20 Growth Experiments to Improve Your Activation Rate


For SaaS companies, the onboarding experience is an opportunity to ensure every user benefits from your product. Therefore, you goal is to activate users—helping them achieve the value promised—as they move through the user journey. 

Improving your activation rate involves showing users value as soon as possible. Growth hacking can speed up the process by motivating your users to take action now, rather than later. By experimenting with different growth strategies, you’ll learn what works for your business. 

We’ve researched  20 growth hacking experiments to help you turn users into loyal customers. Each experiment includes an ICE score, a framework invented by Sean Ellis to help prioritize growth ideas by impact, confidence, and ease. By prioritizing actions, you can decide what activities and resources will produce the best results for your company. 

In-app messaging

1. Write welcome page copy that leads to Aha!

Copy is just as important design, and when users land on your welcome page, you want to be ready with open arms. Similar to an in-person interaction, a greeting is the the best way to impress someone. Sniply gives new user users a warm welcome immediately in the onboarding experience.

sniply welcome page

Welcome users in the header with “Welcome, {Firstname}”. This simple exchange gives your brand integrity and prompts users to continue learning about your product.  

Impact: 5 Confidence: 6 Ease: 8

ICE score: 6.3

2. Redesign the last step after your welcome flow

What happens after users complete your welcome flow? If they aren’t diving into your product, a friction point exists.


At Appcues, we faced a similar challenge. Instead of giving users multiple options to get started, we streamlined the process by redirecting users from the welcome message to the right place in product. The result: our activation rate increased by 2.5x with just 15 minutes worth of redesigning.

Impact: 8 Confidence: 8 Ease: 8

ICE score: 8

3. Build a product tour for new users

When new users login to your app, they are ready to get started. And to truly lead them to onboarding success, product tours can help introduce users to your UI and energize them to engage with your tool.


The best product tours include short copy, sequential steps, and a straight-forward call-to-action. Google’s Inbox simplifies onboarding with a skimmable modal series. We’ve seen smart companies like ProdPad decreased their trial-to-paid period by building code-free product tours.

Impact: 8 Confidence: 7 Ease: 6

ICE score: 7

4. Use gamification for user engagement

Onboarding isn’t restricted to seriousness 24/7. People don’t want to feel forced to complete a task. As an alternative, incorporate games into your process to make learning product features fun.

Motivate users through the activation funnel with awards, progress bars, and leaderboards. These gamification elements reward users for their participation and propels them through the product experience. Duolingo rewards at the end of every short lesson with XP gained. This also motivates users to use the product again and maintain a streak.


Impact: 7 Confidence: 7 Ease: 5

ICE score: 6.3

“Good onboarding, whether for employees or customers, adds interactivity and a collaborative factor to knowledge-sharing,” says Forbes contributor John Rampton

5. Personalize the onboarding experience

Users possess different needs and goals. And if an onboarding experience strays away from their expectations, they may think the product isn’t worth purchasing. 

Personalization speaks directly to specific user segments. When personalizing the experience, you may consider a user’s total time spent in the platform or certain actions taken within the app. Pinterest improved its user experience by providing locally relevant content to Pinners in more countries and more languages.

Impact: 8Confidence: 8Ease: 5

ICE score: 6.3

6. Use a self-service product demo

Free trials are common with SaaS products, but they often don't work for products that are feature-rich, require installation and input from other colleagues, or have limited zero state capabilities. 

Building a self-service product demo and using it as the free trial offering can help trialers see the value of the product with much less commitment. This tactic also frees up sales teams' time, allowing them to more efficiently talk to prospects who are better informed about the product.

Impact: 5Confidence: 9Ease: 7

ICE score: 7

Email nurturing

7. Build trust with a personalized welcome email

Welcome emails serve an important purpose in supplementing your user onboarding experience and setting the tone of your brand. The welcome email is a good place to open up a line of communication with new users.

By personalizing the message with custom data, you create a real connection that caters to the recipient, and as a result, the user will trust that future emails will bring similar value.

Impact: 5Confidence: 5Ease: 7

ICE score: 5.7


“[M]ake use of the information you requested during the signup such as their interests, goals, business type, etc. to further personalize the welcome email,” says Kate Harvey, Content & SEM Manager at Chargify.

8. Stick to a single, clear call-to-action

Too many options can cause confusion among your users. For instance, if you offer multiple choices, users will have a hard time deciding and may not choose at all. 


Strive to eliminate choice paralysis to move users down your activation funnel. When possible, give users a single, clear call-to-action in your emails. It’s also recommended that your team conduct user tests to discover which call-to-action resonates with users the most.

Impact: 5Confidence: 4Ease: 8

ICE score: 5.7

9. Send a series of “Getting Started” emails

If users aren’t engaging in the product as often as you’d like, a “Getting Started” email series can help guide new users l through next steps and toward receiving value. For instance, you might focus on a different feature in each email, like the Outbrain example below.


Build a content campaign that educates the user about your brand and how to use specific product features. Spice up your emails with short video clips, GIFs, and bulleted points. These visual aids will help the user understand the information.

