This post was written by Jason Martin, Director of Growth at Branch Messenger
I’ve seen over time how difficult it can be to really understand your users’ behavior – whether that is through acquiring and nurturing leads on the web, driving app installations, or initiating user behavior with a push notification.
As someone leading growth at Branch Messenger, the employee self service app for hourly workers, I’ve found the best way to to understand your user begins with understanding your product. However, to understand your product is to understand its value, a question which isn’t always easily answered.
If the product was stripped completely bare (or, rather stripped of a sexy UI), would it still solve a pain point or frustration someone might have?
Time and time again, the products that tend to be successful have a simple function that solves a problem and keeps a user coming back for more.
The best apps are built off of good UX where there is an intuitive sense to the product. As a way to support strong user experience, notifications are tools to encourage timely nudges and encourage users to take specific actions.
But it’s important to first understand if a user has expressed intent in taking a certain action. Otherwise, a notification turns into a pesky reminder a user will most likely ignore.
The best notifications and messages come from a place of understanding. In order to reach this level of empathy, you first need to understand the type of user you’re talking to, and what stage they are at within your product.
Here, I’m going to share ways in which Branch Messenger has developed a process to delight our users with timely notifications. With a mobile app that drives team communication, scheduling and other chat features, we’re able to help other businesses so that they can effectively improve working experiences, across 600 million shift workers around the world.
A million different ways to capture mobile data
When trying to make sense of your product’s usage, sometimes data, tools, and external noise is more of a distraction than a help. Gaining clarity is the greatest helper when positioning your team around growth. Instead of always searching for the shiny thing as the answer to your questions, it’s best to keep your process simple.
It’s funny how we live in a world where everything can be dissected, analyzed and under the microscope. When you’re leading growth experiments, data becomes your lifeblood. But too many tools, don’t always yields answers, and instead they create confusion and wrecks more havoc than one would like.
It’s easy to fall prey to shiny object syndrome. In our case, making sense of data has been a priority. With Mixpanel, we’ve been able to make sense of our mobile app analytics on a daily basis. Our ability to measure and track mobile app data has been set up to be consistent with our user behaviors in the app.
But there are a few essential steps every data-driven app needs to do in order to understand customers and grow a product.
First, understand the user journey
Before we can ever begin to understand the data that flows in, it’s important to understand the product and user journey. If a successful product experience comes from getting a user to take specific actions, then it’s even better to be able to correlate this behavior with where they are at in the funnel.
In our experience at Branch Messenger, we have a couple different types of user personas that can be considered. One persona is a team member whereas another persona for someone using Branch Messenger is a manager. Different personas play different roles on the app, and thus success looks differently depending on who’s doing the action.
If a manager joins a location in our app, we want them to upload a schedule for the coming week. By doing this, it increases the likelihood of activating the rest of their team and adds value to their existing day to day workflows.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to remove roadblocks and friction to get users to find their “ah-ha” moment in your app. That ah-ha moment is the exact moment where a user experiences, first-hand, the product’s intended value. When a user understands this value, it encourages a virtuous cycle where a user will repeat certain behaviors, and thus develop habits, within a product.
As Andrew Chen from Uber puts it: “Focus on understanding what your users value about your service and tailor your messages to their unique needs and interests. You’ll see push engagement skyrocket, and your users transform into rabid advocates.”
Second, build a foundation for tracking
Creating a solid tracking foundation is a necessary piece to help position yourself for future success. It’s a fundamental layer that many people cut corners on, perhaps because it’s benefits may not be visible at first. However, it’s super important in the long run.
With Mixpanel, we’re able to easily track important custom events from our app. There’s really nothing that’s off limits when it comes to tracking. In fact, we’re tracking over 200 custom events and we’re just getting started.
The fun part about tracking such a wide variety of events is the large spectrum of activity that you can put to work. With a bigger data set comes a bigger combination of ideas, insights, and actions that you can take away from it.
For example, some of the custom events we track are: app install, position type, post schedule, user shared, etc. Each one of these plays an important role in our growth strategy so that when you take a step back, it clearly highlights how users are interacting with your app.
