UX Design

How Firstbird Uses Appcues for UX Personalization


UX personalization in SaaS products has rapidly transitioned from a nice-to-have to a full-blown competitive advantage.

Firstbird—Europe's leading employee referral program—understood that advantage intrinsically. They needed a scalable way to generate custom branding and messaging within their platform for their individual enterprise customers’ accounts.  

At first, Firstbird considered devoting precious in-house product resources to create these personalized messages for each account. But that process was bound to create bottlenecks—as customer success, marketing, design, and engineering teams would all have a hand in the output.

So, UX personalization was put on hold. That was until Markus Hafellner, Product Manager at Firstbird, discovered Appcues.

We recently sat down with Markus, who explained 3 business-changing benefits that personalizing in-app messaging and user onboarding has had on Firstbird over the last two and a half years of using Appcues.  

1. Appcues increases a PM’s ownership of the product

When Markus started using Appcues, he was able to own the implementation and management of custom messaging and user onboarding himself—without needing to depend on additional help from his design or engineering teams.

Markus attributes this to Appcues’ “simplicity and power.”

It’s simple because Appcues works right out of the box. With the WYSIWYG editor, you can generate custom designs and branding in CSS in minutes. It also gives him design options like drop shadows and a full color wheel to ensure the messaging looks completely native to the product.

It’s powerful due to Appcues’ targeting capabilities. By using subdomains and creating segments in Appcues, Markus is able to target any set of customers or users for each messaging campaign he created. And once he creates specific segments based on user properties, he can reuse those segments for future targeting.

For example, Firstbird offers an incognito mode where users can go silent and not show other users how many points they are collecting and other actions they are taking on the platform. Some companies wanted Firstbird to specifically inform their users about using incognito mode—what it meant and how to do it. Since each company was on their own custom sub-domain, it was easy for Firstbird to spin up these personalized messages to their users.

Markus said it best himself, “With Appcues, it’s super easy to create something new or change something up.”

An image of the Firstbird product team

2. Appcues increases non-technical teams’ access to the product

Another benefit that Markus observed is the increase in collaboration by teams that historically haven’t been able to effect change in the product.

For example, recently—as many companies can empathize with—the new GDPR changed the process of one of Firstbird’s core functions—the direct referral. Firstbird had to inform their users of the change in functionality but decided to also use the opportunity to reactivate users by reminding them of the job page functionality that remained.  

Markus drafted the messaging for the Appcues modal in German and English, which was then proofread by content managers from Firstbird’s marketing department. Next, he targeted the modal to a specific type of user—Talent Scouts—visiting the job page and published it. The entire process was completed within half of a day.

The GDPR/re-engagement message has since been seen by thousands of users and helped them to continue generating new referrals. A successful—and relatively painless—GDPR success story.

Markus strives to enable the rest of his company to get involved and not act as a sole gatekeeper for Appcues. After all, having only one person or one specific team act as a gatekeeper to Appcues ultimately creates the same bottlenecks you see with in-house solutions. By allowing himself to step back when needed, Markus enables multiple groups in Firstbird to regularly work on onboarding improvements and implement custom in-app customer messaging—letting folks in marketing and customer success contribute their valuable insights to the product, too.

3. Appcues allows for deeper customer feedback

The third and perhaps the most critical benefit that Markus sees with Appcues is the ability to get more feedback and engagement with both enterprise customers and their individual users.

By targeting in-app questions to certain users based on their actions, Markus is able to essentially get his product to provide feedback to him without having to go through the hassle of setting up individual interviews or sending out email surveys that often result in recall bias.  Rather, Markus can ask in-app questions directly to end users. In one recent in-app survey he asked, “If you could change one thing on the platform today, what would it be?” And he received a large amount of actionable feedback, quickly.

Beyond qualitative feedback collection, Appcues also allows the testing of MVPs and smaller feature experiments. Recently, Firstbird wanted to test the concept of an employer review system similar to that of Glassdoor. Using Appcues, they were able to send out custom messages to a set of customers that directed them to an external page. By tracking the users that clicked through to this external page, Firstbird was able to determine the viability of this feature before moving forward in building its full functionality.

The time saved in development on this MVP test was massive. “We ship on a weekly basis, so something custom-built would take at least one week—and that’s only if it was fully specified,” Markus said.

The importance of a deeper connection

Throughout the last 2.5 years using Appcues, Firstbird has strengthened its ability to connect on a deeper level with their customers and users. There is a good reason why Firstbird values this connection—working towards understanding the habits and needs of your customers is key to growing your business successfully.

By improving user onboarding and providing an easy method to personalize communication with your customers, this deep user connection to your product will increase engagement and make it easier for your product team to demonstrate value. It also gives you the data you need to make the right calls when it comes to product development.

When asked to synthesize his view of Appcues, Markus described it as simply being easy and quick to use. He said, “If there’s a new requirement or we want to experiment quickly, Appcues is our first choice. As a product manager, if we can do it with Appcues, let’s use Appcues. It’s quicker and better for everyone.”

Margaret Kelsey leads Brand and Content at Appcues. Before Appcues, she built content programs for InVision’s design community for 3.5 years and has roots in painting and PR. She’s a big fan of puns, Blackbird Donuts, and Oxford commas—probably in that order.

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