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From good to great: how product managers drive optimization and enhance product success

You’ve launched your product, achieved product-market fit, and acquired some customers. Congrats! You’re heading in the right direction, but you’ve only scratched the surface. Now the real work begins.  

Your product is a complex, ever-changing, and evolving entity. Its performance and success rely on making the most out of what’s already working and applying small tweaks that lead to significant improvements, aka product optimization.

Enhance your optimization with product experience insights

Hotjar helps you optimize your product on a solid, user-centric foundation to deliver small changes that have a big impact.

Great product managers (PMs) know that shipping a product is only the start. They’re keen on continuous discovery and iteration. 

Optimization lets PMs learn from what works for their users and prioritize changes that increase the product’s value even more. These product manager optimizations shape a mindset that’s great for teams—but it’s even better for customers, whose needs take center stage as the foundation for a delightful user experience (UX).

🚀 Summary

Product optimization is all about transforming data into targeted improvements to maximize the product’s performance, value, and impact. 

These relatively minor changes to products, features, and initiatives you’ve already set up have a big impact on

  • Improving customer satisfaction, by meeting real user needs at the right moment, and increasing user engagement and loyalty

  • Increasing conversions and revenue, by converting users into loyal customers, and contributing to long-term business growth

  • Enhancing performance, by resolving bugs, bottlenecks, and crashes to improve reliability and responsiveness

  • Increasing competitiveness, by offering users better features, functionality, or overall value than your competitors

To refine successful products, the best PMs focus on subtle, often-overlooked methods of product optimization, including

3 ways great product managers optimize product performance 

A great product optimization framework involves identifying areas for improvement, making changes, and continuously iterating for the best outcome. 

It begins with researching customer needs and preferences and analyzing data, continues with implementing CRO activities and creating prototypes, and ends with testing them to see how they perform.

These are the three areas where you can make the most difference, improve what’s already working, and help your product perform even better:

1. Analyze user behavior and feedback to see what’s working and why

Product optimization isn’t about hunches and guesswork—it’s about using data to make incremental changes and maximize existing features. And to collect this data, you need a great tech stack.

Use these tools to make your product research process easier, faster, and full of actionable insights: 

Analytics tools to track user actions and preferences

Analytics tools give you a bird's-eye view of how users engage with your product—what drives results and what could still be improved.

With the right mix of user behavior and product insights tools, you unearth a rich stream of information you can use to understand your customers’ needs and frustrations. Here are our suggestions: 

  • Google Analytics: the classic must-have tool for analyzing web and app traffic so you can better understand how different user segments behave, flag conversion issues, and tailor content and products to increase engagement even more.

  • Mixpanel: dive into more granular data by tracking how customers use your product—from navigation to the most popular product features. This data can inform product and feature development, optimizations, and iterations.

  • Hotjar: a comprehensive digital experience insights suite that provides quantitative data through Heatmaps and more granular, qualitative information through Recordings, Surveys, Interviews, and Feedback widgets. Product managers can use these insights to ensure they’re making the right decisions about what to optimize.

💡 Pro tip: combine analytics tools for the perfect quantitative and qualitative data mix.

Hotjar fills in the gaps left by tools like Mixpanel and Google Analytics to help you improve aspects of product manager optimizations like ongoing product research and experimentation. For example:

  • Connect what's happening in the user journey with why it happens by analyzing recordings and heatmaps filtered by events already set up in Google Analytics

  • Ask users about their experience, needs, and frustrations by triggering a survey when they complete a key action and trigger a Mixpanel event in your product—so you can confidently move forward with improvements

  • Enhance your Google Analytics quantitative data with the related recordings from Hotjar to add support to your hypothesis for a product improvement opportunity

This helps product teams stay connected to the user experience and understand what needs to be optimized or fixed to better solve customer problems and increase product performance.

Find out what's happening in Google Analytics, understand why in Hotjar

Heatmaps and screen recordings to analyze user behavior and engagement

Nothing helps you understand how your customers use your product like seeing it with your own eyes. 

