As more and more SaaS companies wake up to the fact that we live in a product-led era, improving product experience is becoming a top priority.

Nowadays, SaaS companies need to let their products do the talking. That means providing the best possible product experience. That’s what keeps customers coming back for more.

In fact, product experience is arguably the single biggest factor when it comes to increasing retention.

After all – your marketing claims don’t matter anymore after someone has signed up and used your product. All that matters is whether the product was useful for them. If it’s bad, and the product doesn’t meet your user’s expectations – they are inevitably going to churn.

That’s why product experience is a make-or-break for your business and you should pay attention to improving it.

But before we delve into that – we are going to start by briefly explaining what we mean by product experience. Then, we’ll look at why it’s so intrinsically linked to retention.

Finally, we’ll share 7 easy things you can do to improve your product experience and increase your retention.

Ready? Let’s get going…

Contents

What is product experience?

Virtually everyone in SaaS knows about user experience (UX). This refers to the overall experience a customer has with your company.

It includes everything, from the ads they see and click, to the landing page they arrive on, to the sign up process. Every touchpoint with your company falls under the UX blanket.

Product experience is basically a subcategory of UX. While UX focuses on the bigger picture, product experience zooms in and is only concerned with what happens within your product.

So, in a nutshell:

Product experience governs how your users interact with your product. It covers every single experience people have when using your product.

In practical terms, some examples of things covered by product experience are:

  • Your user interface
  • The value users get from your product
  • Your product’s in-app onboarding

Product experience is generally the responsibility of the Product Team, but the trend is moving towards having responsibility shared among the whole organization.

Why? Because your company needs a product-first mindset if you really want to improve the product experience and increase retention.

Here’s why…

How does product experience affect retention?

It’s hard to name a SaaS product that doesn’t let you have a free trial. A lot even offer a freemium model, enabling people to use the product for free until they’re ready to upgrade.

If you want some numbers, our research found that:

  • 73% of B2C SaaS products were freemium.
  • 86% of B2B SaaS products offered a free trial.

The point is, most of your customers will want to try out your product before they commit to buying it.

Of course, what this means is that the experience your prospects have with your product can ultimately determine whether they stick around for the long-run.

In other words, product experience has a direct and significant impact on retention.

It really boils down to three key factors, which we’ll explain now…

Product experience educates your users

Making sure your users know how to actually get value from your product is key to retention.

The moment they stop seeing value is the moment they’ll disappear off into the sunset never to be seen again.

Your user onboarding is a key part of your product experience. And by onboarding we don’t mean the product tours you do for new users who have just signed up for your product.

We mean the continuous effort you make in your product to drive value for the already activated and paying users, both proactively and reactively.

You can call it secondary onboarding.

The better your onboarding flows are at educating your users about the value they can get from your product, the more likely they are to engage with it.

That’s what keeps users coming back for more.

Product experience sets you apart

There are a lot of SaaS companies out there. Chances are, some of them offer a similar product to you.

When features, functionality, and pricing are similar, customers have to consider other things when deciding which product to buy.

Your product experience is your chance to stand out from the crowd.

If you can provide a better product experience than your competitors, then that’s going to help swing the purchase decision in your favor.

Product experience keeps it fresh

Remember how software products used to look like 10 years ago?

old email interface

Would you like to use an email client that looks like this, or would you switch to a competitor that offers a nicer UI, more user-friendly functionality, and better speed?

Like any other product, SaaS products evolve and develop over time. If you want to keep up with changing customer needs, market developments, and changing trends – you need to keep updating your product experience.

Adding new features and functionality, streamlining different processes, and generally keeping your product bug-free is a lot of work but it makes all the difference when it comes to improving customer retention.

7 easy ways to improve your product experience

Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for.

Now that you know what product experience is, and why it’s the biggest factor when it comes to increasing retention, it’s time to see how you can improve it.

The following 7 tips we’re about to share with you should help you make the improvements you need and take your product experience to the next level.

1: Add a welcome screen

Postfity welcome screen

In our State of SaaS Product Onboarding research, we found something a little crazy:

40% of the SaaS products we tried out didn’t show a welcome screen.

The 60% that did were ultimately providing a better product experience.

Welcome screens are important because they’re the first impression a user gets of your product. And those first impressions matter. Besides – when a guest walks into your home and you don’t greet them – it’s kind of rude.

Apart from the obvious function of saying hello to new users – there’s an important role in welcome screens that can change the whole product experience for your users:

You can ask them the key questions about their use case and role, and then adjust the onboarding flow and product experience for them accordingly.

Moreover – welcome screens help set expectations so that users know what they’re going to get from your product.

They point users in the right direction, so they can reach your product’s Aha! Moment quicker and start seeing value.

Adding a welcome screen is fairly straightforward, and providing you do it right, can be an effective way of improving the initial product experience.

Here’s an example of a fantastic welcome screen:

product experience box example

This is from Box. They do a great job with their onboarding, and this welcome screen is a great way to kick it off.

Notice how it starts by setting expectations. It tells you that you’ll be guided through best practices. Now you know what’s coming next.

Then, it asks you to invite other team members in. For a product that facilitates collaboration – this is a key driver when it comes to retaining your customers, and it’ll provide a better product experience if a whole team is using the product.

2: Add contextual onboarding

Another aspect of product experience is contextual onboarding. Unlike traditional onboarding which briefly shows you round the product and then leaves you to it, contextual onboarding adapts to user behavior.

It shows you onboarding messaging that’s relevant to how you’re using the product and what you’re trying to achieve.

This provides users with a much better product experience. Rather than relying on more intrusive forms of onboarding, this subtle approach feels more natural and adds less friction to the process.

Contextual onboarding works by using custom events. These then trigger the relevant onboarding flow.

