A high churn rate is every product and marketing team’s nightmare — without a strong and loyal user base, growing your product and company can be an insurmountable challenge. As many software teams have discovered, however, one essential way to boost user engagement and retention is to maintain a consistent line of communication with them. Introducing your users to each update, taking their feedback into account for future changes, and fostering a sense of community between your product’s users and builders can have a significant positive effect on user retention. And there’s no better way to do this than with a high-quality changelog.

What is a changelog?

A changelog is a record of changes made to a software product. Typically, new posts are published with each new release or update, resulting in a list of all the modifications, enhancements, bug fixes, and other changes introduced in the latest version of the software. Changelogs are essential for software companies to communicate with their users and customers effectively, as they serve the following functions:

  • Transparency and accountability. Changelogs show a company’s commitment to improving software and addressing user-reported issues, helping to increase users’ trust and engagement in the product.
  • A reference guide for users. When users encounter new features, behavior changes, or bug fixes, they can consult the changelog to understand the rationale behind the changes and how to utilize them effectively. A changelog can also provide insight into the development team’s priorities and direction.
  • Incentive to upgrade. When exciting advanced features are launched and published via a post in a changelog, it can entice free or lower-level plan users to upgrade to access the features.
  • Version control and maintenance. Internal teams can use changelogs to track the evolution of software, identify potential regressions, and troubleshoot issues efficiently.

Overall, changelogs are a crucial communication tool that fosters transparency, builds trust, and facilitates a collaborative relationship between software companies and their users. By effectively documenting and communicating changes, companies can enhance user satisfaction, streamline software development, and grow an engaged user base. Learn more about why all software providers should publish a changelog.

One of the primary benefits to publishing a changelog is the potential for user retention and engagement. In this article, we’ll explore how changelogs are instrumental in reducing churn, and how to launch and maintain a changelog that keeps users engaged with your software.

Impact of changelog on user retention

Hotjar publishes a changelog via Beamer to keep their users up to date on new features, bug fixes, and more.

Why user retention is key to developing successful software products.

In a competitive market, retaining existing users is often more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. As a good indicator of customer satisfaction and loyalty, user retention often translates to long-term revenue streams and sustainable growth for software companies. This makes user retention a critical factor in determining the success of a software product.

The positive impact of user retention on software product success is multifaceted:

  • It generates a stable and predictable revenue stream. Financial stability empowers companies to invest in product development, innovation, customer support, and more.
  • Retained users become product champions. Users who stay with and rely on your software product are more likely to recommend it to others and champion your product with friends and colleagues — ultimately resulting in user growth.
  • Products with large user bases tend to grow. A large base of regular users tend to show, even without the work of product champions, that your software product is reliable. As more of your users stay engaged, more customers will emerge.

Retaining users in a competitive market isn’t easy, however — it requires plenty of investment and time from product and product marketing managers. Teams must communicate constantly with their customers and users to identify areas of product improvement and user trends. Users’ expectations and preferences change often, and it’s critical to keep a finger on the pulse of your customers and target audiences. As the product roadmap evolves, teams must ensure that it continues to be informed by customer feedback and user trends, and also communicate new features and improvements effectively back to their users. A changelog can help teams improve communications and engagement with their audience — making it an essential solution for user retention. 

Discover more ways that SaaS companies can boost user retention.

How changelogs result in user retention.

A well-crafted changelog provides a direct and reliable line of communication between a product’s creators and its users. As regular updates are shared, the changelog becomes a vehicle for increased transparency and trust, improved user engagement, a sense of community and collaboration, and ultimately, brand loyalty and user retention.

Enhancing transparency and building trust.

Software products are constantly evolving as bugs are fixed, new features are added, and UI is transformed. If these changes are not effectively communicated with users, it can result in user dissatisfaction and churn. Changelogs serve as a direct line of communication that provides users with detailed information about the changes made to the software they rely on, reducing friction as they navigate updated products. By consistently communicating new changes to users in a way that they can easily find and comprehend, your team can reduce ambiguity and foster an environment of openness and trust between your organization and your customers.

Customer loyalty, user engagement - Changelog example - Workable

Workable recently updated their homepage. To mitigate confusion for their users, they published this changelog post to highlight the new changes.

Whenever changes are made as a direct result of customer feedback, such as a requested feature or a bug fix, changelog posts can help close the feedback loop. This will signal your company’s dedication to delivering a high-quality product and prioritizing your customers and users, providing customers with a solid incentive to continue choosing your product over competitors’ and boosting user retention.

Keeping users informed and engaged.

A regularly updated changelog will show that your team prioritizes your users. By ensuring that all users are made aware of the latest updates to your product, your team can generate excitement and curiosity that keeps users coming back. Callouts to new and improved features can incentivize users to try features that they don’t typically use, leading to expanded use cases. Changelogs are also key to helping new or potential users better understand the evolution of your product. Giving them access to a timeline your product can help them more fully utilize your software.

Changelogs also foster engagement by inviting users to provide feedback and suggestions. By allowing users to react and comment to changelog posts, you can make it frictionless for users to give valuable feedback. And by acknowledging user-reported issues and incorporating their feedback into future releases, you can create a sense of community and collaboration between the builders and users of the product. Users that feel valued and invested in the product’s development will be much more motivated to remain actively engaged.

Furthermore, well-crafted changelog posts can generate excitement and anticipation for upcoming releases, further enhancing user engagement. By providing sneak peeks or teasers about forthcoming features, companies can pique users’ curiosity, keep them invested in the product roadmap, and ensure increased activity when these features are launched. 

Well-informed and engaged users are less likely to churn even as more competitors enter the market.

Providing a frictionless way to give feedback.

