When Users Miss The Front Door

September 2, 2014 Lauren Glichrist

How Our Free Office Hours Helped weeSpring Convert Organic Traffic into Repeat Users

What’s the hardest thing about becoming a new mom? According to Ally Downey, it was knowing what to buy. “The first time I walked into a Babies R Us, I burst into tears,” she said. “I looked up at a ten-foot wall of baby bottles and saw — in all of those options — a metaphor for how completely unprepared I was for the hundreds (thousands!) of choices I’d have to make for my baby.”

She turned to her friends for help and found they were eager to share what to buy and what to skip. “…[A]s my inbox flooded with advice from my in-the-trenches friends, I started to feel a little less overwhelmed and a little bit more ready. By the time my baby arrived, I’d become one of the ones sending the instructive emails (Get Triple Paste in the tub, not the tube!).”

She saw not only a tremendous pain point for parents, but a huge business opportunity, with new parents spending roughly $5,000 on baby products in year one alone. So soon after her first child was born, Ally launched weeSpring — a place for expecting parents to find reliable advice on what to buy, and for new parents to share what they had learned. A year and a half later, weeSpring is a vibrant community of new and expecting parents with over 150,000 product ratings. Expecting parents can log in via Facebook to see what their friends have reviewed, save products for later, and build lists like “Newborn Necessities,” “Teething Time, and “Best Gifts for a One-Year Old.” New parents can share their own tried-and-true advice and learn about new products as their baby grows.

User Acquisition Experiments

Like any growing startup, weeSpring has been experimenting with ways to reach new users. By writing a blog that details their favorite products and tips, building a strong Pinterest presence, and experimenting with paid advertising, they are seeking out the most effective channel to reach new and expecting parents that convert to registered users. As they sat down to analyze which experiments were converting the best, however, Ally and her co-founder Jack found a pattern they didn’t expect.

  • First time users were arriving at individual product pages deep within weeSpring via search (e.g. google) and referral (e.g. through a blog post, an email from their mailing list, or a Pinterest page)
  • First time users were overwhelmingly arriving on mobile devices
  • First time users who came to deep linked pages were not signing up at a comparable rate to first time users who landed on the the homepage

Front Door vs. Back Door User Acquisition

weeSpring had stumbled into a classic startup challenge: new users coming in through the “back door” (from search or referral) did not understand what weeSpring was and how it offered value. They were not signing up and they were not reviewing products. In short, they weren’t behaving the same as new users who came in through the “front door” (from weeSpring’s homepage, which has a strong onboarding flow).

weeSpring signed up for Product Office Hours to get some advice on what to do next. Product Office Hours is an hour of free consulting offered by Pivotal Labs for startups who want advice on how to move forward when confronting a particular challenge or feature.

Developing a Back Door Acquisition Strategy

We (the team at Pivotal Labs) helped weeSpring identify that they were ready to dedicate design and development resources to address the needs of their new back door users. We then led them through two activities to design an experiment to focus on converting back door users.

First, we determined the goals of a back door new user who had clicked onto a weeSpring product page (e.g. Aden and Anais swaddle blankets) from a blog post, a Pin, or a newsletter, but had not yet signed up. We concluded that back door users wanted to:

  • Learn more about the product (read a quick summary and see other photos)
  • Buy the product (redirects to Amazon)
  • Save the product
  • Learn what other parents think of the product

Second, we needed to figure out what had to be on the page so that a back door user could achieve his or her goals. We determined this in four steps:

  1. List out existing calls to action. We wrote each call to action on a separate index card. We listed out nearly 20 separate prompts, such as “view Q&A,” “share on Facebook,” and “ask a question.”
  2. Remove what is not relevant. Certain prompts, such as indicating that a user has a product or seeing what her friends think of it, are irrelevant to a user who has not yet signed up for an account.
  3. Prioritize user goals. Focus on actions that are contextually relevant. For weeSpring, this meant prioritizing calls to action that matched a new user’s intents, such as buying and saving a product.
  4. Don’t forget conversion. When is the right time to ask a user to create an account? After the new user understands what they are looking at, why it is for them, and how it adds value. We all agreed that if a new user clicks “save this” on a product page in weeSpring, he or she “gets it” and should be prompted to create an account.

Ally and Jack walked out of Product Office Hours intending to roll out an experiment with the goal of improving conversion on logged out product pages for first-time mobile users.

Back Door Users Buy More

Several weeks later, they rolled out small changes to their logged out mobile page. Since the change, they are seeing two positive signals:

  • New users who arrive via the back door are now converting at a comparable rate to those that come in through the front door
  • New users that come in through the back door are 4x as likely to click buy as new users that come in the front door.

You can see the changes that the team made in the screenshot below, which compares a logged in (L) versus logged out (R) product page on mobile.

By making small, pointed design changes to focus on purchase, conversion, and communicating their value proposition, weeSpring has been able capture more new users to sign up and buy. They can now feel confident making bigger changes to product page because they have validated the basic concepts.

We’re looking forward to seeing their new product page, as well as new experiments to encourage back door users to complete front door activities (such as rate and review products).

Need Product Advice? Pivotal Labs now offers Product Office Hours. Learn more or sign up here.

About the Author


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