As a product manager, I bet you could recite your product's value proposition in your sleep. You know exactly what problems it's designed to solve. You know exactly how much revenue it will bring in, how many leads it will generate, and how much new data it will gather.
But the best product leaders think about value from the user's perspective. They know value isn't always obvious, and that you should work with users to help them see it.
Cue the “aha moment”. The faster you get users to their aha moment, the sooner you prove your product’s value prop to them. That’s why figuring out and guiding users to your product’s aha moment is is key to long-term success.
What is an aha moment?
The aha moment is a moment of sudden insight or discovery. In software, it’s the pivotal moment when a new user first realizes the value of your product and why they need it.
Aha moments are emotional and impactful, creating a powerful impression that keeps users coming back for more. Ideally, your aha moment should happen the first time users try your product—usually during onboarding.
What does that look like in the context of the user journey? For a ride-sharing app with a simple user journey, it might look like this:
What about a SaaS product with a more complex path to value? In that scenario, the user journey might be as follows:
In the example above, a new user might even experience multiple aha moments as the value of the product really sinks in.
When a user first subscribes to your product, they’re looking to find value in it by solving an immediate need. They usually have some idea of what this value will be—and if your marketing and messaging are effective, they’ll already understand your core value proposition before even trying your product.
That moment things click—when a user realizes that they can truly benefit from your app—is their aha moment. Sometimes users actively realize this moment, while others experience it more subconsciously. Either way, the aha moment is the switch that turns an evaluating user into an activated user. It also often separates the users who stick around from those who churn.
How to find your product's aha moment
It can be hard to pinpoint the exact moment where you get new users to say “aha!” if you don’t have an idea of where to start looking. You need to make use of the data you already have—in particular, your user analytics and user feedback.
By doing so, you can find out which set of actions or behaviors correlate to that value discovery. And once you find a high correlation, you can make calculated adjustments to nudge more users towards those aha-inducing behaviors.
Start with patterns in your user analytics data
Whether you have your own analytics platform or integrate a third-party tool—like Fullstory, Mixpanel, or Heap—you should look closely at what separates converted users from the pack. Did the users who convert:
- Finish your onboarding experience?
- Continue browsing your app after the product tour?
- Interact with a core feature?
- Connect with other users?
Put together a list of 10 to 20 behaviors (or a combination of behaviors) that correlate to retained users. You're looking for a set of behaviors exhibited by users who stay and not behaviors exhibited by users who leave. That means behavior exhibited by:
- Most retained users AND most churned users = no correlation
- Just a few retained users AND just a few churned users = no correlation
- Most retained users AND just a few churned users = correlation
A correlation between behavior and retention is your first clue that you're on the right track, but it isn't everything. If you're in the early stages of your startup, you likely don't have a big enough user base to jump to conclusions based on raw data alone. Confirm or adjust your hypothesis with further investigation.
Supplement with user feedback
Reach out to top users for qualitative feedback to supplement and contextualize what you've already learned from the data. If the numbers have shown that there is a correlation between specific behaviors and retention, users can tell you why.
For example, your data might indicate that users who stick around usually use both your messaging and calendar feature. But when you actually speak to users, you learn that easy team scheduling is the biggest benefit for them. So instead of pushing users toward these two features, you can guide them through scheduling their first all-hands. Talking to users provides you with insight and context that’ll help you better understand the motivation behind their actions.
Reach out with a personal email to kickstart the discussion:
Thanks for using Winterfell! We're so happy to see you using all our features and would love to show other customers how they can have a similar, awesome, and complete product experience. Would you be willing to have a brief 10-minute conversation about what got you excited about Westeros Solutions in the first place? Your feedback will help us create a better app experience for users like you.
Talking to humans on phones will give you supplementary information that sheer numbers can’t provide. You might uncover moments when the customer considered other option, and what was particularly memorable about their first-time user experience with your product.
Alternatively, a quicker way to ask for user sentiment is by sending an NPS survey. Target and segment successful users and ask them for feedback on what works and what doesn’t via a quick questionnaire. Use any feedback you get to improve your product’s aha moment and user experience.
Learn from churned users
Just as you can learn from retained users, you can also learn from users who churned early—those who never reached their “aha moment” at all. These are people who didn’t find your product useful, even though they went through the same user experience as the folks that stuck around. Churn is unfortunate, but it’s also an opportunity to learn what went wrong.
Users churn either because 1) they're not a good fit for the product or 2) friction in the experience kept them from finding value. If it's the latter, this is your opportunity to target and eliminate the friction so that more of those churned users start sticking around.
One-time visitors aren't going to be as willing to get on a 10-minute phone call with you. But many folks who have been disappointed by your product will still take advantage of an opportunity to quickly leave their opinion. Use exit surveys to catch users right before they leave your site and ask them to share why your aha moment didn’t land.
