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What Is User Activation in SaaS And How To Improve It

Sep 9, 2022
7 mins read

What is user activation in a SaaS product? User activation is a process that helps new users understand your website or product and how it can benefit them. It's important to have a strong user activation strategy in place so that you can keep people coming back to your site or using your product.

There are a few key things you can do to improve the user activation process on your product. But first, let us define what is user activation in SaaS.

What Is User Activation?

The user activation metric indicates the number of customers that have actually used your product and already completed an important task.

All businesses focus their marketing channels on user acquisition, but few companies think about when customers actually start using the product and deriving value from it.

The importance of user activation and activation metrics are often overlooked, although activation events are always the first step to improving customer engagement, conversion, and retention.

What Counts as Activation?

Depending on your business, user activation can mean different things. For instance, activation events may mean running a free trial, incorporating your SDK into an application, or writing the first entry on a to-do list.

If you view the analytics of different apps, you will see that user activation is defined differently.

For example, Spotify focuses on subscriber rates, Facebook focuses on sign-up rates, and Amazon focuses on purchase rates.

Screenshot taken from Usermaven's product analytics tool highlighting user signups

Why User Activation is Important

If your trial users do not activate, they will not find any reason to continue using your application. And if your audience in the activation funnel does not convert to paying clients, your marketing efforts may be viewed as a waste of money.

To optimize your marketing budget and get the most bang for your dollar, it is crucial to ensure the successful activation of your new users and maintain a low customer turnover rate.

Any business, regardless of industry, needs to keep track of its user acquisition, activation metrics, retention rates, referrals, and revenues. These figures can help identify areas on which they should focus their marketing and sales efforts.

Why User Activation Matters More for Saas Companies

There are a few key reasons why the user activation phase matters so much for SaaS companies.

First, SaaS companies rely on recurring revenue, so it is essential to ensure that trial users are actually using the product and finding value in it. If trial users do not activate, they are likely to churn quickly and the company will not be able to recoup its investment.

Second, activation events are a key metric for determining whether a product is successful and whether it is worth continuing to invest in. If user activation is low, it may indicate that the product is not meeting the needs of its target market and that the company should consider making changes to its user onboarding flow.

Finally, user activation can be a leading indicator of future success. If a company can get users to activate and use the product, it is more likely to be successful in the long run.

Defining User Activation in SaaS

What is user activation in SaaS? Every business will have a different definition of activation events.

There is no one-size-fits-all indicator that will tell you when a prospect has activated. Every product and service is vastly different, so user journeys are as well.

When do activation points happen for a SaaS product? Here is how a typical customer journey goes.

  • First, users realize that a product might be right for them before they have a chance to actually use it.
  • Then, they test the most basic features of the app. At this stage of the activation process, they have a general idea of how the product or service works. The user experience allows them to see if the products or services live up to their expectations.
  • The final stage of the activation process is when your prospect has used your app enough to really see how valuable it is.

To understand what is user activation in a subscription model, you need to determine how they complete the three previous steps in the activation journey. In particular, focus on the action they take when they have seen your product’s full value.

In the world of SaaS, this moment is called the activation event.

An activation event is an action that suggests that a person is using the app at an advanced level and has an idea of the value it has to offer.

These actions typically involve more in-depth usage of a product or service.

How to Activate a User Account

What is user activation? User activation is the process of verifying and confirming a user's identity and account information. This is usually done through an email or phone number verification process.

Once a user is verified, they can then access their account and start using the service.

How to Increase User Activations

For many companies, user onboarding is the most difficult part of the customer lifecycle. In fact, 95% of users will abandon your product on their first visit.

In order to minimize the loss of users in your application, you may want to consider pursuing a higher rate of app activation.

Here are a few marketing techniques to improve your user activation rates:

  • Create in-app messages for effective user onboarding.
  • Send an email to encourage user activation.
  • Send push notifications toward activation action.
  • Automate your messaging flows.
  • Better communication across all channels.

