We've been asked many times - what is the right price for ringback tones? Should it be related to the price of ringtones? What parameters should be taken into consideration while determining the price? Those are great questions that I'll try to answer here, based on the experience and data that has been gathered from many operators worldwide.
In general, the ringback tones pricing model is based on a combination of these revenue streams:
- Content fee - the price that is paid for each selected tune.
- Monthly/daily fee - the price that is paid for operating/enabling the ringback tones service.
- Registration fee - a one time fee that is paid upon joining the service.
- Content expiration - some operators have a tune expiration date, which means that after X days the activated tune expires. If the subscriber won't buy a new tune after the old tune expires, the default "ring ring" will be assigned to his/her account. Usually operators notify the subscriber that his/her selected ringback tone is about to expire and will offer a new tune (for a full/reduced price).
These four streams join up to 3 common pricing models:
1) Content fee + Monthly/daily fee:
An AT&T user (for example) is charged $1.99 per tune + additional $0.99 of monthly fee for the Answer Tones service. The monthly fee is charged regardless of the number of Answer Tones ordered.
The benefits of this model are the constant revenue stream & quick return of investment (ROI) coming from the monthly fee. However, setting the right monthly fee is crucial; overcharging will lead to high churn rates.
The benefit of this model is the lower user resistance due to the lower (perceived) price for ringback tones. Content expiration increases awareness of the service (subscribers don't hear their own tune and many times they actually forget that they are subscribed to the service) and aims to generate more usage. When the tune expires, users are offered to purchase a new tune. At this point users are actually reminded that they have been subscribed to the ringback tones service which leads to 2 scenarios: a) users choose to opt-in and buy a new tune (i.e. pay the content fee) or b) users are reminded that they have been subscribed to a service that they no longer want and they opt-out. Unfortunately, many users choose to opt out, causing higher service churn rates.
Operators that use this pricing model are strongly recommended to have a good renewal system which offers the user a new tune upon the expiration date and provide an easy and intuitive purchasing experience (usually via SMS with deep linking). The importance of the renewal system is greater as the tune's "shelf life" is shorter. Also, it should be based on intuitive call for action.
3) Content fee + Registration fee:
A Kyivstar user (for example) is charged 7,30 UAH ($1.45 USD) upon joining the D-Jingle service (one time payment for activating the service) + additional 7,30 UAH ($1.45 USD) for each tune. All tunes expire after 3 months.
This model is less popular among operators as it generates lower revenue stream for the operator. Also, at the first purchase, subscriber is charged for two payments (content fee and registration fee) at once, making the perceived price relatively high.
To summarize, each of these models has it advantages and disadvantages but there is no correlation between the pricing model & the ringback tones service take-up; however, there is correlation between price & service take-up, the price is THE "make or break" factor, as you can see in the following diagram:
Effective Pricing - Guidelines:
While there is no single winning recipe for ringback tones pricing, we do have some recommendations and guidelines for effective pricing. First and most important, the ringback tones price should be:
- Affordable - based on subscribers' capabilities
- Perceived as fair - compared with other operators & services
How can you make sure the price is affordable and perceived as fair?
Factor Recommendation Competitors Lower or equal to competitors' price Ringtones <monthly fee + content fee> should be 30% below or above ringtones price Monthly ARPU <monthly fee + content fee> should be lower than 20% of ARPU Average Prepaid card Users should be able to pay monthly fee & purchase ringback tones along with their other voice & data expenses
Lower or equal to competitors' price
<monthly fee + content fee> should be 30% below or above ringtones price
<monthly fee + content fee> should be lower than 20% of ARPU
Average Prepaid card
Users should be able to pay monthly fee & purchase ringback tones along with their other voice & data expenses
And one last tip: if you don't have it already - create and promote a "promotion" category with a lower price. The promotion items can include the new single the music label is currently promoting, music covers, a discount for the first purchase etc'.