Where did the $9 Plan go? Or, let’s talk about failure.

Hello! It’s Caitlin, your friendly neighborhood data sleuth.  I was waiting to write about a really cool experiment where we found awesome things and were super successful for my second blog post, but instead I’m going to talk about getting things wrong.


For a long time we’ve been hearing from users who wanted something between the free plan and our $49 plan. Students, developers working on side projects, start-ups just getting going, we heard you wanted to use us more than the free plan limits allowed, but were struggling to justify the monthly cost at $49+. And we get it, we totally do. We wanted to give you an option that would cost less than your monthly streaming subscription – that is, if you’re not still mooching Netflix off your friends.


We put together a $9 plan. Sure the plan was pretty bare bones, but it would give you more than the free plan, and it wouldn’t kill your app if you hit your monthly limit.


Of course, having a $9 plan begged a larger question: would enough of you actually want it? December showed us the answer was a pretty resounding no. Why did our $9 plan flop so badly?


First, it probably helps to know what we were looking for. How can you know something is a flop if you haven’t first defined success?


The $9 price point was really important to some of us here at Filestack.  Advocates wanted something for the start-ups, the side-projects, the students, the dreamers of the world who could be some of our greatest advocates if they could just afford the product.


$9 a month is less than those weekly Starbucks trips, less than your streaming service subscription, less than my monthly book budget, $9 is doable right?


We set the price and then we built a plan around it.  What can we offer at $9 a month? What will be useful to our users? We used a sweet spreadsheet I had built to fiddle with things here and there until we had something that worked and that we thought would be worth selling.


The biggest question we had about the plan was not whether anyone would want it, but whether enough of you would want it: a $9 plan needs to be 5x as successful as the $49 plan. I can run all the predictions I want to, but the only thing that could tell us whether the plan would be popular enough, is to actually sell it. After a little more than a month to test the popularity of the $9 plan it was clear: it wasn’t enough.


What can you learn from an experiment that didn’t go your way? There are a couple things we’ll be taking away from this.


First, we grossly underestimated how much it would matter that the $9 plan didn’t include being able to connect to your own storage. Our paid plans allow you to connect to your own Amazon S3 storage bucket (all plans) or for higher plans; Azure, Rackspace, Google Cloud Storage, or Dropbox. We know this is a valuable feature for our users, but we weren’t able to offer it at the $9 price point.


“No problem” we thought, “free users don’t have access to those either and some of them could still benefit from having higher limits.” Then the upgrades started rolling in.


One in five $9 plan sign-ups quickly upgraded to the $49 plan because they wanted access to their own S3 bucket. That’s 20% of new $9 plans upgrading immediately, and frustrated comments rolled in with those upgrades. We hadn’t done a great job of communicating the $9 plan didn’t have this feature, and people were telling us they felt bait-and-switched.


Which suggests another point: communicating the $9 plan was really really hard. How do you communicate there’s a $9 plan with limited features without hiding it on a separate page or confusing people with placement that suggests it’s more like the other plans than it is? We tested two different pricing plan formats during the experiment and neither really clarified the plan.


You may have noticed that we change our pricing page a lot here at Filestack. This is because we’re constantly balancing trying to convey all the features you get with each plan with not overwhelming you.  We want our pricing page to be simple, easy to understand, and we don’t want you to feel like you’re being deceived, the $9 plan was not helping that.


So… What’s Next?


The $9 plan is no longer offered, but don’t worry, we’re not going to kick any of you who are on it off anytime soon. If you’re a lucky $9 plan customer, keep it until you need to move up.


As for our next experiments, we’re going to keep trying to find the best ways to meet your needs within the bounds of what we do here at Filestack.


I know the real pressing question you all have is when you’ll get to hear from me again. I like hopping in and writing when I feel like I have something worth sharing. Hopefully I’ll have something a bit more positive to share next time. I can say we’re gearing up to launch a new version of the picker that is pretty cool and if I can manage to worm my way into writing about that you might see me sooner rather than later.


Until then, may your data be complete and your spreadsheets nimble.

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