Reduce Customer Turnover & Boost Growth with a Retention-Focused UX Assessment

By Thomas DiNatale
June 9, 2023

After continuous acquisition funnel A/B testing and design adjustments, your product resonates with potential customers: the value proposition is compelling, and your creative ad assets, site messaging, and onboarding UX are on target.

Customers are converting and selecting your product over the competition. Woot! Now that the value of your service is resonating with customers, they’ll stick around and re-purchase, leading to higher revenue and, over time, reducing your CAC (customer acquisition cost). But, something is off post-conversion.

Customers aren’t purchasing additional products, and churn rates are increasing, causing CLV metrics to trend down. So all the design and engineering work in the acquisition funnel is paying off. However, the return customer experience isn’t quite right, creating new UX and product problems.

Breaking the Cycle: Understanding Real Customer Needs with a Retention-Focused UX Assessment

You know friction exists in the return customer UX. And you’ve had endless conversations about how you might approach improving the experience. Yet, nothing has materialized, and the team continues to debate the same issues: 

  • subscription fatigue
  • ongoing value perception
  • ‘zombie’ subscribers
  • competing alternatives
  • poor loyalty drivers
  • confusing UX
  • and the list goes on.

It could be one of the above problems or another issue unique to your service. Either way, the internal echo chamber of opinions won’t uncover right-fit solutions that improve the experience and, ultimately, the metrics. 

So instead of rehashing the same conversations and continuing to watch flat or declining metrics, align the team and improve the experience with insights derived from a retention-focused UX assessment. This targeted assessment will provide clearly articulated insights into your return customers’ needs and motivations and where your product fails to fulfill those needs. 

Hearing and seeing real customers struggle will create empathy amongst the team and provide clear, actionable design opportunities toward improving your return UX. Those that can be designed and built immediately and others that will require more design cycles and user testing but will undoubtedly help reduce churn and boost revenue. 

So, how do you conduct a retention-focused UX assessment, and how long does it take? Let’s take a deeper dive into the key components.

Use Customer Behavior Data to Narrow in on Key Aspects of the Return Experience

Before jumping into the UX research components of the assessment, it’s crucial to define how customers currently interact with your product. Setting this data-driven behavioral baseline helps focus the evaluation’s activities.

It’s evident that you don’t want to spend time assessing a product detail page (PDP) if customers aren’t navigating to that PDP. Depending on your product, critical information to know might include the following:

  • Key customer segments
  • Predominant device types & platforms
  • Primary inbound sources
  • Typical customer pathways
  • Customer profile characteristics

Diving Deeper Into the Key Components of a Retention-Focused UX Assessment

After gathering the data and deciding where to best focus your efforts in the experience, it’s time to kick off the assessment. The assessment builds on itself and combines different perspectives from four activities to uncover insights into how the product fails to meet customer needs. The key components are:

  • UX Audit
  • Session Recording Analysis
  • Unmoderated Usability Testing
  • Customer Interviews 

1. Setting the Stage for the Evaluation With a UX Audit

The assessment starts with a UX audit of the return customer site experience. Beginning with an audit sets the stage for subsequent activities because it documents potential UX issues that can be explored in more detail with customers.

Based on the customer behavior data you collected, you’ll document the experience from screen-to-screen and feature-to-feature across mobile and desktop – annotating areas that are causing potential user friction, such as:

  • Complex navigation
  • UI inconsistencies
  • Lack of UI feedback
  • Confusing messaging
  • Cluttered interfaces
  • Poor error handling
  • and the list goes on.

Starting with the UX audit enables you to identify friction areas your team knows would benefit from UX best practices and usability principles, such as consistent language and visuals, clear product benefits messaging, value proposition communication, structured information architecture, established UI patterns, and accessibility standards. The identified areas are now the starting point for the next activity: session recording analysis.

2. Observing Real Customer Behavior Using Session Recordings

Session recordings allow you to watch real customers use your site. You’ll watch as they tap and explore your product, where they get tripped up, and where they complete tasks successfully. Sounds great! But, with every customer interaction recorded, it’s a gargantuan task to try and find the sessions that are evidence of UX friction. That’s why the UX audit is the first activity.

Starting with the areas flagged in the audit allows you to filter the sessions and focus on the UI that is potentially causing problems. For example, is the “complex navigation” or “lack of UI feedback” tagged in the audit causing customers to bounce before checking out or sending them on an unintended hunt for information, eventually abandoning the session frustrated. With these session observations, you can now add more context to the issues identified in the audit.

