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Background:

I am working on a commercial mobile app with some opening in the retail market but not a typical consumer app. Users would need to sign up to start exploring what the app can do. This app helps users to maintain their driving logs by pairing to an external device via BT and this device is plugged into their vehicle and collects driving data and sends back to the app.

In order to keep their app connected to this device, users need to buy a subscription plan. If they don't buy a subscription plan they can still use the app, the external device that collects data, still sends it to the app but the app restricts it from showing it to the user based on their subscription plan.

Question:

Is it ok to introduce subscriptions while users are signing up or should we let user's sign up and then introduce subscription plans? I'm redesigning the app and one thing to be noted here is when the user bought this external device, it has "Requires monthly subscription" text on the box. Also, the cost of this device is on the more expensive side, so anyone who bought the device for this cost would have done some research before buying it. So it's not that user is surprised with the introduction of subscription plans. However, assuming they would have done their research and should know about it is not something that sounds user-friendly.

Not sure if the background and question are elaborate enough to give the context of the problem. But any feedback or links on when is the right time to introduce subscriptions to the user would be helpful!

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Not only is OK, but it is what you MUST do. Otherwise, you'd be hiding information and rendering the app unusable.

Picture this: your user buys the device, then subscribes and chooses free. But of course, free means absolutely nothing since you won't display any data until he pays. So user will probably be on one of these places:

  • the app doesn't work (call support)
  • How shady! They made me signup for free and then the app doesn't work until I pay
  • What a hassle, if I needed to pay, why did they wait until I needed the information and realized that I had to pay anyways?
  • Add another annoying reason to do this

So as you can see, by hiding the subscription plans, not only you're not saving frustration to your user, but you're creating a lot of friction

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Since the app is still useful without paying for subscription. A typically pattern is to allow the users to finish sign up (e.g. created account + potentially verify it) before you prompt them to perform a higher commitment task such as making a payment. A couple reasonings:

  • You want users to complete an objective in as few steps as possible. Payment and sign up can be interpreted to be two separate objective so if you like to bundle them you should set the expectation when they first entered the flow.
  • You still have the opportunity to prompt for payment after the user signed up because you have their information (email typically). When you make the payment step part of the sign up process then you will not be able to follow up if the user ended up not converting for any reason (e.g. don't have credit card at hand).
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The user has already made a payment. a substantial one for that matter. while the subscription payment might be small, is a hassle. generally paying online has a string of steps that need a high cognitive effort from the user. paying offline is much more simple.

Suggest the subscription should be also sold (maybe separately) when buying the device. The other option would be to have a minimum usage plan pre loaded (essential means you'll be giving them some free usage for a limited time)

For introducing the plans, 1st make sure the user gets to use the full app and get know it's full value before committing to a subscription plan.

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Usually, most of the sites do show the subscription plan before signing up. It basically asks the user to select the plan that interests them. For example, in free, basic or Plus plan tell the user what are the features they will be able to access. You can define plan according to your use-case or business requirement. As Devin pointed out some of the points you made user sign up and the app doesn't work until user pay those experiences are frustrating for user.

For reference: https://www.figma.com/pricing
https://www.zendesk.com/product/pricing/

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