Why Doesn’t MacroFactor have a Lifetime Subscription Tier with a One-Time Payment?

Short answer: doing so would be surprisingly risky, and run the risk of misaligning incentives

We understand the reality of “subscription fatigue,” so we definitely understand why some people would like MacroFactor to offer a lifetime subscription option with a one-time payment. However, have a have few good reasons for not offering one.

Most products that offer one-time purchase options have either no ongoing per-user costs post-sale, or low and predictable ongoing costs. For example, if you buy a pair of jeans, the manufacturer has already incurred all of the costs associated with producing and selling that particular garment – materials, labor, marketing, and transportation costs – before you buy it. Similarly, I used to be a member of a research review with a lifetime subscription option. There were ongoing per-user costs post-sale (for example, bandwidth costs associated with users downloading the PDF, video files, and audio files associated with each monthly issue), but they were relatively low and predictable, so we knew that we wouldn’t end up losing money on lifetime subscribers who downloaded all of the content in every issue for 20 years.

Most products that don’t offer one-time payment options, including MacroFactor, do have significant per-user costs post-sale. Just as one example, we pay for access to high-quality food databases, and that cost – our single largest cost, outside of employee salaries – scales with total usage (in other words, if we have more users logging more food, we have to pay more).

So, offering a one-time fee would necessarily require forecasting how long someone would keep using MacroFactor, with the understanding that people who pay the lifetime price will probably, in aggregate, use the app for longer than the median user. And, if we guessed wrong, that could be an extremely costly mistake. For example, if we priced a lifetime subscription such that it would cover per-user costs for five years, but lifetime users ended up using the app for 10+ years, we’d wind up losing money every time a lifetime user kept using the app past the five-year mark.

Furthermore, our per-user costs are inherently unpredictable, and will likely scale up over time. For example, I’m writing this just before MacroFactor launches body progress tracking, which will allow users to upload progress photos. Image hosting and retrieval won’t break the bank, but it does come with non-trivial per-user costs that will increase over time as users upload more and more progress photos. Similarly, it’s likely that we’ll eventually employ AI models to further enhance current features, or to support new features – some of those models can be pretty costly. As technology develops, it’s impossible to know whether our recurring per-user costs will be 20% higher, 200% higher, or 5% lower in five years.

So, not only would we need to accurately forecast how long lifetime users would keep using the app; we’d also need to accurately forecast how per-user costs will change, far into the future. We simply can’t do that. As a result, offering a one-time payment option at any price that would be attractive to users would just be unjustifiably risky.

However, I’ll note that not offering a one-time payment option actually comes with a major advantage to users that may not be immediately obvious: it ensures that our interests as a business are always aligned with your interests as a user.

You want to use the best app on the market, and if MacroFactor isn’t meeting your needs, you can cancel your subscription and take your business elsewhere. As it is now, MacroFactor’s profits scale linearly with user retention – if users use the app for twice as long, we make twice as much profit. So, it’s in our best interest to continually improve the app – improving the app improves user retention, and improving user retention increases profit. That’s why I say that our current system ensures our interests are aligned with yours: continually improving the app is in the users’ best interests, and it’s also in the business’s best interests because it’s in the users’ best interests.

If a large portion of our income came from users who made one-time payments for lifetime access, we could easily wind up in a position where the interests of the business weren’t aligned with the interests of the users. It wouldn’t necessarily be in the best interests of the business to retain users for as long as possible: we’d make more profit from someone who paid for lifetime access and then used the app for a month, than from someone who paid for lifetime access and then used the app for 10 years. We’d also be less incentivized to add exciting new features that would increase our per-user costs. Currently, those increased costs are offset by the profit generated by increased retention. However, if improved retention became a cost, rather than a benefit, it would make far less sense to pursue relatively costly new features.

As a general principle, we always want to ensure that our interests are aligned with the interests of everyone we do business with – our users, our service providers, our employees, etc. When interests are aligned, everyone tends to be happy. When they aren’t, someone usually ends up getting screwed. We don’t want to be put in a position where the best thing for users would harm the business, or vice versa. So, we consciously and purposefully plan accordingly. Not offering a lifetime subscription with a one-time payment option is one of the many decisions we’ve made to ensure that the interests of the business are always best-served by making users happy.

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