The dark side of user activation

You’ve definitely heard the term before. If not, you might have heard the phrase Product Adoption

If you haven’t heard of either, that’s ok too. I’ll give you a quick rundown.

User Activation and Product Adoption are terms that describe an action(or a series of actions) that a user takes after he completes the signup process within your app but there’s a difference.

User Activation measures the moment when your user reaches a critical point in your app, or as we call it “an activation milestone. It could be the moment he adds his credit card information when he invites a team member to the app or starts using a particular feature from your SaaS.

Product Adoption is when the user gets activated and starts using the app on a regular basis. It’s subtle, but the difference is very important between the two. 

I’ve worked with SaaS companies almost exclusively in the past 15 years and more often than not, our marketing teams were focusing on the product adoption metrics and brushing off the user activation one as being not as important. 

We were dead wrong. 

User Activation > Product Adoption or at least they are equally important.

While I understand the allure of only looking at the metrics for the regular users, not focusing on how they got there can be very costly.

Let me paint you a picture. Say you have the most amazing restaurant in town. They serve your favorite meals, they are always open, and even give you discounts because you are such a nice person. The only downside is that in order to get there you have to cross through a difficult, uninviting maze. 

A lot of SaaS products are like that. They are often very complex with convoluted onboarding processes that stop most users in their tracks. 

And in most cases, they didn’t start off like that. SaaS products are living, breathing organisms that grow constantly. They release new features, add new products, implement client feedback, add third-party integrations, and from that beautifully simple one-trick pony, they are now behemoths.

So when your new users walk in the first time, they are bombarded with a ton of information all at once. And that can make their experience turn sour. 

The worst part is that, that sour experience happens more often than you think and before you leave that comment saying that that’s not the case, I urge you to do a little experiment. Check out your analytics and filter out people that signed up for your service, clicked on 3 to 5 items, and then never came back.

That number might surprise you. Not in a good way.

Not convinced?

Let’s switch seats. I’m sure you’ve been in a position where you had to solve a quick issue and looked at a solution online. After a couple of minutes of research you signed up for a product, but after seeing the dashboard you realized that’s too much for you to handle and stepped back, never to return again.

The product wasn’t bad. The UI wasn’t terrible either. But that gut-wrenching feeling of utter suffocation makes you turn away.

One more example and I promise I’m done.

Think of a typical customer trying to find a solution to a problem. Let’s say it’s a developer trying to find a monitoring solution for his brand-new serverless application that he is building. He googles “serverless monitoring” and finds a list of tools. The next thing he does he picks 3 that fit his budget and requirements and sign up for them. The customer will pick the tool that allows him to get to the part that provides value to him, the fastest.

And this is where user activation is important.

Getting the user to that “aha moment” where he finds value in your application or service is what’s going to make him stick. It’s what’s going to dramatically increase the chances of that user becoming a product adopter and customer.

And if you look at that statement from the opposite side, not delivering that “aha moment” in time will make you lose that signup for good.

Because you are an experienced marketeer, at this point you might be thinking to yourself, but John, I have this amazing drip campaign where I send him solid content with X reasons to use my wonderful product. Surely that will keep him coming back.

And while that’s a valid point, the reality is a tad different.

If your product or service aims to alleviate a pain point or solve a problem for your customers, chances are that you are not alone in that space. And when the user researches a solution for their problem, they will undoubtedly find several out there and will test more than just yours. If you don’t nail that first interaction in time, your competitors will.

So how do you calculate user activation?

It’s quite simple, you can figure out the activation rate using a simple formula dividing the number of people who reached the activation milestone to the number of signups times 100. The bigger the number, the better you are doing in the activation department.

I hate to be a Gloomy Gus, and I would not be telling all of this if there was no solution to this user activation problem.

How to increase user activation?

1) Create a smooth onboarding process. This is easier said than done but there are lots of tools at your disposal that I’ll talk about later in the article.

2) Send automated emails explaining the onboarding process. Email marketing is one of the most powerful weapons at your disposal and using it wisely can increase user activation.

3) Customize the application based on what the user is looking for. This works especially well if you have a suite of products since you can pretty much always tell what interested the user when he signed up. You clean up the app and only show the tools and features that are of interest to him. 

4) Add product demos. Demos are a double-edged sword since they can be really good tools for showcasing the features of the product but at the same time, these can be replaced with a Free Trial which is even better for conversions.

5) Make sure your support is on point. This can be often overlooked, but it’s especially important to be there for the new users trying your service.

Improving user activation with Eyelet

Apart from actually sitting down with every new user that comes to your website and explaining what your service does and how it works, the best thing to do is to create personalized interactive onboarding walkthroughs that will handhold the user through that crucial first interaction with the website.

This is where Eyelet really stands out from its competition. The ease of use makes it extremely easy for just about anyone to create a complete interactive onboarding experience without having to write a single line of code. You just point and click. It’s that easy. can increase your user activation rate by having your user reach that pinnacle “aha moment” 4 times faster which will increase the activation rate by 65%. 

Not convinced?

Try it out for yourself, it’s free and if you need any help one of our accounts managers can create the onboarding walkthroughs for you.

Signup at