How AdRoll's Growth Team Uses Appcues to Onboard and Retain Over 35,000 Users


Most customers don't love calls from sales reps or the endless pileup of “Hey, {{customer.first_name}}!" in their inbox. 

A screenshot of an email that says 'contact's first name' instead of the actual first name
There are better ways to personalize your onboarding.

And if your customers are self-serve and come to the product themselves, they really aren't looking to be bothered. They just want to get into your product and accomplish what they came there to do.

That's why companies like AdRoll, the ad retargeting platform, want to help their self-serve small- and medium-sized business (SMB) customers

“We don't simply want to bombard people with SDR phone calls or emails. We really want to use the thing that we have—which is a self-service product—and have thoughtful product marketing at the right time to the right users.” - Peter Clark, Director of Product at Adroll

This means going beyond implementing point solutions. It means engaging with their self-serve SMB users across their entire customer journey.


Taking the power of testing into their own hands

In the last few years, the AdRoll team has been growing fast. To keep improving the product and engaging customers during this period, the growth team needed to be able to make changes on the fly while the team was scaling rapidly. 

At the same time, they needed to handle these experiments on their own without constantly distracting other teams. The process had to allow everyone to work efficiently.

It was important for the growth team to be able to autonomously run onboarding experiments within the product. The new onboarding components had to be flexible, too, so that the team could make adjustments as they learned what worked best for their users. 

With Appcues, the AdRoll growth team found they had the autonomy to:

  • Build tests
  • Launch them
  • Report on results

Because the growth team was able to do this without having to ask for involvement from design, engineering, or analytics, each team at AdRoll had the time and resources they needed to keep working efficiently.

At first, AdRoll was able to use Appcues to test out small changes to their onboarding flow that

But to achieve their goals of helping and retaining customers, AdRoll has looked for broader, more holistic ways to optimize their customer experience for self-serve users. Instead of looking at specific instances and creating points solutions, they're focused on driving three main metrics:

  1. Onboarding
  2. Upselling
  3. Retaining

According to Peter, when it comes to driving product growth, “Appcues fits perfectly across these three metrics.”

The team has found ways to implement Appcues experiments and make optimizations to drive all three of these metrics—so that they're promoting growth at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

1. Onboard users with core feature engagement

For all companies, onboarding users and helping them

The AdRoll growth team knows that their activation moment is two-fold. The first part of activation is getting users to spend at least $1 in the AdRoll platform on ad retargeting. This indicates they started using the product for its core value. But the other, equally important component is for customers to see how AdRoll is performing for them and what kinds of results their ad retargeting spend is generating. For this, users need to set up a conversion segment. 

A screenshot of a sample conversion segment in AdRoll

At one point, thirty percent of AdRoll's self-service customers weren't using a conversion segment. As Peter Clark, Director of Product at AdRoll put it, “[That is] kind of ludicrous because there's no way for us to know—or for them to know—how well AdRoll is performing.” Without setting up a conversion segment and being able to see those conversion metrics, users can't appreciate the product's core value. 

The problem was that a lot of self-service users didn't realize that they needed to create a conversion segment, or didn't understand the importance of it. This was a big onboarding problem but, with Appcues, the team was able to make an easy fix. 

AdRoll used Appcues to set up a message to their segment of self-service users to inform them about the conversion segment early on. This helped them understand why a conversion segment is essential, and prompted them to create one. 

Once their conversion segment is created, users can see the conversion segment populating every time they log into their dashboard. By understanding how well AdRoll is working for them, users have their aha moment and understand why they should come back and use AdRoll again. 

According to Peter, “This is really showing you [the user] the return on investment from using the AdRoll platform. It's the most critical metrics that we have.” And thanks to their prompt to users to set up the conversion segment, more people now see that critical metric. 

Once users are habitual AdRoll users, it gives the growth team a chance to introduce them to a wider array of the company's products.

2. Upsell users with more widespread product adoption

Upselling means different things for different products and companies. For AdRoll, it's simply an extension of onboarding. Once a customer is spending money in AdRoll and understanding the value that's bringing them, the next step to ensure they have a great experience is to make sure they're using all of the products in the suite that could be helpful to them. 

Just like in onboarding, one of the biggest challenges in upselling is simply making the users aware of the other products in the suite and helping users understand how they'd benefit from those tools. 

To improve this area of the customer experience around upselling, AdRoll had to build awareness and motivation. They did this by building specific cross-sell modals that they can show to select segments of users who would benefit from using other products, such as SendRoll (for email retargeting campaigns) or Onsite (for email capture). 

A screenshot of AdRoll's Onsite feature announcement

If users click through the upsell modal, they can continue the Appcues experience. AdRoll built in hotspots on these conversion pages and tool tips to show users how to use the new products. 

Once the user is aware of the product, they can also use this modal to prompt users to take concrete actions that will get them engaged in the new product, such as launching a campaign in SendRoll. 

A screenshot of AdRoll's SendRoll feature announcement

This combination is a successful one-two punch: with these in-product modals, AdRoll can lead their self-service customers to other products within their suite and give them the relevant prompt to get started using them.

The team can be sure that these in-context upsells are working because they're seeing it in the numbers.

“Through our modals with Appcues, we see a 3x higher conversion rate that we would see through a cross sell email through one of our other tools.” - Max Blaha, Product Manager at AdRoll

Once users start learning, dabbling, and eventually launching campaigns across different products, AdRoll switches to a longer-term focus: making sure those customers stick around.

3. Retain users by understanding where they need help

Some of the most detrimental setbacks in user retention happen when a user gets stuck in a product and doesn't know how to proceed. If they don't figure it out immediately, they may never reach out and ask for help. Instead, they may just grow frustrated and stop using the product. In some cases, they'll silently disappear. 

That's why great retention is all about proactive assistance—especially proactive, in-product assistance. But getting this help to the right people at the right time means having a clear picture of where, and why, users are struggling. 

AdRoll achieves this by using a pause interceptor. When a user clicks the pause button in AdRoll's interface, a pause modal pops up and asks them why they've paused. 

A screenshot of AdRoll's pause interceptor feature
‍ [Source] 

AdRoll worked with Appcues to set up a flow where they could asynchronously load this modal to the user whenever a triggering action—in this case, hitting the pause button—occured. 

Then, AdRoll can use Segment to pipe this qualitative data that they collect from users to other areas of their team, such as customer service, who can help them resolve their issue and restart their campaign. 

Previously, AdRoll had experimented with sending emails as a way to understand why the user paused. 

A screenshot of AdRoll's email that asks a user why they paused their account

The problem with these emails was that it didn't target the user's problem in the app, as it was happening. They were less likely to provide any feedback, and even less likely to take action. They only saw about a 40% open rate on these emails, and a 4% click-through rate

than they choose not to send a reason. Customer service reaches out to 100% of these users to resolve their issues, helping clients to resume their campaigns and building long-term, successful customers.

Better product engagement at every stage

Product engagement doesn't stop when a user signs up, or even when they have their first moment of activation. It happens continuously, throughout a customer's lifetime, with every accomplishment and every hiccup along the way. 

AdRoll's growth team is using the Appcues tools to tie together all three of their core goals: onboarding, upselling, and retaining. By building a holistic process, product engagement never stops, and they're able to constantly find new ways to help AdRoll users be successful.

Product Marketing at Appcues. Passionate about uncovering needs, creating value, and telling powerful product stories.

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