How did we just kill it taking our North-Star metric to 57% which led to Day 1 retention 70%? 💯💯



Welcome back to my weekly newsletter. This is going to be a series of blogs covering how we came up with the idea of Calm Sleep, scaled it to over 700,000 users in less than a year with less than a $1,000 total investment. 🌱


I’m Akshay Pruthi, an entrepreneur who loves to build products from the ground up. Over the past 6 years, I have built multiple products from scratch and scaled them to millions of users. This is my attempt to share our most important lessons from building one of those apps: Calm Sleep. 🤗


Note - Calm Sleep is my side hustle that I started with Ankur Warikoo, Anurag Dalia, and a team of 3.


Every week I will publish an article about a different problem we faced while building Calm Sleep. Last week, we discussed the importance of setting up a ritual early on in one’s startup journey and how data matched with user feedback can be used as a powerful tool for product insights.

This week, I am going to cover:

  1. There came a point when our users started telling us what to build.

  2. How did we activate the dormant users?


When did we know we should launch sleep stories and meditation?

Our users had started expressing that they would want sleep stories and meditation too.

But how does one use this feedback to launch a feature? If users come complaining about launching a feature, should one launch it?

Let’s try to answer these questions 🥸


Top Feature Request 1: Launch Sleep Stories and Meditation


When our users started giving us some indications, we questioned ourselves.


“How can we be 100% sure if 80% of our users would want this feature?”


The answer was simple: Ask your users.


What could be the best way to ask the users without any biases?


Here’s how you approach this question in a fundamental way!




Here’s how we did it!

We came up with an interesting way to deal with the same. We started showing the following pop-up to all the users asking them, what would they like to listen to?

Based on their responses, we would force them to listen to sleep sounds by nudging them.

This helped us collect the intent of the users without any bias.


We observed, 50% of the users opted for Sleep Sounds upfront, 23% opted for stories and 27% opted for meditation.

User feedback also showed that the majority of the users had an intent to listen to sleep stories and meditation.


So we launched Sleep Stories and Meditation.

It was a smooth transition from the current designs. We used to ask the intent behind the users’ desire to download the app- be it Sleep Sounds, Stories, or Meditation. We kept it that way and based on what they selected, we landed the user to that particular tab.


Top Feature Request 2: Make sounds available to listen to offline

We got 20+ reviews around wanting the option to listen to sound offline.


The strongest hypothesis which convinced us to launch this feature was that people wanted to go away from the noise of social media. Keeping internet-enabled while listening to sleep music was a big distraction considering the frequency of message notifications. If they have the sounds offline, they can switch off the internet and still enjoy the calm sleep music 😀


Our user base experienced a massive spike.


And we were seeing a decent number of active installs on the PlayStore Console.

Question was, how do we reactivate the dormant users?


Idea: Notifications

We were already sending notifications which, by the way, had an amazing CTR (~14%).

From data, we observed the peak times, when the majority of the people open our app, was unsurprisingly at night. We assumed, this was the time when an X country goes to sleep and scheduled a notification at that time.


Still, the gap between the active installs and people opening the app even on a weekly basis was increasing 😰


We looked at the data. We observed that our notification delivery rate was less than 55%. 45% of our users were not getting our notifications 🤯


We dug deeper to understand why that is happening. What we learnt was something we had never imagined to be the case. For a lot of devices, the mobile OS automatically turns off the notification if the user is inactive for some time. They do this to improve the battery levels of the phone. Though the downside is, you don’t receive the notifications!


We had to solve this! 🥸


This is how we did it:

  1. We asked our users if they would want us to explicitly remind them to sleep at their requested time.

  2. To the ones who responded yes (almost 76%), we started sending them a pop-up notification

Hallelujah! 🥲


Time for results! 🥶

  1. Impact of launching Stories and Meditation: After adding Stories and Meditations, we witnessed an increase in Day 1 retention from 25% to 45% of those who opted for either stories or meditation.

  2. The Impact of pop-up notification of pop-up notification? We saw an increase in our DAU by 23%. The retention numbers without notification pop up were:


We saw our sound completion rate was touching 57% with Day 1 retention close to 68%. Over time, we observed our Day 30 retention which was somewhere around 20%.


These numbers were looking very promising, offering us yet another reason to celebrate! 🥳


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