Product Management Dictionary

The Product Management Dictionary: activation

Learn about the concept of activation in product management with our comprehensive guide.

As a product manager, one of the most important tasks is to ensure that users are actively engaging with your product. The process of encouraging users to complete key actions that lead to product value is known as "activation." In this article, we'll define activation, explore its significance, and discuss best practices for achieving success in this critical aspect of product management.

Understanding Activation in Product Management

Product management is a complex process that involves various stages, from ideation to launch and beyond. One of the most critical stages in the product adoption process is activation. Activation is the stage where users complete a series of actions that lead to a desired outcome. These actions can include signing up for a service, completing a product tour, or setting up an account, among other possibilities.

The goal of activation is to get the user invested in using the product, building a habit, and ultimately becoming a loyal user. Activation is a crucial component of any product management strategy. Without successful activation, users may never gain the full value from your product, leading to lackluster engagement and ultimately, product abandonment.

Definition of Activation

Activation is a term used in product management to describe the process of getting users to complete a series of actions that lead to a desired outcome. In other words, activation is the process of getting users invested in your product and building a habit of using it regularly. There are many different actions that can be considered part of the activation process, including signing up for a service, completing a product tour, or setting up an account.

Activation is an essential part of the product adoption process. It is the point where users move from being interested in your product to being invested in it. Successful activation is critical to building a loyal user base and driving engagement with your product.

Importance of Activation in Product Management

Activation is a crucial component of any product management strategy. Without successful activation, users may never gain the full value from your product, leading to lackluster engagement and ultimately, product abandonment. Activation not only drives user engagement, but also serves as a key indicator of product-market fit and can provide insights into areas for improvement in the user onboarding experience.

Product managers must focus on activation to ensure that users are successfully onboarded and invested in the product. This involves creating a seamless onboarding experience that guides users through the activation process and encourages them to complete the necessary actions to become fully invested in the product.

Key Activation Metrics

Tracking activation metrics is essential to understanding how your product is performing and identifying areas for improvement. Typical activation metrics include conversion rates, completion rates of key activation steps, and time to activation. It's important to continuously monitor these metrics to ensure that the activation process is effective and efficient, and to make adjustments to your strategy as needed.

Conversion rates are a critical metric for measuring the success of your activation process. This metric measures the percentage of users who complete the activation process after starting it. Completion rates of key activation steps are also important, as they help identify potential bottlenecks in the activation process. Time to activation is another key metric, as it measures the time it takes for users to complete the activation process.

By tracking these metrics, product managers can identify areas for improvement in the activation process and make adjustments to improve the user experience. This can lead to higher conversion rates, increased engagement, and ultimately, a more successful product.

The Activation Process

Activation is a critical step in the user journey, as it determines whether a user will become a loyal customer or churn. The activation process involves defining specific actions that users must take to become activated, designing strategies to encourage completion of these actions, implementing tactics to support these strategies, and measuring success to continuously improve the activation process.

Identifying Activation Goals

The first step in the activation process is to identify the specific actions that users must take to become activated. This could include completing a profile, making a purchase, or inviting friends to join. It's important to align these goals with overall business objectives and ensure they are feasible for users to complete.

For example, if your product is a fitness app, your activation goals may include completing a workout, setting a fitness goal, and connecting with friends for accountability. By defining these goals, you can create a clear path for users to follow and increase the likelihood of activation.

Designing Activation Strategies

Once you've defined your activation goals, it's time to design a strategy that encourages users to complete the necessary steps. This could include personalized messaging, incentives, or simplified user flows. It's important to test different approaches to determine what works best for your user base and continuously iterate based on user feedback and data.

For example, if your activation goal is to complete a workout, you could send personalized reminders to users who haven't worked out in a few days, offer a free trial of a premium feature, or simplify the workout tracking process to minimize friction.

Implementing Activation Tactics

With a defined strategy in place, it's time to implement tactics to encourage user activation. This could include email campaigns, onboarding tours, or gamified experiences. The key is to provide a seamless and engaging experience for the user, minimizing any friction and building momentum towards the desired outcome.

For example, if your activation goal is to set a fitness goal, you could create an onboarding tour that guides users through the process of setting a goal and provides tips for achieving it. Or, you could create a gamified experience where users earn badges for completing different milestones.

Measuring Activation Success

Finally, it's important to continuously measure the success of your activation efforts. This can include looking at key metrics, monitoring user feedback, and conducting user testing to identify areas for improvement. Successful activation is an ongoing process, and it's essential to make adjustments as necessary to ensure long-term success.

For example, you may track the percentage of users who complete each activation goal, the time it takes for users to complete these goals, and the impact of different activation tactics on user retention. By monitoring these metrics and making data-driven decisions, you can continuously improve the activation process and drive long-term success for your product.