Tools like heatmaps and screen recordings are visual representations of users interacting with your product, showing you things like where they spend most of their time, and how they convert or drop off—so you can iterate, improve, and optimize brilliantly. Here’s how to use them:

  • Heatmaps: use Hotjar Heatmaps to analyze aggregate user behavior on your website and see which elements users click and scroll through. This data about your product’s most popular and unpopular elements will help you identify how to analyze and optimize your site, which on-page elements to optimize, and how to optimize landing pages to provide customers with the best possible experience. 

  • Session recordings: watch Hotjar Recordings to get a play-by-play of how individual users interact with your features by analyzing mouse movements, scrolls, and navigation. Recordings give you insights through the customer’s eyes so you can optimize and iterate on your features based on a genuine understanding of the customer experience.

Capturing this user data will help you better address customer needs, making it easier to improve a feature that’s standing out, optimize your UX, and create a brilliant product for your users.

#Choose the type of Hotjar Heatmap that best aligns with your optimization goal
Choose the type of Hotjar Heatmap that best aligns with your optimization goal

Surveys, interviews, and widgets to gather direct feedback

Surveys and interviews give you first-hand, voice of the customer (VoC) feedback to iterate and improve your product. Complement these insights with a Feedback widget to test effectiveness and hear directly from customers about what’s going well, how to replicate it, and where to optimize for even better performance.

  • Surveys: quickly and cost-effectively gather feedback from a large group to identify patterns and trends in user behavior. Use tools that allow you to choose specific user segments and personas to survey. For example, Hotjar lets you choose to survey only users who convert, so you can find out what made them decide to start using your product.

  • Interviews: gather insights on user attitudes, behavior, and nuanced feedback—but in a more intimate, one-on-one setting. Using tools like Hotjar Engage allows you to reach out to participants who accurately represent your target audience, and host, record, and transcribe your calls—so no detail is lost.

  • Feedback widgets: gather real-time feedback from users as they interact with your product and incorporate their insights into your optimization process, bridging the gap between user needs and product development.

Gathering this kind of qualitative data will give you a clearer picture of what needs to be addressed and how best to address it.

💡 Pro tip: use Feedback to gather evidence from users, and connect it to Slack via Hotjar’s Slack integration. This way, every time a user leaves feedback, you get a notification on Slack and can tag your team, or discuss it with them in one place.

Hotjar’s Slack integration pushes Hotjar data into your Slack workspace

Funnels to understand user flows and conversion journeys

Funnels are a critical tool in any product manager’s kit: they map your flow of product users to a set of specific steps that result in conversions or signups. Great PMs use funnel analysis to trace the user journey throughout their product and optimize it. Here’s how:

  • Determine where high-quality visitors come from: when you understand how users who convert reach your product, you can focus more on those acquisition channels and increase the likelihood of conversions

  • Find the high-traffic, high-exit pages where people are leaving: knowing where in the journey users drop off helps you focus your optimization efforts on the biggest opportunities

  • Understand which strategies drive results: learn from your highest-converting flows and replicate your winning formula to increase conversion rates

Having the right tools to map out and analyze your funnels is crucial to getting the most out of them. Use them to gather the data you need to replicate your most fruitful flows and optimize your less successful ones, so you can improve conversions and drive real results.

  • Mixpanel Funnels: dive deep into user behavior to measure product performance—learn which features are popular, who your power users are, and the behaviors tied to long-term retention. Use Mixpanel Funnels to analyze common paths people take, then focus your time on optimizing the parts of your user experience that matter most.

  • Hotjar Funnels: combine funnel reports with additional analytics insights like recordings, so you can identify actions and understand what drives them. Using Hotjar Funnels means that you can see screen recordings of users who dropped off the funnel with just one click, discover what’s causing the issue, and fix it, enabling you to send more traffic down your funnels to the pages that matter.

Product manager optimizations in action: Audiense uses Hotjar insights to improve with each iteration

Juan Fernandez, Head of Product at Audiense, uses Hotjar to gain greater empathy for their users and improve both their funnels and their products with each iteration.

