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Building Product Stickiness – How Brands Can Unlock It

Facebook may be the stickiest product of all time.

I don’t look through my Facebook feed anymore. I started getting tired of the attention-seekers… and the ones that made me snooze.

But I just can’t get rid of my account. Why?

What if I need to contact that obscure person I met that obscure time for some obscure reason!?

If I deleted my Facebook, the contact would be lost forever.

That’s merely one reason why Facebook is as sticky as a beehive filled with lollipops…

If you left, you would be at a disadvantage.

Perhaps that’s why the social media platform has over 2.31 billion monthly active users

Some products are just inherently sticky. Like Dropbox for instance.

But what if your product doesn’t have a natural stickiness about it? What if your customers keep leaving?

Unlock your stickiness.

Or if there’s no stickiness to unlock, make your product sticky.

Here’s how:

Offer Incentivized Referrals

A product is sticky if every new user adds value to it.

Sarah Tavel, a former product manager at Pinterest and current investor in consumer businesses, describes a sticky product,

“Simply, sticky products use the data a user creates while engaging with the product as fuel to make the experience even more engaging for that user (accruing benefits), and at the same time harder to leave (mounting loss).”

That’s why Dropbox is so sticky.

Every time a new user signs up, there’s another person you can share files with.

As the network grows, the benefits to each user grow.

In its early stages, Dropbox had little success acquiring new customers, however, even though the product had potential to be sticky, the company failed to unlock its stickiness.

That was until it started incentivizing referrals.

Dropbox referral

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It was a two-sided program. Dropbox rewarded both inviters and invitees with extra storage for free.

This program was a hugely successful growth hack for Dropbox, increasing signups by 60%.

Hence, Dropbox unlocked its stickiness through sharing and referrals.

How Can You Unlock Stickiness Through The Power of Referrals?

Many sticky apps and SaaS companies have grown in the same way as Dropbox.

Airbnb, for instance, used in-app referrals to increase signups by 300%.

Airbnb referrals

Paypal started out by depositing $20 into people’s accounts when they got somebody else to sign up. They then gradually reduced the sum to $5 before phasing out the programme.

paypal referrals

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Any SaaS software that has some level of sharing or exchange involved an become sticky in the same way, from sharing economy apps to cloud software to accounting software.

As people share your product and your network grows, there’s added value.

All you need to do is give users an incentive to share your product.

Then you have a product that essentially grows itself (like Dropbox).

1. Set Up A Referral Program Unique to Your Business

If you want to be in charge, set up your own referral program.

Offer both parties a free month’s premium service like Evernote or added benefits a la Dropbox’s free added storage.

Evernote referrals

2. Use A Referral Tool

There are tools you can use such as Referral Saasquach.

Use a referral tool

It offers referral software and analytics for subscription services.

Continually Improve Key Features

Churn is one of the most real struggles for SaaS businesses.

It’s natural to wonder what’s causing people to churn.

According to Lindy Tolbert at ConversionXL, one of the biggest indicators that churn is about to happen is when customers stop engaging with your service,

“When customers see a loss of value, they stop using the service. The goal is to increase the perception of your service’s value in the eyes of your users, just as their use begins to lag.”

Continually Improve Key Features

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If you’re paying a pretty penny for something and not using it because it has no value, you might as well be throwing your cash out of the window.

So, if customers aren’t using your product, they will leave.

It’s common sense.

And churn has a real impact, too.

You may not think your churn rate is that high.

But look at the impact a small difference in percentage can have on your revenue and valuation:

Churn impact

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Now the question is…

How do we make the product sticky and lower churn?

It might be hard to believe, but Hubspot had a similar problem at one time.

Back in the day, they offered SEO optimization. Once customers had their sites optimized, they simply left.

To move on from there, the company had to do some serious thinking.

To keep customers, they needed to make their products sticky.

Thus, they decided to focus on which features of their product were a part of their client’s regular workflow.

They also became a repository for their client’s data.

Now that’s the key right there!

Hubspot made their product sticky by making it something their users really depend on and use every day.

How Can You Make Users Dependent on Your Product?

That may sound like a question straight out of Breaking Bad. But it’s an important one for unlocking your stickiness.

1. Improve The Best Features

Through analyzing metrics such as usage, you will no doubt know which features of your product are most important to your customer base.

Your key features will be unique to you. What do your customers use every day? A content library? Your analytics feature? Your messaging software?

GrooveHQ actually asks its customer which features they would like to see improved and uses the data to make changes.

You have to work on the most important features, making them ever more powerful over time.

That will ensure customers are using your tools and not switching over to another SaaS.

2. Add Sticky Features

You may want to emulate HubSpot’s method. Add features that tie customers to your product.

An example of a sticky feature would be housing your clients’ data in the cloud.

For instance, you can store their files or data. It would then be more difficult for a user to say ‘Bye Felicia’ to you.

To give you another example of this in action. Adobe switched to a cloud-based subscription model in 2013 (Creative Cloud), to compete with its competition.

Communicate With Existing Customers

Acquiring new customers is extremely difficult in the world of SaaS.

According to the authors of Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to a new customer is 5-20%, while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%.

Communicate With Existing Customers

Therefore, you need your existing users to be engaged in your product if you want your company to grow.