Activation Best Practices

Activation is a crucial step in the user journey that can determine whether a user becomes a loyal customer or abandons the product altogether. Here are some best practices for successful activation:

Aligning Activation with User Onboarding

One best practice for successful activation is to align it with the broader user onboarding experience. Onboarding is the process of introducing new users to a product and helping them understand its value. By providing a seamless and engaging onboarding process, users are more likely to complete key activation steps and become invested in using the product.

For example, if your product requires users to create a profile before they can start using it, you can make the profile creation process a part of the onboarding experience. You can provide helpful tips and guidance to make the process smoother and more enjoyable for the user.

Personalizing Activation Experiences

Another best practice is to personalize the activation experience as much as possible. Personalization can help users feel more connected to the product and increase their engagement. This could include personalized messaging, custom user flows, or targeted offers.

For example, you can use data about the user's behavior and preferences to create a customized onboarding experience. If a user has shown interest in a particular feature of your product, you can highlight that feature during the activation process. You can also offer personalized incentives to encourage users to complete the activation process.

Leveraging User Feedback for Activation Improvement

User feedback is an invaluable tool for identifying areas for improvement in the activation process. By gathering feedback through surveys, user testing, or other means, you can identify pain points and obstacles to successful activation and make adjustments accordingly.

For example, if users are struggling to understand a particular step in the activation process, you can provide more detailed instructions or simplify the process. You can also use feedback to identify common questions or concerns that users have during activation and address them proactively.

Continuously Optimizing Activation Strategies

Finally, it's essential to continuously optimize your activation strategies based on user feedback and data. This could include A/B testing different tactics, tweaking messaging, or simplifying user flows.

For example, you can run A/B tests to see which activation messaging resonates most with users. You can also analyze data on user drop-off rates during activation to identify areas for improvement. By making constant improvements, you can ensure that your activation process is as effective and efficient as possible.

Activation Case Studies

Activation is a crucial step in the user journey that can make or break a product's success. In this section, we'll explore some successful activation examples, common challenges, and lessons learned from failures in the tech industry.

Successful Activation Examples in Tech Industry

One example of successful activation in the tech industry is Airbnb's onboarding process. By providing a personalized and engaging experience, Airbnb has been able to increase conversion rates and drive user engagement. Their onboarding process includes a welcome message, a personalized video, and a step-by-step guide to help users complete their profiles and make their first booking. This approach has led to increased user satisfaction and a higher likelihood of repeat bookings.

Another example is Slack's use of onboarding tours and messaging to encourage first-time users to complete key actions, leading to high rates of activation and continued engagement. Slack's onboarding process includes a tutorial that guides users through the platform's key features, as well as personalized messages that encourage users to invite their team members and start using the platform for their daily communication needs.

Activation Challenges and Solutions

While activation can be a powerful tool for driving user engagement, it's not without its challenges. One common obstacle is the complexity of the activation process, which can lead to user frustration and abandonment. A solution to this challenge is to simplify the process as much as possible, reducing the number of steps required to become activated. For example, Dropbox simplified their activation process by allowing users to skip the tutorial and start using the product right away. This approach led to a significant increase in user activation rates.

Another challenge is the need to balance activation with other business objectives, such as revenue generation. A solution to this challenge is to ensure that activation strategies are aligned with overall business goals and are sustainable over the long term. For example, LinkedIn's activation process includes a free trial of their premium membership, which not only encourages users to activate their accounts but also generates revenue for the company.

Lessons Learned from Activation Failures

Even the most successful companies experience failures in the activation process from time to time. One key lesson from these failures is the importance of understanding your user base and adjusting activation strategies accordingly. For example, when Google launched Google Wave, they assumed that users would understand the platform's complex features and be able to use it effectively. However, they quickly realized that the platform was too complicated for most users, leading to low activation rates and eventual discontinuation of the product.

Another lesson is to continuously monitor activation metrics and make adjustments as necessary, rather than waiting for issues to become more significant. For example, when Twitter launched their new user onboarding process, they noticed that many users were dropping off during the sign-up process. They quickly made adjustments to simplify the process and saw a significant increase in user activation rates as a result.

In conclusion, successful activation requires a deep understanding of user needs and behaviors, as well as a willingness to continuously iterate and improve the activation process. By following the examples of successful companies and learning from failures, product teams can create activation experiences that drive user engagement and business success.


Activation is a critical component of any successful product management strategy. By understanding the definition of activation, identifying key goals, and implementing best practices, product managers can drive user engagement and create long-term success. By continuously optimizing activation strategies based on user feedback and data, companies can ensure that their products remain relevant and valuable to their users.