Product School

Chapter 2: Leading the Charge: The Product Leader's Role in Shaping Digital User Journeys

Zaina Alhmoud

Zaina Alhmoud

June 27, 2023 - 16 min read

Updated: April 25, 2024 - 16 min read

Product experience becomes increasingly important as new products come to market, the barrier to entry drops, and competition intensifies. Product leaders serve as visionaries, setting the direction for the product and ensuring it aligns with user needs and market demands.


Championing a user-centric perspective throughout the organization is essential, particularly when considering digital user journeys. Deeply understanding your target users — their goals, pain points, and aspirations — enables you to design impactful experiences that resonate with your audience!

Embracing Digital User Journeys: A Strategic Approach

To successfully build digital user pathways, you must adopt a strategy that aligns with both business objectives and consumer needs. This requires understanding the user journey at every step, from discovery to advocacy. So how do you do that?

One way to achieve this understanding is to proactively collect both qualitative and quantitative inputs to get the full picture of your user’s true needs and pain points. This could look like collecting in-app feedback, launching user surveys, and performing in-depth analyses of user behavior. These strategies offer valuable insights into user preferences, pain points, and overall satisfaction. This empathy for user needs allows you, as a Product Leader, to create solutions that directly address these pain points.

Use data-driven methodologies to detect trends, patterns, and refinement opportunities within the user journey. Rigorous experimentation and careful monitoring of key performance indicators can enhance user engagement and satisfaction, driving revenue in turn.

Measuring Success: Key Metrics for Evaluating Your Digital User Journeys and Product Experience

Now that you know the experience you want to deliver, it is important to measure how that journey is performing today as you build your new digital programs. Measuring the effectiveness of your user journeys enables you to continuously improve and build data-driven iterations.

When building your product roadmap, it is crucial to have these key performance indicators (KPIs) in place as they provide valuable insights into the gaps and areas for improvement in your user journey. These KPIs not only enable you to make informed decisions but also serve as justifications for any investment in optimizing the digital user journey. It's important to note that driving the digital journey, using tools like Gainsight PX, can involve both discovering necessary product improvements and identifying specific digital touchpoints required to enhance how customers utilize your product. 

Let's delve into key metrics and KPIs to evaluate the performance of your digital user journeys and drive success.

Conversion Rates & Funnel Analysis

Conversion rates give insights into the proportion of users who successfully transition through different stages of the user journey. Examples of conversion you can measure include freemium to paid users and users in the onboarding phase to active users. In return, boost your conversion rates by identifying potential bottlenecks or improvement areas, a feat achievable through tracking conversion rates at each touchpoint and optimizing the user journey accordingly.

For example, in a B2B SaaS product, tracking conversion rates at different stages of the user journey is essential to understand the effectiveness of the customer acquisition process. Product metrics such as trial sign-ups, demo requests, or free trial-to-paid conversion rates play a crucial role in measuring user engagement and the progression toward becoming paying customers. 

Trial sign-ups indicate initial interest and willingness to explore the product, while demo requests suggest a deeper level of engagement, where potential customers are seeking more detailed information about the product. However, it's important to note that trial sign-ups and demo requests alone do not necessarily equate to the conversion to paid customers. 


True conversion occurs when users transition from the trial phase to becoming paying customers. Measuring the free trial-to-paid conversion rates provides valuable insights into the success of converting trial users into paying customers. This indicates the effectiveness of the product, sales process, and overall user journey. By analyzing these conversion metrics, product managers can identify areas of improvement, optimize the user journey, and drive higher conversion rates.

Analyzing funnels allows you to track user behavior and conversion rates at various stages of the user journey, encompassing acquisition, adoption, and retention. Visualizing the user journey as a funnel can help you identify specific steps where users drop off or encounter obstacles, both during trials and throughout the product adoption phases. Funnels can be created to measure user success in activating key features or reaching crucial "aha moments" that drive engagement and retention. This granular approach helps identify friction points and allows you to optimize the user journey to enhance the overall user experience and drive desired outcomes.

