The framework for stealing growth strategies from accomplished products

By studying and analyzing the proven effective strategies for other accomplished products, organizations can identify key elements, techniques, and principles that can be applied to their growth efforts.

However, it is not that simple. Had it been so, everyone would have experienced growth. There are more potential landmines than successes. You need to apply a thoughtful framework.

To gain deeper insights, let’s explore a real-life example.

Today we unveil Duolingo’s remarkable growth trajectory alongside with formidable challenges they encountered. PMs & CEOs can drive insights and frameworks from this growth journey.

The vision of Duolingo is “Develop the best education in the world and make it universally available.”

The Growth challenge faced by Duolingo

In the middle of 2018, Duolingo’s daily active users (DAU) grew in the single digits compared to the previous year. This slower growth was concerning, considering the company’s previous rapid expansion. It posed a challenge for the startup as investors were eager to witness accelerated monetization growth.

They first focused on improving retention, i.e. fixing the “leaky bucket” problem. They had a suspicion that they could improve retention through Gamification.

(Side Note: How is Gamification different from User-Centered Design?
User-centred design primarily emphasizes the ease of performing an activity rather than the underlying motivation behind it. While UX experts consider the ease and flow of the experience, they typically do not actively seek to enhance motivation by presenting an inspiring vision that users can rally behind or by intentionally creating emotional scarcity by withholding certain aspects of the experience. The focal point of their approach differs significantly. )

Growth Insight

To jumpstart growth, their initial strategy involved enhancing retention to address the issue of losing customers over time (referred to as the “leaky bucket” problem). They prioritized improving retention rather than acquiring new users, mainly because our new-user acquisition occurred organically. At that point, we lacked a clear method to boost the acquisition of new users significantly.

However, the psychological lessons derived from game mechanics are valuable and worth acquiring.

To begin with, Duolingo had already effectively integrated various gamification mechanics, including the progression system displayed on the home screen, streaks, and an achievements system.

They got inspired by the Gardenscapes game of Candy Crush. It had much higher retention rates than Duolingo.

But there was one small issue: they had no idea which incremental gamification mechanics would work for Duolingo.

Opening Move

Gardenscapes of the Candy Crush mobile game became their first inspiration.

Given the extensive time this generation devotes to playing mobile games, it offers valuable lessons on engagement.

A three-minute Duolingo lesson resembled a match-3 level in Gardenscapes, with both platforms utilizing progress bars to visually indicate the user’s proximity to completing the session.

Gardenscapes, however, paired its progress bar with a moves counter, which Duolingo didn’t do.

How does the game technique “Progress Bar” work?

People are driven by a sense of growth and a need to accomplish a targeted goal.

LinkedIn acknowledges that simply making the interface easier for users to manoeuvre is insufficient. They recognize the need to infuse motivation into the interface. As a result, LinkedIn introduced a small progress bar alongside user profiles to indicate the level of completion. When users encounter a progress bar indicating, for example, 60% completion, it serves as an additional motivator, encouraging them to take the desired action and complete their profiles. Our brains hate it when unfinished things are dangled in front of our faces.

Progress Bars are often used in the onboarding experience. They are one of the simplest game techniques available. However, they may not effectively generate meaningful engagement if not designed properly.

Duolingo team invested several months of work in incorporating the counter. After releasing the update, they eagerly anticipated its resounding success.

First Setback

There was no impact on retention or increase in daily active users (DAU).

Next Move

Feeling discouraged by the gamification results, they pivoted, shifting their focus from improving retention to forming a new product team, the Acquisition Team, dedicated to acquiring new users.

They developed a similar program inspired by Uber’s success in user acquisition through its referral program.

The reward was a free month of our premium subscription, Super Duolingo.

Second Setback

Despite implementing the feature, the increase in new users was only 3%, which fell short of the breakthrough they hoped for.

These consecutive failures in a short span prompted them to reflect on making better product decisions.

Reasons for Failure

The Gardenscapes moves counter was a poor fit for our product. When you are playing Gardenscapes, each move feels like a strategic decision because you must outmanoeuvre dynamic obstacles to find a path to victory. But strategic decision-making isn’t required to complete a Duolingo lesson—you mostly either know the answer to a question or you don’t. It was an unsuitable gamification mechanic for the Duolingo platform.

The referral program failed to replicate Uber’s success. Uber’s model of continuous payments made free rides a constant incentive. Duolingo’s attempt to incentivize users with a free month of Super Duolingo didn’t work because their active users already paid for it. As a result, the strategy excluded its best users, undermining its effectiveness.

In both cases, they had borrowed successful features from other products but in the wrong manner.

Introduced a New Mechanism

Now, when considering the adoption of a feature, they decided to have a three-step filtering process.
They decided to pose the following questions to themselves:
What makes this feature successful in its original product?
How might the success or failure of this feature translate to our specific context?
What adjustments are required to ensure the success of this feature in our context?
They hoped that this new filtering process would work.

Fresh Endeavour

They remained convinced that Gamification was a promising starting point for enhancing retention.

How does the game technique “Leaderboards” work?

Leaderboards are a game feature that ranks users according to specific criteria for their actions. They are intended to motivate people and provide a sense of status. However, if designed poorly, leaderboards can have the opposite effect and demotivate users instead. We often see that leaderboard is applied inappropriately.

If you use a site for a few hours, receive 25 points, and then see it on the Top 20 List, that would discourage you from trying further. Many years ago, Foursquare, a mobile app that incorporated Gamification into the check-in process, encountered this problem.

Another noteworthy aspect is the desire to position the user in the center of the leaderboard display, ensuring that they primarily see the player ranked immediately above and below them. Additionally, seeing oneself ranked as 95,523 out of a million users is not particularly motivating.