How to personalize your user's journey to “aha!“
Knowing which actions or events in your product trigger aha moments allows you to create more tailored onboarding experiences. You’re no longer limited to blindly optimizing one experience for the entirety of your user base. Instead, you can create a personalized journey based on different types of users—whether they're marketers, engineers, or CEOs—or on subject matter expertise.
For example, Duolingo removes the friction of learning a new language by incorporating elements of personalization into its onboarding UX sequence. The app directs new users through personalized onboarding funnels that are tailored to different levels of experience.
Folks who are brand new to a language need a different approach from those who are a bit more proficient. By creating two separate onboarding experiences, Duolingo is appealing to 2x the user base.
So, how can you personalize your users' journey to aha? Here's how to begin:
Segment your new users
Create two or three buyer profiles and slightly tweak your onboarding for each type of user. You can group your users in one of two ways:
- Programmatically: Use a tool like Clearbit to enrich your leads so that you can group prospects based on demographic, job title, company size, or industry.
- Self-selection: Allow users to choose how to take advantage of your product for themselves, as seen in the Duolingo example above. Appcues, for instance, allows you to incorporate branching logic for a choose-your-own-adventure style of onboarding.
For each category of user, you can create a separate, focused path to aha. Take a look at how API suite Twilio accomplishes this personalization through self-selection.
Users classify themselves as either developers or non-developers with the very first question, with each role getting a very different user onboarding experience.
Because developers range in job title and expertise, Twilio wouldn't benefit from enriching their leads programmatically. Instead, with just a few questions, Twilio lets users customize their user experience through a simple goal-based onboarding menu. This way, Twilio guides users through their specific use case to a personalized aha moment on their huge and versatile platform.
Start with user preferences
If the value in your app lies in your recommendation algorithm, you can hyper-personalize the first-time experience by asking users to set up preferences right off the bat. You’ll want to make sure that:
- Your recommendations are tied to the core value of your app (think: Netflix, Spotify, Pinterest, etc.)
- Preferences are as painless to select as possible
Asking users to fill out long forms before diving in creates friction, increasing the probability that a user will get scared off by step one. But a few brief, well-timed questions can get your user to understand your app’s core value sooner and create a stickier product experience in the long run.
Take a look at how Pinterest accomplishes this:
Pinterest has learned that their user's experience improves the more insights they have into the user's specific interests. That's why they ask for 5 of these from the get-go so that users can have a tailored experience during their first-time walkthrough.
How to get users to aha faster
Signup forms, multiple tabs, installs, tutorial videos—the more work you make a user put in before they hit their “aha,” the less likely it is that they’ll stick around for it. If you can get users to their aha moment before requiring them to enter credit card info, agree to Terms of Service, or even log in—do it! That moment of activation will work in your favor—don’t gate your aha moment if you don’t have to.
Take a look at how Airbnb gives you access to all their listings before asking you for any information.
Airbnb demands a lot of information from users upon signup. So instead of forcing people through the friction of account creation at the start, they let users explore what their product has to offer. Airbnb only asks for their information after users have that aha moment—wanting to book or list a rental.
Aha-first onboarding like Airbnb ensures that users start with the aha moment rather than needing to find it on their own. It's also a great way to qualify your leads and guarantee a good customer fit.
Here are three ways you can shorten users’ time to value (TTV) and drive them to their aha moment faster.
Most SaaS products become more valuable the more you use them, so it can be tempting to throw all of your features at new users from the start. But people don't need to experience your entire product at once—they just need to be guided through the behaviors that lead to an aha moment.
Use tooltips to point users where you want them to go, leading them directly to your aha moment with a step-by-step breakdown of what to do. Instead of telling users what to do via a boring guide or video, tooltips show users exactly how to get to their goals. When new users don’t have to figure things out on their own, they’re more likely to reach “aha.”
Take a look at how Canva, a freemium graphic design platform, directs first-time users to their aha moment—creating their first design—via tooltips (designed in Appcues!). These tooltips break down Canva’s product into four simple steps, highlighting each of those actions:
- Choose a template
- Add your own photos and videos
New users can interact with their chosen template, add a personal touch (their own photos), and literally see Canva’s value prop in the form of a unique custom design.
Is your product’s UI busy? Are new users not completing their onboarding? With hotspots, those aren’t concerns because you show users exactly where they need to pay attention. Hotspots encourage users to look at a certain UI element or text block. They can gently nudge users to take the action you want them to, taking them straight to “aha.”
GoToWebinar added hotspots to the user onboarding experience to guide users through the sequence of actions necessary to reach their aha moment—scheduling a webinar.
These hotspots drew users’ attention to key elements on the page, reducing friction and confusion in the onboarding process.
And it works—77% of users who viewed this walkthrough scheduled a webinar.
