How to Use Interactive Demos for In-App Activation

8 minute read

Setting up integrations, configuring admin access, and general busyness are all major blockers to user activation.

So how can you motivate people to cross the finish line?

Interactive product demos can improve free trial activation by getting users excited about the value of your product and encouraging them to jump into the tool and reach the aha moments they need to convert.

Below, we’ll share how to incorporate interactive demos into your onboarding process, along with examples from three of our customers.

In-app activation benchmarks

Before we dive into how to improve your activation rates, it’s helpful to see a benchmark of how other SaaS companies’ activation rates stack up.

OpenView, a VC firm that invests in product-led companies, explains that activation rates “vary significantly” based on how users enter and interact with your product.

After surveying over 1,000 SaaS professionals, the firm found that free trial and freemium activation rates hover between 20% and 40%.

Openview PLG benchmarks

Importantly, OpenView says “focusing on delivering value” can raise and optimize activation rates.

How interactive demos can improve activation rates

Interactive demos boost activation rates in two main ways: demonstrating value and enabling quick iteration.

1. Get users to aha moments faster

An aha moment is a point at which most users grasp your product’s value. Ideally, your free trial or freemium plan gives users multiple aha moments, highlighting the many ways they can use your product and the ROI they can expect from it.

One of our customers, Trainual, used Navattic to showcase a curated and interactive version of what it felt like to use their product.

Their goals were two-fold:

  1. Getting users to lightbulb aha moments before even starting a trial
  2. To communicate Trainual’s value early in the evaluation process

By adding an interactive demo to their website, Trainual saw a +100% lift in users reaching activated trial status seven days post-signup.

2. Faster time to deploy experiments

Since interactive demos are no-code, you don’t have to wait weeks or months to try activating users in new ways. You have total control over the demo experience.

Another of our customers, Phrase, has capitalized on fast experimentation without having to engage engineers or IT:

“From start to finish, our team was able to build and launch the demo without ever needing to engage engineering resources. We were able to build out our first end-to-end demo experience in a matter of days, a project that could have taken weeks if we needed to engage other teams.”

How to add demos to product onboarding

Adding demos to your free trial and freemium workflows is relatively easy. Here are three ways you can get started:

Option #1 (easy): Add product tours to email onboarding sequences

Chances are, you have an onboarding email sequence to remind users that the free trial exists and describe the features they can explore.

So, why not add an interactive demo to your flow?

Navattic customer, MonitorQA, decided to include interactive demos in their onboarding email series to expose users to more of the product’s high-value features and get them to re-engage with the free trial.

“We have seen an increase in people ultimately setting up their free trials than we did before. This has caused the number of abandoned trial accounts to dramatically decrease so much to the point it’s no longer a pain point on our radar.”

You could even consider making multiple demos — one for each important feature — and adding those to corresponding onboarding emails to increase the likelihood of activation.

Option #2 (medium): Add an interactive demo as an exit intent pop up

It’s easy for users to get distracted and bounce from a free trial. Exit pop ups can prevent that from happening by prompting users to keep going.

Using interactive demos as exit pop ups can offer additional setup help and underscore the value of your product in general. Free trailers may not know how to set up the product or what the product’s value prop is.

Set an exit intent pop up to appear after a certain amount of inactivity so that you don’t lose disengaged free trialers forever.

Option #3 (advanced): Include demos in your product onboarding experience

This option is the best way to make sure your users get adequately acquainted with your product, but it can be tricky without technical help.

Luckily, our partner Chameleon has made the process of integrating interactive demos into product onboarding a breeze. With the Navattic-Chameleon integration, you can launch in-app interactive demos from any prebuilt Chameleon Experience.

It’s simply a matter of enabling Navattic in your Chameleon instance and then copying and pasting embed code into your Experience.

Navattic Chameleon Integration

Once that’s done, your free trialers or freemium users will have the option to “See Demo” before diving in, opening your demo in full screen and pointing them directly to where they need to go.

Three top customer in-app examples

Let’s take a look at how three B2B SaaS companies have added interactive demos to their onboarding experience.

1. MonitorQA

Mobile inspection software, MonitorQA, has a complex backend that’s tough for free trailers to navigate.

To avoid dropoff, the Monitor QA team triggers an exit intent pop up when a free trailer is inactive for a certain period of time.

MonitorQA pop up

By suggesting they go through a tour, MonitorQA ensures that users complete the setup process, see the most notable features, and hit critical aha moments.

2. Matillion

Like MonitorQA, Matillion has a somewhat complicated product, meaning some users need extra guidance to figure out how data transformation works.

To make sure they’re meeting user needs, the marketing team presents free trailers with a choice — go through a product tour or dive straight into the tool:

Matillion free trial onboarding pop up

Within the tour, users are presented with even more options. They can start from the beginning, transforming or cleansing their data. Or, they can view their credit consumption or explore other Matillion functionality.

Matillion interactive demo

Giving users a choice of how and what they learn increases the chances they’ll stick around and helps them appreciate the product’s overall value.

3. Datadog

Datadog, a cloud monitoring service, uses interactive demos in their security management product free trial.

When users log in, they have multiple ways to get started — including immediate access to a guided tour. Clicking the “See a Guided Tour” button takes users to a full-screen tab with an interactive demo.

Datadog free trial with Guided Tour CTA

The interactive tour takes them through the complex product, highlighting Datadog’s reliability, performance, and vulnerability monitoring services in a seamless, intuitive way.

Datadog guided demo

After the demo concludes, prospects have a better idea of what the security management module can do and how it works with other existing features, enabling them to use their free trial to the fullest.

Interactive demos can be instrumental in driving activation — but that’s not all they can do. Read our guides to learn more ways to maximize your interactive demo ROI:


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