How iRobot uses Pendo to build and launch personalized in-app communication, at scale
iRobot, the company that started a robot vacuum cleaning revolution and skyrocketed the Roomba® to cult-following stardom, is now a common household name. And while many consumers may not consider iRobot a traditional software company, they are undeniably a product-led company. iRobot’s physical (robot) and digital (mobile app) products are at the heart of their user experience—and a major reason consumers love the company so much.
As Mary Ward, senior digital product manager at iRobot, explained, “Not only [is iRobot] a robotics company, we’re a software company. And that means we’re going to personalize the experiences our customers have through software.”
Building trust through personalization
In 2020, the iRobot digital team decided to heavily invest in product-led personalization. They knew that giving users the ability to customize their preferences—and using product data to proactively tailor those experiences—was critical, particularly in a time when consumer expectations have never been higher. It also presented an opportunity to inject empathy at every stage of the user journey.
“When we ask users what personalization means to them, it means having a connected relationship. It means having empathy. And it changes the way they associate the value of the brand,” said Ward. “We know this has to be a part of our foundation, and we know users benefit from this because they’re engaging with the moments that are relevant to their behaviors and preferences.”
When Ward and her team first kicked off this initiative, they faced an uphill battle. “It took valuable engineering resources, it took multiple roles throughout the business, and it took significant time out of my day,” Ward explained. “We knew we needed to increase efficiency around how we release things in order to execute on our personalization strategy.”
She also noted that gaining insight into the impact of in-app communications on user behavior post-launch was critical for her team. She needed a way to see where users were dropping off in the funnel and what paths they were taking so she could adjust or pivot her launch strategy accordingly.
The building blocks of iRobot’s personalization strategy
Ward and her team approached this personalization challenge as a hierarchy of needs, beginning with a foundational layer of core actions. “As product managers, our job is to advocate for the customer—to understand, be with the customer, have empathy, and bring that to our organizations to solve their problems,” said Ward. She and her team mapped the complete customer journey, including user personas, goals, and desired behaviors—which all translated perfectly into Pendo when it came time to define iRobot’s Core Events.
Next, the team established milestones to identify the moments that mattered most in the user journey—as well as points of friction impeding ideal workflows. “We need[ed] to ask ourselves what core experiences [were] critical in achieving our users’ goals, what our users’ goals [were] in our product, and how we could keep them on track for success,” Ward explained. This information helped her team map out the “happy path” they would take users on throughout their journey.
The final piece of iRobot’s personalization puzzle was data. Ward and her team turned to Pendo Analytics to gain deep insight into how users were engaging with the iRobot web and mobile apps to understand what made a moment truly personal. In particular, she focused on behavioral data (e.g. the specific actions and paths users were taking in the app), demographic data (e.g. the type of robot each user had, their gender, or their educational level), and channel data (e.g. whether the customer used the iRobot web or mobile app).
“Data-driven insights are key to successful, personalized content. Make your data team, your platform team, and your analytics team your best friends. Because at the end of the day, in order to build empathy and experiences that are personal, we need that data.”
Ward noted that Pendo’s metadata and Track Events make digging into these data points and choosing the segments she wants to target a breeze. “Using Pendo, [we] can segment any kind of data,” she said. This powerful targeting has been critical for ensuring the iRobot team reaches the right users, at the right time, with the right message—creating moments of delight through personalization.
Tailoring feature launch announcements with Pendo
Whenever the iRobot team builds a new feature, they now also launch a feature announcement using Pendo In-app Guides. “Our goal is to get users quickly introduced to and trying the new feature, [in ways] specific to their goals,” said Ward. “We also know that if we don’t reach users at the right moment, at the right time, during the right journey, their feature engagement goes down by 30%. So it’s critical we get it right.” After building their feature launch in-app messages in Pendo, Ward and her team are then easily able to segment and target their communications to the relevant group of users.
When iRobot launched its new child and pet lock feature, Ward and her team turned to personalization to inform the users who would benefit from it most of the new functionality. “[We have] 14 million connected customers . . . We know that our in-app communication channel is going to give us the most effective result,” said Ward. “[We just] plug that segmentation into Pendo.”
Thanks to behavioral, demographic, and channel data collected in Pendo, Ward and her team were able to easily identify and target the feature launch announcement to users with pets, using a specific type of robot, directly inside the iRobot app.
Ward also noted that Pendo has been critical to her team’s ability to keep a constant pulse on the user journey within the iRobot app. “The greatest thing Pendo gives us is [the ability] to understand pathways and funnels when it comes to personalization. Being able to have these kinds of analytics and dashboards helps us [validate if] our strategy is on point, if our journey is correct, or if we need to pivot in some way,” she explained.
The results—and what’s ahead
Since making the decision to invest in Pendo and building a robust, data-driven personalization strategy, the iRobot team has seen incredible results. “[Over] the past six months, we’ve really dug deep with Pendo. And we’ve seen some really, really great outcomes with our mobile app,” said Ward.
By using Pendo to gather behavioral information and demographic data about their users, the iRobot team was able to create highly targeted and resonant in-app messages for their users—resulting in a 43% increase in engagement with feature announcements. “[Our users] realize the value of their purchase because they see the personalization and recommendations we’re offering, at the right times,” said Ward.
Ward added that since implementing Pendo, iRobot has seen an almost 2% increase in monthly active usage over a six-month period—a significant improvement for an organization with over 14 million customers in their mobile app.
Pendo has also enabled teams across iRobot to operate and build more efficiently. “Before implementing this strategy and pulling Pendo in, it took us a significant amount of time to get anything out the door. And we were using valuable engineering resources to do it,” Ward explained. By empowering the product team with data, giving product managers the ability to build in-app guides and segmentation in Pendo, iRobot was able to decrease time to production by 50% and cut down engineering effort by 75%—freeing up critical resources to build new functionality, launch new features, and sizzle down tech debt.
Finally, Ward praised the ability of the Pendo platform to unite entire organizations around a shared understanding of the customer experience—and provide insight into how to improve it. “[Before], it wasn’t easy for product managers to find analytics and figure out where users were in the funnel,” she explained. “With the power of Pendo, we’ve been able to understand where people are falling short, understand where our user journey maps need to be iterated on, see if our milestones should change, and learn how to pivot our product strategies around personalization.”
“Once people get a hold of Pendo, they see the success. Everybody wants a piece of it. And that’s exactly what iRobot has seen, too—from marketing to customer care, to our services platform and the digital space.”
Looking ahead, Ward is excited to bring the value of Pendo to other teams throughout iRobot—and to do it in a highly strategic and organized way. “We need a good governance, design, and copy process to bring it all together and make sure we’re not just throwing things out into our app that make no sense,” she explained. “With [Pendo’s] new Guide Orchestration feature, [we’ll have] an understanding of when messages are going out, if they’re going out at the right time, and the ability to make sure messages aren’t [piling] on top of each other in our mobile app.”