An example of a custom event is if a user navigates to a specific area of your product for the first time. You might then present them with useful tooltips to show them around the new feature.

This provides a seamless learning experience, teaching users on a “need-to-know” basis rather than overwhelming them right away.

Here’s an interesting example of contextual onboarding from Facebook:

facebook onboarding product experience

On a boosted post, it’s possible to add a button to use as a CTA. One of the uses for the button is to send you a message on WhatsApp.

Now, Facebook could have told users this earlier on in the user journey, but chances are it would have been irrelevant and the user would end up forgetting it.

By making the tooltip contextual, and only showing to the user when it’s most relevant to their needs, Facebook have improved the product experience.

3: Reduce time-to-value

Time-to-value is simply defined as the time it takes for a user to start gaining value from your product.

The clock starts ticking the second they sign in for the first time.

The quicker the time-to-value, the more likely it is that the user will stick around. In other words, the faster users get value from your product, the more likely you are to retain them.

The key to this lies in your product’s Aha! Moment. This is the moment that makes your users’ sit up and take notice. It’s where they finally understand why your product is so incredible that they can’t help but use it.

Userpilot’s Aha! Moment is when a user creates their first experience using our Chrome extension. Users realize how easy it is to make onboarding flows.

You need to create your initial product experience with your Aha! Moment in mind.

Then, a good way of directing people to it is with an onboarding checklist.

Here’s a great example from Sked Social:

sked social onboarding

Sked needed to drive users to scheduling a social media post. That’s their Aha! Moment.

The checklist provides users with 4 simple steps to get there. THe first item is even checked off already. This is a technique called “Endowed Progress” and it motivates users to carry on completing items.

Sked’s checklist actually tripled their conversion rate. That’s how powerful this method is.

The key to a good checklist is to keep it short and sweet. 3-5 items is ideal, and each item should be relatively quick and painless to achieve.

A checklist is a great way of improving your product experience and driving people to your Aha! Moment.

4: Make it pretty

There’s an interesting phenomenon you should be aware of when designing your product experience.

It’s called the “aesthetic-usability effect”. It basically means that users tend to perceive attractive products as being more usable, and therefore more valuable.

It also helps when it comes to any usability issues or bugs your product might have. The nicer your UI looks, the more tolerant people are of any problems.

A more attractive UI can also give your product a more premium feel. It pays to look the part.

We recently spent a lot of time making sure our own UI was up to scratch:

userpilot onboarding product experience

As you can see, our UI is clean and clear. We don’t use too many colors, as that can be distracting, and we make the most of the space to ensure there’s a visual hierarchy.

It’s easy to see what’s going on, and you can quickly find what you need.

You might think that UI isn’t as important, but the aesthetic-usability effect suggests it’s definitely worth getting right.

5: Think about your “Nth User”

A lot of products have two kinds of users. Primary users and invited users (or Nth users).

Primary users are the people who first try out your product, and will generally own the account. The invited users are often their team members and employees, who will be added in at a later date.

A lot of SaaS products focus on onboarding the primary user, but not the Nth user. As a result, a lot of users are invited in but have no idea what to do next.

Even though these Nth users aren’t necessarily the decision-makers, if they aren’t getting any value from your product, they’ll stop using it. And if they stop using it, their company won’t be paying for it much longer.

There are several ways you can improve the product experience for invited users.

You could provide them with their own contextual onboarding flow when they first log in. This would be simple enough to do using Userpilot’s segmentation and custom events functionality.

Another approach that Notion uses well is to provide a practice area:

notion onboarding

A lot of invited users are wary of actually using the product in case they do something wrong and ruin it for the rest of the team.

Notion eases those nerves by providing Nth users with a private space when they first log in.

This checklist not only helps invited users get to grips with the product, but also shows off the product itself.

6: Embed your help docs

Even the simplest of SaaS products rely on help documentation or knowledge bases to help educate their users.

Traditionally, these help docs have been outside of the product, and therefore outside of the product experience category.

However, a recent trend is to actually embed your help center into your product.

The major benefit of doing this is that users no longer have to leave the app to find the help they need. They also don’t have to switch between different tabs or windows to figure out what to do. It’s all there in front of them.

Here’s an example from Heap:

heap product experience help center

Heap has a button within their product. When you click it, it opens up a help center widget.

You can then access all the relevant help docs, search for what you need, and contact support if you need further help.

We’ve actually just added a Resource Center to Userpilot. It enables you to quickly embed your help docs and any other support into your product.

userpilot resource center

Making your help docs more easily accessible is a quick way of improving your product experience.

userpilot demo

7: Celebrate with your users

This might sound weird but sometimes it’s helpful to think about the relationship between your users and your product.

If you want to improve retention, you’ve got to improve that relationship. Sometimes, that means being a little more human.

An easy way to add a human touch to your product is to celebrate any successes or milestones your users have.

In practice, that can mean anything from a friendly message, like this one from Loom:

loom product experience

To a unicorn shooting across the screen. Yes, we’re looking at you, Asana:

asana unicorn

Either way, it’s a good way to build relationships with your customers and make your product experience more human.

In the long run, this will help boost your retention.

Key takeaways

  • Product experience is a subsection of user experience, and covers any interaction a user has with your product.
  • A good product experience sets you apart from the competition, builds strong relationships, and keeps things fresh – and that’s why it’s a massive factor for increasing retention.
  • The 7 easy ways you can improve your product experience are:
  • Add a welcome screen
  • Make onboarding contextual
  • Reduce time-to-value
  • Make it pretty
  • Think about your Nth User
  • Embed your help docs
  • Celebrate milestones with your users

About the author

Joe is a freelance copywriter, and founder of slowstartup.co, where he helps startup founders to slow down and focus on building a sustainable business.