When launching a new feature at any scale, a lot of development work has gone into it before it reaches the market. That’s why it’s so important to get your product updates right. Features are only as valuable as your users’ ability to find and understand them, and at Nickelled, we know product updates can make or break your users’ ability to do just that.
According to research, approximately 20% of software features are used often; 50% are hardly ever or never used; and the remaining 30% are used infrequently. Some of that dichotomy comes from differences in quality between different software features, but oftentimes that dichotomy can also arise from differences of quality within marketing.
What Are Product Updates?
Update Your Customers About Your Product
Simply put, product updates are messages that inform your users about new product updates. The features in these updates can be large or small, can affect your whole user base or just a few users, and the updates can be placed in a wide variety of locations in your user flow.
The important piece of the product update puzzle—aka, what makes a product update a product update—is that you are introducing new features to customers in some form.
Product Update Structure
Some examples of where you might put these updates include in customer launch emails, SMS messages, in-site product update pages, subscription-only emails, and more. You can even think outside the box and easily add interactive tours to help ensure your users know how to use the new features.
Here are a few samples of truly great product updates you can learn from for your app.
#1. Simple’s Dark Theme Update
Email Updates Are A Classic
Simple’s stylish dark theme update is an awesome twist on a familiar format—email. Many product updates take place via email, which is a great format for the purpose.
Being on a company’s email list generally means you are interested in their offerings, so if you have updates to share, your email list is a great place to start if you have one built up already.
In other words, your previously established audience is the most likely population to find value from your updates. Due to that, you should often target them first when trying to gain traction with new features.
Make Your Email Incite Curiosity
Simple’s email itself is sleek, stylish, curiosity-inducing, and graphically interesting in a way that invites the user to scroll through, become invested, and be more likely to click through to explore the feature more in-site.
#2. Snapchat’s Native Snapchat Updates
Keep It Familiar
Snapchat’s in-app updates—distributed via snapchat message—are another great approach to updating your users about new products and features. Introducing updates in a native way can allow you to prompt users to discover new features without ever leaving your app experience.
Other popular apps that frequently use this method of product updates include Slack, Instagram, and Facebook.
Don’t Go Overboard
One thing to be wary of, however, is overusing in-app updates. While they can be extremely useful for announcing impactful, infrequent product changes, they can become tiresome and overdone for more frequent updates.
In-app native updates are also a great way to prompt product discovery by triggering product tours. In the past, Nickelled has helped companies shape their product discovery with maximum impact via their tours.
#3. BeautyAndTheBear’s Tailored Vitamin Email
Effective Audience Segmentation
BeautyAndTheBear’s vitamin update is another email—like Simple’s dark mode email—but employs a very different set of tactics for a very different product. While Simple’s email was tailored towards sleek curiosity-grabbing, BeautyAndTheBear’s vegan gummy launch is tightly tailored towards a very specific user base.
If you can closely tailor your emails towards the members in your email list—in this case, very female and health-centric—updates like this can be an ideal use of your customers’ attention. In addition, it is highly optimized with attention-grabbing and simple CTAs.
#4. Zendesk’s Product Updates Page
Make Your Updates Easy To Find
Another place you could position your product updates is on your site, rather than in a message proactively delivered to your customers. Zendesk is an example of a company who structures some of their product updates this way.
Some users, particularly power users of a given product, will want to track certain updates more closely than the general public. Providing them a space to do that consistently, with frequent updates, can be a great way to provide customer service and increase customer satisfaction.
Updates As A Sales Tool
In addition, an easily accessible “what’s new” page can be a good sales tool to show new prospective users that you are committed to the ongoing improvement of your platform.
This approach may not be appropriate for every single circumstance—you will likely want to send proactive emails for products you expect to significantly drive growth—but this can be a great way to track smaller improvements without infringing on every user’s time.
#5. Adobe’s Creative Cloud For Teams
Keep Design Impactful
Adobe’s announcement for its Creative Cloud offering for teams is another example of a great product update email. Like many other great product update emails, it is impactfully branded and possesses a great, sharp CTA.
Don’t Drag It Out
Another highlight of this product update email is that it keeps things short and to the point. It might be tempting to cram as many updates as possible into one update email—to show your customers you’re providing consistent value—but doing that can often dilute your messaging.
#6. CB2’s Text Communication
SMS Can Be A Powerful Tool
Some brands, like CB2, take a slightly unorthodox method towards product updates and often deliver them via SMS as well as—or instead of—email product updates.
This approach certainly has its pros and cons, but a notable pro is that users are often more likely to read all their texts than they are to fully read all their emails.
Also, if they’ve signed up for messages, they’re probably users who really care about your updates.
Especially by keeping SMS messages short, you can optimize for the extent to which your messaging actually reaches your users.
Make Sure Your Customers Are Invested
A con of this approach is that SMS messages can sometimes be seen as intrusive or annoying, given that they aren’t a common route for delivering product updates.
This approach works for CB2 because they often cater to a trend-driven subset of furniture consumers who might be particularly inclined to want to know about new products or sales to help them decorate in a stylish way with minimum cost.
#7. Strava Summit’s Video Messaging
Don’t Be Afraid of Video
In their Strava Summit email, Strava shows us another great way to structure product updates via email. While their email is still visually compelling and CTA-driven, they take a unique angle by also incorporating video as a key part of their email.
Because the change to the structure of their offering is fundamentally changing, Strava likely anticipated their customers would have follow-up questions that might clutter the email if answered in text.
Video can be a great way to preemptively answer those kinds of follow-up questions without adding extra text to the email.
But Don’t Require Watching a Video
On the flip side, the thumbnail chosen for the video is still compelling on its own, as an image. So if customers don’t feel like getting more details immediately, they can still fully experience the email as a cohesive whole without watching.
Another key piece of this email is that it allows users to launch directly to the site to discover the new feature. You could enhance this behavior even further by making your CTA link a product tour launcher from Nickelled.
#8. Qualtrics’s by-subscription updates
Allow Your Users the Option For Frequent Updates
Yet another way companies might think about structuring their product updates is via opt-in, newsletter-style, email subscription. Qualtrics gives a great example of this approach with their subscription-based email updates system.
Like Zendesk, Qualtrics customers can also see product updates on-site. However, the added benefit of being able to receive them via email allows users to passively receive updates, leading to less user effort and oftentimes more satisfaction.
Don’t Forget About Other Update Marketing
While most companies would also benefit from also sending some updates to the full user base rather than just the subscribed subset, having this additional option allows users to get a better holistic picture of the platform in real-time.
Get Creative With Your Product Updates
While email can be a powerful way to structure your product updates, it isn’t the only way, and might not be the most appropriate option in all cases. In addition to ad-hoc email announcements to the entire user base, other options include texts, subscription emails, in-app native updates, product tours from apps like Nickelled, and dedicated in-app update pages.
Not all of these formats may be appropriate for your situation and product, but it’s worth it to think outside the box when structuring your product updates. Most products have different subsets of users with different needs for communication. Providing different modes of communication can be a great way to increase user satisfaction with your product and its roadmap.