In a project management software, funnel analysis may reveal a significant drop-off in engagement after account creation but before core feature usage. You can address this issue by simplifying onboarding, providing clear guidance, and optimizing the user journey. 

For example, you can minimize required information fields and offer brief in-app guides throughout the onboarding process. In some cases, the information fields required may not make sense to users. Instead, you could switch them for surfacing an onboarding checklist in-app to help guide users on what to do next. 

Additionally, provide clear guidance within the user interface, highlighting key features and offering tips on getting the most out of the software. Furthermore, optimize the user interface for improved usability, collaborating with the design and development teams to enhance intuitiveness and aesthetics. 

Product Managers can increase user engagement, promote a positive user experience, and ultimately reduce drop-off rates and improve overall product adoption metrics by simplifying onboarding, providing guidance, and optimizing the user interface.

User Engagement 

User engagement metrics assist you in assessing the level of user involvement and interaction within the product. Depending on your product, engagement metrics could include:

  • Time spent in-app

  • Number of sessions

  • Daily active users (DAU) or monthly active users (MAU)

  • Feature adoption rates

Monitoring user engagement metrics helps you understand how effectively the user journey captures and maintains user interest. These metrics and expected numbers should be tailored to align with the nature of the product. For example, a tax filing software would typically focus on measuring quarterly or annual active users, considering the cyclical nature of tax-related activities. On the other hand, a social media platform would prioritize tracking daily active users due to the frequency of social interactions. It's crucial to align the chosen metrics with the specific product type to ensure they accurately reflect the expected usage patterns and provide meaningful insights into the product's performance and user engagement.

In a B2B collaboration platform, for example, user engagement can be measured by analyzing active user sessions, feature usage, collaboration interactions, or time spent on critical tasks. By identifying areas with low engagement, product teams can optimize those stages to increase user satisfaction, retention, and ultimately Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

Retention and Churn Rates

Retention and churn rates serve as indicators of user loyalty and satisfaction. Monitoring these metrics allows you to understand whether users find value in the product and are motivated to continue using it.

How to prevent churn

To prevent churn and re-engage inactive users, actively monitor usage over time and proactively take steps to re-engage them before they churn. In subscription-based models with annual cycles, make use of the remaining time before renewal to encourage users to discover value in the product. Implement targeted re-engagement strategies and personalized outreach to reignite their interest and remind them of the benefits your product offers. By actively re-engaging inactive users, you can prevent potential churns early and improve user retention rates and improving user retention rates. 

What to do after churn

To better analyze retention, product managers should review usage rates. You may find critical moments of user drop-off within the user journey. When the full user journey you were anticipating they would take, gets cut short, you can take precise actions to create user value sooner, therefore boosting retention and reducing churn.

When it comes to evaluating and optimizing user retention and driving engagement, a tool to consider is Gainsight PX. They offer powerful features and insights that can greatly enhance your understanding of user behavior and improve your product's performance. One of their recommended practices is to conduct a thorough retention analysis, examining how users return to your product over time, segmented by cohorts. Filtering the retention analysis based on feature usage will enable you to identify the key features that actively drive retention.

For a subscription-based streaming service, monitoring retention and churn rates is essential to measure user satisfaction and long-term engagement. You can gain insights into the reasons behind users canceling their subscriptions by examining the churn rate among those who have finished the free trial period. For instance, if there is a significant drop in retention after the first month of paid subscriptions, it could indicate that users are not finding enough value or encountering usability challenges. 

Armed with this insight, you can prioritize improvements such as enhancing content recommendations, improving user interface intuitiveness, or addressing customer support concerns to increase retention rates and foster long-term user loyalty.

