How to identify and increase activation
- Aha moment: When customers discover a product’s value and become an active user
- Critical event: The step you want customers to take to count as active or retained; an action that aligns closely with your core value proposition and is meaningful for business growth
- Onboarding: A process that guides new customers through the first steps of using a product and how it can help them achieve their goals
Once you have devised your acquisition strategy, you can begin to look beyond the moment of acquisition and think about activation. As discussed in the chapter on evaluating your acquisition channels, marketers can use activation data to improve their acquisition efforts. The activation rate, for instance, can illuminate the effectiveness of acquisition channels and ensure the best ROAS.
But with CAC seemingly higher by the day and every ad dollar precious, it also makes good business sense for marketing teams to ensure the new users they acquire activate as soon as possible. And there are compelling reasons to care about activation beyond the cost of re-acquiring users. Chief among them: Active users tend to offer the highest customer lifetime value (CLV) and the best route to retention. For some businesses, it’s not a matter of choice. Companies that use PLG tactics such as network effects (think Slack and Miro) rely on active users to acquire new users and provide value.
To increase activation, it's important to understand the customer journey, including what works and what doesn’t. Though your exact journey will depend on your product, the early stages typically include product discovery, sign-up, onboarding, value discovery, and habit formation—ultimately leading to more opportunities for monetization and greater CLV.
Use Amplitude’s funnel analysis chart to create a visual representation of how users progress through your customer journey from acquisition to activation. This enables you to pinpoint where new customers drop off and where you can improve conversion.
Only 1.32% of customers who sign up for this financial services app proceed to submit a money transfer—the critical event to count as activated.
Learn how to use funnel analysis to drive conversion in this on-demand course.
Fortunately, there are multiple strategies and tactics for fostering activation and engagement—and, along with them, retention—throughout the customer journey. Onboarding, value discovery, and your critical event all play an important role in this process.
The trick to getting prospective users to the aha moment is having a firm understanding of their desires and expectations, says Amplitude VP of Growth Laura Schaffer. And today, more than anything, this means the ability to discover your product’s value almost immediately.
“Ten years ago, we wouldn't have expected a self-serve checkout when we landed on a website. Now we have around six seconds to capture someone’s attention.”
That makes communicating value a must for every website—the first touchpoint for most users. The most powerful way to do this? Laura points to a page from the PLG playbook: showcasing the product itself.
“The notion of a clean split between sales-led and product-led is a bit of a false dichotomy,” she observes. “The reality is today, people are validating for themselves if your product will provide value.”
Onboarding can offer a trove of information about your prospective customers. At Amplitude, we use those findings to improve our customer experience, including onboarding.
To help our majority of non-technical users navigate onboarding, we rolled out a series of updates to our sign-up flow designed to highlight Amplitude’s value and capabilities and make it even easier to get started.
These updates included adding the following directly to our onboarding experience:
- Customer stories that showcase the kinds of problems Amplitudes solves
- Targeted questions designed to collect use cases and interests
Targeted questions in Amplitude’s onboarding
- Industry benchmarking data to help prospective customers evaluate their funnels
- Industry-specific demo videos that show prospects the most relevant information
- A revamped onboarding experience that includes industry-specific content and templatized, out-of-the-box analysis, along with ways to more easily collaborate with teammates
These changes are relatively new but have already been remarkably effective, says Amplitude Principal Product Manager Weston Clarke, who oversaw the onboarding overhaul. For example, users who were offered out-of-the-box event tracking and templates were significantly more likely to activate.
“It’s really a question of understanding users' problems and meeting them where they are,” Weston observes.
To get started with activation and engagement, implement these tactics targeting the onboarding and sign-up experience:
- Use the sign-up flow for your segmentation efforts. “Going through your sign-up flow indicates users have some level of conviction that they're in the right place, and it's worth a great deal to know who thinks that they've got fit with your company,” Laura notes. “Even once you've gone past product-market fit, it’s a great temperature check for who you're attracting and how that's changing over time.”
- Add a limited number of strategically considered questions. Marketers often fear questions can hamper sign-ups, Laura says, but the right ones can have the opposite effect. A drop-down menu with sample use cases that match a customer’s needs, for example, can help reassure that customer that your business understands and can support their use case. It also helps you better segment your customers and personalize marketing messages.
- Analyze your power users. Though understanding your new users can go a long way in helping you hone your acquisition and activation efforts, startups still trying to work out their product-market fit can look ahead to learn more about who their power users are, Laura says. “See who’s sticking with your product and then try to understand their profiles—who they are and where they come from.” Use these insights to foster similar journeys for other users.
- Run small targeted experiments. Many people incorrectly equate experimentation with A/B testing, which is the most expensive form of testing, Laura says. She recommends getting ideas or prototypes in front of customers early and often and leveraging techniques like painted door testing to evaluate interest before making big investments.
- Map your onboarding journey. Understanding and improving your onboarding experience is critical for turning new customers into active, engaged ones. Use Amplitude’s funnel analysis chart to identify onboarding conversion and drop off and Amplitude’s journeys chart to see where users may get stuck. Get started with the Enhance Your Onboarding worksheet.
Using Amplitude, online gaming company G-Loot (now Stryda) made an important discovery about its onboarding approach—an opportunity it took advantage of with remarkable speed using Amplitude Experiment.
“Looking at the data, we realized that we were providing the same experience to everyone—from novices to skilled players,” said Jamie Dunbar Smyth, former chief growth officer at G-Loot. “In other words, the challenges were too difficult for new players.”
In response, G-Loot used Experiment’s segmentation tools to roll out player challenges tailored to win rates and game-round outcomes.
“We initially planned to get the segmentation done in three months, but it took less than one month. We were able to complete the project quickly and immediately see business metrics improve,” Jamie said. Those changes yielded a major payoff, doubling the number of its daily active players.