Best Practices

How to use data to find and choose your “aha” moments

Published Jul 13, 2023
To understand your product’s most valuable features, look at usage over time in order to identify patterns.

Every software product—no matter what it’s built to do or who its users are—has an ideal way in which it’s meant to be used. This includes features and tasks that are key to leveraging the product successfully, and workflows that, when completed, lead to users getting value and continuing to use the product. In product management, we like to call these features or workflows “aha moments.”

Aha moments are when users recognize the distinct value of your product and become committed for the long haul. Consider these more well-known aha moments:

  • Facebook determined that when a user connects with seven friends in the first ten days, they have a much higher likelihood of becoming a regular user
  • Slack, the workplace communication tool, found that when teams send 2,000 messages, that is the magic number of exchanges for building a habit that sticks
  • At Dropbox, they aimed to get users to save one file in one folder on one device

Once you know what causes users to realize the value of your product, you can work to ensure every user engages with those specific features and product areas. But determining what your product’s aha moments are is no small feat—and that’s where data comes in.

The analytics-led path to identifying aha moments

Product analytics can help you with aha moments in two primary ways: determining what your product’s most valuable features are, and then actually discerning what the aha moments are connected to them.

To understand your product’s most valuable features, you’ll want to look at usage over time in order to identify patterns. First, consider digging into your adoption and retention numbers, since any valuable feature will inherently correlate with long-term adoption of the product and user retention.

Rather than considering adoption in a binary way, like “Did someone use the feature or not?”, it’s better to try and identify if there is a certain threshold of usage that matters more than another—also referred to as “meaningful use.” For example, just because users engage with a feature once doesn’t likely mean they had an aha moment. But if someone uses a feature, say, 15 times within 30 days, that could be a good proxy for having an aha moment. 

With retention data, you’ll want to look at usage data to see at what point in time users stay engaged with your product for a prolonged period of time, like a year or two years. For example, the threshold might be that if a user accesses a feature only once, they never come back to the product. But if they use the feature three times, they are 90% likely to continue using it over and over again.

Aha moments are in the eye of the beholder

Choosing your aha moments will come down to what you and your product organization care about. For example, are you mainly focused on retention? Or are you really trying to fuel growth within your user base?

Start by defining what success looks like for your product—and remember that this definition can shift over time. After that, use product analytics to work backwards: What are the features that, when used, highly correlate to your success criteria? For example, if you care deeply about NPS and are looking to understand how to create more Promoters, you can segment your usage data to see what features or workflows correlate with users becoming Promoters, and how often they use the features.

For Elsevier, a publishing company specializing in scientific, technical, and medical content, their ultimate goal was to identify aha moments that correlate with long-term adoption of their platform. They used Pendo Analytics to identify the parts of and actions in their product that correspond to successful usage, ensuring they selected behaviors that lead users to realize the platform’s full value. From there, they were able to focus on driving users to those features and workflows as quickly as possible.

In the end, choosing your aha moments still requires you to make decisions with incomplete information. What’s important is that you feel like you’ve collected enough data—including quantitative and qualitative—that you can move forward. The beauty of aha moments is that you can always adjust them if you need to, and they can definitely change as your product and its capabilities and personas evolve.

The aha moment–onboarding connection

Once you’ve identified your aha moments, it’s important to put users in a position to experience them from day one. This makes incorporating them into your onboarding strategy essential. Onboarding usually gives users’ their very first impression of your product. It’s also when you need to educate users both on how your product works and the value it will bring them. When done right, successful onboarding leads to positive outcomes like higher retention, more conversions, and lower support costs.

With your aha moments established, you can design an onboarding experience inside your product that walks new users through how to access and use the features connected to them. This way, you’re able to encourage usage of your product’s most valuable areas right from the start.

Want to learn more about discovering and harnessing the power of “aha” moments in your product strategy? Take the Product Analytics Certification Course.