Wink Delays Subscription Move Indefinitely After Customer Backlash

Is the damage already done, or can they win back customers?

After significant customer backlash, smart home hub company Wink has decided to delay its move to a subscription model indefinitely. Wink originally announced the switch on May 6, giving customers just one week to subscribe for $4.99 per month or lose access to their smart home data and devices. After customers complained about the switch – and the short timeframe in which they were given to make a decision – Wink compromised by extending the deadline until May 20.

“Wink has taken many steps in an effort to keep your Hub’s blue light on, however, long term costs and recent economic events have caused additional strain on our business. Unlike companies that sell user data to offset costs associated with offering free services, we do not. Data privacy is one of Wink’s core values, and we believe that user data should never be sold for marketing or any purpose,” said Wink.

Currently, the Wink service, which is compatible with more than 50 top smart home brands, is free with the purchase of a Wink smart home device. The plan was to move to a mandatory subscription model on May 20. Customers who chose not to subscribe would lose access to their Wink smart home devices from the Wink app, with voice control or through the API. Automations were also to be disabled on May 20.

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The rationale behind the switch is that Wink was not making ends meet in one-time sales alone. To support more than 4 million connected devices, Wink needs regular recurring revenue to remain sustainable. In an updated blog post, Wink says it has received “incredible” support for a subscription service. However, for now, the service will remain free.

“We feel we can extend Wink’s free service for the time being, confident that we can set a new start date for the subscription service to begin, giving you all more time to use Wink (subscription-free) whether you signed up or not,” says Wink.

With a $4.99 a month subscription, Wink promises the following:

In a May 13 article for Android Central, Nicholas Sutrich outlines how Wink works and why the company is trying to make the switch. He essentially explains that there is a lot more happening behind the scenes like maintaining the back end of technology, staff, data privacy, etc.

“Adding a monthly subscription to a service people already have been using for free is definitely a frustrating matter. It’s something I personally wish Wink wouldn’t have to do, but it’s also something I understand is a necessary ‘evil’ as part of getting workers paid and keeping my personal data private,” Sutrich says.

Wink shared the article on Twitter on May 15 saying, “Wink is more than a brand, we are a company of hard working employees who oversee a massive operation to make your smart home simpler. We’ve chosen to adapt so we can keep our systems online…”

Judging by some of the reactions to that tweet, the damage has already been done.

Insider Take:

The issue here isn’t really that Wink wants a more sustainable business model, or that they want to charge $4.99 a month for their service, which is a reasonable fee. The issues are that (a) when customers purchased their devices, they were told there would never be fees associated with the service, and (b) that Wink handled the rollout of the subscription badly. Wink now has to undo that damage. Some customers will stay because it is easier to stay than start over with a new service, but others will hold this against Wink and shop elsewhere. This is a good lesson for other subscription companies. It pays to be transparent and to have a good understanding of your customers and their expectations before making a major change.