In the old days (haha), and even now, when software is delivered to an end user directly for them to run on their own devices, they can clearly see version numbers and a list of what’s been changed/added in each version. This allows them to not only see what’s changing in the app, it allows them to clearly tell when the app has changed, and decide if the features are worth paying for.
With web applications, the lines are a lot more fuzzy. Some web apps try to go with version numbers for new releases (Mailchimp, I’m looking at you), but that doesn’t really work out in the fast-paced world of today’s web apps, where you might deploy new code several times per day. I’ve also seen web apps that send out whole emails with multiple links pointing to multiple blog posts about all of the new things that have been added. There are 2 problems with those: Firstly, you probably won’t reach your customers at the right time/in the right context, and secondly, if the email is too long, it’ll probably get ignored or deleted.
What your customers really need to see… what will help to keep them around as happy users, is for them to be told at the right time, in plain English: what has been added/changed, and how it can help them.
So what’s the right place/context to let your users know that your app has gotten some cool new features? While they’re using the app, of course. The best example of something like this that I’ve seen has been Wufoo’s Since You’ve Been Gone feature. It shows users who log in a list of features/enhancements that have been added since their last visit. This keeps users informed at the point when they care most about your app, because they’ve just logged in. They’re much more likely to read and engage with your new features, just because you picked a great place/time to inform them.
At Sense Labs/Shiftedfrequency, we wanted something like this that we can use across all of our apps, so we’re making a version of this feature that any web developer can use for free, and making it one of the first features of our customer retention app: Retained. Over time, we’ll be developing more and more features that use what we’ve learned over our years of making successful web apps with thousands of happy customers to help other web app owners to do the same. Interested in being one of the first people to use Retained?
I’ll also be sending out free information from time to time about the things that we do to retain our customers at Sense Labs.
If you’d like to keep more of your web app’s users, sign up here!