User engagement looks different across products—a travel app will always be used less frequently than email—and there isn’t one engagement metric that is passed around from product person to product person as the golden standard
But when it comes down to it, engagement involves users taking meaningful actions in your product, again and again.
Since engagement evolves over the user journey, an earnest attempt at improving it means boosting habitual product usage at every turn.
To help, we’ve put together 7 proven ideas to increase user engagement throughout the user journey.
1. Start user onboarding off with a mission
User onboarding may be the key to adoption, but it has powerful ripple effects on the entire user journey. Think of user onboarding as the hook to long-term engagement.
A user’s motivation to use your product is high when they first try it, so onboarding can be a good place to get users to accomplish a meaningful action and obtain immediate value.
Users learn how to use Ptengine by playing out a fun storyline. This narrative tutorial gives users a sense of purpose during onboarding and shows how easy it is to use product.
Giving users a mission from the start hones in on completion bias, or the human desire to get things done. For tasks that aren’t completed during onboarding, a lingering to-do list can achieve a similar effect.
Quora continues to give users a list of how they can improve their feeds long after the initial onboarding. This can drive continuous engagement and serve as a reminder that there’s still room for a better product experience.
When deciding which meaningful action should come first and which can come later, make the first ask easy, fun, and directly related to the value that promised through marketing.
2. Provide contextual help as users explore deeper
As users explore your product, timely guidance will drive adoption of more features and give more reasons for habitual use.
Slowly revealing features is also a good way to avoid bombarding users with information upfront.
Canva uses an Appcues tooltip to show how to create a new folder and why doing so is valuable. Announcing the feature later in the user journey drives further product learning at targeted times and places.
If you’re not sure of when to showcase more advanced features, creating a persistent icon or hotspot during common workflows can draw attention to your product’s range without interrupting users.
Google Drive uses a subtle but persistent icon to remind users about their Explore feature. The icon opens up to research-related resources that could be helpful depending on the user’s needs. The icon is very easy to ignore and forget otherwise.
3. Boost user activity with frequent updates
Ever feel like there’s always something going on in social networking platforms? In addition to dashboards and feeds that do the heavy-lifting of summarizing activity, there’s often additional notifications to highlight the most pertinent updates.
LinkedIn has created a number of ways for users to interact with each other and the platform. To help users stay engaged amidst so much news, LinkedIn categorizes notifications at the top and clearly suggests multiple ways for users to interact, from celebrating work anniversaries to commenting on posts.
Even on less busy dashboards, notification icons serve an important role in making sure users don’t miss something important. Trello uses an eye-catching red bell icon to update users on new activity.
Since users are already so accustomed to seeing notifications in the top right-hand corner, this is a non-invasive approach to keeping users engaged.
4. Encourage users to reach out and learn more
Talking to users has clear benefits for learning about your product’s real-life application. Trial users can provide additional information that power users might be less exposed to, such as the initial events that motivated users to search for your solution.
Reaching out to trial users can be tricky, since some may get turned off by a pushy sales call. At Appcues, we found the slideout to be the perfect UI pattern in encouraging trialers to reach out for a private sales demo.
Offering this option to get in touch right in the product drove a 50% lift in the volume of sales demos we perform every month and ultimately helped boost sales. This also helped us better understand why users to signed up for Appcues and build a stronger foundation for customer relationships.
5. Build habit with cross-platform integrations
It’s safe to assume that the more places your product lives, the higher the chances that a user will engage with it. Google is a leader in user engagement and habit creation. Not only does Google have many complementary products across web and mobile, but they also do an excellent job of prompting users to integrate products across devices.
Google Calendar uses this modal to announce a new Gmail-Calendar integration and encourages web users to download the mobile Calendar app.
Similarly, Meetup uses an attention-grabbing modal window to push web users to download a newly updated mobile app.
While products can encourage web users to try the mobile app any time, presenting the mobile app with a new feature or as a completely new and improved app creates a much stronger case.
6. Generate social interaction with in-product communities
There are plenty of products that are useful and well-loved but don’t lend themselves to frequent usage. Encouraging habitual use for products that aren’t typically needed often is a difficult, but not impossible, task.
Glow, a period tracker and ovulation calculator app, might see sporadic usage from users who only log in to track their periods. To increase engagement, Glow goes beyond its core function to give interactive health and lifestyle advice. The app also fosters a sense of community among users through polls and discussion forums.
While users might not use Glow’s core tracking features more, the social activity in the app encourages users to check the app more often.
7. Incentivize power usage with giveaways
Rewarding users is a direct way to increase user engagement. This tactic is especially smart for freemium products that hinge on getting users to max out usage.
Dropbox, a leader in the freemium space, has a successful referral program in which users can earn more space by referring friends to Dropbox. This allows Dropbox to acquire new users without much new marketing effort and influence existing users to rely more on the service.
Dropbox also gives out space for certain interactions with the product. By making the reward deeper involvement rather than meaningless gift cards, Dropbox encourages desired actions and hooks users into the product more and more.
Engage at Every Opportunity
Given the state of churn, product teams can’t afford to miss the mark on user engagement. Even if your product meets expectations, some users may change brands just for variety’s sake. Which is a pretty scary thought.
The good news is that the opportunities for increasing user engagement are endless. Every interaction from onboarding new users to rewarding power users can build habitual use and make your product that much sticker.