By David Moth
Companies that sell their services based on a subscription model have a difficult task on their hands when it comes to designing a simple but persuasive pricing page.
It’s something we’ve tinkered with a great deal here at Econsultancy as the only way to find the most effective balance is by testing different elements and combinations.
To see if there are any best practices or common design elements when creating subscription pages, I visited the sites of four different SaaS (software as a service) vendors.
For many SaaS companies, it’s actually impossible to find out a pricing model without getting in contact with them first.
This is a particularly common tactic for enterprise level subscriptions as vendors often tailor the product depending on usage and the client’s budget, plus it’s useful to be able to sell in additional services while the contract is being hammered out.
It’s less common to hide pricing models for small business customers, however some SaaS vendors, such as Magento, don’t give any indication of the cost of any of their services.
Obviously all the SaaS vendors listed below offer different products that vary greatly in their level of complexity and customers will typically do a great deal of research before making a purchase, so the normal rules of retail ecommerce don’t necessarily apply.
But even so it’s useful to look how the information is displayed to determine whether there are any similarities or areas that can be improved.
Social listening firm Socialbakers has opted for a very simple layout that is easy for potential customers to understand.
The tick box format displays all the important information, showing at a glance that the different subscriptions largely offer the same service with the price dependant on the number of social accounts being monitored.
The calls-to-action are well designed as the green colour stands out and the copy, ‘Start free trial’, is more persuasive than ‘Buy now’ or some other variation.
It’s clear that the intention is to nudge customers towards the ’20 Pack’ subscription as it is labelled as ‘Most popular’ and there’s also some shading that makes the column appear more prominent.
I’ve noticed that this is a common tactic as it works in a similar way to offering social proof or reviews – the customer assumes that as it’s the most popular package then it must be the best one.
Socialbakers also offers a custom plan and a ‘Pro suite’, however the references to these services are fairly subtle in comparison to the main tick box grid.
Salesforce offers several different products, so for the purposes of this blog post I’ll focus on its Sales Cloud.
The copy at the top of the page for “the world’s #1 sales application” is fairly persuasive: “Improve sales productivity, boost your win rates, and grow your revenue.”
The design then places great emphasis on the cost of each product level, suggesting that Salesforce believes this is the most important information for its customers.
Unlike the other vendors on this list, Salesforce hasn’t opted for a tick box layout and instead just lists the product features for each subscription.
It means that it’s difficult to make a decision on which of the different product levels purchase, as there’s no like-for-like comparison.
Similarly, Salesforce should consider trying a different colour for the CTA as at the moment the buttons don’t really stand out.
On the plus side, the ‘most popular’ banner is a persuasive tool and the ‘Try it for free’ copy on the CTA is an effective soft sales tactic.
Hubspot is also very upfront with its costing model, offering three subscription levels depending on the functionality the customer requires.
As with Salesforce, Hubspot opts for a simple list of the features offered by each product rather than a tick box layout.
But unlike Salesforce the copywriting makes it clear what each level offers, as the lists begin “Everything in basic, plus…”, so the user knows what they are getting with each subscription.
Hubspot’s CTAs are also worth flagging up, as the most prominent button allows users to customise the pricing option. This requires the user to choose various add-ons and the level of training they require to use the software.
Once they’ve finished with the pricing customisation tool users are encouraged to request a demo, which obviously provides the sales team with some excellent leads.
Marketo’s marketing software has a wide range of features and add-ons, so it takes some time to explain the varying functionality of each product level.
There are three different subscription levels, with prices depending on the number of records a company has.
Marketo has decided to hit customers with the costs upfront, before explaining the intricacies of each service. This is a common approach among the vendors on this list as cost is generally one of the main concerns when making a purchase, though it’s obviously worth testing where the cost information is displayed in order to track the impact it has on conversions.
Throughout the entire page the ‘Standard’ level of subscription is highlighted in blue, which is quite confusing as there is no apparent explanation for this.
Presumably it’s just to make it appear more prominent and try to entice people to buy it, but Marketo might be better served to also use a ‘most popular’ tag or something similar.
Further down the page Marketo uses a tick box system to illustrate the different services on offer, which makes it very clear and easy to understand.
I’m not a huge fan of its choice of CTA though, as users have a choice of ‘Free trial’, ‘4 min demo’ and ‘Contact us’.
Each of these buttons is ever-present at the bottom of the screen, which is quite annoying, plus I’m not sure which one you click in order to sign up to Marketo’s service.
Do you start with a free trial and then sign up if you’re pleased with the service, or contact Marketo to discuss your options?
I feel that the tick box layout is the most effective method of displaying different subscription packages as it is the most user-friendly design for price comparison.
At a glance users can work out the best package for them, as the different features are clearly labelled.
The list format favoured by Hubspot and Salesforce is slightly more difficult to comprehend, though Hubspot has certainly done the better job of explaining its products to potential users.
Looking at CTAs, the exact wording varies depending on what the vendor is trying to achieve. None of them opted for a straightforward ‘Sign up’ button but instead framed the offer as a free trial or tried to force users to get in contact with a sales team.
Offering a free trial is a very effective sales tool as psychologically it doesn’t seem such a big commitment, even though the user knows that they’re basically signing up to use the paid-for product unless they proactively opt out when the trial period ends.
Finally, I like the use of the ‘most popular’ banners as it acts as a form of social proof, even though in reality it’s quite vague and doesn’t really mean anything.