Updating your product is not a matter of if, but when. In the fast-moving world of mobile app development, updates are essential for improving the user experience and keeping up with new OS features. For product managers, there’s a pretty clear motivation for making sure new features are known to users. A feature that isn’t noticed may be a feature that is never used. That’s a problem if users walk away from the product having overlooked a genuinely engaging and valuable feature.
How should a publisher announce a new version of their app? The most straightforward approach is generally to include all relevant data in the changelog of the build that gets uploaded to the app store but users glance over the “What’s New” section if it’s not compelling. For more significant announcements, some teams send an email summarizing new changes. So what’s the best solution: actively promoting a new feature, or letting it bubble up organically exactly when users need it?
There’s no one right answer, naturally. Not with the variety of tools today’s product and marketing teams have at their disposal. The channel or tactic that’s effective with one slice of a user audience might not fare as well with the rest. That’s why research and testing is key to achieving the desired outcome. Implementing these tips in your announcement strategy might surprise publishers and marketers how effectively updates can increase engagement.
Exposing users to new features while they’re actively using your product is usually a sound approach, as long as you’re staying attuned to the user experience. Your message might be in the form of a text, an image, a GIF, or a video, but it should target users at the right moments when you’re able to add value, not cause aggravation.
For example, let’s say a fitness app added a new feature that allows users to share workout results to their social feeds. Displaying an in-app message about the new feature whenever users hit new personal records would be a great way to get them to try it. Following up the alert with a guided walkthrough can help facilitate the adoption of more complex features.
Email: Segment and Personalize For Effective Messaging
Triggered email notifications are one of the most effective channels for driving user engagement. A simple email announcement to the app’s user base sometimes is the most effective way to announce a major new feature with broad appeal.
Some key guidelines to follow when constructing an email announcement:
- Be straightforward
- Put user benefits first
- Use appealing, functional visuals
- Keep copy lean and tight
- Offer a clear call to action
Being able to segment and personalize email campaigns so you reach the right group of users with tailored messaging is a really great strength. This lets marketers use a new feature as a tool to drive different types of conversions:
- Existing Users: Adding new features to an existing product can help retain existing users and increase engagement. Resources like guides and tutorials empower users to use a new feature right away but marketers should be sure to include a call to action to steer them back to the product.
- Prospects: Marketers can pique the curiosity of prospects and drive trials and sales by presenting a new feature as a compelling example of what’s to come when they click the button to learn more. One thing marketers should keep in mind is that prospects want a crystal-clear explanation of how and why the product will benefit them.
Writing the Perfect Changelog
The changelog section in an app’s description is traditionally used to list each change in the new version of an app. Not only does this increase transparency, but this helps both developers and users keep track of what changes were introduced at what point in time. However, the average user has no need for a detailed breakdown of technical tweaks. Because the changelog is so prominently displayed, it’s important to write updates that are fun and engaging.
- Important information on top: Changelogs can be lengthy. By default, they’re collapsed to just a few lines meaning the key information should always be first. The first bullet point in a changelog will attract attention no matter what, so it should be engaging.
- Showcasing humor: Humor is not suitable for every brand, but a bit of levity in an otherwise dry list typically doesn’t hurt. Remember that the changelog is a great place to showcase your brand’s voice. If a user spots an amusing bullet point that they didn’t expect, they might be inclined to read the entire section.
- Being upfront about bugfixes: The process of writing an engaging changelog should not take away from its substance. If a user goes out of their way to read a changelog, they’re most likely looking for a specific update. If the latest version of your product had any known bugs, there is probably someone out there eagerly waiting for a fix. Bugfix details should be easy to find at a glance.
Ultimately, the question is not, “ What’s the best way to tell our users about a feature, “ it’s “How does our new feature address questions and needs that our users have?” A key understanding that’s required for all modern digital businesses to embrace is that messaging and product are two parts of a unified ecosystem. Done right, new feature announcements provide both relationship building opportunities and powerful growth strategies.