How to Measure and Increase Product Engagement in 2021

measure and increase product engagement

Product engagement is a key factor when it comes to a successful SaaS product.

Without engagement, you’ll find it really hard to retain your users, and upsell them onto more premium price plans.

In this article, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about product engagement.

If you’d like to skip ahead, you can use the table of contents on the left side of the page as well!

By the end, you’ll be an expert, and you’ll be ready to improve and measure product engagement.

Let’s dive in…

What is product engagement?

Essentially, product engagement is precisely what it sounds like: It’s how much engagement your product gets from its users.

In simpler terms, it’s a measure of how your users interact with your product at the most basic level.

So, measuring product engagement essentially means deciphering the patterns in your product analytics and seeing what your users are doing. It also means monitoring and observing your users so you understand how they interact with your product.

As for managing it, that involves taking the learnings from your measurement, and then improving upon them. It means that you tweak the product in such a way that your users engage with your product even more, and on a deeper level.

So, in a nutshell…

Product engagement is the degree to which users interact with your product. The more engagement the better, as you’ll soon find out.

Product engagement is an important aspect of building a successful product. So much so that there’s even a dedicated job role for it. Enter the product engagement manager…

What does a product engagement manager do?

product engagement manager working on user flows

It’s a job role you might not have heard much about, but it’s a crucial position.

A lot of SaaS companies might actually have a product engagement manager without naming them as such. Often product managers will end up taking on the role as part of their responsibilities.

So, what exactly is a product engagement manager?

Well, in the simplest possible terms, it’s somebody that manages product engagement. They’re the ones who measure current levels of product engagement. They’re the ones who then put processes in place to improve it.

Product engagement managers have a pretty big responsibility. They’re essentially in charge of encouraging more users to engage with your product, and to do so at a deeper level.

This requires a lot of different skills. You need to be analytical, and comfortable with stats. You need to be empathetic, and able to put yourself in your users’ shoes. You need to be a creative problem solver, and have a thorough understanding of user psychology.

A day in the life of a product engagement manager

A typical day in the life of a product engagement manager might look a little like this:

You’ll start off analyzing the results from your latest A/B test. You find that changing the wording of an empty state increases adoption by 10%.

You then write up the results of that test, and propose to the Product team that you go ahead with that particular copy.

You then have some user testing interviews lined up. You watch as users interact with a new feature your team has built. They all seem to struggle at the same point.

You spend the afternoon brainstorming ideas on how to improve engagement with this new feature. You have a couple of different ideas, and so decide the best option is to test them out over the next few weeks.

As you can see, a product engagement manager has to juggle a lot of different tasks and challenges. That’s because product engagement is one of the most important things a SaaS company can invest in.

Let’s take a look at what makes it so important…

Why is product engagement essential for business?

At this point you might be wondering why we’re droning on about product engagement so much.

Well, it’s because it’s one of the most important things you can invest in when it comes to improving your product.

That’s not an exaggeration.

If you look at the top SaaS companies out there, the likes of Slack and Hubspot, they all had (and have) massive product engagement.

They made continuous tweaks and improvements, each one making users interact even more with their product.

As we’re sure you know all too well, users expect the products they use to constantly adapt to their needs. Those needs are always changing, and your product needs to keep up.

But the trouble with an ever-changing product is that users are always having to learn how to use it. Those new features are useless if users don’t know they exist, or are unable to figure them out.

And ultimately, if your users don’t figure those new features out, they won’t get any value from them. That’s a surefire way of losing customers.

That’s where product engagement proves itself so useful. A product engagement manager can see where your product is falling short, and learn why users are struggling to engage.

They can then put a process in place to improve the product, and therefore improve engagement.

It truly is the difference between retention and churn. If that’s not important, then what is?

Now let’s move on to the part you’ve been waiting for. Here’s how you can start measuring product engagement for your own product…

How to measure product engagement

For this section, we’re going to assume you haven’t set up any product analytics at all.

