🛠️ The Product Person #12 - Profits Over People

A quick product case study: Fantastical 3.0

This is a case study on Fantastical 3.0 and how they lost loyal users and earned 1 out of 5 stars on their Product Hunt launch.

So, what did they do?

Fantastical 3.0 is a calendar app that launched on Product Hunt a little less than a week ago.

With the new launch, the team behind the product changed the pricing model. Previously, users paid a fixed price for their software. Now, users would pay for a subscription. Sounds harmless right?

However, with their new pricing model, they didn’t “grandfather in” many of their existing users that purchased their previous version.

Users had to upgrade from a fully-featured product in 2.0 to an ad-filled feature-empty product in 3.0. Their features would be given back if they paid the new $60/year price.

For comparison, Fantastical used to charge $60 per version. And a new version came every 3-4 years. So for users, that’s a cost of $15-$20 per year. If we assume that a version 4.0 will come out in another 3-4 years, then that’s now a cost of $180-$240.

What was the effect?

75% of the comments under their Product Hunt launch were of upset users expressing their dislike and abandonment of the product. 62 angry comments in total (i counted).

Some users said they’ll be abandoning the product after being a user for 4+ years. They even ask others in the comments section for alternatives to Fantastical.

These ex-users expressed their unhappiness with such precision, you’d think that they were undercover content writers hired by their competition. Here’s an example.

Some other comments:

So, what is the lesson?

Just as they are magnets that attract more users to your product. If betrayed, loyal customers will use that same force to repel potential users. 

They’ll warn others to avoid you like a city quarantined for Corona.

They’ll express their upset with precision and reason —dissecting the ins and outs of your product. Showing you just how bad you fucked up.

Your job is to listen carefully and decide if your actions were worth the loss of users. If not, figure out how to clean up your mess, apologize to your users, and then move forward with a new solution.

What Fantastical could’ve done instead:

  1. Grandfather in their existing users into the new version with their previous pricing model: a fixed price.

  2. Implement a pricing model where the user can pay either a monthly subscription for cloud-based functionality, like using the app on the web, or a fixed price to own the software. A product like 1Password does this well:

🤗 Hat tip to my good friend Temirlan (@optemization) for telling me about this!

EDIT: Some users of Fantastical tell me that they’ve been grandfathered into 3.0.


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Enjoy the rest of your week :)

- Anthony