How not to lose your users and retain them for longer term - for startups.

How to retain site users - for startups

As an entrepreneur/inventor, you work hard to bring ideas to reality, create a best-looking website and publish. You spend a ton of time & money on marketing/SEO and other things and you start to see the traffic to your site, albeit slowly. Using Google Analytics, you see the number of visitors increasing but your visitors are not signing up as much or the ones signed up are dropping off shortly thereafter. What is going wrong?

The above situation should sound familiar to many. Often times, we get carried away with our great idea and assume that site users will know about your product in a jiffy. Not so fast. Your users may have signed-up on your site, but can't continue using probably because they still don't get it fully. End result is, a user who is looking for a product like yours, but can't use yours and looking elsewhere!!

Dropped users

What can be done for such dropped users? First, analyze the user page flow on your website, see on which page users are dropping off most. This page could be the starting point for improvements. User page flow should also give you an idea of time spent by users on each page. You could seek feedback from users about site pages. Use the user feedback as part of your 'site improvements' cycle.

Technical issues

Another section of your users are the ones who are interested in your offering but are running into technical issues with your website. Remember, "it work's on my computer" is not going to help. It has to work on your user's computer and work reasonably fast. According to one study, 40% of consumers abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

If your site performance is very bad as seen by the users, it may not entirely be your site fault. Your site may be offering complex functionality and uses 3rd party software which is causing the problem. Page resources such as styles/javascript/font could be loading too slow. Network calls taking longer to execute. End result is the same. A frustrated user.

Monitor Performance Metrics

There are several companies (such as SiteDynamics), that offer to monitor performance metrics for websites at user side (called Real User Monitoring, RUM). You get to know each resource loaded by a page, time taken to load and time taken to execute network calls if any. You also get notifications, if any resource or network call takes longer than a threshold time. Use these performance metrics to make improvements.

Application Errors

There are other kinds of issues users face and are very application-specific. Issues can be as simple as 'Login OTP SMS not received' or 'submit order' button not working. Don't expect your site users to go to your 'contact-us' page, submit a ticket and explain to you the problem. User would be gone by the time you respond.

Usually, websites have 'Live chat' kind of feature where dedicated customer representatives answer users' questions almost immediately. The issue is, your customer reps will not have sufficient technical insight into your product or website (which is understandable, as they have not built it). They answer basic questions and after that, pass the questions to you or your developer eventually. In the process, you lose time and also 'context' of the user issue, which could have helped you to troubleshoot the issue faster. The final result is a potential break up by the user.

Offer support spot-on

An early-stage or startup websites (at least) should have a User Chat functionality, which connects directly with a developer who has a deeper technical knowledge of the website. The user chat service should provide all the context (/environment) to the developer, such as browser logs (emitted by application), performance metrics (RUM), errors and any other data that assists in faster resolution.

SiteDynamics provides such a rich set of user side details, developers have a clear view of what is going on at user side. In addition to the fast resolution you provided to the user, it is the assurance you give to the user that works for you in the long run.

Your website uptime

Another area that influences users is your site stability and errors. No one wants to work with a site that goes down often or has too many errors. You should use a service that monitors your server or site uptime and notifies you promptly if it becomes unavailable. You can adopt a more advanced solution to auto-start your servers if they go down.

Fix errors before your users tell you.

No matter how much testing your team does, errors are prone to happen. Errors can be simple javascript errors or more advanced network call errors. You should adopt a solution that notifies you when such errors occur and provide you (or the developer) all the related information for a faster resolution.

As you can infer from above, bringing users to your site is only part of the story. Retaining them for the longterm is no less effort. Worst, if you are not proactive enough, users can hurt your online reputation too.

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