First impressions are critical controllable inputs for new products’ growth

Usefulness of a product during its first use by a customer is the most critical controllable input for a new product’s adoption and growth. Many new products (especially games) coerce the user to take an action such as signing up or connecting with a social network, without paying any regard to that user’s goals. Although such products may achieve short term goals of activating a user or increasing their count of new user registrations, they tend to lag in long term engagement, stickiness and loyalty from their customers. After studying first time user experiences of over forty new consumer products over the last eight months, I’ve noticed that products with a compelling first time experience tend to grow faster.

A new product’s first time use experience can be measured by its effectiveness in solving my needs as a user. In most cases, needs of a first time user are simple and obvious. For instance, Youtube clearly addresses their first time customer’s need to watch a video and Pandora addresses their first time customer’s need to play music. How would you feel as a customer if Youtube required you to sign up for an account before you could watch your first video?

Let me highlight an effective first time use experience by a relatively new service – Lovely, the apartment rental discovery service. As a first time customer on Lovely’s website or iPhone app, my goal is always to find apartments for rent in a location of my choice. Lovely makes it simple, easy and fast for a first time customer to search for an apartment with cost and location preferences and contact the landlord to schedule a showing without prompting or requiring to sign up for a free account. After solving the customer’s need of connecting her with a landlord, Lovely requests the user to sign up for a free account so it can serve her better in future.

Home page of Search for apartments

Search results on a map

Picking the apatment

Contact the landlod

I signed up for a free account and I’m sure majority of their first time users must be doing the same. The case would have been different, had Lovely would have asked me to sign up before finding me an apartment or even before letting me contact the landlord.

Let’s build products that solve customer’s needs in the first time use. Please share examples of exceptional (or worse) first time use experiences that you have encountered.