Customer Activation

The role of customer data in user activation

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  • Prioritize customer experience over tooling and infrastructure
  • Define your activation event before working on any content
  • Consolidate data from all your customer touchpoints to inform your onboarding strategy
  • Avoid selling to an account before activating it
  • Don't think of activation as a one-time activity

Arpit Choudhury:
Hi there. Thanks for tuning in to this talk at the Product-Led Summit. I'm Arpit from Data-led Academy, where we foster data literacy and help folks become data-led. You might wonder what is it to be data-led and how is it any different from being data-driven? Well, being data-driven is to base decisions exclusively on available data, without really understanding its origin or questioning its accuracy. In some ways, it is similar to blindly following what someone tells you to do without really knowing the rationale behind the directive. On the other hand, someone who's data-lead has a good understanding of various aspects of data and is able to make data-informed decisions, while also factoring in their intuition and experience.

Arpit Choudhury:
So today I'm going to talk about customer data and the role it plays in user activation. And I'm going to try and drive home the idea that while customer is king, customer data is queen. But first, I want to talk about activation and what it really means. The definition of activation is different for every product, how one defines their activation metric depends on their goals and their priorities. But it simply terms, activation is a moment in time when a user derives the core value of a product for the very first time. In other words, it is when a user reaches the "aha moment." Therefore, it is helpful to think of activation as a milestone or an event that takes place inside your product. It is essentially a user action that activates the user and therefore it only makes sense to define your own activation event.

Arpit Choudhury:
Let's look at some common activation events. For an online store, the first product being purchased is an activation event. For a ride hailing app, it is the first ride being booked. Similarly, for an email marketing app, the first campaign being sent could be the activation event. It is also important to not think of activation as a one-time activity. It is far too common for a user to activate and then never return to your product. And that is far from ideal, right? If a user makes a purchase or books or ride and then just disappears, what good did it do to activate that user? You probably spend more money behind that user than you made from that one transaction. Therefore, it is helpful to think of activation as something that needs to happen on a regular basis over and over again. It is also an easy way to define retention.

Arpit Choudhury:
Moving on, once you define your activation event and assuming that your data infrastructure is in place, it is fairly straightforward to look inside your product analytics tool to understand user behavior and derive insights. You can easily see how many users performed the activation event, what other events they performed before and after the activation event, and of course, who performed the event and who did not. Knowing exactly what users do inside your product is key to figuring out the most optimum route to activation. You can also see how different cohorts of users interact with your product differently and how much time they take to activate. For example, our user who came through a referral and probably knows what they wish to achieve is likely to activate sooner as compared to someone who discovered the product organically.

Arpit Choudhury:
This data not only helps improve the onboarding experience, but also enables you to personalize it through contextual emails and in-app messages. More on that in a bit. This brings us to the question, what exactly is customer data? Well, every piece of information that tells you who the user is and what actions they perform inside your product is referred to as customer data. There are two parts to it, events and entities. Every action that a user performs inside the product is essentially an event. Clicking buttons, viewing pages, creating an account, submitting forms are all examples of common events. Event data helps you understand exactly how your product is being used or not being used for that matter. It helps you understand whether users are performing critical actions or completing the tasks that will lead them to activate.

Arpit Choudhury:
On the other hand, personally identifiable information about the user, details about their preferences, their demographics, all of this together is referred to as entity data, wherein the user is the entity. Now let's go back to the idea of using customer data to improve and personalize the onboarding experience. I'm sure you have all experienced signing up for a new product, and then receiving a series of emails talking about the product's features and sharing helpful resources. Now the idea behind such drip campaign is to help new users and have them succeed, it also turns out to be really annoying for many.

Arpit Choudhury:
It is so common to receive an email saying that, "Hey, did you know, you could invite your colleagues to collaborate with them inside the product?" after you have already invited everybody you had to. That email added zero value. And it probably made you feel like unsubscribing. But if you're like me and you like to keep track of good onboarding emails and, of course, bad onboarding emails, you probably didn't unsubscribe, but you probably felt that the false band of product don't really care about you, they're only concerned with sharing information about the product and communicating its benefits and features. Now, that's not an experience you'd want your customers to have, right?

Arpit Choudhury:
This is where customer data really shines, gathering it from the get-go and acting upon it makes all the difference. Now, instead of generic drip drip email campaigns, you can trigger highly personalized contextual emails based on a user's in-app activity. You can keep users motivated by acknowledging small wins such as inviting a colleague and then guide them towards the activation event by only telling them what they need to know. You can easily avoid communicating information that a user already has or information that they don't really care about. So the level of personalization can be fine tuned to an extent that a user actually feels that there's someone always around to help them succeed with the product.

Arpit Choudhury:
While email is your primary channel to engage users and also the most important one, there are several other channels where you can engage users based on the events that they performance inside the app. For instance, if you want to take it a step further, you can actually trigger in-app messages and in-app experiences based on user activity in near real-time. Additionally, you can even improve your customer support by enabling your support team to access event data so that they can see exactly what the user has done or not done before they opened a ticket. Similarly, as soon as a ticket is opened, which is also an event, you can exclude a user from a campaign and prevent sending further emails and messages to the user. And of course, as soon as the ticket is resolved, which is also an event, you can bring the user back into the campaign. Sometimes it just makes sense to let the user be and do nothing, right?

Arpit Choudhury:
And then lastly, you can sync event data with your advertising channels to ensure a user does not keep seeing the damn ad after they've purchased the damn product. So, that's it from me. There are three key takeaways from this talk. One, define your activation event before working on any content. Two, don't think of activation as a one-time activity. And three, elevate the customer experience one event at a time. If you enjoyed this talk and like the idea of becoming data-led, head over to Our introductory course is called Customer Data Pro and you can use the coupon "productled", no hyphen, to avail a 20% discount on it. Thanks again for watching and hope you enjoy the rest of the summit. Cheers.

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Gretchen Duhaime
Arpit Choudhury
Founder of Data-led Academy
Arpit is a data, automation, and SaaS enthusiast, an evangelist of remote work, a proponent of visual development tools, and a lover of APIs. He believes everybody should feel comfortable talking about data, irrespective of their technical chops. Building Data-led Academy with a singular goal to demystify working with data for technically-inclined professionals.