For example, when he noticed steps in their conversion funnel that were confusing customers and causing them to abandon their purchase, Hotjar Recordings allowed the Audiense team to identify and fix the UX issues, and keep bettering the product. Every small improvement increased conversions by a significant 10%–20%.

The team also uses Recordings after launching a new feature. Their process involves watching around 100–300 sessions, taking notes, looking for behavior patterns, and identifying the challenges customers face. Then, they brainstorm solutions and iterate on the ideas to help them overcome the challenges they’ve identified.

Learn more about how the Audiense team boosts conversions and product adoption with decisions backed by Hotjar insights.

#Product manager optimizations in action: Audiense uses Hotjar insights to improve with each iteration
Product manager optimizations in action: Audiense uses Hotjar insights to improve with each iteration

2. Identify bottlenecks and areas of improvement to fine-tune product performance

In the quest for product optimization, your users are your best resource. Authentic customer insights and opinions are critical to understanding which features to prioritize and the changes you need to introduce to optimize your product. Next, you need to set clear, attainable goals for your optimization efforts. 

Define pain points and areas of friction

Dive into the data sources above to identify pain points, bottlenecks, and frustration—anything impeding user interaction, productivity, or satisfaction. See where users are getting stuck or dropping off and find opportunities to optimize their journey. 

Complement Hotjar data with insights from other tools:

  • Datadog: track potential issues at an infrastructure level. Analyze recordings to watch the issue take place, and use console tracking to see the details of the error. Understanding what happened is the first step to optimizing the end-user experience.

  • Mixpanel: build cohorts of churned users and look at what the main reasons for downgrades are—like cost objection, not getting enough value, rarely using the product, or a technical reason. Then deploy a Hotjar exit-intent survey to ask for feedback directly so your users can give you the insights you need to make impactful changes.

  • Segment: use this tool for further segmentation, to study trends on a specific subset of users and put together a targeted optimization strategy for churn deflection. Integrating Segment with Hotjar helps you understand what each group needs to get to their ‘aha!’ moment, which is when they find value in your product and, ultimately, commit to a purchase.

With this suite of tools in hand, you can begin to streamline your user research, validate concepts, keep your team connected with user needs, and integrate customer feedback into product priorities. 

Create a clear optimization roadmap

Use the data you collected in the previous step to create a product optimization roadmap and break it down into product stories. List these out and develop a prioritization framework to set your focus and develop a backlog to maximize time, energy, and resources.

Establishing a roadmap boosts continuous discovery—gathering information about your customers to validate and refine your product ideas. This is essential when it comes to building a product and optimizing features that delight customers.

Finally, transform your top priorities into SMART objectives by adding time constraints and success metrics. For example, if you’ve discovered that onboarding is a common complaint, you could set the objective “to improve onboarding rates by 50% over the next six months.”

Product manager optimizations in action: ClassHero uses Hotjar to inspire lightbulb moments

The team at ClassHero is constantly launching new features and building new functionality. To keep on top of any new issues or opportunities that pop up, Sales Operations Manager John Gilmore uses Hotjar Recordings.

Session recordings help John spot little things that could dramatically improve the user experience, like when he realized that making the homework preview section more visible would encourage users to take the next critical step in the conversion funnel. 

Since the change, the percentage of new users who hit the critical next milestone after onboarding has more than doubled, from 30% to 65%. 

Learn more about how ClassHero reversed a 48% drop in conversions.

#Hotjar Recordings helped John push his fixes right to the top of the priority list
Hotjar Recordings helped John push his fixes right to the top of the priority list

3. Address performance issues and optimize UX to supercharge product effectiveness

Once you have a strong sense of user problems, you can start thinking about solutions. 

Your customer-centric CRO efforts so far—like conducting surveys and analyzing recordings—have given you priceless user insights. Part of your job as a product manager involves transforming these insights into activities that improve and enhance the user experience

UX optimization and CRO share a focus on making your product accessible, engaging, and easy to use. They ensure every task on your product is easy to perform and each step in the conversion process flows logically. 

