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How AdRoll's growth team onboard and retain over 35,000 users

Company size
use case
Peter Clark
Director of Product

About AdRoll

AdRoll is a marketing and advertising platform that helps brands grow revenue and save time on one streamlined platform.

🎯 The challenge

AdRoll faced a common challenge: how to onboard and retain self-serve small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers without relying on intrusive sales calls or overwhelming emails. Peter Clark, the Director of Product, recognized the need for a more personalized and thoughtful onboarding process.

“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

🏆 The solution

AdRoll's growth team wanted the freedom to experiment and make on-the-fly changes on their own. Their goal was to conduct in-product onboarding experiments autonomously— ensuring efficient scaling without depending on other teams.

Appcues offered AdRoll's growth team the freedom to build, launch, and track onboarding experiments without constantly needing design, engineering, or analytics teams. This flexibility allowed the team to make iterative adjustments based on user behavior, ensuring a dynamic and user-centric onboarding experience.

👀 How they did it

AdRolls approach to in-product messaging focused on driving three key metrics:

  1. Onboarding
  2. Upselling
  3. Retaining

According to Peter, when it comes to driving product growth,

“Appcues fits perfectly across these three metrics.”

Here’s how the team used Appcues experiments to drive all three metrics to promote growth at every customer lifecycle stage: 

1. Onboard users with core feature engagement

Onboarding users and helping them reach their activation moment faster should be a priority for all companies. AdRoll identified a two-fold activation moment: spending at least $1 in their platform and setting up a conversion segment. 

The problem was that a lot of self-service users didn't realize they needed to create a conversion segment (or, at least didn't understand the importance of it). 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 to track conversion metrics, users can't appreciate the product's core value.

AdRoll used Appcues to message their self-service users and let them know about the importance of the conversion segment from the beginning. This made them realize why having a conversion segment is crucial and prompted them to create one.

Once users create their conversion segment, they can see it populate each time they log into their dashboard. This helps them understand how AdRoll is working for them, leading to that "aha moment" and motivating them to return and use AdRoll again.

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 understands the value it brings, the next step is to ensure they have a great experience using all of the products in the suite that could be helpful to them. 

That’s why AdRoll built a series of cross-sell flows, to guide users to explore and engage with complementary products while explaining how these new features worked.

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

3. Retention through proactive assistance

One of the biggest issues with user retention occurs when a user gets stuck and doesn't know what to do next. If they can't figure it out quickly, they might get frustrated and stop using the product, or even silently disappear.

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

For AdRoll, a crucial sign of user struggle was when a user paused a campaign.

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

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

Given the poor performance, AdRoll swapped to an in-product survey. When users paused their activity, a modal prompted them to share the reason. This qualitative data collected asynchronously was leveraged to provide targeted assistance through other channels, improving the resolution of issues and re-engaging users.

✅ Results

Thanks to these efforts, AdRoll experienced positive momentum at every stage of the user journey.

“Through 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. 


Our hot take

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. Nice work! 👏

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