Impact: 5 Confidence: 6 Ease: 8

ICE score: 6.3

10. Provide trial extension offers

Your consumers are juggling multiple tasks—managing projects and attending meetings—at once. And sometimes, they don't have time or just forget to participate in your trial offer.

To gauge users’ interests, send triggered emails offering them a trial extension. This simple technique separates users who are still engaged with your brand from those who may never buy your product.

Impact: 8 Confidence: 8Ease: 3

ICE score: 6.3

Retargeting / remarketing

11. Create targeted ads

Retargeting is an effective way to drive interested users back to your site. By recapturing users’ attention, your team can entice them to derive value from your product. 

Adroll is a well-known retargeting platform that makes it convenient for companies to launch ads and fine tune campaigns. One of their clients AlienVault earned a 53% higher retargeting click-through rate compared to the industry average.

Impact: 6 Confidence: 7 Ease: 9

ICE score: 7.3

12. Try social proof

When creating retargeting campaigns, most marketers will run A/B tests to discover which ad works best for their company. Those primary tests usually focus on changing the headline, image, or CTA.


Adding social proof to your ads is also an option. Social proof persuades users to join their peers in a particular activity. Try featuring experts, incorporating testimonials, or inserting customer reviews in your next campaign.

Impact: 7 Confidence: 8 Ease: 4

ICE score: 6.3

13. Promote trial expirations

Urgency is a psychological trigger that moves people to take action. By setting time constraints, you drive consumers to indulge on their desires.

Impose trial expirations on users by promoting deadlines and sending reminders of what benefits will be lost. To kick it up a notch, induce emotions with visual cues, like a countdown clock. Using orange and red colors in your messaging can create a sense of urgency, too.

Impact: 5 Confidence: 3 Ease: 8

ICE score: 5.3

“Trials end. That’s just how they work, but if someone has fallen in love with your software, and their trial is coming to an end, there’s nothing more important than helping them make a painless transition to becoming a paying customer,” says Garrett Dimon, marketing at Wildbit.

14. Implement scarcity tactics to boost sales

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real phenomenon for people who feel they aren't connected with what others are doing. Using scarcity as a business tactic can transform reluctant users into eager buyers.

Earn more paying customers by promoting limited availability, low stock notices, and exclusivity. A simple promotion stating only 50 customers will receive a specific benefit will grab people's attention.

Impact: 8 Confidence: 8 Ease: 6

ICE score: 7.3 

Customer service

15. Develop concierge onboarding

Concierge onboarding provides one-on-one interaction with users as they navigate your product. Some companies offer this high-touch service via responsive emails, while others actually pick up the phone to call users. 

This type of onboarding solution is helpful for addressing users’ reservations and building trust with the brand. To increase conversions, give the user a quick win and communicate on a personal level.

Impact: 7 Confidence: 5 Ease: 3

ICE score: 5

16. Offer live chat

When users get stuck in your application, they desire an immediate solution to their problem. An email response in 24-48 hours may not be satisfactory. 

Live chat gives users peace of mind while exploring your product. By installing live chat, service reps can answer pressing questions, provide alternative solutions, and encourage users to become paying customers.

Impact: 6 Confidence: 4 Ease: 2 

ICE score: 4

17. Host a live webinar

For some people, seeing is believing. You can host a live webinar to demonstrate key product benefits to your users.


To ensure success, send a webinar registration email to a segmented group a few weeks in advance to spark interest. Make the live webinar interactive by answering audience questions.

Impact: 6 Confidence: 6 Ease: 4

ICE score: 5.3

18. Distribute a video course

With the power of the Internet, on-demand content makes it possible for consumers to learn at their convenience. Give your users the chance to reach their Aha! moment with a video course.

You can divvy up the course into onboarding steps—teaching users how to complete specific tasks. Work with your team to create high-quality video with these production resources.

Impact: 8 Confidence: 6 Ease: 2

ICE score: 5.3

19. Give an incentive

The word “free” works like a magnet to attract consumers to your brand. By offering incentives, you give users another reason to experiment with the product. 

Rather than giving away free swag, like stickers and T-shirts, attach a useful bonus gift to the product. For example, upgrade the user to customer-only services for 7 days. Then, users can actually see what they are missing by not becoming customers.

Impact: 8 Confidence: 6 Ease: 5

ICE score: 6.3 

“Even if the benefit is uniform across all consumers, marketing incentives that directly appeal to the target audience will drive relevancy and increase consumer interest,” writes Mark Harrington, Vice President of Marketing at Clutch.

20. Start an online community

Building an online community is essential for cultivating relationships with people. Whether it’s on Facebook, Slack, or, allow users to ask your team questions and read product experiences from other users.

For active participation, respond to members in a timely fashion and post valuable content that will solve their issues. Also, remember to set community rules for the group and spark interaction with interesting industry facts.

Impact: 7 Confidence: 7 Ease: 8

ICE score: 7.3

Start experimenting today

Improving your activation rate is an ongoing process for your product, and it's important to know what works fast. By tackling one or more of the growth experiments above, your team can deliver user value faster, double-down on what works, and grow your product 

Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology, and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter: @shaylaprice.

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