Anyone can buy plants.
You go to the local market and grab a lush, aromatic basil plant. It’s so healthy and green that you feel it’s impossible to mess it up.
Two weeks later: it looks like an abandoned stick in the desert, casting a shadow from the sun to tell time. In short, you messed up badly.
User engagement can be like that, too. You work diligently and spend countless dollars on user acquisition. Still, when you realize that churn is through the roof (and your retention rates resemble your herb plants), you’re already losing paying customers.
The only way to combat that is by creating a powerful user engagement strategy that builds relationships and develops lifelong customers.
The good news: you don’t have to watch any plants die.
You can create a user engagement plan right now that grows your business, one customer at a time.
In this article, we’ll dive into the user psyche and how it relates to engagement, how to strengthen your retention strategy, and some real-life examples that inspire you.
The ever-important link between user engagement and your bottom line
What’s the ultimate goal for user engagement? We want to have more satisfied customers and increase user retention.
Twilio reports that when companies provide personalization, they improve customer lifetime value, with 86% of consumers stating they feel more loyal to brands that do so. It’s an obvious consequence when you realize, in the same report, that 66% of consumers plan on abandoning a brand if they don’t feel that personal connection.
If, by investing in customer engagement, we can increase revenue by up to 90% (Twilio), it’s a no-brainer. We should create engagement strategies as aggressively as we do with customer acquisition. If we can win and keep more customers, we can scale our companies to a new level.
Unpacking the psychology of user engagement
If consumers want personalization, what does that tell us about user intent?
Customers want experiences that feel relevant and interactive. They want to learn, adopt new features, and explore at their own pace, on their own terms.
That’s why companies supporting consumer needs by guiding rather than forcing actions can create a better customer experience for those using their software.
The fundamental way to fully understand your customers is by listening and analyzing data based on their actions. Companies can provide tools, features, and opportunities to nurture their customers and gain feedback. Meanwhile, they can study user behavior and develop better onboarding, activation, and adoption strategies.
Enhancing user retention: Proven strategies to defeat churn
Businesses can improve engagement by adopting the following key strategies.
Companies must realize that user churn is often due to a poor user experience. By adopting a bird’s eye view of their product or service, companies can spot areas for improvement throughout the customer journey.
Areas of improvement may include customer onboarding, navigation, and the product's overall value. Responding accordingly to the customer experience also demands a mindset of continuous improvement.
When pelicans hunt you down: Real-life use case
The other day, I was at my local supermarket's deli section. That particular supermarket doesn’t want anyone to wait. So they ask if you need help the second you get there. Not bad!
You say no, and then someone else asks right after. Then again. There’s so much pressure you can’t even think. It’s like eating a sandwich at the beach, and the pelicans fly towards you. You’re being hunted. Get what you need and run fast! No one likes annoying reminders, even if it’s good for them.
Platforms should evolve their narrative and make engagement enjoyable.
CommandBar’s onboarding makes self-learning and user intent a cornerstone of its holistic process. It gently nudges users into learning and exploring platforms through checklists and pleasant (not annoying) notifications that guide them through the app. When the user is activated, they have an informed foundation of the platform and can experience its value immediately.
These multi-touchpoint engagement strategies help create a richer, user-centric experience.
Transforming information into better customer experiences
Understanding your customer base will come from two primary feedback loops:
- How they behave
- What they tell you
You’ll find that sometimes what customers say and what they do complement each other, while other times, they conflict. It’s like your best friend’s famous grilled cheese. It tastes like cardboard, but you tell them it’s the best you’ve ever had (just don’t encourage them to enter the local food contest).
Data helps us understand customer actions. Engagement metrics are critical for studying behavior, anticipating trends, and identifying problem areas.
Key performance indicators (KPIs)—like how often a user logs in and uses the app, how many adopt new features, and how many use your platform's tools—provide revealing metrics to inform your engagement strategy. They tell a story: why your retention and churn rates are unacceptable (or getting there) and what you can do to improve them.
The second pillar, feedback, is essential for a couple of reasons.
First, you want to know how you can improve your customer experience. Second, you want to engage with customers immediately and make lasting connections to increase customer retention.
Companies can create tighter feedback loops by providing multiple touchpoints. They can add support buttons in-app for quick help to contact you or access a resource. Chatbots can also provide 24/7 immediate help. There should also be a form where users can articulate their needs, frustrations, and ideas.
