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February 15, 2023

mins to read

3 Aha Moment Examples That Can Redouble Your Retention

In 1924 George Mallory was preparing to summit Everest. A dozen people have previously perished along the way, so the New York Times reporter rightly asked the climber why he wanted to risk his life on this formidable mountain. Mallory replied, "Because it is there."

In August of that year, Mallory and his partner Andrew Irvine disappeared on the way to the peak. 

We retell this iconic story for the last hundred years because it’s an unprecedented case of man’s desire to conquer the universe. We’re not like Mr. Mallory. Your clients are not like Mr. Mallory either. 

If you compare any SaaS app with Everest, you’d be amazed by the number of people who signed up and started their user journey just to leave in the very first days. The picture below shows that about 80% of people who signed up finally abandon an app. 

what is typical retention for SaaS
That’s how few app users are as determined as Mr. Mallory

Part of your contract with app users is that there's something worthwhile at the top of the mountain. Something valuable. But to reach that value, users have to learn how the app works, which is a tough task, because…

  • How do I find out more about this? 
  • Where is that feature I’m looking for? 
  • What should I do next? 

As a UI/UX design studio representative, I’d say there’s always something confusing for users in their user experience. And as they get trapped, people rarely show stoic persistence to continue the user journey just "because your app is there." They’ll go check Twitter, they’ll poke around for a smaller mountain nearby. And maybe the current solution to their problem is not bad at all?

Is there a way to reduce the number of churned users?

The picture from above says that the retention is almost the same for SaaS, eCommerce, finance and media apps. No industry has a recipe to stop the churn.

Best-of-breed companies in each category, however, seem to know something that most entrepreneurs never figure out. Just compare the retention dynamic for the top 10% apps in each category (the chart on the left) with the retention dynamic for median companies (the chart on the right). 

retwntion trends in digital software
Image credit:

Elite SaaS companies somehow manage to understand users better and retain them almost twice as good (38%) as median apps (20%). 

If we match the two curves, we’ll notice that the tails of the charts are roughly the same, all the difference happens within week one. Best-of-breed apps make initial contacts with users in some specific way that retains even impatient ones. 

first impressions really influence retention
Image credit:

“Aha” moments is the secret they don’t tell you

We can define  “aha” moment as a user's emotional reaction to the discovery of how they can truly benefit from your app. 

The most famous “aha” moments story belongs to Chamath Palihapitiya, ex-Facebook executive. In the darkest times when Facebook had 45 million users and MySpace had 115 million, the Facebook team coined their formula of 7 friends for 10 days. The rest was history.

After all the testing, all the iterating, all of this stuff, you know what the single biggest thing we realized? Get any individual to seven friends in 10 days. That was it. You want a keystone? That was our keystone. There's not much more complexity than that.

Chamath Palihapitiya

Facebook is a social network, and until users connect with a certain number of friends, they can’t feel any of its wonderful network effects. I still remember when I first signed up for my Facebook account, without a big friends list, I quickly lost interest. 

But as soon as the number of friends rose, I started getting new posts every time I smacked the update button. Here came the “aha! now it makes sense” moment. That first insight was a turning point that kept me from bailing on my account.

Like any other social media, Facebook doesn’t leave your “aha” moment to chance. The company builds its onboarding path so that newcomers have no opportunity to feel lonely in their brand-new accounts. 

  • Facebook pulls in a list of suggested friends from your Gmail account. 
  • It recommends friends from your school, college, and the company you work for. 
  • It puts a big square blue “Add friend” button everywhere so that you don’t forget to add your friends.

Best product “aha” moment examples under the microscope

Any unsuccessful app is unsuccessful in its own way, but any successful app is good in hooking users with “aha” moments. So let’s reveal what is an “aha” moment for some best-of-breed SaaS apps and what exactly they are doing to make people stick.

Calendly and their step by step “aha” moment strategy

Why would anyone need a paid scheduling service when we all have Google Calendar, this free-of-charge perfection? And still, Calendly became an inherently viral meeting scheduler. After getting through its onboarding process, I see how it happened.