If the leaderboard is applied thoughtfully, it drives massive engagement.

While Duolingo had an existing leaderboard for users to compete with friends and family, it didn’t yield significant results. However, they observed that FarmVille 2’s leaderboard, with its “league” system, could be a suitable addition to Duolingo. We love to fight and defeat unknowns but with friends. Duolingo had a feature to compete with friends and family.

They believed this feature would resonate with users as it aligned with the universal motivators of competitiveness and progression.

Finally triumphed after a prolonged effort.

The introduction of leaderboards had a substantial and rapid impact on Duolingo metrics. They saw a 17% increase in overall learning time, and the number of highly engaged learners (those who spend at least 1 hour a day for 5 days a week) tripled.

Reenergized Pursuit

Duolingo had recognized that notifications had the potential to drive significant growth, but our impact in this area had reached a plateau over the years.

Warnings from the Groupon CEO

Groupon’s CEO shared a cautionary tale with Duolingo’s CEO, Luis von Ahn. Groupon began with one email notification per day but questioned if sending more emails would yield better outcomes. They conducted a test by adding an extra daily email, which notably improved their metrics. Encouraged by this success, Groupon continued experimenting and escalated to sending up to five emails per day. However, this aggressive approach eventually caused a sharp decline in the email channel’s effectiveness. The accumulation of excessive email tests gradually undermined the channel’s efficacy over time.

Do this many times, and you’ve destroyed your channel. It was the outcome to avoid.

The unique strategy employed is based on Groupon’s difficulties in email marketing.

Keeping this limitation in mind, they granted the team significant autonomy to optimize various aspects such as timing, templates, images, copy, localization, and more. However, they were not allowed to increase the number of notifications without substantial justification and approval from the CEO.

Deploying the game strategy: Streak

Streak is a game mechanic.
The concept of a streak is quite simple: show users the number of consecutive days they’ve done any activity on the app.

Streaks are effective for many reasons. One of them is that they boost user motivation as the streak grows longer, creating a stronger drive to maintain it.

Duolingo discovered that if users reached a 10-day streak, their chances of dropping off were reduced substantially.

They achieved their first significant victory with the streak-saver notification, which notifies users of streaks when they risk losing their streak.

The streak feature is one of Duolingo’s most powerful engagement mechanics to date.

Another Win

After four years of implementing these initiatives, Duolingo achieved a remarkable 21% increase in user retention. This resulted in a significant decrease of over 40% in the daily churn rate of our most dedicated users. Together with our other successful endeavours, these achievements also contributed to a remarkable 4.5x growth in our paid customer base.

Drawing inspiration from successful products is a common practice for us when seeking growth ideas. Employing this three-step framework as a preliminary evaluation before implementing any tactics would be beneficial.

  • What makes this feature successful in its original product?
    How might the success or failure of this feature translate to our specific context?
    What adjustments are required to ensure the success of this feature in our context?

Insights

9 thoughts on “What is Revenue Cycle Management in Healthcare?

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  2. Чего не умеет «муж на час»?

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  3. A series of cosmic outbursts
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    Pons-Brooks recently captured the attention of astronomers after exhibiting intriguing behavior that caused the comet to have a horned appearance and soar through our solar system.
    The comet has experienced a number of outbursts during the past eight months, causing it to eject gas and dust. While such releases are not uncommon in comets and a crescent or Pac-Man shape has been observed in other ones, it’s difficult to tell what is normal for Pons-Brooks.
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    “I would say it’s somewhat unusual in the number of outbursts it’s been having,” Schleicher said. “On the other hand, it’s not like you have good records from the past to really let you know what is typical. And I suspect given the fairly large number of outbursts that have happened over the last eight months, that this is very clearly a usual occurrence for Pons-Brooks.”

    Comets are chunks of dust, rock and ice, essentially frozen remnants from the formation of the solar system. They also contain frozen elements such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

    Comets heat up and brighten as they approach the sun, and some of the frozen gases stored in comets don’t need to warm up much before they begin to turn into vapor, Schleicher said.

  4. Elon Musk has been getting Trumpier. A direct line to Trump may be next
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    Elon Musk has sought to accumulate political capital commensurate with his extravagant wealth. In the past year, Musk has publicly opined on global conflicts, met with numerous world leaders and US senators to discuss artificial intelligence and his space and satellite technologies. And he has courted senior Chinese officials on their home turf.

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    Musk has discussed advising Trump should he win the 2024 election, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. Musk called Trump directly via cellphone to explore a role that could potentially give Musk significant influence over US policies. It’s not clear based on the Journal’s reporting which party initiated conversations about the potential role.

    The Trump campaign did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment; Musk also did not respond to the Wall Street Journal, but Brian Hughes, a Trump campaign spokesperson, told the outlet: “President Trump will be the only voice of what role an individual plays in his presidency.”

    Musk pushed back on the Journal report in a post on X Thursday, saying: “There have not been any discussions of a role for me in a potential Trump Presidency.”

    However, a potential role in a future Trump administration could expand upon the role that Musk played in the previous Trump administration, when he served on two business advisory councils before quitting them over Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

    The privilege of whispering in Trump’s ear, should he win reelection, could give the billionaire – who is increasingly steeped in the rhetoric and imagery of the conservative culture wars – even more power on the global stage. Reporting that Musk and Trump’s relationship has improved comes after Musk’s politics have become more aligned with Trump’s.

    Musk has made supporting right-wing causes — and extremism, in some situations — increasingly central to his identity. He has vocally opposed Covid-19 lockdowns and embraced anti-vaccine ideology. He has elevated conservative speech on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter that he purchased in 2022. And he has pushed racist conspiracy theories about immigration.

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