywall

A modal paywall appears in the form of a pop-up. Instead of restricting access entirely, a modal paywall interrupts the user's experience to request payment or subscription for continued access or to unlock premium content or features.

For instance, the Medium app:

Once the free limit is reached, you introduce a modal overlay that informs the reader that they've hit their monthly free article limit. The modal will then pitch Medium’s membership program, suggesting that for a monthly fee, readers can get unlimited access to articles. Users can either decide to pay for the membership or refrain from reading further articles until the next month (or find other means, like clearing cookies, to bypass this, though that's not the intended use).

4. Trial paywall

A trial paywall is when an app gives you a taste of its premium features for free for a limited time, but then expects you to pay up if you want to continue using those features after the trial ends.

For instance: when you first sign up for Spotify, you might get a promotional offer where you can enjoy their Premium service free for a short duration (like 1 month). This is the offer.

Dive into ad-free music, better sound quality, and offline listening. But once that honeymoon phase is over, boom! You hit the paywall. If you want to keep those privileges, you'll need to pay a monthly fee.

After tasting the good life, you won't want to go back to listening with ads. Many apps use this model because, quite frankly, it works. Give users a taste, get them hooked, and then ask them to pay.

The trial duration matters, though. Too long, the users procrastinate; too short, they feel pressured. Testing is key here.

5. Trial toggle paywall

This is what you see when an app gives you access to some features for free, but to access the "premium" features, you've got to pay—much like a standard Trial paywall. However, instead of a straightforward timed trial (e.g., 14 days free), you can toggle the paid features on and off during the trial period. This gives you a taste of the full experience without committing right away.

The Notion app used to be monetized like that quite successfully.

Before changing their pricing model, in its free version, you could create and edit a limited number of "blocks" (their term for pieces of content). You could toggle to see what it felt like to have an unrestricted workspace, and once you got a taste, you might just decide to purchase the full experience.

6. Single-plan paywall

A single-plan paywall is a pricing model where an app offers one, and only one, premium subscription or purchase option to its users. No fancy tiered pricing or multiple plans. One price, one set of features.

The meditation app Calm does it this way. There is a single subscription plan for users to access its premium content. You either got the free version with limited features or you paid for the premium subscription to unlock everything. Lately, you can subscribe to a Trial plan with monthly billing or buy it forever, but the feature range stays the same across both plans.

Users don't need to scratch their heads comparing multiple plans and deciding which one is best for them.

7. Multi-plan paywall

A multi-plan paywall includes multiple payment plans, each with different price points, benefits, and durations. It caters to varying user preferences, and works perfectly well for certain app types.

As an example, let’s take The New York Times app again (yeah, multiple paywalls!).

The NYT app doesn't just say, "Pay this, or go away." They have multiple subscription options.

Here's a rough breakdown:

  • Basic subscription. Gives you access to their articles but with some limitations. You can't access some of the premium content, crossword puzzles, or their magazine.
  • Crossword subscription. For those puzzle nerds out there. This gives access to the daily crossword, but not much else in the way of articles.
  • Other stuff. Games, Athletic, etc. Their product range keeps on growing, which is why the last option in this list is so much more appealing.
  • All access subscription: Unlimited access to articles, the crossword, magazine, and more.

Not everyone wants the crossword. Not everyone cares about deep dives or opinion pieces. Multi-plan models cater to diverse users and can generate more overall revenue.

8. Offer paywall

Discounts. Users love them—who refuses a good deal? An offer paywall isn’t exactly a paywall, but acts like it. Whenever the user reaches a certain stage, an offer can be presented in a whole variety of ways—it can be a popup, a proper non-scrollable paywall, or something else in between.

For instance, Duolingo occasionally rolls out seasonal offers.

Let's say it's around the end of the year, perhaps around the holidays. Many people are thinking of New Year resolutions. Learning a new language? That’s a popular one. Duolingo would push a notification or email that says something like, "Get 30% off Duolingo Plus for the next 48 hours!" or "Gift Duolingo Plus to a friend and get a month free for yourself!"

Beyond just the discount, they could throw in special bonuses. Maybe a limited-edition in-app badge, or exclusive holiday-themed lessons or challenges. This kind of offer is often heavily promoted in the form of in-app notifications, banners, emails, and social media posts.

9. Donation paywall

Donation app paywalls aren't really "paywalls" in the traditional sense. Traditional paywalls block access until you pay up. Donation-based models, on the other hand, play more on your emotions and goodwill. They say, "Hey, you like what we're doing? Maybe toss a coin our way?"

Take Wikipedia, for example.

It's not a typical app, but their mobile version uses this model. Wikipedia provides a vast expanse of information, and they don't charge you a dime for it. However, every now and then, you'll see a banner pop up on their site with a heartfelt message from the Wikimedia Foundation, talking about how they're funded by regular folks and how even a small donation can keep the site running.

They don't lock any of their content behind a payment demand. Instead, they use the donation model to appeal to the sense of community and the shared goal of open information for all. Essentially, they're saying: "If you find this valuable and can spare some change, help us keep it going. If not, no hard feelings; keep on reading."

10. Personalized paywall

Personalized app paywalls adjust based on user behavior. Let’s take Spotify as an example again.

Sure, you can use Spotify for free. But do it long enough, and you'll see how cleverly they nudge you towards their premium version.

Listening to your favorite tunes every day for hours? Spotify takes note. If you're a heavy user, they might pitch the premium offer to you sooner, emphasizing no interruptions. Constantly frustrated by the limited skips in the free version or those pesky ads ruining your vibe? Spotify knows and will throw the “unlimited skips” and “ad-free experience” in front of you. And so on and so forth.

Where it all comes together

One might think that simply picking the right paywall type will unlock the treasure chest of conversions. And while a large part of it is choosing the right method, there's an underbelly to the entire process that's just as essential: feedback, reputation, and reviews.

Imagine you're at a point where you're considering buying a product. What do you do? You check reviews, right? An app's reviews can make or break a user's decision to pass through a paywall, especially if they're on the fence. No matter how attractive your paywall, if your reviews are screaming, "This is a scam!" or "Not worth the money!", your conversion rates will plummet.

On the contrary, glowing reviews that praise the content or features behind the paywall can encourage users to take the plunge. Thus, you have pay attention to the feedback first and foremost.

Maybe the users love the app but think the pricing is off, or perhaps they're not quite understanding what the premium version offers. This is the kind of feedback that can guide adjustments, refinements, or even overhauls of your paywall strategy.

It’s an easy thing to do with AppFollow, as you can track app reviews across multiple app stores and review platforms in real-time. Directly respond to user feedback, addressing user concerns or thank them for their suggestions. It’s not just about managing negative feedback.

Insights into your app's performance and user sentiment can provide valuable data, showing if changes to your paywall or added features are resonating well. Finally, you can also keep an eye on your competitors. It’s always helpful. The pitch has been pitched, hope that’s okay!

Conclusion

While the structure and type of paywall you use are fundamental, it's not just about the wall itself, but about the entire ecosystem around it.

Monitoring, understanding, and responding to user feedback are the main components in ensuring that your paywall isn’t just a barrier but a gateway to value for your users.

In case you’d like to boost your journey to success, get in touch with us. With AppFollow, you’ll easily manage your app reputation, ASO, and growth needs.

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