How to Use In-App Video to Improve New User Activation and Feature Adoption

Emilia Korczynska

Getting users to sign up for a trial is easy. 

But how many of them actually convert into paying users?

To get conversions and actually start making money, users need to get to the activation point and experience the value your product promises to offer. And to get them to stick around for longer, you need them to continuously get value by using the product. That translates into feature and product adoption.

How can you get that? Short answer, using in-app videos to educate, engage and delight users.

Read on and find out what in-app videos are and how you can use them effectively, like some big brands like Slack and Asana already have.

What is an in-app video?

The term in-app video is quite self explanatory but here's the long form definition for it. Short video content displayed inside the UI dashboard of an application, usually within a modal (e.g. a welcome screen) or a tooltip, commonly used to greet and delight users or for educational purposes. 

Compared to traditional video content you are used to seeing on Youtube, in-app videos are recommended to be no longer than three minutes as they are meant to send bite-sized information in an easy to understand way.

Most common in-app videos types

In-app videos, also known as microvideos are used inside SaaS products and come in the form of:

  • Short gifs used for gamification: shown when a user completes a task to congratulate them and motivate them to keep moving forward
  • Welcome videos: short recordings used to greet new users the first time they log in
  • In-app tutorials: screen recordings or animated gifs explaining the functionality of the product and its features

Benefits of using in-app videos

In-app short videos come with some great benefits and if you aren't using them already, here are a few reasons why you should start right away:

1. Improve the user onboarding process and increase engagement 

User onboarding plays a big part when it comes to new user activation and converting users from free trial to paid accounts. That's because the decision will be made based on the value the user experiences, or not, while they are using your product.

Forget the long product tours you used to build with tools like Appcues or other alternatives that make the user sit and watch as you walk them through all your product's features. Those aren't the way to go anymore. 

Users will simply not have the patience to watch that or remember anything. 

Onboarding users with a short video instead, that confirms the jobs-to-be-done your product helps them achieve, will not only set the right expectations but will be enjoyable and interactive for the user.

Making the user more likely to take action and start trying out your product.

2. Remove friction points and help users adopt your product faster

There's nothing more dreadful than having to search a product's documentation and follow the instructions while having to switch through multiple tabs while trying to apply the instructions.

If we're talking about a complex product, most of us will simply give up and go search for an easier to use alternative.

Short videos can pack up the how-tos of using a specific feature in a visual way that's easier to understand and replicate by the user. This will remove any frustration that the user may have while trying to use your product, and in turn, get them to engage repeatedly and make your product sticky.

On top of this, showing these inside the app, using an in-app resource centre or inside a tooltip when they are engaging with a feature will improve the user experience and remove friction points that are making users abandon your product for not understanding how to use it.

Image: In-app resource centre source Postfity 

3. Add personality to your product and help you connect on a human level

Putting a face behind a product helps personalize a brand and makes users connect to it faster. In the end, we all like spending more time with people, not with tools and software.

Using in-app videos you can personalize the user experience and add that human touch that builds long lasting relationships from the first moment they step foot inside your product.

Similar to welcoming someone new into your house for the first time.

Of course, your product will actually have to deliver value to them. No amount of personalization or in-app videos will help retain users if your product simply doesn't help them get their job done.

Best practices of using videos for user activation and adoption

Now that you understand the benefits of using in-app videos, let's go over a few best practices you should follow to make the most out of them. 

First, here's a disclaimer:

"People consume content differently. You should always test what works best for your users and try to mix video with content to communicate and send information in an accessible way to each and every one of your users." Adina Timar, PMM at Userpilot 

With that in mind, following these best practices is a good start.

Keep it short and relevant

This is an important one. 

Remember, you are not uploading a video tutorial to Youtube that the user might watch when trying to learn something. 

Your user is engaging with your app and needs fast and short answers to their questions. Don't try to answer all of them in one video. Or send the user outside of the product to get them.

Short and relevant in-app videos will deliver the right information, when needed, where needed - inside the app.

This leads me to the next point.

Trigger it contextually

It's easy to set in-app messages like modals with videos and text  to display when the user logs in. But is that the right time they need that information?

Should you or would you want to force them to watch or read something just because it's more convenient for you to trigger it then?

Check this example from Clickup, trying to educate the user on using a feature. Do you think they pushed it in front of their users at login? (hint: they didn't)

Any type of in-app communication, videos included, should be triggered contextually:

  • When the user engages with a feature for the first time: trigger a short video tutorial to guide him
  • When the user first logs in: welcome them with a video saying hi
  • When the user has a problem and accesses the in-app resource centre: give them multiple video tutorial to help them out

You get the point. Display in-app videos with the right information when the user requests or needs it.

Make it accessible

I keep mentioning in-app videos but you should also consider UX accessibility and mix video content with written content as a best practice.

For multiple reasons, a video might not load or the user might not be able to view it, and you can't control when that happens or not.

So having the information written down too will make sure the message gets across.

Here's a great example from Slack that pairs written content with an animated gif displaying how to use one of the tools functionality. 

