Which product trends emerged in 2020 and are here to stay? What are the biggest trends in Product for 2021 you must implement into your Product Growth strategy? Who’s who in Product these days? And what new product growth terms made it to our dictionary?
It goes without saying that this year, the news has been completely hijacked by the global pandemic. As your newsfeed was becoming more and more cluttered with grim reports of the coronavirus spread, you may have inadvertently missed some exciting news from the world of product.
We’ve interviewed several prominent names in the industry, including the CEO of Product School Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia; Andrea Saez, Head of Product Growth and Education at ProdPad; Gen Furukawa, Co-Founder at Prehook; Natália Kimličková, Product Marketing Manager at Kontentino; Aditi Gupta, Product Marketing Manager at Varicent; and our own home-grown Product Manager at Userpilot – Andy Shamah – and got some really interesting insights which we’re summarizing below.
We’ll also give you some quick tips on how you can implement the sexiest product trends of 2020 into your product growth strategy, as well as what new roles and terms shook up the industry this year.
Without further ado: let’s dive into the biggest Product, Product Growth, and Product Marketing trends of 2020 that will surely continue to play a big part in Product in 2021!

Trends to Watch In Product – Table of Contents

Too Long Didn’t Read? Here are the main takeaways!

  • Gamification and personalization help make your new user onboarding more fun and more relevant. Thus, in 2021 use welcome screens with micro surveys, onboarding checklists with incentives, progress bars, and badges to see your user activation rates soar!
  • Looking for a smart way to let your product do the talking? Invite the AI to do first-line customer support for you inside your products – the chatbots are getting smarter, and all Product-Led Growth companies should think of one in 2021.
  • While remote work has made the lives of cross-functional product teams a bit more challenging according to Aditi Gupta, the trend is here to stay with fewer conflicts between departments and faster turnarounds.
  • Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, CEO of Product School, sees a bright future for digital products in 2021: “There’s never been a better time in history to build digital products. The world is moving online and more companies are embracing remote work.
  • Andrea Saez, Head of Product Growth and Education at ProdPad, noticed how more and more product teams are becoming outcome rather than feature-driven thanks to the growing use of product analytics and experimentation: “I would say the biggest trend is people aligning roadmaps to objectives and making them more outcome-focused rather than output. That is, less focus on timelines, more focus on understanding what and why things are being built. As a result, companies can build with purpose instead of being feature factories.
  • Do you know the difference between proactive and reactive onboarding? What about primary and secondary onboarding? Proactive onboarding means you proactively lead a user to an outcome, while reactive – that you only respond to their actions in-app. Secondary onboarding allows you to teach the already activated users how to use more value-driving, secondary features.
  • Building your own product adoption tools can set you back a lot of money.
  • In 2021, Growth PMs will take care of your user adoption metrics, while a Product Marketing Manager will help ‘sell’ your product features to both bottom-of-the-funnel leads and users alike.
  • In 2020, several new features and UI improvements kept our developers busy.

Gamification & Personalization

Now, if we were to crown the ‘biggest trend of 2020’ and the ‘rising star of 2021’ at the same time, we would pick gamification and personalization without a doubt.
Why?
Both work in tandem towards:

  • significantly higher user activation rates in new user onboarding
  • higher secondary feature adoption later on in the product journey
  • and a better overall user experience.

Natália Kimličková, Product Marketing Manager at Kontentino told us:
I saw a rise in personalization and gamification. Basically – bringing the product to users in a more funny/exciting way as well as using behavioral triggers that would make his journey unique and relevant.

natialia


It goes without saying that users are more likely to stick around your product if they see that it’s relevant for their use case. And they are more likely to understand the value of your product if you gamify the onboarding experience – and make it actually fun to complete.
Users usually can’t wait to start using your product themselves and thus don’t like completing ‘pointless’ onboarding tasks. This applies especially to boring, linear product tours:

hate product tours


Turning the usually boring onboarding process into an interactive one or applying elements of a game to it can boost the chances for success and getting more users to that precious ‘AHA!’ moment.

