Psychology of a subscriber

Part 3: Churn

Are OTT brands to blame for losing their own customers? Discover new strategies to retain subscribers and win back those who have already left



In any long-term relationship, a separation or divorce can eventually be on the cards – especially if one party is demanding one-way loyalty. Brands often lose subscribers due to two key psychological factors:



This third report explores how subscribers often feel rejected and ignored by brands, who prioritise winning new customers instead of creating valuable engagement with current ones

A key reason why subscribers leave brands is that they don’t feel appreciated enough. In fact, subscribers often feel their monthly payment is taken for granted. Leaving the brand enables them to prove they are not trapped and are still in control.”


The Reciprocity Bias is a key factor pushing a subscriber to either ‘churn’ or become a brand ‘advocate’ – but brands seem blissfully unaware of it

Brands tend to form very practical, transaction-based relationships with customers, but this ignores expectations and desires for a more emotional, tailored experience

A one-way loyalty system, desired and established by brands, leaves subscribers feeling rejected and ignored

There’s a typical ‘grief process’ that happens for subscribers and brands when the relationship is ending, but lack of belief in a reconciliation means that strong possibilities for new beginnings are missed

Labelling churned subscribers too soon, and in the wrong manner, means brands are losing customers – the ‘paid-up period’ is an important opportunity to demonstrate a change

Options to ‘freeze’ and ‘dip in and out’ of subscriptions can create positive emotional attachment for subscribers, which is crucial for a healthy, long-term relationship


To build a relationship with subscribers and create a service they stay loyal to, brands must understand the emotional and psychological drivers throughout the customer journey. This report covers two Decision Moments in the Churn phase: Leave and Winback. During the study these moments are equated to the desires, stages and shifts in a ‘typical’ modern romantic relationship.


The Leave decision moment is like a divorce – one where the relationship has soured and trust has been lost. Subscribers often have a number of reasons to cancel, both voluntary and involuntary, but because brands lack insight into the customer experience, they react to churn in ways that don’t correspond with the reasons for leaving.

The more brands try to ‘force’ subscribers to stay, the less connected and more restricted subscribers feel. Brands could use this ‘paid-up’ period instead to subtly persuade them to change their mind, by providing excellent service and content that resonates, rather than being desperate or clingy when requests to leave are first expressed.

Topics explored

  • Key reasons why subscribers leave
  • 11 best practices for brands
  • Spotlight on sports subscribers and avoidable churn


The Winback moment is when those who ‘divorced’ the brand decide to give it another go. This is very closely linked with the idea of a ‘healthy separation’, where there is no bad feeling. If there was a messy divorce, there’s unlikely to be any re-engagement at all.

When brands take strides to ensure divorces are not messy and extend an open invitation for subscribers to return once they are ready, it makes subscribers feel positive towards them. Brands also need to look at ways to proactively regain trust and perform to the standards these individual customers expect, by knowing why they left in the first place.

Topics explored

  • How to reimpress subscribers
  • 9 best practices for brands
  • Spotlight on Baby Boomers and the customer experience


There are more than 20 best practices in this report that you can try for your own service. Here are a few…


Ensure cancellation and rejoin are easy and that buttons are clearly displayed


Get pushy, reactive or desperate, which can turn off subscribers or make them feel bad


Create a winback strategy, retargeting segments based on their reason for leaving


Forget past subscribers, label them as ‘dormant’, or visualise them as ‘gone’


These three qualitative reports explore relational dynamics at play when subscribers interact with brands along the customer journey. All are available to download now…


Discover how narcissistic brand behaviour puts the relationship with subscribers on the back foot from the moment a customer joins


How can brands build a loyal and engaged subscriber base through superior customer experience, and overcome financial concerns?


Learn how it’s possible for brands to have a ‘healthy divorce’ with subscribers, and create easy, positive ways to win subscribers back



Jennifer is the director of QualiProjects ( and managed the study from start to finish. She has been a qualitative researcher for 14 years and conducts research for businesses from consumer and tech to social, health and charity sectors, in multiple languages.


Katharina is a business psychologist and researcher with a decade of experience in qualitative and quantitative research. She supports brands in finding psychological influences on retention, loyalty, purchase decisions, product perceptions and customer experience, and helps brands to build these insights into their business strategies.


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