The more you can communicate with your customers, the more you can improve your strategy.
Tailored experiences help incorporate feedback and improve the experience per customer.
I don’t care who you are. If someone offers you a free spa day, you take it. There’s nothing like the attention and care that comes with an exclusive experience or getaway.
Well-tailored digital experiences are similar.
When you compare two experiences: a tailored one and an out-of-the-box (average) one, the customized approach always wins.
User engagement is all about personalization. You can create these moments through intentional guidance like checklists for users to get to know new features on their own. Or a chatbox that answers questions with extreme accuracy. Users can also benefit from a searchable resource center to deepen their understanding of your product.
You can also collect and implement engagement data throughout well-defined segments.
For example, when a user is onboarded, you can survey them and find out what they need your software to do for them. You can use this information, along with behavior metrics, to provide better templates, tutorials, and relevant experiences. This increases customer loyalty and adoption.
The best customer support provides answers before there’s a question. And you can use tailored experiences to usher users through your platform and improve your customer relationships.
Leveling up with loyalty
Once you’ve implemented your data for better experiences, it’s time to create long-term fans.
Businesses can supercharge their engagement by creating rewarding loyalty programs. People seek community and a sense of belonging. Brands that facilitate ways to connect with others and express themselves fulfill that need.
Exclusive events, online communities, and platform gamification to build loyalty and excitement around the brand are all methods of growing communities. Brand ambassadors will develop, spreading the word about your app. This fuels growth for your platform. And with continuously-improving user engagement experiences, you’ll be more than prepared to retain that growth and nurture happy customers.
Unveiling triumphs with real-life user engagement strategies
So what does a great engagement strategy look like? I’ve highlighted a few great examples.
Onboarding and user activation example: DocuSign
Source: DocuSign’s in-app onboarding experience | Notice the pop-up nudging users to initiate each step. Ultimately, they test out the platform's utility as a personal use case.
DocuSign, the well-known signature app, helps businesses to create contracts and other essential documents quickly and easily. For many, the process can seem daunting. It feels like playing phone tag, trying to get everyone to sign in the proper order and at the right time. But the DocuSign app makes the signature experience a breeze.
When you onboard as a new user, the app asks you questions to get to know you and what you want to accomplish. After you’ve set up your account, it brings you right to an exploration experience (it does let you skip it, which is critical for giving users the control they want).
If you choose to explore, it helps you create your first document for a signature. There are nudges and minimal pop-ups that guide you through the process. By the end of the tour, you have a document you can send.
This is an excellent example of creating user activation within onboarding. Users get immediate value as they engage with the app.
Community example: iHeartLand
Source: video on Atlas Creative’s case study page
iHeart Radio wanted a way to connect with their users and engage on an entirely new level. Their community-centric approach led to their partnership with Atlas Creative, which built a brand experience on Fortnight.
This “always on” Fortnight media island led to an ongoing experience with some of the most popular musicians in the world. iHeart Radio’s initiatives helped connect with users and turn them into fans, creating a virtual community that they can always jump into.
Resource hub example: Descript
Source: Descript’s desktop app | The platform provides educational resources, templates and more to learn and dig deeper into the app.
Descript is an all-in-one video editing app for creating presentations, podcasts, or other screen capture projects. When you sign up, the app asks you how you plan to use the tool, leading you to different options to help nail down your interests.
Once you are done, the app takes you to the resource hub.
This hub is packed with videos and docs on how to use Descript. Users can dive in and maximize the platform to its fullest potential.
While the desktop app lacks a clear tour or interactive onboarding experience, its extensive catalog of digital assets supports users along their customer journey from a mere beginner to app expert. Users can engage with the tool as much as they want, with support that’s never far away.
Your user engagement strategies: Worthwhile or worthless?
Companies should strive for tools that create a personalized, interactive onboarding and app experience for their users. As they receive feedback, they should be equipped to analyze the data, improve their engagement strategies, measure and then test their effectiveness.
You can increase loyalty and retention through a user-friendly, user intent-based app experience that gently nudges users to engage with your app. When they can enjoy your app and consistently use it, they spread the word.
Tools like CommandBar provide user assistance, tours, and engagement tools that empower users to dive into your app and have fun while learning—leading to adoption and fostering long-term loyalty.
Consider implementing these strategies and adopting the right tools to take charge of your user engagement and scale your company for growth.