How to use in-app video to increase user activation

Now to the fun part. We've gone over how in-app videos work, what are their benefits and best practices. Let's check some real examples of how SaaS products use them.

First, let's look into some examples of how brands increase user activation with in-app short videos.

ActiveCampaign: Welcome users with short videos

Welcome users have multiple purposes: to greet users for the first time and to help them get started with the product.

ActiveCampaign does both with their use of video on their welcome screen.

They use a short video that not only adds a human face to their tool but also sets the right expectations of what the product helps with and makes the user more eager to get started.

Adding the 'Get Started' button there also makes the user commit to taking action in their subconscious, making it easier to get started with the checklists of tasks that follows and drives them on their path to activation (more on checklists in a bit).

Basecamp: Get users started with your product

Taking a more technical approach, here's an example of how Basecamp uses welcome screens to get their users to activate.

They replaced product tours with a short 2-minute video that explains what the user needs to do in order to get started with the product.

Noticed the 2-minute mention?

Using written copy they set the right expectation of what the video will deliver and how long it will take.

What Basecamp manages to do right is this mix of offering relevant information to the user and also adding a human face while doing it. This makes it all look more personal and shows that they care about their users succeeding. 

Would you be more eager to get started after seeing this? I would. 

Kontentino: Use gamification and in-app videos to guide users to the next step

Using videos in your welcome screens is great. But what next? Your goal is to drive users to activate and that means them using your product and experiencing the value of it.

How do you do that with videos?

Remember the checklists of tasks I mentioned next after the welcome screen in ActiveCampaigns example? 

That's actually a best practice when it comes to onboarding new users in your app as you can personalize the path they need to get to value.

And get them there in the shortest way possible.

To prompt users to continuously engage with your checklist and product, using videos and celebration screens works wonders. 

Kontentino, uses in-app celebration modals, a great gamification tactic, to celebrate the completion of a task. They use an animated gif that personalizes their brand. 

You can use a flying unicorn as Asana does or a video of one of your customer success people, and the effects will be the same. We tend to repeat actions that drove us to success and a celebration modal confirms that success was achieved. 

On top of that, it helps direct the user's attention towards the next step, prompting repeated engagement and getting to the activation point faster.

How to use in-app video to increase feature adoption

Getting users to the activation point happens during the primary onboarding phase, when your goal is to get them to engage with the key parts of your product that deliver value.

But onboarding doesn't stop there and neither should in-app messaging.

To get repeated value from your product, users need to engage with secondary features that are relevant for their use case and that bring more value.

Let's go over some examples of how you can use in-app video to drive engagement and feature adoption.

Ahrefs: Launch new features in-app with video and drive feature discovery

Before a user can engage and adopt a new feature they first need to know it exists. Right?

One of the best ways to drive feature discovery is to announce new features in-app. 

And to make it more engaging ( yes, some of us don't like reading!) short videos can help.

Here's how Ahrefs announced their product update with a small modal. 

They used a short in-app video as a gateway to their more in depth announcement containing more details, instead of forcing the user to read through it all.

This way they made sure all users knew about new features being launched, helping them get one step closer to adopting the new product.

Loom: Drive feature discovery and premium features adoption with in-app video

Here's one of my favourite examples of using video to drive feature adoption.

Loom teases the user at the right time with the right message.

After recording a video (aka using the core functionality of the product) they introduce the user to a premium feature and use video to showcase the main benefits of it. 

Who wouldn't want to automatically remove their 'uhs' and 'ums' from a video instead of re-recording it for the sake of clarity?

I know I would. 

Combining the video with the written message helped send the message across perfectly.

Asana: Shorten the learning curve with in-app videos

You can clutter your UI with short videos everywhere, but that doesn't mean you should.

Instead, do as Asana and other SaaS products do. 

Use an in-app resource centre (also known as in-app guides) and add all your tutorials in one place where the user can easily find them when they need to.

Short in-app videos will help shorten the learning curve by delivering specific information that's easily accessible and understood. 

Also, remember what I said about triggering in-app messages and videos when the user needs it?

You shouldn't have an always displayed resource centre (yes, Asana triggers it when you click on the help beacon only) and here's a different example of triggering in-app videos contextually.

Monday tool uses video to give a preview of their help page where they offer more educational resources. By displaying a small, non-intrusive tooltip to make the user aware of the feature, they increase the chances of users engaging with their content when they need help.

Wrapping it up

There you have it. 

If you haven't used in-app videos yet, I hope these examples and best practices made you excited about starting using them to increase user activation and adoption for your product.

You can use in-app messaging tools for displaying your videos inside your app using modals or tooltips, or you can use a tool like Bonjoro to record and send videos to specific customers for that truly personal touch.

Video tips
About the author
Emilia Korczynska
Emilia is Head of Marketing at Userpilot and a product marketing enthusiast. Her passion for content marketing, SEO and SaaS products led her to build Userpilot’s whole content ops, hiring system, and documentation from ground up.
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