Slideouts grab users’ attention and shows users something they otherwise might not have found on their own. They can also prompt users to take a specific action, directing them to a potentially disguised aha moment.
Writer is an AI-powered writing assistant that helps businesses keep their content clear, concise, and on-brand. While Writer has a document editor, it knows that writing happens everywhere—and that’s why they encourage new users to download their Chrome extension as well.
To accomplish this, Writer uses a slideout made with Appcues to prompt users to install this extension to get the most out of their trial.
After installing this extension, users are more likely to use Writer because they can use the tool anywhere, not just on Writer’s website. This increases its potential value and gets users to their aha moment when they realize how often Writer can provide suggestions and how useful those suggestions are.
Without this slideout, new users might not know that Writer even has an extension, thereby not understanding its full value.
Slideouts help bring your aha moment front and center by making it more accessible.
3 excellent aha moment examples
Successful companies get users to their aha moment quickly, demonstrating immediate value. Let’s look at some examples of aha moments from companies you might already know.
Aha moment: Finding highly relevant videos.
TikTok is a short-form, video-sharing app and one of the fastest-growing apps in the world. TikTok’s aha moment happens when users stumble upon videos that they really enjoy and pertain to their unique interests. But new users have to stick around long enough to get a highly personalized feed—and that’s why TikTok prioritizes showing users how to get there in their tutorial.
TikTok’s onboarding is fast: users choose a few interests and then learn to swipe up to skip videos. Finally, TikTok tells users that the more they scroll, the better their feed will get—and then cuts users loose to explore on their own.
Aha moment: Share a video
Loom helps users collaborate and quickly share their thoughts with their coworkers through video messages. Loom’s aha moment occurs when a new user collaborates with a teammate by creating and sharing their first Loom video.
Loom accelerates the time to value by shortening the amount of time necessary for a new user to onboard before creating a video. Its targeted onboarding automatically links new users to their team’s workspace (if it exists), granting instant access to the rest of their team’s existing videos.
Loom puts the “Team” section above a user’s personal library, encouraging users to invite others or share videos with the team. It also features a “Show me how” button, so curious users can learn how to share a video.
When a new user creates and shares their first Loom video, they realize the benefits of video communication over sending an email or Slack message—leading to Loom’s aha moment.
Aha moment: Schedule or post from a linked social media account
Hootsuite, a social media management tool, centers its aha moment around making social media posting easier. That’s why Hootsuite guides new users through the process of linking their social media accounts ASAP.
Once connected, new users can learn how to manage their social media content and schedule posts ahead of time—one of Hootsuite’s main value props.
This onboarding process is designed to drive new users to Hootsuite’s aha moment—where users realize how much easier social media management is with Hootsuite than without it.
Resources to master the aha moment
As you're beginning to create new onboarding flows and design experiments, you'll need to stay up-to-date with the best insights and strategies around aha moments.
At Appcues, we've learned a lot about finding the aha moment from working with companies in a wide range of industries. We've also researched, interviewed business leaders and users, and read a ton of resources so we can keep learning, too.
We've compiled some of our top resources to help you identify and optimize your product’s aha moment below:
- The definitive guide to improving activation
This guide is a deep dive into how you can quantitatively find the first, most important moment of value for your users.
- How to shorten time to value with better onboarding
Reducing your product’s time to value = reducing time to the aha moment. This article explains why TTV is such an important metric and how to shrink time to value.
- How to design goal-oriented user onboarding in 4 steps
Pantelis Korovilas of Turo and Hopper explains why user onboarding is a strategy to help users discover your app’s core value faster and more effectively. He shares 4 ways to orient your onboarding around key actions by focusing on goals, not features.
- We categorized over 500 user onboarding experiences into 8 UI/UX patterns
Seriously, we spend a LOT of time looking at other folks’ onboarding. We identified 8 patterns that can help you steer users toward their aha moment.
Getting to your product’s aha moment with Appcues
You want new users to say “aha!” and not “hmm...” or “grrr.” That means you need to provide an exceptional UX from the moment the user buys your product. But improving your user experience requires experimentation, analysis, and iteration. That’s where Appcues comes in—we get new users to their aha moment faster by strengthening onboarding and guiding them through the behaviors that lead to customer retention. And we help you build and publish in-app messaging flows sans coding, saving your developers time that can be better spent on other aspects of the product.
Post-install, your marketers, CSMs, and product managers can use Appcues to create modal windows, tooltips, hotspots, checklists, slideouts, and NPS surveys that can be targeted to different user segments.
Give us a try—we’d love to hear about your own Appcues aha moment!
Aim for long-term engagement and retention
Onboarding doesn't stop after the first aha moment. The key to growth is building up a solid customer base full of long-term users. To do so, you have to think about user retention and product adoption at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Long-term success comes from continuing to engage users throughout their entire customer journey and inspiring more aha moments.