Want to know what your customers think about the bug fixes, updates, and launches your team rolls out? Collecting feedback on every launch via survey or phone calls can be time consuming for both your team and your users. When you enable reactions and comments on your changelog posts, however, you can give users a fast and frictionless way to share their thoughts.

Beamer + MaxContact

MaxContact publishes their changelog posts with Beamer, enabling them to collect reactions from users about their product updates with a single click.

Collecting feedback on each product update can give your team specific information about how your customers feel. By using this data to inform your product roadmap, you’ll be able to identify more user concerns, increase user satisfaction, and reduce churn.

Creating a sense of community.

Changelogs can foster a sense of community around a software product in several ways:

  1. Addressing user feedback. When changelogs highlight fixes or features that were implemented based on user suggestions or bug reports, it shows users that their voices are being heard and valued. This fosters a feeling of involvement and investment in the product’s development and reinforces the idea that the product is a collaborative effort between its developers and the user community.
  2. Celebrating milestones. Changelogs can be used to celebrate significant achievements, such as rolling out a major update or hitting a development milestone. This shared celebration of success can bring the community together and reinforce a sense of collective pride and ownership in the product.
  3. Facilitating discussions. Well-documented changelogs can serve as a catalyst for discussions within the user community, especially when they can react to and comment on changelog posts directly. Users can analyze the changes, share their thoughts and experiences, and engage in constructive dialogue about the product’s direction and future improvements, fostering a vibrant and engaged community.

By acknowledging user contributions and facilitating open communication, changelogs can help create a sense of community around a software product. This can help users feel valued, invested, and part of a collective effort towards continuous improvement and success — and ultimately, encourage users to keep using your product.

Demonstrating responsiveness to user needs.

A changelog can provide clear proof that your team not only has its finger on the pulse of user activity and requirements, but also that you prioritize user experience. Changelog posts that address bug fixes and reported issues reinforces your team’s dedication to your users. Posts that highlight new features or enhancements that have been added due to user requests will show your customers that your team is committed to meeting their needs. 

Beamer + Ceres: user retention - example

Well-written changelog posts will not only list the changes made, but also provide context and explanations for the decisions that were made and the features that were prioritized. This transparency can demonstrate how well the company understands users’ pain points, use cases, and requirements. With a user base convinced that your team is fully dedicated to addressing their needs, your company can boost user retention.

Fostering brand loyalty and advocacy.

We’ve explored how a changelog can improve transparency and build trust in your product, keep users informed and engaged with your product, foster a sense of community among users and the products’ developers, and show your company’s dedication to your users’ needs. Each of these benefits will result in a more loyal user base.

  • Transparency and trust. Being open with your users about product development builds trust with users. Trust is a crucial factor in developing brand loyalty, as users are more likely to remain loyal to a company they perceive as honest and transparent.
  • User empowerment and engagement. By providing detailed information about changes and new features, changelogs empower users to make informed decisions about whether to upgrade or explore new functionalities. This sense of empowerment and control over their software experience can increase customer engagement and foster a deeper connection and loyalty to the brand, as users feel respected and valued as active participants rather than passive recipients.
  • Community building. Changelogs can create a sense of community among users by acknowledging their contributions, celebrating milestones, and facilitating discussions around the product’s development. This community aspect can further strengthen brand loyalty and advocacy. Users feel part of a collective effort and are more likely to champion a brand they feel connected to.
  • Responsiveness to user feedback. When changelogs highlight instances where user feedback or reports were addressed, it demonstrates that the company values its user community and is responsive to their needs and concerns. This responsiveness cultivates a sense of appreciation and loyalty among users. They feel their voices are being heard and their needs are being prioritized.
  • Continuous improvement. Changelogs showcase the company’s commitment to continuously improving and updating the software product. Users who witness regular updates and enhancements are more likely to perceive the company as innovative, dedicated, and invested in delivering the best possible experience. This perception can reinforce brand and customer loyalty and engagement and increase advocacy. Users are more likely to remain loyal to and recommend a product that is constantly evolving and improving.

customer loyalty and user engagement - benefits of keeping a changelog

Best practices for publishing a successful changelog.

Ready to publish a changelog and start retaining more of your users? Be sure to take each of these best practices in consideration:

  • Put the latest updates up top. This way, those skimming the changelog are sure to come away with knowledge of (and excitement for) your newest release.
  • Date your changelog posts. This will give users more context for each update and show them that your team is dedicated to updating them on a regular basis.
  • Choose a format and stick to it. Consistency will make your posts easier to digest for your users.
  • Language is key. Keep your posts clear and concise to avoid wasting your users’ time with fluff. Use an upbeat tone and voice to boost user engagement and keep your users excited.
  • Link to more information. Changelog posts are short, so make it easy and frictionless for users to learn more about each feature and update. Link to your latest product blog posts or docs whenever relevant.

To learn more about how you can create a successful changelog, read our blog post: 11 Best Practices for Changelogs.

Boost customer engagement with Beamer

Linktree uses Beamer to keep their users in the know.

How to publish a high-quality changelog with Beamer.

Creating and publishing a changelog from scratch can be a time-consuming task — and as a result, the task can dip in priority for most product and product marketing teams. With Beamer, you can publish a high quality and fully customized changelog in minutes. Beamer allows teams to:

  • Notify users about product updates both in-app and via email.
  • Add images and videos to your posts to increase visibility and engagement.
  • Send targeted notifications to the audiences who will benefit most from specific updates.
  • Provide a frictionless way for users to give feedback on each update.
  • Integrate your changelog with your favorite tools via API and Webhooks.

In just five minutes, you can leverage Beamer to kickstart a journey toward high user trust, customer engagement, loyalty, and retention.

To write better changelogs follow our the example from the article “10 Engaging SaaS Changelogs to Inspire You”.