If you have, then feel free to skip ahead to the next bit where we cover the more advanced aspects of measuring product engagement.

Step 1: set up product analytics

product engagement user funnel analytics

Much like any good marketer will use analytics to measure the impact of their campaigns, any good product manager will use analytics to understand their users.

The first thing you need to do is choose your tool. While Google Analytics has the monopoly when it comes to measuring marketing, product analytics has a few contenders.

The main product analytics products that we love are Heap and Mixpanel.

Both of these offer largely the same functionality. They enable you to track a user across your product, and create segments based on their activity.

This means you can either dig down into individual users, or bracket them together into key user personas. Chances are you’ll want to do both.

In our experience, while the functionality is largely the same, Heap is easier to implement. The tracking is set up mostly automatically, compared to the code-heavy installation needed for Mixpanel.

Either way, your first step is to integrate a product analytics tool.

Step 2: identify problem areas

The great thing about analytics is that you can immediately start to see where users are struggling to engage with your product.

If you’re looking at user flows and you find that nearly every user stops using your product at stage 2 of your onboarding, then you have a problem there.

If you launched a new feature but only 5% of your users are actually using it, then you have a problem there.

Before you work to improve product engagement, you need to know what needs improving, right?

That’s why analytics are so important.

You need to identify any patterns in your data. Look for areas of high drop-offs, or completely underused features. Essentially, any major anomalies in your data are cause for concern.

Step 3: create your hypotheses

The key to measuring product engagement is to focus your efforts. Simply looking at your analytics with no end goal in mind won’t help you.

Those anomalies that you spotted when you delved into your analytics are where you should focus your efforts.

You now need to think like a scientist. When a scientist conducts an experiment, they first come up with a hypothesis. This is a short statement that explains what they expect to find.

For the purposes of product engagement, this will generally be along the lines of:

“Doing X will improve engagement of Feature Y.”

X is an action that you’re going to take. This could be changing the copy, adding some tooltips, even altering the design of the product completely.

Y is the feature that people aren’t using. This is the anomaly you identified.

It’s important to create a hypothesis because you now know exactly what you’re measuring. You can measure it before the change, and then again after the change. You then know what impact that change had.

Step 4: measure the results

Once you’ve got your baseline engagement measure, it’s time to make the improvement.

Then it’s a matter of waiting. The length of time depends on the nature of the changes. For major changes like a complete UI overhaul, you can probably expect results fairly quickly. For more subtle changes, like microcopy, you might have to wait several weeks to get enough data.

Once you feel you’ve got enough data to make a decision, you can measure engagement again.

Then all you need to do is compare engagement before the change with engagement after it.

If engagement improves, then great! You’ve done your job!

If it doesn’t, then you have to go back to the drawing board. A product engagement manager’s job is never over!

Of course, measuring product engagement is only one part of the job. You also have to put improvements in place.

Let’s take a look at what those improvements might look like…

How to increase product engagement for your SaaS

There are several techniques you can use to increase product engagement. Choosing the right one is largely dependent on your product, your users, and why engagement is low.

Having said that, the following 3 techniques will generally help increase product engagement no matter what…

Product engagement tip #1 — get users to the Aha! moment as soon as possible

“Don’t bury the lede!” is a common piece of advice given to budding journalists. It basically means, “Don’t hide the best information further down the article. Hit readers with it right away!”

The same can be said for your product’s Aha! Moment. If you wait too long to provide that key moment to your users, they might not stick around long enough to experience it.

When a user first signs up to your product, they need to reach the Aha! Moment as soon as possible. They need to experience the value of your product.

The best way to help them get there is to guide them to it step-by-step. This is what your initial onboarding flow should do.

Assuming you know what your product’s Aha! Moment is, you need to figure out the quickest way to get there.

Break the current user journey down into steps. Then have a think about each step, and whether it’s needed.

For example, you might have users enter their credit card details before they’ve experienced the Aha! Moment. Is there really any reason for that? Does that help them get value from your product? Probably not.

