Now it's time to shape the future together. Let’s work together to drive exponential growth for your company and your customers. You can be part of our story!
If you are like most growth professionals out there looking to measure activation, you are likely thinking about analyzing which feature has a 'positive' correlation with retention. However, great growth professionals approach these problems differently than most do.
Focusing only on the positive correlation between aha and retention won't get you a complete picture. It’ll probably even hurt you. Why? Because there might be some features in your product that, if used too early, might break activation and even retention! At HyperGrowth Partners, we call these anti-retention patterns.
Take a real-life example from my time as SVP of Marketing at Auth0. To experience their aha moment, Auth0's customers needed to sign up and implement the SDK to get their users to log in. But they need more than that to build a habit with the product; that takes time.
We then realized that some people were using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) within their first week, which is a significantly more complicated feature to understand than others. Diving into the data, we learned many users got stuck trying to figure out how to use it.
And because of this, a staggering 50% of those who tried MFA in their first week didn't retain eight months later. Had they not tried it so early, these cohorts could have retained and even drove revenue. But that didn't happen because they used a feature "too soon" based on their product knowledge.
So how do you identify these anti-retention patterns? And once you do, how do you rethink your activation and retention to avoid their side effects? In this post, we'll reveal this and more.
Modern literature breaks activation and retention down into a linear UX of four steps:
According to this literature, the most proven way of measuring activation is to:
As simple as this process sounds, it's not. But it might also produce hidden side effects that will work against activation and retention.
Most of today's B2B SaaS comes with tens of features, especially those working on bundling various use cases as platforms. Think Notion, Figma, and Hubspot. Despite the number of features, only 2 or 3 will often contribute to solid retention, depending on their personas and platform users.
Also, as you become more proficient with the product, the features that retain you change. For example, when you start using Notion, your aha feature might be how easy it is to build simple wiki pages to tell the rest of the company what your team does. But once you're more proficient with the product, you might be retained because of their database feature, which allows you to update and share information across multiple wiki pages from only one place.
And it's primarily for these reasons that all the other features can virtually become distractions to new users trying to activate. That's also why, if you're early-stage, you should go to market by nailing just one core use case — ensuring you're doing it 10x better than the competition — and then layering more as you scale.
Regardless of your company stage, treating activation and retention as a learning curve would be best. After signing up for a new product, every user becomes more proficient with your product as time passes. This journey is a give-and-take game of investments and returns:
When users sign up and get set up with the product, they need considerably more effort for small amounts of value in return. But as they progress through their journey, the value experienced during the aha moment should pay back all the effort invested until then. Successful retention means that as users become more proficient with the product, they also get comparable greater value for less effort.
As a growth professional, your task is to guide users through this learning curve by feeding them enough value that compensates for their effort investment, especially early on. But it would be best if you kept doing so every step of the way until they built a habit.
And to do so effectively, you need to identify the anti-retention features throughout the journey (e.g. red dots in the chart) so you can stir users away from them as they try to activate. On the other hand, you want to keep them focused on pursuing the activating features to ensure a positive balance of value over effort.
As time goes by and users become more proficient with the product, the anti-retention patterns shrink while the activating patterns expand. Depending on your product, you could keep your UX/UI more focused at the beginning when users are less expert and have experienced less value, and progressively release it as they gain more confidence and receive growing value from the product.
To identify your anti-retention patterns correctly, let’s take the Auth0 example mentioned above. We changed the actual data here, but it reflects what happened.
As mentioned in the intro, what comes across from the analysis is that:
You can then use these insights to:
If you're still early-stage or just starting to build your product, you should think about anti-retention patterns too, but you need to think creatively since you have no data. You can use a scoring framework and update it once you have available data.
Here's a simple step-by-step process inspired by Darius Contractor's psych framework:
If the effort for that feature is high, consider pushing it down the line, as long as you have something with a low effort that you can have earlier. If you have no low-effort features, you must invest in content like FAQs or tutorials to help users navigate that specific learning curve.
If you're ready to gain deeper insights into your retention, give us a call at HyperGrowth Partners. We'll match you with an expert from our partners' roster and provide the guidance and support you need to succeed.
So how can we build a better retaining product and set up-to-habit UX based on anti-retention patterns?
Remember. New users expect value soon in their journey and with minimal effort to learn how to use your product. To deliver an outstanding experience, keep them focused where you know they'll get it.
Consumer apps like Duolingo have led the way to gamify learning with streaks, quests, leaderboards, in-app point systems, and more. And no one said you couldn't do the same in B2B SaaS!
Armed with your insights on anti-retention patterns, you can gamify your set-up-to-habit UX to give them additional attention and delay their expectation of value later in their journey.
Some tactics to get you going:
There's no definitive formula for this. Use these tactics to brainstorm and test a few experiments with your unique product and audience.
In conclusion, understanding activation and retention is essential for growth and revenue in any product. While pinpointing core features with the highest positive correlation to retention is a standard practice, more is needed to identify the anti-retention patterns that can negatively affect activation and retention.
Anti-retention patterns are features that, when used too soon, can break or even reverse activation and retention. Growth teams must dig into their data and map users' learning curves to identify the related features. This knowledge will enable teams to optimize their user experience to avoid these side effects and build stronger habit-forming products.
Special credits to Matteo Titta for writing this blog post.