Create an effective onboarding process

Onboarding is the process through which you guide new users through your app from the point they first open it to the point they experience the Aha! moment. On mobile, this is usually done through in-app messaging, email, and notifications that teach users about your product and encourage them to activate their account.

  • A product tour can help customers understand your product better, but it’s important to use them sparingly. Too much of a good thing can negatively impact the customer experience.
  • If you don't want your prospect to be distracted by a product tour, you can use behavior-based, non-intrusive, in-app messaging. These are designed to lead the prospect to the ah-ha moment in as little time as possible.
  • Email automation is the backbone of every user onboarding strategy. That's what you should focus on the most.

To not annoy your newly acquired website visitors during the onboarding process, only deliver the information that they need when they need it. Don’t bombard them with constant and unnecessary emails, instead wait for them to perform specific actions and then give them the information they need.

First, choose a starting point for your user's journey. Then, add splitters to divide users by segment, such as by device or by demographic.

Let's take a look at the meditation app Headspace. First, the app suggests that the customer sets goals for their meditation. This is the starting point of the customer journey.

Then the app asks the user to choose a convenient format and then offers a free trial.

The Headspace activation moment comes when the user agrees to activate the free trial. If the user hesitates or clicks the exit button, the app offers a free exercise, asks about emotions, and then offers the free trial again.


Demonstrate the value of your product

To convince visitors to buy or subscribe, you need to show them that the app is beneficial to their lives. What features does the product have and how do they help the user? This is what you should highlight in your messages.

Let's take a look at the fitness app Freeletics. It demonstrates value through personalized training plans endorsed by sports scientists. If the user does not have any equipment or has limited time, the app can adapt the sessions to fit their health goals.

Reduce any friction

Sometimes, users don't reach the activation stage because there are just too many distractions in the way.

Yes, they get to experience your product. But with all the other things competing for their focus, they might not be able to focus on your key product features.

To improve the chances of a user signing up, remove any potential barriers or obstacles, and show them the most impactful features of your app first.

Incentivize activation points

To entice users to subscribe, offer a coupon code, discount, or a welcome gift as an activation incentive.

Let's take a look at the Kindle app. Amazon is offering a $5 credit to its customers who sign up for Kindle.

Giving away coupons for the first purchase is a popular technique with fast food restaurants such as Burger King and McDonald's.

A/B testing can help you choose which formula works best for your product.

Offer in-app exclusives

In addition to gifts and prizes, you can thank your new customer for completing the desired action through exclusive access or new content. For instance, some magazines offer special subscriptions for those who are willing to pay through their app.

Optimize your user activation flow

To better understand at what stage users abandon your app, create different communications sequences for each of your app events. Then, measure and adjust your user experience accordingly.

When you segment your contact list by the action that they have taken, you can send them more personalized emails or push notifications.

By analyzing customer journeys, you can optimize your communication with users, and increase your rate of product adoption.

Here are some ideas for how you can change your flow:

  • Shorten the message sequence.
  • Change the sending time.
  • Replace the content.
  • Use more/fewer channels.

Build omnichannel campaigns

If you discover any weak spots in your user journey, catch up with users who haven’t completed their activation action.

  • Send emails with promo codes or discounts.
  • Offer special bonuses.
  • Create limited-time in-app events.
  • Launch referral programs.

User activation is a key part of your journey to becoming a successful SaaS business. Getting users to become active, engaged members of your community should be a priority for any digital brand. Follow these tips to improve your own user-activation rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the user activation rate?

User activation rate is the percentage of users who take the desired action after being exposed to a marketing message or campaign.

How do you measure user activation?

There is no one answer to this question as it can vary depending on the product or service being offered. However, some ways to measure user activation include looking at how often users return to the product or service, how engaged they are while using it, and whether they recommend it to others.

What does activation mean in SaaS?

Activation in SaaS refers to the process of a user becoming active within the software. This can happen through a number of means such as signing up for an account, downloading the software, or taking some other action that indicates they are using the software.


What is user activation in SaaS? User activation is an important process that helps new users understand your website or product and how it can benefit them. By improving user activation on your site, you can keep people coming back to use your product.

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