How to gamify your onboarding?

onboarding checklist postfity

  • The easiest thing you can do to gamify your onboarding experience is to add a…checklist with the 2-3 tasks your user has to do to understand the value of your product. Better still – if you can tick a few items off the list already, it will trigger a psychological reaction in your users’ brain (the so-called Zeigarnik effect). Basically, your users will feel obligated to complete the list since they have already…started. Smart, huh? The items you can ‘pre-tick’ can be as simple as signing up or creating an account. We’ve conducted an experiment with one of our users, Postfity, on how the presence of pre-ticked items affects the checklist’s completion rates – and got a stunning jump:

postfity checklist results


You can create a checklist like this in minutes, without coding – let us show you how!

  • use progress bars and incentivize the completion of each step with small redeemable rewards for completing each task
  • celebrate the completion of each task (like in the Kontentino example earlier)
  • use badges as a token of proficiency/ engagement

product badges

  • include elements of rivalry between team members on company accounts

But back to personalization: having a welcome screen with the user’s name on it seems like an old trick, but does not provide that much value apart from the short-lived smiled at your effort at best.

So how to implement personalization into your user onboarding?

welcome screen


Want a welcome screen with a micro survey like this? Jump on a quick free call with our product consultant!

  • add micro surveys to your welcome screens asking the user about their role and use case to let them choose their own onboarding journey – as we’ve learned in our seminal study “State of SaaS Onboarding” a massive 40% of SaaS products didn’t greet us with some form of the welcome screen.
  • use segmentation religiously – the more you know about your users and the more granularly you segment them, the more relevant experience you can provide and the more you can tailor your messaging to their needs;
  • use reactive onboarding experiences that ‘respond’ to your users’ actions in-app with highly relevant, contextual messages and guidance corresponding to what they’ve done and where they are in their user journey rather than using the blanket one-size-fits-all approach;
  • add onboarding videos – especially with personalized messages – both to your welcome screens, interactive walkthroughs and onboarding emails;
  • celebrate your users’ success with a success message each time the user hits a major milestone (key activation point) in their onboarding process


Kontentino’s success message built in Userpilot – talk to us if you want one like that!
But you can take the personalization product trend even further: by actually…personalizing the products!
Although full product personalization seems like a still-distant future, Gen Furukawa, Co-Founder at Prehook, interactive quizzes for Shopify stores, observed first signs of this trend in 2020 already:
2020 made progress towards personalization, and the emphasis on customer experience. This is by necessity-as a result of both increasing competition, lower switching costs (of churning customers), and customer expectations. Customers are willing to pay more for a better, more personalized experience (86% of customers, at least).  For example, e-commerce brands like Gainful (protein), Prose (shampoo), and Ritual (vitamins) create products specific to customer’s individual profile and needs. It is very difficult to compete against a company that provides a product specifically tailored to your needs!

Gen


This dovetails nicely with the next big trend(s) – Product Led Growth and Chatbots!

Product Led Growth & Chatbots

Kommunikate Chatbot


Source: Kommunikate.io
Product-led growth has been around for a while, but in 2020 – according to our home-grown Product Management talent, Andy Shamah: “chatbots have taken it to the next level.”
If you need a refresher on what PLG actually means – according to Wes Bush, author of Product-Led Growth and (arguably) the father of the term:
Product-Led Growth is defined as a go-to-market strategy that relies on using your product as the main vehicle to acquire, activate, and retain customers.
The days when managers and ICOs made purchasing decisions for the end user are long gone. Now – it’s the great UX and simple UI, as well as the obvious and continuous value that sell your product. If your product is not up to standard – your users have plenty more to choose from. And the bad word of mouth spreads like wildfire.
So – making your product your main growth engine, and making it as self-serve as possible was definitely en vogue in 2020 and this trend will continue in 2021.

