How to Create Sustainable Product Engagement

Recently, Snap Inc. held its first ever partner summit where they gathered potential development partners with the goal of inspiring others to build atop the Snap platform.

Snap’s flagship app, Snapchat, saw exponential user adoption which ultimately led to an IPO in 2018. But since then, they’ve struggled maintaining consistent user engagement. This summit was a positive step forward because it resulted in new ideas for keeping engaged with the app (including Snap Games, which was arguably their best innovation).

User adoption is what gets the attention of investors, but user engagement is what creates a sustainable business. The truth is, thinking of engagement as purely “user”-based often leads to small thinking.

Nir Eyal’s book, Hooked, taught product professionals everywhere how to get people into their apps. But since its publication, the market has continued to evolve, and so has the concept of product engagement.

At Innovatemap, we challenge our clients to look beyond the functional aspects of the product for opportunities to create engagement. And it’s more than just “hooks” with the intent of getting people back into the product.

Opportunities come in three ways:

  • Through companion products inside of the product itself
  • Through companion products outside of the product
  • Through product marketing

Creating product engagement by using other products

In today’s SaaS market, chances are that your prospective user has plenty of apps already — either a competitor or a complementary product. In such a diverse product market, integrations are table-stakes for even gaining users in the first place. Building a CRM add-on? It better hook into Salesforce. Creating a new recruiting tool? It better sync with the top three ATS products.

But again, integrations only get people through the door. What’s going to keep them coming back is providing unique combinations you wouldn’t otherwise think of — you know, the whole 1 + 1 = 3 thing.

The best products offer you information that you wouldn’t otherwise find elsewhere. They discover unique ways to generate insights or drive action by contextualizing them with external data. Consider a marketing automation platform that synchronizes with a national holiday calendar to recommend timely campaigns, or a professional networking service that recommends coffee meetups with likeminded connections based on your geolocation.

Look beyond your own database and into the data available through integrations to enhance your product and drive engagement.

Leveraging other products to drive product engagement

Dan Hanrahan explains how Sigstr utilized Hubspot to drive initial product growth in his guest appearance on the Better Product Podcast. Piggybacking and “coat-tailing” with other products is a wonderful amplification technique, but to drive engagement, you have take it a step further.

Consider taking the value and functionality of your offering outside of the product itself. Browser extensions are simple companion tools that can act as a bridge between a user’s day-to-day workflow and your full product. Apps like Clearbit, a marketing data engine, don’t require you to log in to their app to get their value. They realize that getting prospect emails is best done while you’re out searching, so they built a browser extension to literally extend their value to users outside of the product.

Using product marketing to drive engagement

To most people, product marketing is something that drives sales, and ultimately product adoption. But in a modern ecosystem boasting dozens of digital channels, there are more opportunities to continue speaking to people well after they’ve become a paying user. In the old days one might consider this a tactic for increasing brand loyalty, but in tech it’s far more important than that.

First off, never assume a user knows best practices for using your product after they get past the initial onboarding. And even if they do, they’re going to need constant reminders until it becomes a key part of their daily workflow. Mixmax does this well by sending an onboarding email series showcasing different parts of their product, and sending regular emails demoing a new use case.

Secondly, and more importantly, you need to use product engagement to continue inspiring your user and connect them to your brand. Singular, ad-hoc brand impressions won’t necessarily get your user to open your product, but ongoing reminders of your mission, value, and service drive soft engagement at a more subconscious level. Users may not be in the product itself but they’re thinking about it and reflecting on its value.

Getting people into your product is one thing, but keeping them around is a whole new challenge. Product engagement is as important today as it was ten years ago, but the opportunities for driving engagement have grown exponentially. And with people constantly being bombarded for ever-diminishing attention, it’s paramount that you find new ways to create, garner, and maintain ongoing engagement that doesn’t require a user to spend hours a day in your product.