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A monthly active listener meant that that person came back and listened once within the month period.Andy’s team were also interested in increasing daily active listeners, and trying to increase the frequency of visits during each period.So, Andy’s team was focused on retention, and the big north star metric was listener time.
Sound Cloud has notoriously high user retention, so I wanted to dig in to find the most useful takeaways from the years of experiments that Andy instrumented from the group up.
Around late 2014 to early 2015, the Sound Cloud team identified retention as an area of improvement, especially on the mobile side.
At Sound Cloud, says Andy, user retention was “listener retention.” “We aimed at trying to get people not just to come back, but to come back and listen.
We didn't count a user as retained if they just came back and relaunched the app again, but actually we wanted them to come back and listen for another session.
To me, that was a great place to start because it was a blank canvas.”It seemed like a good place for the team to start, not only because it was low hanging fruit but also because they would be going from zero to X, and the impact could be that much more meaningful.
On Android, Andy explains, the situation was a little more complex because there were notifications happening there already.It's not always very meaningful to look at a blended industry average, but rather to try to look at category average benchmarks for these kind of things.” Their team mined for data from providers like Adjust, which publishes retention data by category, and covering every category in the app store, and Similar Web, which provides data for both web and for Android. What were the “great,” “good,” and “bad” benchmarks that Sound Cloud stacked itself against?“I'll start with a caveat that I can only talk about user retention here, not listener retention.Their team was trying to be in the top 1% of these retention metrics, and identified activity notifications, or push notifications, as something that could majorly influence that.“I think it's fairly widely acknowledged that push is an effective channel for mobile, if you get it right. We also realized it was not a foregone conclusion, that we could just start sending some push notifications, and we'd get a great result.To that end, they designed initiatives that looked at what could bring people back, not just one time in that month, but multiple times in a week, and continue to increase their frequency from there.There are many ways to start in on a retention problem.“From there, it was about giving users a good enough reason to come back and listen for another session.But, retention really starts with onboarding; if a user activated and had a good time with Soundcloud in the first one or two sessions, then the barrier for them to de-install the app or just never to come back was very low.”When you’re setting up retention experiments, it can be helpful to know what you want to be aiming for.According to Andy, they were laser-focused on building habits with users so that whenever they were listening, they would be listening on Sound Cloud, rather than on the radio, or with a different music streaming service.Retention means different things for different companies, and Sound Cloud was looking at a potential additional nuance to retention on the mobile side.