Getting why chatbots are so sexy now? 👉 Offering Self-Serve Support is Key to PLG

Now, if your product is supposed to ‘do the talking’ rather than your sales & marketing, how can you do it?
With another 2020/2021 product trend that is here to stay: the chatbots.
Chatbots are becoming increasingly more intelligent, and can act both as first-line support on-demand, as well as…private concierge in your product!
As Andy from Userpilot said:
Take Spotify’s smart bot, for example, it makes it easy to search, listen, and share music by providing smart state of the art recommendations. The strong arm here is that it is a 24-hour service that can almost always provide me with what I need

Andy product trends 2021


I believe chatbots will continue to evolve and play a very important role in digital marketing in 2021. Chatbot will continue to be a breakthrough in 2021 especially with the AI technologies evolving all around us.

Remote & Cross-functional Product teams

Needless to say – this year has been challenging for a number of industries.
But Carlos Gonzalez de Villaumbrosia, CEO of Product School, sees a bright future for digital products in 2021:
There’s never been a better time in history to build digital products. The world is moving online and more companies are embracing remote work.

carlos


This was also what Clement Kao, Product Manager at Blend, told us:

”For many software companies, 2020 was the first time they’ve had to operate with their engineering, product, and design teams fully remote. Companies that embraced the new reality found that their product development teams were even more effective than before. The organizations who demonstrated their commitment to a compassionate, collaborative remote work culture were the ones who gained significant new talent and opened up new horizons for their product capabilities.”

I remember the odd looks I was getting from my neighbors when I worked remotely back in the day before in was cool, in 2013.

2020 normalized remote work, but this hasn’t come without challenges for Product Teams. As Aditi Gupta, Product Marketing Manager at Varicent said:

Shift to remote it the biggest trend in product management in 2020, as generally, a PM used to sit alongside the development team and use to build relationships with cross-functional teams in office space over informal chats.  But with everything virtual in 2020, the relationship-building part has become harder. Productivity tools like Asana & Monday have come to the rescue and keep teams aligned on projects.

aditi


Nevertheless, the cross-functional trend in product teams are here to stay, it seems.
Sébastien Gendreau, Head of Product at Agorapulse, is a strong advocate of cross-functional product teams: “As your organization grows: choose feature teams rather than function teams. It facilitates communication and reduces the conflict of interest between different departments.

Analytics & Experimentation – trust your gut, but make data-driven decisions

The best products result from great intuition combined with rigorous data analysis and testing.
You can only make data-driven decisions when you actually collect and analyze user data. This has become increasingly easy and accurate thanks to the numerous product analytics tools that have mushroomed on the market over the last years: Heap, Amplitude, Mixpanel, Hotjar – to name a few.
Andrea Saez, Head of Product Growth and Education at ProdPad, noticed how more and more product teams are becoming outcome rather than feature-driven:
I would say the biggest trend is people aligning roadmaps to objectives and making them more outcome-focused rather than output. That is, less focus on timelines, more focus on understanding what and why things are being built. As a result, companies can build with purpose instead of being feature factories.

Andrea product trends 2021


The process of making data-driven decisions can be greatly facilitated by code-free product experiments and A/B testing, available over-the-counter in some product adoption tools:
Speaking of product adoption:

Userpilot experimentation


Userpilot’s Experimentation Module. Call us to see how easy it is to set up A/B tests with it!
Last but not least: don’t underestimate the power of user feedback to inform your decisions and give you more data. You can get it more easily if you build an engaged user community.
As Kamil Kwiecień, CEO of Taskeo told us:
“From what I observed during 2020, communities become a driving power of many new successful startups. This trend started much earlier, but because of the pandemic, it accelerated. Every product manager thinking about growth in 2021 should keep in mind the power of communities. To mention a few benefits: user feedback, sales channel, marketing channel and access to a wider network.”

New Product Growth Terms That Made it To Our Dictionary

Apart from trends, 2020 saw a few new terms join the ‘Product Adoption Dictionary’:

Proactive vs. Reactive Onboarding

When you look at onboarding experiences you can easily notice that they come in two types: ones that take the somewhat passive user by the hand and lead them to the desired outcome, and ones that respond to user actions with a relevant tooltip or message.
Aazar Shad finally put a name to what we all sensed and called the former ‘proactive’ and the latter ‘reactive’ onboarding.

