How to improve product usage by announcing new features
Product usage is the measurement of the user experience, the way users interact with a product. How do your users use your product? How much time do they spend? What plug-ins or upgrades do they purchase?
A new feature can increase product usage if promoted properly, measuring that usage and using that data can create a positive loop. Each action that a user takes is useful data to evaluate what you’re doing right and what to improve. Features lead to usage, usage leads to data, and data leads to better launch and discovery strategies for new features.
In this article, we’ll explore how announcements and other strategies can help you increase product usage, and keep your users engaged with your product and its evolution.
Here are ways to incentivize product usage by announcing new features
What is product usage?
Product usage isn’t a mysterious concept at all. It’s a qualitative and quantitative measurement of how your users interact with your product, what they do while these interactions occur, for how long, what trends arise, and what features they prefer the most.
Some valuable metrics to track product usage are:
- Return frequency. How often do your customers use your product? Generally speaking, frequent usage is a clear sign of satisfaction.
- Session time. How much time do your users spend with your product every day? Is that the proper amount? Is it quality time? Depending on your product, too much or too little time spent may warn you of problems ahead. Sure, an active user base that spends hours and hours on a product is good news. But if your users are spending too much time on activities that should take them a few minutes, then something’s wrong with your product.
- Churn and retention. Of all the users that arrive at your doorstep, how many of them stay for the long run? Users churn for many reasons; quitting could be a hint of a product targeting the wrong audience, a confusing onboarding process, or a bad user experience in general.
- User actions. What do your users do when they navigate within your site or product? Tracking their behavior is a great way to understand the value they are getting, what features they’re using the most, and how quickly they are discovering new features.
- Daily versus weekly. Daily user count may give you hints on what days are most active, but it doesn’t give you the whole picture regarding product usage. By comparing your daily with your monthly active users, you’ll be able to identify trends and make better long-term decisions, especially to avoid churn after the first month.
Usage may be very different depending on the type of product. For example, the long sessions spent in communication apps like Slack are very different from the specific and short usages of a file conversion app. So the trends you may identify and the conclusions you may draw should be based on a realistic idea of how your users would ideally interact with a product like yours. What I’m saying is: don’t get scared if your users are not dining inside if you run a drive-thru. 🚗 🚗 🚗
How to incentivize product usage?
Tracking product usage is no good on its own; you need to take action! But how to increase usage? The answer is education, referents, and discovery.
Educate users about your product
Even if your product is very intuitive, there’ll be users that won’t understand how it works right away or who will struggle to use advanced features.
By not providing user education materials, you’ll be risking losing them, frustrated and confused. Education is vital, and you should use any channel you have at your disposal to teach them how to make it work.
- Virtual tours and guided onboarding processes are ideal for new users to understand the basics of how to set up and use your product.
- Blog posts with tips and recommendations are good companion material to educate prospects and current users. They will also help you improve your SEO.
- Tutorials and guides can break any topic into easy-to-follow steps, and you may even target them to specific usages or user profiles.
- Knowledge bases like documentations and help centers are vital for any complex product. They’ll help those users keen to find information on their own, solving their problems by themselves without the need for human support.
The more your users know how your product works, the more confident they’ll be using it. That’s more engagement, longer time spent, and fewer support requests.
Another great way to increase product usage is by showing your audience what real-life companies are doing with your product. Select among your customers’ success stories and highlight their experience with your tool.
Marketing is, in large part, storytelling. But even inspiring or compelling stories can have multiple purposes. You can use real cases to create narratives that focus on a particular way to use your product or successful features among a specific type of customer.
- Pick companies of different sizes to show that your product can adapt to both.
- Choose success stories of customers from various industries to show your versatility.
- Highlight a specific feature of your product in each case study -that way- each example will be a different ad for a user type.
New feature announcements
Most SaaS companies are constantly working on and improving their products. In the current SaaS market, stopping development is falling behind. But what happens when you launch a new feature? Are your users interacting? That’s why you need to find effective ways to announce them!
If a feature falls in the woods and there’s none to hear it, does it exist at all? Undiscovered features are dead features. Make your users aware instantly of each new feature you launch and about older features that get less attention (if you’re tracking usage, you’ll know exactly which ones).
With Beamer, you can set up a changelog in less than a minute by just copying and pasting a few lines of code. You can embed a feed directly in your app or site to keep users informed about every new development in your product. You can get direct feedback and use it to understand what your customers value and what they would like to change, and you can track analytics to understand and identify trends.
Use announcements to increase usage
There are many different communication channels, and most companies don’t limit to just one. Blogs, email campaigns, targeted ads, support chats, and social media platforms all have their role and can be very useful. But those channels only work if users see them, and most of them are devoid of context. What if your announcements could be side-by-side with your product or app?
In-app changelogs to the rescue! In-app means informing your users about new updates without them leaving your product to another platform. You’re not taking your users to the content, but the content to the users. Product usage doesn’t get interrupted because they can get notifications and read everything they need to know in context.
You can increase product usage by leading your users from the notification directly to the feature you want them to discover. Call-to-actions can take your users and guide them, skipping any extra steps. That’s more engagement and a higher adoption rate!
