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Apple rolls out new developer tools to aid in subscription retention

Apple on Tuesday announced the launch of server notifications and enhanced receipts for subscriptions, including auto-renewable subscriptions, tools that provide actionable information for retaining paying users.

Announced through Apple's Developer portal, the new set of tools allows app makers to engage customers with customized in-app messages.

By setting up a Subscription Status URL in iTunes Connect, developers will be furnished with information and notifications regarding auto-renew status, auto-renew preference, subscription price consent status, subscription retries, expiration intent and cancellation reason. Collectively, this data can be used to identify and alleviate causes of subscription churn.

For example, when a user cancels their subscription, details of the transaction are sent server-side to app makers. Developers can use the information to tailor custom message for display in their app, addressing potential pain points like price increases and encouraging users to resubscribe.

Using the subscription price consent status tool, developers can notify users about an imminent price hike and monitor customer response in real time. As Apple notes, this information is useful in gauging and responding to consumer interest. For example, if a majority of subscribers have not agreed to a proposed increase, developers can take steps to promote different service levels or content offerings before the current subscription period ends, thus cutting down on lapsed renewals.

The new toolset also provides notifications relating to potential billing problems. The subscription retry flag, for example, lets developers know if a customer subscription was not renewed because the App Store was unable to complete the transaction, and whether that transaction is still in the renewal process.

Receipts also offer insight into user intent. Developers can easily detect when customers downgrade to a lower service tier before their current subscription expires, offering a chance to market the benefits of the current higher tier through in-app messaging.

The new tools are part of Apple's StoreKit API and were discussed at WWDC in June.