As you keep watching, you’ll continue to see firsthand how users navigate complex features, interact with cluttered interfaces, and where they may encounter, unbeknownst to you, browser-specific bugs.

On top of all this, it’s guaranteed that, at several points, you’ll find they don’t interact with your product the way you intended when you designed it. Leaving you scratching your head and guessing why. This leads us to the third step of the evaluation: usability testing.

3. Gathering Direct Feedback Via the Think-Aloud Protocol

Now that you’ve identified potential UX issues and verified via session analysis that customers are encountering friction, you need to hear why they’re struggling in their own voice.

You can make educated guesses about why they click this button, navigate to the wrong page, or abandon return workflows. However, it’s still a hypothesis until you hear “why” directly from your customers. A quick and straightforward way to gather firsthand customer feedback is to run usability tests using the think-aloud method.

The think-aloud method asks users to navigate the product independently while verbalizing their thoughts and experiences. For example, as users encounter obstacles and get frustrated or find moments of joy, they’ll express their thoughts aloud, allowing you to capture their genuine reactions. By listening to users as they tap, click, and explore the site without a moderator, you can add additional context to your session analysis observations.

It’s essential to run at least 5 tests with a representative sample of your user base to gather the most accurate results. As you conduct more usability tests, you’ll start to hear repetition in how people describe why they’re taking particular actions. Repeated comments will make discarding the one-off thoughts and opinions easier.

This third layer of customer context is crucial. We started with a UX audit where we identified areas of friction, confirmed those areas using session analysis software, and now, with the think-aloud method, listened to real users describe their frustration with these areas of the site.

Insights are starting to form as these different perspectives come into focus. Next, you’ll talk directly with existing customers to learn more about their mindsets, behaviors, needs, and preferences.

4. Delving Into the Customer’s Perspective and Needs With Customer Interviews

Using your emerging insights from the assessment as a starting point, you’ll interview a representative set of customers to gather deeper qualitative data. This data will provide another perspective into the underlying motivations and thought processes driving behavior and decision-making.

Interviews are typically conducted one-on-one, where you talk with the customer, asking open-ended questions and allowing for detailed responses. The interviews provide the flexibility to explore various topics and delve into individual experiences and opinions. In addition, they allow for follow-up questions and in-depth discussions to gain a deeper understanding of the customer’s perspective.

You can use the return web experience as a prompt during the interview. Doing this helps you understand firsthand the challenges, pain points, and frustrations customers encounter while navigating the site. Let’s dive into an example highlighting how insights from the assessment build on each other. 

You’ve learned customers are seeing an add-on product (thanks to session recording) but are choosing not to add it to their next box because it’s too expensive (thanks to usability testing). Knowing this, you can use the add-on site experience as a prompt during the interview. You might ask the following open-ended questions to find additional perspectives on price sensitivity: 

  1. Can you tell me more about your perception of the product’s price? What factors or aspects make you consider it expensive?
  2. How does the product’s price compare to similar products or alternatives you have encountered? What makes you feel it is priced higher?
  3. What value or benefits do you expect from the product that would justify a higher price point?
  4. Are there any specific product qualities that you believe contribute to its perceived higher price? 
  5. Can you share any personal experiences where you felt the product’s price did not align with the value you received?

Open-ended questions encourage the interviewee to provide detailed explanations and examples, helping you uncover underlying reasons, expectations, and considerations contributing to their perception of the product being too expensive. These insights can inform decisions related to pricing strategies, product positioning, and potential adjustments to better align with customer expectations and perceived value.

Paving the Way for Long-Term Success

In conclusion, optimizing the return customer experience is vital for sustained growth and improved retention metrics. While your product may resonate with potential customers during the acquisition phase, addressing the issues that arise post-conversion is crucial. By conducting a retention-focused UX assessment, you can uncover your return customers’ real needs and motivations.

This assessment combines the perspectives from four activities: UX audit, session recording analysis, unmoderated usability testing, and customer interviews to gain a comprehensive understanding of the pain points and challenges customers face. With insights from this assessment, you can take actionable steps to enhance the return customer experience, reduce churn, and boost revenue. Don’t let valuable customers slip away – invest in a retention-focused UX assessment today and pave the way for long-term success.