How These NYC Product Teams Master User Retention

September 14, 2020

For some product managers, mastering user retention means their users are on their app longer. For Product Manager Cissy Chen, it means she’s saving lives. 

At Citizen, an app that notifies users when they are in proximity of 911 alerts, Chen’s goal is for users to read push notifications. To do so, she tracks click-through rates to evaluate what notifications are of the most value to their users. By analyzing the data, Chen can curtail what notifications are relevant and balance non-emergency notifications, like software updates, without losing users.

According to an article on ProductCraft, it is 5-25 times more expensive to acquire new users than to retain them. By tracking user interaction with a product, whether through technical tools or customer feedback, product and growth managers can gauge how their product is being utilized and make adjustments to steer customers toward its intended use.

Built In NYC spoke to Chen and Margaret Fortner, head of growth at hydration e-commerce company Hydrant, about the tools and methods they use to keep users engaged. 

 

Cissy Chen
Product Manager

Product Manager Cissy Chen works to improve the user experience — and thus, user retention — by making sure the Citizen app sends relevant notifications that keep users safe. Mobile events allow Chen’s team to track what features users value. As the company expanded out of New York City, machine learning and user data helped build new notification models. 

 

What tools or technologies are you using to capture and analyze user behavior data? 

We fire mobile events to note when a user views or taps something in-app and to understand how they use Citizen and which features they find the most value in. Because one of our core focuses is protecting our users’ data, we decided to build our own mobile analytics pipeline instead of using a third-party service. Identifiable user data is deleted from the pipeline after 30 days.

 

What specific behaviors are you keeping an eye out for or do you consider to be most important?

As a mission-driven company, our goal is to help keep people safe, not endlessly scrolling through the app. For that reason, we’re constantly striving to make our notifications more relevant to our users. One way we do that is by analyzing how the click-through rate varies across different incident types in order to make sure we notify users when incidents might affect their safety and avoid bothering them with information that isn’t useful.

 

We’re constantly striving to make our notifications more relevant to our users.

 

Beyond user behavior analysis, what's the most effective method you've used for improving user retention?

Citizen started in New York City but quickly expanded to other cities around the U.S. With this growth, we realized the notification model we’d built for NYC – which defaulted to alerting users within a quarter-mile radius of an incident – didn’t work everywhere. We used machine learning to figure out how far to distribute information based on users’ revealed interest in it over time. For example, in midtown Manhattan, a report of a fire might only notify people within .1 miles, whereas in San Mateo, California, it might notify people two miles away. This shift led to the app delivering more relevant information to users, which led to huge gains in user retention.

 

Margaret Fortner
Head of Growth

According to Head of Growth Margaret Fortner, customer retention is gathered through both feedback and technical data at Hydrant. The customer experience team utilizes post-purchase surveys and behavioral quizzes while Google Analytics and Hotjar help track data across all points of the customer’s journey. 

 

What tools or technologies are you using to capture and analyze user behavior data? 

On one side, we use a mix of manual, user-driven tactics such as post-purchase surveys, user interviews and broader behavioral quizzes. We have a very passionate and opinionated customer base. Our customer experience team does a fantastic job engaging them and collecting their feedback to help drive the brand’s future and our product development roadmap. These efforts are more high touch and time consuming than your standard NPS survey, but the qualitative and quantitative insights we can gather make it worth it in the long run.

On the more technical side, we’ve set up event tagging through Google Analytics for as many behaviors and touchpoints as possible to measure key points of friction and funnel drop-off. Maintaining this tracking across areas where customers in all points of the journey will be — from paid social-oriented landing pages to the subscriber portal — allows us to aggregate and segment data appropriately for optimal insights. We’re also able to leverage tools such as Hotjar to closely monitor behavior, particularly around new features or tool releases onsite, so we can iterate and update quickly with our development team as needed.

 

We have a very passionate and opinionated customer base.

 

What specific behaviors are you keeping an eye out for or do you consider to be most important?

For users on their first or second visit to the site, we’re monitoring bounce rate, page scroll depth, what products they’re looking at, ease of engagement with the checkout flow and any cross-sell and upsell modules.

Post-purchase, we’re monitoring how often they’re returning to the site to check order progress, engagement with our subscriber portal, engagement with new blog content and testing of new features. More broadly, we also monitor the users returning to site without being prompted by any marketing or outward brand touchpoints.

 

Beyond user behavior analysis, what's the most effective method you've used for improving user retention?

Investing time and effort into developing our customer subscriber portal has had some of the most positive results on user retention. When we initially embarked on the project, the out-of-the-box subscriber portal we were using was less than ideal. Our e-commerce and dev teams were able to create a more visually engaging, user-friendly experience that was not only easier to use but more feature-packed.

This portal is an ongoing test and learning process. We’re probably on our third or fourth large update since launch, thanks in large part to the analytical flywheel of our customer monitoring software and the direct customer feedback and recommendations captured by our CX team.

 

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