After the signup, Calendly offers you to schedule your first event. And as you go, you meet some little gems:

  • “aha, I can specify the location where both parties will connect at the scheduled time” 
  • “aha, I can add some buffer time before or after events” 
  • “aha, I can collect payments inside the app” 
  • “aha, I can build automatic workflows around events” 

These little features that Calendly strategically put on my road to the main value of the app made the road engaging. 

How customers collect Calendly’s “aha” moments
How customers collect Calendly’s “aha” moments, to the sound effects from Super Mario

But the kill shot was Calendly’s invitation to try booking my newly created event. What a smooth booking it was! In front of my eyes was a recent back-and-forth scheduling dance I had with my hairdresser, and in a moment of sudden, I realized the unique value that Calendly offers. 

Calendly aha moment meme

Monday’s road to “aha” when there’s no shortcut is a universal team management tool that works equally well for running a real estate CRM or an editorial calendar. When you see a tool so universal, it means that its customers not only stay in front of a mountain that pierces the clouds, the mountain also has numerous peaks. It’s a mountain range with multiple “aha” moments for multiple types of users. 

For Monday, the road to “aha” starts not from showing you its finest features as it was for Calendly. It starts by cutting off all irrelevant branches of the road.

Monday’s road to “aha” moment
It's right that way up, let me show you the road

Monday asks users to self-select their roles, goals, and use cases to steer them toward features and templates that make them say “I’m glad I am using this tool.” I’ve selected a marketing branch at the very beginning of my trial and since then, through contextual tips, Monday was guiding me to my marketing success.

Monday wants to know how are you going to use the app
Monday wants to know how are you going to use the app

Monday allows a single-player mode but knows that in most cases the user reaches their “aha” moment after they invite their colleagues. So next the app pushes you (a bit aggressively) from solo productivity towards team productivity.

Monday onboarding is pushing you hard meme

Another reason for pushing users hard is competition. is a relative newcomer to the team productivity space, which is pretty cluttered, full of large funded competitors. 

Monday's competitors in team productivity

For the product design team, it means plenty of testers, and it also means that if they nail fast, accurate and relentless onboarding experiences for each tester they win. 

That leads us to a stream of reminders, emails, and push notifications that works pretty well. Monday didn’t become a meme as the most annoying app (check the Duolingo meme craze). Instead, it became the fourth fastest growing app in 2020, with 149% growth year over year. 

Canva: I came, I saw, I said “aha”

The article comes to a close and I feel we know each other well enough for personal stories. Nobody knows, but when I was a child, I wanted to be a designer. Not for long, though, because I was traumatized by Photoshop and Illustrator, principal (and very complicated) design tools of the old times. That's how I became a writer — text editors were pretty intuitive even 10 years ago.

With all that background, it took me five minutes to fall in love with Canva, the easiest design tool on the planet Earth. The user onboarding is also the easiest — an engaged user doesn’t even have to sign up for the product to start designing. 

Canva removes all the obstacles in the way of your “ah-ha, it can be that simple to make pictures” moment. The product itself is so straightforward that users rocket to the top of this not-so-steep mountain before even noticing it.

Canva aha moment meme

Yes, this app has a lot of limitations that you discover afterward. But it’s too late, you’re already hooked. And for non-designers, it’s still better than Photoshop.

“Aha” moment notice and note

Canva has taught us to pave the way in front of a user rushing to their “aha” moment so that no one tripped on an unclear feature or confusing form.

Monday showed us that personalization can help to point users toward the “aha” moment meaning that is relevant to them. And sometimes it wouldn't hurt to push them in the right direction with some reminders.

Calendly proves that you can engage users climbing big mountains by showing them little fancy features all the way up.

And Eleken design agency examins best practices from all over the world, so if you’ll need someone to create onboarding flow that will leave your customers forever hooked… you know where to find us.

Dana Yatsenko


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