You might work your butt off trying to prove to new customers you have value.

But does that mean you should stop communicating your value to your existing customer base?


Your existing customers need to be reassured and kept in the loop so they don’t unsubscribe.

Sticky products accrue value as time goes on. (See above quote from Sarah Tavel.)

Your product may be gaining value and evolving over time.

But that’s about as good as keeping your nice new haircut under a hat if your customers don’t know about it.

To make your product sticky, you should be continuing to communicate with your existing customers.

And a key part of that communication should be showing them that your product has increasing value.

How Do You Show Existing Customers Continued Value?

There are many reasons to give your customers some lovin’.

What we’re talking about here is making your value rise and rise in their eyes.

So much so that they wouldn’t even think of churning.

They’re totally engaged in your product. Your product is a part of their work routine. They couldn’t imagine life without it.

1. Offer Exclusives

You can make your existing customers feel part of the in-crowd.

Offer them exclusive sessions with you such as webinars and Q&A’s.

Offer exclusives to users

Send them special offers in your emails. Give them a freebie here and there.

If this is a regular thing, then they will really feel like your brand provides more and more value as time goes on.

2. Keep Them Up-to-Date

We talked about continually improving your best features – the ones customers appreciate the most.

If you choose to do that, then don’t forget to inform your customers along the way.

Inform users of exclusive deals

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The value they’ll see in that speaks for itself.

Oh, and tell them your news… and about your new features too.

It doesn’t have to be a massive effort. Just stay in touch from time to time.

Introduce A ‘Try Before You Buy’ Mode

Finding a sticky product is like finding that great love.

The feeling is,

Where have you been all my life?


I can’t live without you.

The problem for you is how do you evoke such a feeling in your potential customers?

Unbounce encountered this problem.

They knew that many of their customers have an “a-ha moment” when using their product.

In other words, a moment where they realize the sheer value the product is bringing.

That moment for Unbounce was when customers realized their product is easy to use but still mighty powerful and highly customizable.

They just couldn’t express that concept to potential customers.

What did they do?

They introduced a preview mode of one of their three main products – the landing page builder.

It has a virtual walkthrough and is admittedly fun to play around with even if you do not need a landing page right now.

Introduce A ‘Try Before You Buy’ Mode

By creating this preview mode, they have reduced the time it takes a customer to have that a-ha moment.

It increases stickiness as you realize that this is a product you need in your life and will use regularly.

How Do You Create A Preview of Your Product?

Free trials are standard in SaaS, so there’s no need to harp on about that.

To give you a competitive edge you could try something more like Unbounce’s version of ‘try before you buy.’

1. Create A Preview Mode

You want to design your preview mode specifically to give users an a-ha moment.

Therefore, don’t show every complicated, minuscule feature of your software or app.

Show off the best of the best features.

We’re talking the Beyonce-level features. Leave out the Michelles.

Don’t forget a virtual tour or walkthrough.

This gives you the ultimate control in leading potential customers to their a-ha moment.

2. Create A Product Demo Video

If you don’t quite have the budget or resources for a preview mode, demonstrate the key features of your product in a video instead.

Create A Product Demo Video

Make it flow smoothly and be enthusiastic. You’ll be onto a winner.

There are some excellent examples available.

Analyze Customer Feedback

Unfortunately, it’s common for people to leave an app or SaaS service.

To give you some idea of scale, take a look at this data from mobile intelligence startup Quettra

Analyze Customer Feedback

This shows that the average Android app loses 77% of active users in just three days.

That’s a lot.

But how do you stop that from happening to you?

Customer feedback may be the answer.

Conversion-focused marketer, Val Geisler, recently told us,

“Customer feedback is crucial at any stage in building and running a brand. One of the most overlooked stages, however, is in reducing churn. If you know from talking to your customers that they need something in order to remain a customer long-term, that item might get moved up on your product development list.”

Getting feedback from current users could give you major insights.

It could give you the key to what features you should improve or introduce to make your product sticky and reduce churn.

How Do You Analyze Customer Feedback to Improve Stickiness?

It’s clearly a good idea to carry out a survey when people leave your product.

But ideally, we want to be ahead of the game. Make it a priority to survey your current customers.

1. Carry Out An NPS Test

An NPS test measures customer loyalty. It’s based on one question:

“On a scale of 0-10, how likely is it that you would recommend [company name] to your friends, family or business associates?”

The answers to your survey can be placed in categories.

Carry Out An NPS Test

Calculate your NPS score by subtracting the percentage of detractors from promoters.

For instance, if 50% are promoters and 10% are detractors, your NPS score is 40.

Once you have an idea of customer loyalty, you have an idea of just how sticky your product is (or isn’t).

Then you can delve a little deeper with your next survey and get into the specifics of how to improve your product.

Slack, for instance, uses the results of NPS surveys to refine the user experience. That’s what makes Slack so good that users give word-of-mouth recommendations.


It would be amazing if your product could be the next Facebook or Dropbox.

But if not, you can increase the stickiness of your product by doing the following:

  • Unlock the stickiness of your product through a referral program.
  • Improve key features to make users dependent.
  • Continue to show existing customers the value of your product.
  • Speed up the a-ha moment with a preview.
  • Gain insights into your stickiness through customer feedback.

Now go on out there and get sticky!



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