Discover how Pictory drove a 14% increase in NRR with Toplyne
As Pictory grew at break-neck speeds over 2022, their top-of-funnel exploded. Driven by the buzz around generative AI, users thronged to the free and monthly plans from social media platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and others.
But further down the funnel, it was critical for Pictory to make their growth profitable — by locking free users to paid plans (improving conversions) and making them stick around for a long time (high retention).
Intelligent prioritization of users was the name of the game.
Pictory is a platform powered by generative AI for marketers, creators, and bloggers to create short-form video snippets from long-form content at scale.
Founded in 2019 by Vikram Chalana, Abid Mohammed, and Vishal Chalana out of Seattle, Pictory has been on an absolute tear - a growth trajectory that saw them grow 100x in 3 months - on the back of which they raised their $2.1M Series A round in January 2022.
"There should be a video editor as part of your office productivity suite. That was kind of the motivation to start this journey. We saw what Canva was doing, we saw all this stuff that was happening with GPT and AI in marketing and, and we figured, you know, hey, there has to be a way you can bring all that together and democratize design." - Vikram Chalana, Co-founder & CEO
Pictory offers a free trial to get you started with limits set against number of videos, hours of transcription, and accessible templates. Monthly paid plans start at $23 and yearly at $19.
Pictory rode the wave of the booming creator economy, the rise of vertical videos as search-engine indexable content, and the surge of generative AI-powered content creation.
As Pictory grew, so did their top-of-funnel - in other words, sign-ups for their free trial. They had two major growth spurts: In the summer of 2021, Pictory grew from 50 paying customers to 5,000 in two months - and continued to grow 15% month-over-month through 2022.
And then OpenAI announced the launch of ChatGPT. On the back of a couple of viral videos on social media that showed Pictory and ChatGPT working together, Pictory saw a sudden surge of new users signing up for their free tier.
“We grew 15% MoM through 2022. Now we’re growing 50% every month.” - Vikram Chalana, Co-Founder & CEO
If the video-creation space was hot, Pictory was now red-hot.
But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns in hyper-growth mode. As Pictory’s top-of-funnel grew, the founders zeroed in on a few key challenges:
High churn - Pictory noticed that monthly users have high-churn, because people see videos as a project. Once they’re done with the project, they’re done with the tool, and they churn. Playing in a competitive market, Pictory found their Net Revenue Retention (NRR) to be highly dependent on decision-making cycles. Paying users on monthly plans often churned before even discovering the full extent of value within Pictory.
“If you are bought into the annual plan, you can say, okay, I want to see how this goes if I produce videos every week or every, day. And, and how does that impact my business, my lead generation, and my revenue - all that stuff.” - Vikram Chalana, Co-Founder & CEO
Free-to-paid conversions - Averaging over 30,000+ sign-ups for the free trial every month, Pictory looked for ways to nudge and convert their free users to paid plans. Being product-led, giving users an unparalleled in-product experience was paramount to Pictory. Triggering a blast of e-mail campaigns and in-app nudges to anyone who signed up stood at odds with offering users a natural journey to value until they were ready to benefit from premium features.
Pictory’s vision of video is what the founders call “high-frequency videos” as opposed to “high-production videos.” Experimenting with high-frequency videos requires users to sign up for an annual plan. With the product suite evolving over time, the Pictory team were confident that if they could get users to experience value from the product over an extended period of time, they could limit churn and boost retention. In mid-2022, Pictory signed up for Toplyne.
GTM challenges in hyper-growth mode
Pictory’s Go-To-Market Stack
Hard set on building a PLG tool, the Pictory founders had Amplitude set up even for Pictory’s beta version. The team was adamant about getting product analytics right. Pictory tracks product-usage data across all users on Amplitude - all actions, events, and signals fired by users are registered here.
Pictory doesn’t have a sales team yet, and all of its growth is product and marketing-led. Their GTM stack includes Zoho for CRM and Appcues for in-app customer engagement.
With Amplitude data plugged into Toplyne on one end and their Go-To-Market stack of Appcues (for in-app notifications) and Zoho (for CRM), Pictory set up a Toplyne playbook with two goals:
- To convert free users to paid annual subscriptions - to improve conversions.
- To convert users on monthly plans to annual plans - to improve Net Revenue Retention (NRR) and upfront cashflow.
Toplyne’s AI qualified the highest intent users - from the free and monthly plans - and sent them once every day to Appcues and Zoho.
Nudge #1: In-product notifications triggered using Appcues - Hot users most likely to convert to the annual plan (Top 150 users daily) were shown a promotion with a limited-time offer (30% discount) to move over.
Nudge #2: E-mail promotions triggered using Zoho CRM - Hot and warm users (Top 650 daily, ranked by intent) most likely to convert to annual plans were sent e-mails with a promotion code attached that incentivized them to convert to paid yearly plans.
Pictory could have triggered the Appcues nudges to all their users and bypassed Toplyne’s prioritization engine, but that comes at a cost. Triggering too many nudges too early - before your users have fully onboarded themselves damages the user experience, often resulting in churn.
Side-note: Build vs. Buy - Setting up the infrastructure in-house would have required Pictory to pull engineering bandwidth away from the core-product, hire a handful of data scientists, and the small matter of 3-4 quarters, and a giant hole in the pocket.
Within the first three weeks of setting up their Toplyne playbook, Pictory saw their total conversions to paid annual plans go up significantly - powered by a combination of their organic growth and Toplyne surfacing high-intent free and monthly users to be converted to annual plans.
With free and monthly users now being nudged to move over to annual plans, Pictory was now locking in cashflow upfront ($8.1K in ARR upfront, every month) while improving retention of users who might have otherwise churned off monthly plans, leading to a 14% increase in Net Revenue Retention compared to baseline.
Nudges powered by Toplyne drove 38% more free-to-paid conversions in the first three weeks alone. Vikram and team validated the impact using an A/B test within Toplyne, where Toplyne-powered nudges significantly outperformed nudges sent to a control group of randomized users.
"Our conversion rates have improved for people who we show the nudges to, and we've had some validated data on that. On top of that, we’ve had more people move over to annual plans, which helps increase our net revenue retention." - Vikram Chalana, Co-Founder & CEO