top of page

How we improved our retention from Day 1 ~20% to 40%? 🚀

Updated: May 7, 2021

In this article, we will cover:

  1. How we identified the missing features? Which new facets will build on user satisfaction? 🤔

  2. The importance of setting up a ritual early on. 😋

  3. What our numbers looked like after the changes? 😬

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 a million 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. This week, I am going to cover how we decided on our North-Star metric to bring things on track and the action points that helped us move the numbers.

Last week, we discussed the importance of setting up a North-Star metric. This week, let’s try to understand how the metric pointed us in the right direction, as far as deciding on the right features to craft meaningful and delightful user experiences was concerned. We will also cover the importance of setting up a ritual early on in the company. Let’s get to it! 😃

How Did We Identify What’s Missing? 🤔

  1. Studying feedback

We were starting to get feedback from the users. They complained about how the music never shuts off, eventually disrupting their sleep in the middle of the night as they were forced to turn it off themselves in the middle of the night.

We got some 8-10 reviews around it.

2. Matching the same with data analysis.

The shorter-duration sounds had the highest completion rate ~42%. However, users were also listening to sounds that were 2-3 hours long. As users were waking up an hour later to turn it off, the sound completion event for the long sounds would never have been triggered. This helped us understand that ‘Sound Completion’ was a false metric to track.

Therefore we decided to launch a feature of a timer. Users could now add a timer to the sleep sound. So, if they wanted to listen to a sleep sound for 1 hour, they would set the timer to 60 minutes and so on.

Why Did We Add this Feature?

a. We were listening to our users

b. It felt like a natural behaviour and an upgrade in user experience.

You wouldn’t want to wake up in the night to shut off the music. You would want to have a smooth and automatic turn-off. We knew this feature would reduce the engagement time and also avg number of sounds played per day, but above everything, our metric is user satisfaction.

3. Users who were coming to the app the next day, what were they doing?

We discovered that users were listening to the same sleep sound that helped them sleep the previous day. That’s brilliant 🙃We knew they were on the path of becoming power users.

With this insight, we decided to check how easy it was for the user to go back and listen to the same sound. The user journey would look like this: As a user, I would open the app, select the category where my favourite sound is, scroll through if the sound is not at the top of the page and click to listen.

Can we improve this user journey?

😃Hell yes! We added "Recently Listened"

New user journey would look like:

As a user, I would open the app and see my recently listened sounds.

4. Users who installed the app in the daytime, what were they doing?

This was a pretty interesting analysis. We assumed most of the app discovery should happen in the nighttime. Looking at some initial data, we saw 20% of user installs happened in the daytime. How can we remind these users to come through at night and sleep?

So, for users who launched the app for the first time between 9 AM to 6 PM, we used to show this bedtime reminder pop up to them.

This helped set up a bedtime reminder alarm service for the users who were coming to the app during the day.

It’s such a delight when you think you seem to have cracked it 😄

But, let’s not get excited 🤞


Digressing a bit..

As per our set ritual, we used to release an update almost every week and look for early data insights during our Thursday meetings.

Before I jump to the insights (oh yes, we were taken by surprise), I would want to emphasize the importance of setting up a ritual early on in your start-up journey especially when your team is remote.

I am overly obsessed with setting up rituals as I have seen it working. There have been times when we started off with a ritual in my previous companies but never followed through, dropping it after an odd 3-4 months. Let’s first understand what a Ritual is?

What’s a Ritual?

"A ceremonial act or action” A ritual is an act or action you set up in your company to foster a supportive culture.

Why is it needed?

It helps create a shared identity. It brings the team members together, reminding them of the core values of the company, strengthening the bond, what’s more, it helps inculcate a practice of sharing ideas to foster a powerful culture to achieve higher goals.

More about it here and here.

What changed in our company after setting a Ritual up?

We started off with one ritual:

1-hour weekly call among the stakeholders in the following format:

  1. 5 minutes of catching up with each other.

  2. 10 minutes to run through important metrics like DAU, MAU, Day 1, Day 7, Day 30 retention, Sounds Completion Rates.

  3. 30 minutes of detailed analysis on the last update.

  4. 15 minutes of Q&A and drumming up action items for the coming week.

No matter what, we all used to come for this call because we were super enthusiastic to meet each other week after week to learn how the last update performed and how we could evolve to offer greater value to our users.

We have been doing it consistently to date and I believe, this is one of the core reasons behind our success. It helped us be more disciplined, helped align all stakeholders and drove team members to offer ideas for better actionability.


Our Thursday meeting happened! 🤩

  1. Impact of Timer Feature: It proved to be a very useful feature and increased new user “play” to “sound completion” rate from 30% to 52%. 83% of the users who completed the timer came back on Day 1.

  2. Impact of Recently Played Feature: We observed, 68% of the people playing sounds from recently played were coming back the next day. (And eventually 21% people on Day 30)

  3. Impact of “BedTime Reminder” Feature: The alarm did help in retaining the users the next day but only 20% of these users were coming to use the app at night. To build a habit, the alarm had to be a part of the core loop - Bringing the user to play a sleep sound.

Launching "BedTime Reminder" proved to be a good loop completion feature that reminded people at their respective sleep times. This contributed to a 7% increase in our completion rates.

We were happy 😍

Learnings from this article:

  1. The power of combining user feedback with data analysis is going to give you astronomical results. 🚀

  2. Revisiting the user journeys and optimizing them for the users can help you unlock aha! user experience.

  3. To do all of this consistently for months, years, you need common grounds for the entire team to connect to. That’s where setting up a Ritual comes into play. The said Ritual could be anything as long as it unites the team to function towards a common goal and is performed consistently.

52% time completion and 40% Day 1 retention was not our benchmark. We believed that we could do better. We had more cards to play, more things to keep the users hooked, more things for the users to look forward to.

We decided to launch Sleep Stories and Sleep Meditation. With some further iterations on the product, our Day 1 jumped to 70%.

How did we just kill it taking our north star metric to 57% which led to Day 1 retention 70%? Let’s discuss this in my next article.


I publish weekly blogs where I share everything I learn.
Subscribe below to stay updated! 👇🏽

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page