In 2015, from the last price increase that Wild Apricot implemented, we said:
But, like all online services with fee structures, they’re going to need to figure out a more routine way of increasing prices, whether it just be on an annual basis, or some other way that allows customers to recognize that A) price increases will happen; and B) they can expect them in a given time frame. I’m sure they will, but at the same time, online clients cannot be surprised when online service prices increase. We’ll all be seeing more and more of that as time goes by.
Well… they didn’t do that. And they were bought out in late 2017, and in February 2018 they announced a price increase, to be implemented on any subscription renewals beginning after the first week in April 2018.
That is not the preferable way you manage costs and prices with online subscription services.
I don’t think you can blame the new owners much for this part of it. But the previous owners of Wild Apricot didn’t implement an annual price increase to focus on additional costs. And costs had to go up, particularly in server software maintenance and in security requirements. And as a software becomes more complicated (which Wild Apricot does continually) it also requires more resources to maintain the working ability of it.
So the new owners inherited a customer base that had only 1 price increase in the previous 8 years and which wasn’t conditioned to a price increase or expecting one.
What we can blame the new owners for is not understanding the client base well enough – or disregarding that understanding.
Three years ago, Wild Apricot gave a huge window of time for their clients to plan for the price increase, including letting the clients buy in at the OLD price level for another year by a certain date. They provided their reasoning for the increase which was easily understandable by most of their clients. This was pretty good, demonstrating an understanding that associations build annual budgets and even though they have some leeway in expenditures, it usually has to be explained to a Board and membership.
This time, it was a significant increase with only really 2 months to decide for the association on what they want to do, and to be honest, a pretty poor explanation of the increase in costs.
Yes, they have added value. But value is an eye-of-the-beholder thing. If I’m not using the new value, but depending on the older value, you are just adding cost. And that added value was, in theory, paid for by the revenues of the past.
Better is the argument of the value they will be adding, and they do make that point, but I think that also has not been done well. And it is a secondary point.
The reality of this is, for everyone involved, is that costs have gone up.
That has been unsaid. We do sites in WordPress and Drupal and do they cost the same as they did 3 years ago? No. Why is that? Because EVERYTHING has gotten more sophisticated, and because server, software and security needs have exploded.
We easily spend 5 times as much time on security issues today as we did 3 years ago. Part of that was perhaps a rose-colored perspective of the security of the Internet at that time. That should no longer exist for anyone, but particularly those that are responsible for the hosting and software of a web site. And that is exactly what Wild Apricot does. And not only do they have to deal with security issues that come from technology, they now also have to deal with security issues that come more… “bureacratically”; for example, the European data protection law and the constantly expanding requirements of the PCI Security Standards Council.
These are labor intensive things. And they cannot be done cheaply without risking the entire business. So they should not be done cheaply.
Wild Apricot should have spoken about this – the cost of providing service appropriately, securely, and with greater sophistication all the time. It is something customers should know – not the specific costs, but the arenas of it.
Frankly, customers should EXPECT an increase in price at this time, because costs are increasing. Or they should expect a company to fail them terribly in the future.
But few in the marketplace want to be the courier of such news.
What I hope Wild Apricot will do is figure out how to make these price changes more incremental – by year, and perhaps by function at some point.
Wild Apricot is still a bargain in association management software compared to the other online providers even with the price increase. It will be no big surprise if the other providers increase their prices within a year – at least one of them hasn’t had a price increase in three years either, and that cannot hold. But hopefully both Wild Apricot AND their customer base have learned something from this price increase:
- Wild Apricot has to provide a bigger window for customers to understand and support a price increase, and price increases should be smaller within a followup subscription, so they probably will need to increase prices more often than twice in eleven years. Maybe every other year at the least, for now.
- Customers should expect those price increases and if they are going to invest themselves into using Wild Apricot, budget appropriately. Anyone that budgets for anything with future year projections usually provides some sort of cost increase, and if it doesn’t happen it is a happy surprise. Associations should be doing this with their web sites as well.