‍The changing face of Times+ 

The Times
The Times
To mark 15 years of partnership with News UK, we turn back the clock to look at the impact of customer loyalty on the changing face of Times+ 

The mission: To call time on subscriber churn in a transforming publishing landscape.

Mission accepted, Clock helped conquer new digital frontiers with the inception of Times+ back in 2008. An industry first, Times+ would become central to a “digital first” strategy and lead the way in customer engagement and retention. 

Loyal Partners

Commissioned with a clear brief to help News UK pioneer rapidly shifting consumer demands, the seeds of a long term and fruitful partnership were sown very early in the relationship. Impressed by the team’s forward thinking tech, approach to transforming experience through a data driven strategy and expertise in publishing and digital loyalty platforms - and with the decline in print gathering pace - News UK knew Clock were the perfect partner to bring their Times+ digital platform to life. 

Creating value for customers is the foundation of every successful business system, and that value builds loyalty. As a key part of the loyalty and retention strategy, we were on hand to optimise success through data management, community creation, UX design and content.

But why a Loyalty Programme – surely that’s for retail rather than publishing?

In fact, it’s quite the contrary. Publishers are actually perfectly placed to blend value and experience, to create or enhance audience loyalty and build a sustainable long-term community around their brands and through their various channels.

But, in much the same way as retailers want to hold on to their valuable customers, media brands realise that customer defection is a huge risk to their future success. It can cost six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than keep an old one. Given the accessibility of information over a plethora of platforms, access to competitors are all just a click away from a customer’s fingertips. Therefore, outpacing your competition depends upon retaining loyalty amongst the customers you have worked hard to acquire.

Building a brand

Times+ set the bar as the first loyalty platform in UK publishing. And since the beginning, Clock has ensured that the creative and strategic vision for the site continues to be expertly crafted and maintained, underpinned with seamless UX and an optimal tech infrastructure. 

Using data to understand your customers is essential for reducing subscriber churn

We wanted to help News UK to better understand who their customers are, what they want and how they feel. The key to unlocking loyalty was to understand what is likely to make them churn. Then, try to change this behaviour by offering them more of what they do want.

Firstly, is to remove any barriers to access. Using the platform must be simple, enjoyable and in keeping with the brand. The platform has single sign-on and is integrated with The Times’ CRM, along with a range of other key commercial partners to provide users with a seamless experience. 

Times+ has proven to be a powerful tool to attract subscribers and the acquisition rates have certainly increased dramatically, almost quadrupling since the loyalty platform was created. However, it is as a retention tool that Times+ is so successful. So how do you use that digital experience to make them stay?

Roll out the rewards

Integrating a loyalty rewards programme into the customer experience can be a powerful counterforce to the challenges publishers are facing today. The incentives that will always really add value are those that use a brand’s key assets: In the case of Times+ this included exclusive access to money can’t buy events, and quality, thought-provoking content relevant to the audience demographic.

Ultimately, the combination of a carefully selected array of offers, tailored promotions and exclusive experiences are designed to make the loyalty platform a habitual and the interaction an indispensable part of users’ daily lives. We have been an integral part of that rewards journey, making content more enticing, accessible and engaging along the way.

Time for a change

Technology does not stand still and it is important to continually manage an effective cycle of loyalty, learning and value creation. After a successful 15 years of growth and modifications, it was time for a complete reboot to bring it bang up-to-date and more closely aligned with all the great things The Times and Sunday Times has to offer. We're proud to be proactive yet also adaptive to the ever changing needs and goals of our media clients, as well as, the ongoing challenges that the publishing industry faces as a whole.

Customer loyalty is about motivation and behaviour, not just marketing, finance or product development. It is about human values and principles, so we worked closely with News UK to work out what will help ensure their customers’ retention and we applied it.

So with a clear understanding of the updated design flow, enhanced UX and a brand new technology stack required, we set to work. Having developed a close and long-term working relationship with the News UK team, our role as an extension of their in-house resource ensured that brand consistency and strategic alignment came as second nature throughout.

A tech-driven approach to the future of Times+

The result is clear in a transformed Times+ website; a simplified and premium destination site offering a unified brand experience and one which showcases the benefits of the programme and is easy to navigate for users. So how did we do it? We created:

  • An optimal frontend and tech infrastructure, with features including single sign-on (SSO) and integrations with The Times’ CRM
  • A new events page with a monthly events schedule and new booking system 
  • A live chat feature allowing users to more easily self-service their account and ask questions, and alleviate unnecessary calls to Customer Services 
  • A new logged out homepage that locks rewards content and further underpins the programme's value and exclusivity.

In addition, with an upgraded and simplified Content Management System that matches the needs of the business today, content can be uploaded, managed and scheduled more efficiently than ever before.

With the new site, the member-base can now enjoy a range of exclusive carefully curated rewards, from a slap-up lunch with Giles Coren, free eBooks and cinema tickets, to a money-can’t-buy monthly events programme featuring key editorial talent such as Ben Macintyre, as well as business leader Steven Bartlett. 

A legacy of loyalty

Times+ remains a key component of retention and engagement for The Times. By generating an exceptional customer experience, not only through great journalism, but also through carefully tailored offers to suit the audience needs, The Times has really understood the value of its subscribers, which has meant it has become extremely successful in retaining them. 

The programme now has over 500k members, and an industry leading  retention rate for active users. Every year thousands of people attend Times+ organised events across the UK. Times+ has had a measurably positive effect on the churn rate of subscribers and its users have been shown to be highly likely to recommend The Times and The Sunday Times.  Here at Clock we look forward to continuing to be part of its evolution and watching its business impact soar.

Aimee Burge, Head of Partnerships and Loyalty for The Times and Sunday Times says of the new platform:

With just a few months to scope out and create a brand new Times+ website, I am delighted that the finished product looks fresh and modern, more closely aligned to The Times and most importantly is easy for our customers to navigate. It has been great to work with the team at Clock who have helped deliver the site within the short deadline, working to our high standards and have been flexible to our needs along the way. I look forward to working with them as we look to continuously evolve the site post-launch to work as hard as possible for our customers.

Check out the new Times+ site here.

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