Mar 29, 2024

From Acquisition to Habit:

Key Aspects of User Activation in the World of Products

Storozhylova Olha, Head of Product

Hello everyone! My name is Olha Storozhylova, and for the past 8 years, I've been working on creating and developing cool products worldwide. Currently, I hold the position of Head of Product at Guru Apps by Universe Group — an ecosystem of iOS applications used by over 60 million users in 180 countries. In this article, I want to share with you my thoughts and experience on various product activation strategies.

Let's start by understanding what activation is

I've heard many different explanations and adaptations on this topic, but I'm a fan of simple forms and visualizations. In simple terms, activation is the process from the moment users enter our product to the moment they form a habit around the product's core value.

So, user acquisition is your bridge between marketing and product, where on one side are user expectations, and on the other is the actual value your product is ready to offer.

Marketing has caught the user's interest, showing them how their life can change with this product. Then the users download our product, enter it, and here they have dozens of questions: "Where am I? Is this for me? How will it help me? What should I do now, and what's actually happening?"

In this state, users need help. Sometimes even salvation because activation is your 911 service.

Important notes: Every product provides an opportunity to change lives, from optimizing small operations to making global changes. Every user comes for a change — remember this when working on activation.

Why is user activation important?

  1. Reach
    Activation applies to 100% of our acquired users; there is no other place in the product where you can work with 100% of your users.

  2. Defining Product Value
    Activation allows users to be convinced that "I'm in the right place; they will help me meet my needs" until the moment the user decides to leave.

  3. Working with Retention
    Users who are successfully activated are much more likely to return for the value you offer and continue using the product. Essentially, this directly impacts your retention.

The importance of all this is clear. But in what metrics should we look for the impact of activation?

Activation actually affects all important indicators in the product:

  • conversion to target actions;

  • conversion to subscription;

  • conversion to payment;

  • cancel rate;

  • retention.

I hope the arguments are sufficient. Let's move on to building activation in your product.

What does activation consist of?

I'll remind you that the activation process covers the period from the moment the user first encounters our product to the point where using the product becomes a habitual action for them.

Activation consists of:

  • Setup Moment

  • Aha Moment

  • Habit Moment

Now let's go through each stage with a focus on the Aha Moment.

Stage 1. Setup Moment

The Setup Moment is your first meeting, where you learn the user's request and help them set up the product so that they can feel the value as quickly as possible. This moment is often illustrated by onboarding or initial settings necessary for the user to have a full experience and value prepared by you in advance.

For example, let's take our product Assist Guru, where during onboarding, we ask a series of questions that help personalize recommendations for the user, considering all the information they've provided to us.

Here are some examples of such questions in our product.

Stage 2. Aha Moment

The Aha Moment is the moment when the users feel the value created for them for the first time.

But before moving on, I want to dispel one myth. You've probably heard that the "Aha Moment for Facebook is adding 7 friends within 10 days." We already know that's not the case. Do you think a user who added 7 friends felt the value of the product? Spoiler alert: the primary value of Facebook is personalized and engaging content. So "adding 7 friends within 10 days" is the Setup Moment that brings users closer to the value the product creates.

Now that we've debunked myths, let's return to defining the Aha Moment. To identify this Aha Moment, we need to consider both qualitative and quantitative aspects.

Qualitative aspect. Here, you need to generate use cases or jobs to understand exactly what the users want from you, what needs they want to fulfill, and how you can help them. The better you define these use cases, the quicker you'll find a working AHA Moment.

For example, you can try using this framework:

So, at this stage, we hypothesize about the Aha Moment for the user based on their requests.

Quantitative aspect. The Aha Moment indicator is calculated using the formula fXaY (where fX is the number of times, and aY is the time period). This formula shows the number of key actions the user has performed in our application over a certain period.
Let's look at examples from several products.

To determine this indicator, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the key action or actions for users based on previous work with use cases.

  2. Determine the number of times needed for the user to feel the product's value when fulfilling requests.

  3. Determine the time within which this number of key actions should occur.

You might ask, "How do I determine the last 2 points?" There is a picture below with several options.

I'll demonstrate it using the example of Duolingo's correlation matrix.

  1. Actions — actions defined by you as key to obtaining value. Base your actions on the use cases outlined earlier.

  2. Number of times — the quantity of these actions.

  3. Period — the duration over which the quantity of key actions should occur.

  4. Correlation — the relationship between performing key actions and users coming back to your product.

  5. PPV (Positive predictive value) — the percentage of users who performed your key action within this time period and came back (your retention).

  6. NPV (Negative predictive value) — the percentage of users who DID NOT perform the key action within this time period and did not return to your product.

  7. Sample.

Next, you can complicate the matrix with aggregated actions and look for correlations.
Reminder: correlation does not always equal causation.

In the end, you'll find a user segment and their actions that will signal to you that the Aha Moment has occurred and the user understands the need for your product and its utility. 

Notes: you may often encounter false positives when you see that, overall, the more actions a user takes in the application, the faster they turn into the category of regular users. To find truly impactful points, don't skip the qualitative part, where you form hypotheses based on user pains and needs.

This analysis will help you understand the values and possibilities to which you can appeal when a user comes to you. Also, it will guide you in quickly leading the users to the moment where they understand the necessity of this product.

Stage 3. Habit Moment

The Habit Moment is the moment when the user has formed a habit regarding the core value of your product. Here's a suggested plan:

  • Define what a habit is in your product (considering different personas and use cases).

  • Determine the necessary frequency of performing key actions in the product.

  • Determine the time period over which the user can form their habit (it's not all about the known 21 days, as each action has its own estimation).

  • Identify the metrics that will tell us that the user has developed a habit.

  • Through what actions can we bring the user closer to forming a habit?

Notes: it's difficult to achieve the Habit Moment in products with low usage frequency, but it's possible. An example could be Airbnb (on average, used 3–4 times a year, but even with such periodicity, a habit can be built).

And in conclusion

We've covered the key moments of activation: from the Setup Moment, which introduces the user to the product, through the Aha Moment, which reveals the main value of the product, to the Habit Moment, when using the product becomes a habit for the user. Each of these stages requires an individual approach and careful data analysis to optimize the activation process.

Remember that activation is an ongoing process of improvement. Use data to analyze user behavior, and experiment with new approaches and methods of finding the optimal activation path for different user cohorts.

As we conclude our journey through the world of user activation, it's important to emphasize that every user who returns is your ally in building a strong and successful product. We understand this in our company, so we often look for specialists to join our team who will help improve and build strong relationships with users, making our products even better.

Be with us, become our Universe!

Send CV or contact us at hello@uni.tech

For product-related questions — support@uni.tech

Be with us, become our Universe!

Send CV or contact us at hello@uni.tech

For product-related questions — support@uni.tech

Be with us, become our Universe!

Send CV or contact us at hello@uni.tech

For product-related questions — support@uni.tech