(In fact, chances are that’s seriously harming your product engagement!)

Any steps that add unnecessary friction before the Aha! Moment should be taken out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve written a guide that covers everything you need to know about the Aha! Moment. Take a look here.

The easier it is for your users to reach the Aha! Moment, the more of them will stick around long-term.

An example…

product engagement example adroll

AdRoll enables you to create, launch, and measure your ad campaigns. The Aha! Moment is clearly when you create your first ad campaign and realize how easy it is.

Rather than letting you figure that out yourself, AdRoll immediately prompts you with a guide. The guide then walks you through your first ad campaign step-by-step.

By the end, you have your first campaign ready to launch. More importantly, you’ve experienced AdRoll’s Aha! Moment, and you’re hooked.

Product engagement tip #2 — market new features from within your product

Sometimes the problem isn’t actually with your product, it’s with your marketing.

While most product engagement managers won’t have control over marketing campaigns, they can control what happens inside their product.

Fortunately, there are a lot of in-app marketing techniques you can use to drive product engagement.

One of these is a changelog. This is essentially a list of changes you make to your product. That can include new features, minor updates, and even bug fixes.

You can then provide a notification whenever you release an update, or even display your changelog automatically. Your users will then see the update about your new feature and can go and check it out for themselves.

Another technique is to present users with a pop-up modal when they log in for the first time after you’ve released a new feature.

The modal can sell the benefits of your new feature, and include a CTA that directs users to try it out.

Do use these modals sparingly, however, as they’re often seen as intrusive and aggressive by your users.

The beauty of in-app marketing is that your marketing is happening where your users actually go. Your users might not read that email announcement, or the behind the scenes blog post. But they will log in to your product.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to learn more about in-app marketing techniques? Then check out our guide here.

Used correctly, in-app marketing can boost your product engagement.

An example…

product engagement example mailchimp

This modal from Mailchimp perfectly introduces a new improvement to the product. It explains what the improvement is, and how it benefits you.

It also includes a CTA so you can go and see the improvements for yourself.

Product engagement tip #3 — improve your UX writing

A lot of SaaS companies focus on building a product that looks beautiful. This focus on UI often results in them overlooking an equally important component: the UX writing.

UX writing refers to any copy inside your product. It’s the words that your users see when they interact with your product.

The copy inside your product can make or break your engagement.

If your copy is confusing and unclear, then your users might not know what to do, and they might end up frustrated with your product.

If your copy is full of errors and typos, then your users might no longer trust your product.

If your copy sounds like it was written by a robot, then your users might switch off and engagement will fall.

On the flip side, good UX writing will grab a user’s attention, help answer any queries they have, and drive product engagement.

The best advice we can give you when it comes to improving your UX writing is to actually hire a writer to do it. Writing is a skill of its own, and isn’t something that anyone can do.

If you are going to write it yourself, then create a tone of voice for your product, write copy that matches that voice, make sure it has no mistakes, and ensure that it’s clear and easy to understand.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We covered some of the best practices for UX writing in our blog post here.

Do all of that, and you’re well on your way.

Recap on how to measure and increase product engagement:

Let’s have a quick recap of what we’ve covered in this article.

  • Product engagement is the degree to which users interact with your product.
  • A product engagement manager is tasked with measuring current levels of engagement, and then tweaking the product to improve them.
  • Product engagement is crucial to any SaaS product, as it can mean the difference between retention and churn.
  • Measuring product engagement requires you to set up product analytics, then identify any problem areas, before coming up with testable hypotheses.
  • There are many techniques to improve product engagement, including guiding users to the Aha! Moment, using in-app marketing, and improving your UX writing.

Hopefully, you’re now ready to start measuring and improving product engagement.

Userpilot is designed to help your improve product engagement by providing the best possible onboarding experience for your users.

Why not get started today and book a free demo?

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Joe is a UX and content writer, with several years of experience working with SaaS startups. He's been working with SaaS startups that are focused towards product management and customer success for the past couple of years.