Cosmetic changes to your product won’t fix low user engagement and retention

Excerpt (with edits and wording changes) from Why consumer product metrics are all terrible by Andrew Chen:

It’s common to see that the vast majority of your users, often over 90%, aren’t engaged on a daily basis. When you look at the retention curve [number of users active x days after signup], usually there’s a very steep drop-off over the first week or two, and then it starts to stabilize. But overall you lose a ton of active users, a result of (i) how many users sign up and actually try out your product (onboarding), (ii) how many days they are active within a month (frequency), and (iii) how useful your product is over time (long term retention).

Given that frequency is often low – 3 or 4 active days per month isn’t uncommon – when you pair that with crappy onboarding or retention, then very quickly you’ll see that getting 10% of your users to come back every day is an amazing feat. Anything more than 10% of your total users coming back every day is a success case! More often it’s 5%, or even lower.

So what if your metrics aren’t at this level? This isn’t something that’s easily fixable with something superficial, like more email or push notifications. I’ve yet to see a product with horrible DAU/MAU get fixed using cosmetic changes.

Changing engagement metrics might be the hardest thing to do with products, though. You can make your onboarding better, or get people to invite incrementally more friends. But getting them to come back over time, that’s not something that’s easy to solve using optimization techniques.

Notes:
(1) “Changing engagement metrics might be the hardest thing to do” — but it’s also the most important, because user engagement is the bottom of the funnel after marketing and onboarding. Any success in marketing and onboarding will be discounted if you have poor user engagement.
(2) For this reason, as Ben Yoskowitz argues, ongoing engagement is the top priority in product development.

2 thoughts on “Cosmetic changes to your product won’t fix low user engagement and retention

  1. Pingback: What’s the best way to find traction with early users? | BrainQuilt

  2. Pingback: Why optimization alone can’t create great products or companies | A Founder's Notebook

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