Show them the value of your product updates
If you want to use announcements to increase product usage, you need to communicate value. Updates need to focus on the how they can solve your customer’s problems. How does a new feature help them in their workflow, to save time, or to do something more efficiently? What makes your product better than the competition?
Be clear and specific. Rather than trying to sell an abstract, provide ways (and numbers if you can) that reflect what your product can do for your users. Look at the following example:
As you can see, in this post we announce an update to a feature and we make sure to communicate the value:
- The feature is described as “new and improved” and that it makes the activity “easier than ever”.
- It communicates a benefit immediately: “integrate directly from Beamer without having to leave our dashboard.”
- It uses an image to entice and to provide an example of the feature.
- It enumerates other benefits with clear promises of value (e.i. “Save time” and “improve your workflows”).
- It ends with a call to action inviting you to try the feature now, with a link to the feature itself, no extra steps.
Craft visual and attracting updates
Make your announcement pop! To incentivize usage, you need to attract your users’ attention.
- Use images, gifs, videos, and all kinds of visual content. A catchy thumbnail can convince users to click on an update in a way that text by itself sometimes can’t.
- Create pedagogical visual content. That is content that explains in simple terms the message you want to give. Use infographics and explainer videos to speak to your users visually.
- Being with images, infographics, testimonials, or any other way you choose, the most important thing to communicate is what makes your product better at solving your users needs.
Target your audience
Users react better to content that interests them. Casting a net too wide content-wise is less effective than targeting users. The best content is bespoke, tailored to your users’ desires and needs.
By tracking and collecting user data, you can segment your audience to create different user profiles. You can then send targeted announcements based on interests, demographics, previous purchases, and all sorts of variables you can collect through product usage.
With Beamer, you can track different user parameters and use them for segmentation. Each post, update, or notification you publish will be seen only by those who fit with the segments.
Call-to-actions or CTAs are phrases used to guide you users in their experience with your product. You have seen them many times before. Call-to-actions are phrases like “try it for free now” or “click here to start a demo.”
CTAs are vital for promoting usage in two main ways:
Call-to-actions outside the product
You can improve the engagement with your announcements by including call-to-actions in them. By inviting your users to act with clear and explanatory CTAs (e.g., read more, sign up, request a demo, start a trial, subscribe to a newsletter), you can entice their curiosity and direct their behavior. Examples of this are: “Do you like how it sounds? Then test it out!”, “Be one of the few to get this special sale” or “Start using this new feature right now.”
Call-to-actions inside the product
You can improve product usage inside your product. As I explained early, feature discovery is fundamental for product usage. Your users need to know how to access each new feature you develop for them and need to know that they exist. By providing them with the right hints, you can lead them to anything you need them to see, like new features, product upgrades, tutorials for advanced users, support channels.
For example, if you have an update to announce a new feature, add a call-to-action to ask them to try it now. If you need to display a notice about something that has changed in a user’s account, include a call-to-action inviting them to check more information about the changes. That will increase product usage and feature adoption.
Use notifications to catch attention
Push notifications are voluntary subscriptions. Users can opt-in to get updates even when they are outside your product or site.
Use push notifications to bring users back wherever they are, and combine them with segmentation to avoid overwhelming your audience. If a user gets a push notification for a topic that interests them, they’ll click and get transported right back to you.
Push notifications aren’t the only form to send updates and entice your audience. There are many other notifications like pop-ups, teasers, and `modals (at Beamer, we call them Boosted Announcements).
These in-app notifications are in context because they appear inside your app or site and drive traffic to anything you need to promote, from content to new features.
How we increase product usage at Beamer
We understand that the best way to explain the theory is to show how it works in the real world. In Beamer, we don’t just write these articles; we put them into action.
These are four (very real) ways in which we have increased product usage:
- Freemium model. Even though we offer different pricing options, we pride ourselves on keeping our basic plan free. The freemium model (having a free upgradable plan) has allowed us to expand our potential customer pool. Once they get used to the product and understand what it can do for them, they upgrade to get premium features already knowing what they want to do with our app.
- Product branding. Beamer has lots of customization options to make our product your own. But we are aware of the importance of product branding. To make our brand known, we use watermarking in our free plan. That means that each free user helps us to reach a larger audience and to grow our brand.
- Plug-ins and upgrades. Beamer is a suite of related and compatible tools (i.e., Changelog, Net Promoter Score, In-App Notifications, and Roadmap). Instead of offering a single expensive product with all the tools, we take a modular approach. That means that users can personalize their accounts by selecting what of our tools they want. It also allows us to cross-promote and cross-sell the tools allowing users to get a new Beamer tool; if and when they want to expand.
- Changelog and release notes. Beamer’s star product is our changelog. We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. In Beamer, we use our own changelog tool to keep our users engaged with every update and new feature we launch. We use images, call-to-actions, and all the strategies explained in this post, and you can see it live on our site and inside our app.
As we have shown in this article, different approaches can increase product usage. But what all the strategies have in common is the idea of communication. Usage increases when your users are updated and in the know about your product value, your new features, and how to make the best out of them.
If you want to increase product usage and put into action the strategies mentioned in this post, think of Beamer. Beamer is a full suite of tools that includes Changelog, Net Promoter Score® surveys, In-App Announcements, and Roadmap. All of our features are easy to install, set up, and use; with customization options to make them fit perfectly for products big and small. Try Beamer for free today!