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User Behavior can Bite you – Lessons From the Product Management Trenches

I am the founder of  Jodi Logik, an online matchmaking startup in India. I started the business in late 2015 to provide a platform for young Indians to create a good impression through their online profile and steer clear of stereotyped profiles plaguing the matchmaking industry in India. As a first-time entrepreneur, I play the role of a product manager among my many roles!

One of my daily rituals is to keep track of user behavior and review and document data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and email automation software. Naturally I keep a close watch on a critical business metric – how many customers sign up every day?

The data I gathered showed a steep, organic growth. In reality, user behavior was a little more complicated.

A case in point is the Facebook authentication button for creating a new account on my site.

What can go Wrong With a Simple Feature?

Before I explain the challenge I faced, here’s how the Facebook authentication process for Jodi Logik was set up.

When a customer creates an account using their Facebook credentials, the application generates and send a verification email to the email address associated with the customer’s Facebook account. The customer then must click on the verification email to access the account.

There were two logical reasons why I chose this verification process:

  1. I am one of those people who are always logged into Facebook and never really log out. In fact, I don’t really remember the password for my Facebook account. What if a guest borrows my desktop computer or my young niece decides to use my smartphone? I’m always logged into Facebook on all my devices, so anyone with access to my personal device can easily create a new account on my site by hitting the “Create with Facebook” button.
  1. I needed to be absolutely sure that my customers could access to the email associated with their Facebook account as a lot of transactional emails require customer action. These emails could be password reset links, payment transaction details, new message notifications from within the application, account activation or deactivation notices.

Customers are Lazy

After launching the product, I started monitoring the new customer sign-up data.

I found that 23% of customers who chose to sign up using Facebook authentication did not click on the link in the verification email.

As any determined product manager would do, I sent reminder emails to customers who failed to click on the confirmation link. This was excruciatingly painful as I had to send them one by one.

My reminder emails did not yield any meaningful response. I went looking for data on user behaviour from other sites to understand industry benchmarks but I drew a blank. A 23% sign-up abandonment rate seemed like a data from a crime scene and I was upset.

Elementary, my Dear Watson

After a lot of head scratching, here’s what I did. I contacted to customers who did not complete the verification process by sending out a Facebook messenger request.

The predominant feedback I received was: “I don’t remember the email address associated with my Facebook account.” Another explanation was: “I don’t use the email address.” Apparently, expecting customers to reset the email password to access the verification email was asking too much. When your application forces your users to click on the confirmation link that’s sent to an email address they stopped using or don’t have access to anymore, you might as well ask the users to climb a 10-foot wall.

That’s not all, customers who abandoned the sign-up workflow when using Facebook authentication did not see my reminder emails as they didn’t have access to their email.

Picking up the Pieces

Here’s how I tackled this challenge. I chose to remove the verification step.

The new workflow allows the customer the option to view the email address associated with their Facebook account during the sign-up process and choose to retain it or to change it. If the user chooses to retain the email address associated with their Facebook account, no confirmation email is sent and the user has access to the application.

If the user chooses to change the email address, the application sends a confirmation email to make sure they have access to the updated email.

Fast Forward Three Months

I have brought the sign-up abandonment rate down to less than 5%.

About 18% of the users who sign up with Facebook credentials changed their email address. As expected, people who changed their email address when signing up using Facebook credentials always completed the sign-up process.

Lessons Learned

1. When we make assumptions about features to roll out, workflows, and user experience, we may not always have all the data on hand to take the best decisions and hence rely on a combination of common sense and instinct. Because we are blind to real customer needs or fail to see the constraints or proclivities od user behavior we end up creating more problems than we solve. The best bet is to take the plunge and observe how customers react.

2. Customers choose the path of least resistance. That’s why I call them “lazy”. Removing friction during the sign-up process is just one part of the challenge. Getting people to use my product and complete all the steps needed to work with it is an ongoing challenge. I am taking the lessons learned with the sign-up button to demolish all points of friction in the product. I believe this is a continuous journey.

3. When you don’t have data, ask your customers! You will be surprised at the extent of information and insights you will get by talking to just a handful of your customers. No doubt a majority of your customers will never want to talk to you but don’t give up easily. When I contacted my customers via Facebook messenger, as expected, most of them ignored me (and some of them probably think I am a creep) but a few of them accepted my request.

4. I discovered that social norms and culture also add another level of complexity when you’re attempting to create a frictionless user experience for the product. After reviewing the profiles of people who signed up with Facebook, I discovered that young Indians create multiple accounts on Facebook. For example, women use multiple accounts to hide their identity when signing up for dating/matchmaking sites. This user behaviour resulted in people forgetting the email IDs associated with their numerous Facebook accounts.

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