Customer Satisfaction

Measuring the effectiveness of your digital user journey involves various metrics, including customer satisfaction. To assess customer satisfaction, you can utilize metrics like:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

  • Customer Effort Score (CES)

NPS quantitatively measures customers' likelihood of recommending your product or service to others, serving as an indicator of satisfaction and loyalty. CSAT measures customer satisfaction at a transactional level, allowing you to collect feedback on specific interactions or experiences. CES evaluates the ease of the customer's experience and measures the level of effort required to achieve their desired outcome.

By leveraging these metrics, you can pinpoint specific touchpoints in the user journey where customers are highly satisfied or face challenges. This valuable feedback enables you to refine your user journey design and optimize crucial aspects such as onboarding, navigation flow, and feature discoverability.

Integrating quanitative scores like NPS with qualitative user data provides a comprehensive view of your users. Through continuous monitoring of customer satisfaction metrics, product managers can make data-driven decisions to enhance the user journey and deliver a positive user experience. This comprehensive understanding of customer satisfaction empowers product teams to address pain points, improve customer retention, and drive overall business success. As a product leader, evaluating customer satisfaction is essential for driving continuous improvement and ensuring customer-centric product development.

Linking user journey metrics to business efficiency metrics, such as CAC or CLV, provides insights into the economic impact of the user journey. Regularly capturing these metrics and KPIs equips you with a comprehensive understanding of how digital user journeys contribute to CLV.

Here’s how to calculate CAC and CLV of your product

You can calculate Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) using the following formulas, but bear in mind calculation methods may vary depending on the specific business context and the availability of accurate data.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC):

CAC = Total Sales and Marketing Expenses / Number of New Customers Acquired

To calculate CAC, product managers need to sum up all the sales and marketing expenses over a specific period and divide it by the number of new customers acquired during the same period. This provides an average cost per customer acquisition.

Customer acquisition cost graphic

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV):

CLV = Average Revenue per Customer (ARPC) * Average Customer Lifespan

To calculate CLV, product managers need to determine the average annual revenue generated per customer (ARPC) and multiply it by the average customer lifespan. ARPC can be calculated by dividing the total revenue generated from customers by the total number of customers. The average customer lifespan can be derived from historical data or estimated based on customer behavior and retention rates.

customer lifetime value graphic

Calculating CAC and CLV will help you gain insights into the effectiveness of your customer acquisition efforts and the long-term value generated from your customer base. These insights allow Product Leaders to identify areas for improvement, help you make informed decisions, and prioritize optimization efforts to enhance the overall product experience and maximize the long-term business value derived from their product. 

Gainsight helps you to track product metrics and KPIs in real time, empowering you to make informed decisions and drive user journey improvements.

With a solid understanding of the impact of the user journey through key metrics, let's now shift our focus to elevating your product experience game and standing out from the competition by creating a culture of innovation and experimentation within your teams! 

Creating a Culture of Innovation and Experimentation

As a Product Leader, you play a crucial role in cultivating a culture of innovation and experimentation within your teams. Encouraging a mindset that embraces new ideas, rewards risk-taking, and empowers team members to test and iterate is critical.

To foster a culture of innovation and informed decision-making, you can start to implement various practices such as regular brainstorming sessions, design sprints, and hackathons. These activities encourage creative thinking and ideation within your product teams, allowing them to generate new ideas and explore potential solutions. Pro tip: you can leverage tools like Gainsight PX to provide valuable product data that identify areas where change is needed. This data-driven approach enables you to A/B tests and allows you to measure the impact of in-app guidance on user experiences and key metrics, ensuring that the implemented changes truly enhance the user journey and drive positive results.

Product teams can develop creative ideas to experiment with new features and iterate based on real-time feedback. Take advantage of closed-loop feedback programs to swiftly collect user feedback on changes, enabling you to make interactive improvements and ensuring continuous communication channels. Keeping communication channels open between teams throughout the process is key to fostering a continuous feedback loop. 

Let’s look at ways you can start doing this today!

1. Embracing Continuous Learning 

As a Product Leader, you can encourage your team by providing opportunities for continuous learning and personal growth. For example, you can organize regular knowledge-sharing sessions where team members can present and discuss new industry trends, emerging technologies, or innovative product strategies. This nurtures a culture of curiosity and encourages team members to stay informed and open to new ideas.

