Earlier this week, PicMonkey changed the pricing model of their photo editing service. While that may not seem all that newsworthy, how they did it has the Internet up in arms.
First, let me explain how I came across the change in their pricing / business model. The context is important, I think. I use PicMonkey’s free crop tool and transparent edges / create a circle tool to create round images quickly for sales pages / webpages. The tool has been free to use for years with premium upgrades if you want to use the tool to do heavier editing.
I logged into the tool last night, cropped my photo into a square, edited it so it was a circle with transparent edges and clicked “export” like I always do but instead of it saving, was met with a login screen. I thought that was a little strange but figured they must be trying to drive folks to create an account versus just use the website with no opt-in / login. So, I connected my Facebook account and tried to export the image again.
(Even this pop-up when you click “export” is deceiving… It tells me, as a long-time user, that all I need to do is login to be able to try it for free. Not, “Hey, exports are for paid customers only.”)
This time, I was met with an upgrade screen. The upgrade screen told me that I could export my photo IF I upgraded to a Premium or Supremium account.
(Still nothing here to inform long-time customers of the changes…)
Confused, I headed over to PicMonkey’s Twitter account to find out what was up and there, I was met with a number of angry, raging PicMonkey fans who also had the news sprung on them.
It’s Not the Change to Pay-to-Play That’s the Problem…
Some people in the comments of PicMonkey’s blog post on the change and on social media were confused as to why some people were upset by the change. “They are a company, of course they need to make money!” one person wrote. But here’s the thing… it’s not that they changed their pricing model that’s the issue… it’s how.
When you operate with the same model for years, you need to have a clear cut plan in place to execute change. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating your super fans and your most loyal customers. And yes, even in a freemium model, the people engaging with your product or service ARE customers. Those people are using your tool, likely talking about it, sharing it, writing about it, including it in video tutorials and more. They may not be paying you money but they are valuable for so many other reasons.
Where PicMonkey failed their super fans and most loyal customers was not letting them know about the change before folks spent valuable time making their designs. People came to the site, it looked and operated the same, they put the time and effort into their graphics per usual only to get met with a record scratch and a message that essentially screamed: your time isn’t valuable to us, we don’t care, pay to play.
When I was met with this screen, it had a small impact on my workflow as creating circular graphics only takes me about 45-60 seconds. However, I read a few comments across the article and social media where people had spent upwards of an hour creating something, the way they always would have, only to then be told about the change.
How to Change Your Pricing Model the Right Way
When you’re making a big change to your pricing or business model, communicate, communicate, communicate. If you think you’ve informed everyone, think again. The world is noisy and it’s your job to disrupt the noise and ensure that people know what’s up.
In PicMonkey’s case, a pop-up informing people of the change as soon as they landed on the site would have helped. Or, maybe a HelloBar across the top of the site with the text, “Hey loyal customers! Before you design, check out our changes!”
When you cause your customers to hit a brick wall doing 90km/hr, you break their trust. Instead of it being a wide open road that is familiar and safe, it’s now become a treacherous highway riddled with obstacles. Okay, that analogy may have been a bit dramatic but you get my point.
Change is hard. Really, really hard. And, businesses DO need to make money. However, if the change is mismanaged, poorly communicated and the user experience is affected so negatively, you’ll create angry customers who no longer trust you.
PicMonkey has a big job ahead to clean up their reputation and win back the hearts and minds of their most loyal fans. It’ll be interesting to watch how they do that.
In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out Canva if you’re looking for another photo editor in the meantime. While it doesn’t have all of the features that PicMonkey does around photo retouching, it will allow you to create graphics for free.