After you begin to analyze user behavior, you will start to see where you can optimize different screens, flows, etc. This is very revealing, whether that’s because you are trying to improve the performance of your onboarding sign up process or just trying to activate users by encouraging them to do certain things.
“The biggest challenge in mobile is retaining new users,” says Weiss, Head of Search at Slack. There are proven tactics to get them through the door: efficient app install marketing, social channels, SEM and SEO. However, what’s really hard is getting new users to develop a habit.”
Once you begin to take these custom events and string them together, you can see a journey that a user goes and associate data with every touch point. This is crucial for analyzing how sticky a product is and where there may be leaks in the bucket.
Third, drill into user segmentation with advanced filtering
It’s one thing to have a large list of users, but it’s another thing to be able to sort, filter, or break down large clusters of users by any criteria you can basically think of.
One of my favorite parts about have a large data set is being able to start segmenting users based on different actions they’ve taken. The fun begins when you can attribute the type of data to a persona and make assumptions based on that data.
For instance, a manager on our app is looked at as an influencer in their location. With Mixpanel, it’s easy for us to create unique segments that could demonstrate a manager’s ability to upload a schedule and influence the rest of the team.
Behaviors like this are based on key characteristics that we’ve defined. It all depends on your goals and how you want to set these up, there’s really no right or wrong way.
Once you set up a segment in Mixpanel, there isn’t much else that needs to be updated going forward. These are synced in real time and you can reference them with the most up to date data that has been captured.
Fourth, nudge a user to take the next step with timely messages
Using things like Smart Notifications, you’re able to implement a behavior based messaging strategy to your user base. This part is so exciting because you can quickly create experiments and run cohort analysis on certain segments of users. The possibilities are really endless.
Email, push notifications and in app messages can sometimes be like a double edged sword though. With great power, comes great responsibility.
To put it another way, behavior based messaging should be looked at as an extension of your product offering and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Over on the HubSpot blog they share how notifications look when done right: “Notifications aren’t redundant or disruptive to your users. They keep your users informed of the things they want to know. They’re thoughtful – they keep an eye out and make life a little more convenient for users, without seeming overbearing or clingy. They encourage users – and don’t shame them.”
Our push notifications, emails and in app messages are constantly evolving and chances are that yours will too. But to give you an example of how you can provide timely and relevant messages your users, here’s a few of ours:
A team member hasn’t posted their schedule in the last 7 days, so Branch Messenger sends an automated push notification to remind them and get back into the app.
A team member at a new location has joined, but hasn’t seen a schedule posted; Branch Messenger sends them an email prompting them to manually add their own shifts.
In App Notification
A manager has joined the app, but hasn’t posted a schedule yet this week. Branch Messenger sends them an in app message to get started.
Driving product growth with strong feedback loops
Once you’re firing on all cylinders and have a strategy for engaging users at the right time, it’s important to measure your efforts through your data.
This is where you can begin to ask intelligent questions about the results of your messaging campaigns.
By using behavior messaging, you can start to connect with your users at certain inflection points. Often times this can be the result of a strong feedback loop.
Some examples of feedback loops you can incorporate or experiment with could be any of the following:
- App store ratings and reviews
- Organic or requested with a rating prompt or in-app CTA
- Email, with a re-direct link or plug found in the app’s navigation or app store product page.
An example of one of our primary feedback loops looks like this. A user posts a schedule and team members find out their upcoming shifts. After this happens they can then post / swap shift based on their availability and in turn, the user will start to be receive more compatible schedules.
By measuring this feedback loop from a subset of actions, we’re able to help reduce churn by making sure our users are hooked and activated in the core product.
Behavior based messaging is the 🔑
Over the years I’ve learned that growth doesn’t come through a bag off one off tricks, tactics or growth hacks. It’s rather about creating a system that is positioned to meet your user at the intersection of curiosity and intent.
Behavior based messaging and feedback loops are key to a successful user app experience. Every mobile app should consider adopting a similar approach to drive product growth. Focus on understanding your users so you can properly engage with them at the right place and time.