Actively promoting continuous learning and development creates an environment where your team feels motivated, empowered, and inspired to take on new challenges, explore innovative solutions, and drive the success of the product.

Unlock new ways to onboard customers and increase revenue with our Product-Led Growth Micro-Certification (PLGC)™️ 

2. Providing Psychological Safety

Create an environment where team members feel safe to express their opinions, share ideas, and take risks without fear of judgment or repercussions. This encourages open and honest communication, fosters collaboration, and fuels experimentation. Encourage team members to voice their thoughts, challenge existing assumptions, and contribute to the innovation process.

At Spotify, product managers foster psychological safety by implementing "Guilds" - cross-functional groups that encourage knowledge sharing, collaboration, and feedback exchange among employees from different teams.

3. Encouraging Cross-Functional Collaboration

Break down silos and promote collaboration across different functions and teams. This holistic approach ensures that digital user journeys are designed considering the impact on different areas of the product and aligning with overall business objectives.

Collaborating with sales and customer success teams is crucial for driving better outcomes. For example, by empowering your pre and post-sales teams with real-time user data of potential friction areas, you allow the CSM to proactively work with a customer to adopt a new feature and therefore build trust and credibility with that team. Those teams can act fast long before having to wait for new feature releases. These collaborations improve sales effectiveness, enhance product adoption metrics and customer satisfaction, and drive overall business efficiency and growth.

4. Empowering Experimentation

Provide your teams with the necessary resources, support, and autonomy to test new ideas, gather data, and iterate based on the findings. Celebrate and learn from both successes and failures, viewing failures as valuable learning opportunities that fuel future growth.

At Uber, product managers empower experimentation by providing dedicated resources and time for "Innovation Weeks," allowing teams to explore new ideas, conduct research, and build prototypes without regular project constraints.

5. Fostering a User-Centric Mindset

Encourage a deep understanding of the target users and their needs. Harness the power of user feedback, user-oriented research, and data insights to create user experiences that deeply resonate and effectively cater to their needs. Some ways you can do this is by running beta programs, establishing customer advisory groups, and conducting customer research sessions.

At Shopify, Product teams cultivate a user-centric mindset by involving customers in the product development process through "Early Access Programs" and soliciting feedback from a dedicated user community.

Applying User-Centric Decision-Making

User-centric decision-making should be at the core of every Product Leader's approach to shaping digital user journeys. This involves leveraging user research, user testing, and data analytics to inform design decisions. You should invest in gathering insights through user interviews, usability testing, and behavioral analysis to understand user pain points, preferences, and behaviors.

Embracing user-centric decision-making, nurturing cross-functional collaboration, and designing positive user journeys - enables you to lead the way in delivering outstanding product experiences. It is through the product vision, leadership, and dedication to understanding the needs of our users that you can drive the creation of user journeys that captivate, engage, and retain customers. Make sure to seize this opportunity to make a lasting impact on the success of your products and the satisfaction of our users.


Key Takeaways

  • Prioritize user needs and preferences by leveraging user research, feedback, and data analysis to inform design decisions and enhance the product experience.

  • Connect user journey metrics to business efficiency metrics like CAC, CLV, and revenue per user to understand the economic impact of user journey optimization and drive tangible business results.

  • Continuously refine and optimize digital user journeys using data-driven insights and experimentation. Monitor key metrics such as conversion rates, user engagement, retention, and satisfaction to identify areas for improvement.

  • Foster a culture of creativity and experimentation within product teams by embracing continuous learning, providing psychological safety, and encouraging cross-functional collaboration to drive innovation in user journeys and continuous product experience improvements.

Coming Up in Chapter 3

In the next chapter of the playbook, we’ll uncover ways to lower friction, drive innovation and elevate customer satisfaction.

Updated: April 25, 2024

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