5 Methods to Improve Your User Activation

User activation is one of the most important elements for your product’s growth. Continue reading to figure out what it is, how to measure it and how to improve it.
Published October 24, 2022

About the author
Bart Stemkens is a growth advisor for tech startups. He loves building online businesses and bringing them to live through bold ideas.

User activation is one of the most important KPIs for your app, predicting your long-term success and revenue.

Increasing your revenue through efficient user activation is something not every aap is successful at doing. 

In this article, we will explore 5 different ways you can improve user activation for your app, as well as examples of successful companies that managed to develop their user activation strategy. 

Ready? Let’s dive in. 

What is User Activation? 

User activation is the precise moment when your new user completes the user onboarding steps for the first time. The process involves a series of steps, specific events, or predetermined goals that your user needs to complete in order to be considered activated.

User activation can include signing up, creating a profile, and finishing the first task successfully. It may also include beginning a free trial, finishing the onboarding tour, or inviting other users to collaborate within the app. 

User activation isn’t only about activating new users. It can also refer to existing users, such as the moment they use or unlock a new feature, or when they move from a basic to a premium plan. 

What’s the Difference Between an “Aha moment” and the User Activation Stage? 

The “Aha moment” and user activation can easily be confused between each other. A number of people think that the “Aha moment” and user activation are the same and are just labeled differently. 

But that is far from the truth. 

Simply put, the “Aha moment” is a mental state that occurs when a user perceives the value you’re offering and realizes how much they like using your app. 

On the other hand, user activation is the moment when your user actually received a value. It’s an action, rather than a feeling, and is when a user fully interacts with the features of your app. 

It’s important to note that the “Aha moment” is very important in every app’s user journey. Its purpose is providing your users with the push they need to activate the full features of your app. User activation is the process that actually activates your users who then use your app’s full features. 

User activation events give your users value for their own business, so it’s vital to optimize your user activation in order to attain as many premium users as possible.


5 Ways to Boost Your App’s User Activation Strategy 

Now that we’ve covered some of the foundational principles of user activation and its importance in your app’s user journey, let’s explore some proven methods you can use to improve your customer activation strategy.

1. Send Call-to-Action Email Notifications 

Receiving email notifications on a repeated basis can be very overwhelming, unless the emails are specifically tailored for the user. 

The use of call-to-action emails can be successfully observed in the case of Docsify, a brand that has improved its user activation with a simple email, inviting them to try how their product works. In fact, according to WordStream, emails with a single CTA button can increase clicks by 371% and revenue by 1,617%.

This shows the power of a single, call-to-action email in fostering user activation. A call-to-action email is also a great way of seeing the successful effect of breaking down the learning process into smaller, more clearer tasks.

2. Create Behavioral and Personalized User Onboarding 

Given personalized marketing trends today,  it’s vital to personalize your user experience and thus user activation based on user behavior and data as well. 

You can personalize your user activation in numerous ways, such as making use of:

  • user role
  • user state
  • milestones
  • user behavior

There are two central ways you can focus on to improve your app activation in more detail. The first one is through behavioral nudges, where you try to determine triggers from your users’ behavior or lack of behavior. 

The second is through personalized user onboarding, where the more data you have about a user, the more you can tailor their user experience to match their exact needs. 

To understand behavioral triggers, you can track your in-app events or characterize your user personas. 

Analyzing your in-app events can help you create the events of your user onboarding process, which determine your user journey towards activation. 

To analyze your in-app events, make use of analytics tools and study a group of users who recently signed up and saw the promised value of your app. You can then examine what kind of features or actions are most desired by users among that group. 

This process can be repeated for many different groups, or demographics, such as users with a similar role, age, knowledge and so on. As a result, you will understand the role of your “aha moment” and user activation for different user groups and personas. This will in turn help you create different behavioral triggers based on their behavior, leading to an increase in user activation and adoption.

3. Reduce Excess Work

The first few days of your user activation process are very important. Once the user is set to use the full features of your app, you can start to reduce unnecessary work for your users by helping address or simplifying any issues they may come across while they use your app’s full features.  

For instance, if you notice that your users have data that they’d like to convert from one format to another, you can help them by creating built-in tools that enable them to do just that. This helps convert more trial users into paid customers for your app. 

The goal of your app in its user onboarding process is to indicate the value you are offering to potential customers. For this reason, it is vital to maintain a simple and smooth user experience and activation process as well. 

The simpler your user onboarding process is, the quicker you allow your users to experience the “Aha moment” and eventually activate them.

4. Offer Extensive Customer Support 

After you’ve activated your users, you can adopt a dedicated customer support team that helps your users locate answers fast and anytime they need them. 

Whether it be through them asking direct questions in a chat pop up, calling you or reading your detailed guides, you can offer invaluable support to your users that will help activate or even retain already-activated users. 

Showing your users that their comfort and ease is at the top of your priorities will encourage them to keep engaging with your app and activate users who may be on the verge of converting from a free to a paid user.

5. Delay User Onboarding Email Confirmations 

When a user is signing up for an account on your app, receiving a message that requires them to verify their email straight away may turn them off from using your app.  

This is because the initial excitement and attention they had for signing up to your app has decreased with this added step that seems a bit unnecessary. 

One of my best practices is to delay email activation steps in a user onboarding process. You can still ask people to activate their email address, but you can do it at a slightly later stage in their interaction with your app, such as the second time they are using it.  

By doing this, you know that you are requiring a favor from a user who already uses your app and would be happy to verify their email for you, rather than doing it before even trying your app for the first time. Developing your onboarding email strategy also highlights your app’s focus on delivering value to your user without demanding something in turn from the get-go. 


Ultimately, the purpose of user activation in apps is to convert your trial users into paid customers by understanding the value of your app and wanting to use it again and again. 

Your app’s user journey is made of 4 main steps: converting website visitors to trial users, creating the “aha moment”, user activation, and finally, user adoption.

Essentially, user activation plays a crucial role in every user experience, and you just  need to pay enough attention to it. 

Need help with boosting your app’s user activation? Get in touch with us.