Secondary Onboarding

What do you think when you hear the word ‘onboarding’? Probably new user onboarding, right?
Well, that’s the problem. Most SaaS companies focus on new user onboarding and completely forget about guiding activated users towards the less obvious, secondary features.
Secondary onboarding is basically the onboarding experiences that help your users discover more advanced features of your product and move up in their user journey.

Product Adoption Strategy

…while not exactly a completely new concept: we feel that while most product businesses have a product roadmap, few have a documented strategy for how they are going to get the users to adopt the features or products their build.
That’s a mistake. Here’s how to correct it with your first Product Adoption Strategy.

Battles of Titans – These Debates Were Taking LinkedIn By Storm

Interactive onboarding vs. product tours

As we’ve mentioned before – everybody hates product tours:
What to replace them with then? Give your users a break and increase new user activation with interactive walkthroughs – a fully interactive, contextual onboarding experience aligned with the new user’s role, use case, and mental model.

Build vs. Buy

Should you buy an existing SaaS product to build your onboarding tours, or build your own ones?
If you think it will be cheaper to build your own solution, you will be disappointed: Patrick Thompson, a co-founder at Iteratively, who worked on the growth team at Atlassian estimates that they spent over $ 3 million in the course of three years to build their own customer onboarding and email platform.
Here’s the bill:

build vs buy infographic

Women in Product

women in product


In March, we celebrated the minority of Product Managers among us: women.
According to Mind the Product, women made up only 35% of all Product Managers in 2016.
And according to Hubspot’s 2019 survey of Project Managers from 59 countries revealed, the pay gap between the gender in Product Management is around to $50,000.
We thought the female PMs among us deserved a shout out – so we featured a few promined female leaders in Product here.

Rising Stars in Product: the PMM, Growth PM

product marketing manger


This year, two new product roles rose to prominence Product Marketing Manager and Growth Product Manager. While the former focuses on marketing product features to bottom-of-the-funnel leads pre-sign up and users post-signup, the Growth Product Managers focus on improving certain product growth metrics (rather than shipping new features).

What Was New in Userpilot in 2020

Wow, what a year it has been for us too! We didn’t let the sleeping dogs lie and chased the pandemic blues off with hard work. All in all, we’re pretty chuffed about our product development this year:

The new UI Pattern we’ve added this year:

  • Resource Center – an easy to set up additional resource with on-demand contextual guidance (experiences, videos, help docs) organized into a searchable help center inside your app.

userpilot resource center


Want to get a resource center like this inside your product? Jump on a call with us and we will build it for you in minutes!

  • Native Tooltips – subtle in-app messages that appear when the user hovers over or clicks on an element.

We’ve added some useful targeting & reporting features:

  • Companies – allowing you to track data for users that belong to the same paying account (a company account)
  • Step-by-step completion – more granular view of the user engagement with your experiences
  • A/B Testing – allowing you to compare how the experience you’ve created performs against the default (nothing) – and what’s the ROI of your experiences;
  • Feature tagging – helping you understand the impact of in-app experiences on your growth goals and feature adoption
  • Localization – Helping big teams use a single experience to reach a multilingual audience
  • Automated Localization – Helping small teams use a single experience to reach a multilingual audience.

Customization

  • Custom CSS – to allow you to further enhance your experiences on top of the customization in our chrome extension.

Integrations

  • Product Analytics – we’ve added integrations with Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Kissmetrics, Heap, and Amplitude.
  • Product Connectors -…and Google Tag Manager and Segment;
  • Product Messaging – …as well as Intercom;
  • HTTP API – to help you with identifying users and track custom events through Rest API
  • GDPR Deletion API – allowing data deletion to comply with the ‘right to be forgotten’ under GDPR.

Security

We’ve also added Two-Factor Authentication – an extra layer of protection used to ensure the security of your Userpilot accounts beyond just a username and password.

Website

Last but not least – a day before Christmas, we launched our brand new website!

…And there are still some good overhauls and enhancements in stock for 2021!

But why don’t you book a demo and check them out yourself? 😉
Hope you all have a happy and PRODUCT-ive New Year!