Overall, investing in the user experience will help you create a more valuable product that solves problems for your users and helps them reach their goals more effectively. In turn, this translates to increased conversions and revenue.

Iterative development and testing

As you go through your optimization roadmap, make small, incremental changes to your UX and test to see if they work. The goal is to establish a process with near-constant experimentation, where you try changes one at a time, quickly deploying them to a subset of the users and measuring the results.  

Test your iterations in whatever way makes the most sense. If you’re working on an improvement to a web page, for example, you might want to A/B test it against your current page. If you’re creating a new product or feature, consider doing usability testing with a set of potential customers. 

Create regular touchpoints in the design and delivery process to check in with users and stakeholders and validate each iteration as you go for agile product management.

The key to this iterative process is trial and error: your team works to refine and improve your product based on feedback or new information, and the product gets better over time as a result of these changes.

💡 Pro tip: complement your experiments with product experience insights from Hotjar.

When running tests, you’ll want to know what UX updates to make, and how each one performs, based on all the user feedback you collect.

A/B tests can reveal what users like or dislike about your product. But they lack context—the answer to why users prefer one variation over another. Product experience (PX) insights help you confidently fill in the gaps for a comprehensive understanding of user behavior.

Hotjar integrations make it easy to act on that feedback and create more engaging experiences. Conduct effortless A/B testing with Optimizely or Omniconvert, then filter your session recordings and user feedback by experiment to understand how users interact with different versions of your product and what you can do to optimize their experience.

Spot something interesting? With our Slack integration, send specific session recordings to your team members—and start an early conversation about your findings.

Hotjar’s Slack integration makes it simple to communicate with team members about A/B test results

Monitoring and evaluating the impact of each iteration

No optimization plan is complete without determining how you’ll track progress and results. As a PM, you need to keep an eye on key metrics and report on their evolution.

The product metrics and KPIs you define in your product roadmap help you see an even broader picture and measure your progress. As you select which conversion rate optimization metrics to track, ask yourself:

  • What does success look like in three months, six months, and one year? For example, you could aim to increase the customer retention rate by 25% in six months, and increase revenue by 10% in one year. 

  • How and when will your team review the product optimization roadmap and assess the progress made? For example, your team could meet monthly to track progress on KPIs, and biannually to evaluate the roadmap’s performance—including whether it needs revising.

💡 Pro tip: understand the why behind your product metrics with Hotjar. 

Set up dedicated Hotjar Dashboards for each of your areas of interest. For instance, when you release a new feature, you can track its adoption, watch related recordings, and analyze important metrics like bounce rate and average session duration—all from one centralized location. Filters let you get very granular and segment the data based on what you need.

But you can also have dashboards to monitor the performance of your homepage, or your onboarding flow. 

Because everything is in one place, it’s easy to put together your reports and combine the quantitative insights of Funnels and Trends with the qualitative data from Heatmaps, Recordings, and Surveys, so you can weave a comprehensive narrative about the pages or features you're trying to optimize.

View important user metrics on Hotjar Dashboards and figure out the why behind the numbers

Product manager optimizations in action: Hussle leans on Hotjar tools for continuous discovery

Luke Calton, Product Lead at Hussle, uses Hotjar’s range of features to gather the product experience insights he needs to build a better product for his users.

He’s first to know when there’s a problem and can ship improvements that will really help. Similarly, he can spot opportunities for optimization and prioritize the right changes fast.

To do this, he couples Hotjar insights with user testing: “It’s a powerful thing—I spot insights in Hotjar, implement a change, then test with users.” Luke uses

  • Recordings to collect the data needed to make dozens of small but vital UX changes. The team learns from the user, in the moment, to create a product that delivers.

  • Surveys to interview over 1,000 users who have left Hussle, right after they cancel their subscription. Each survey response tells its own story and can help Luke identify small bugs, or discover larger UX or PX problems. 

  • A Feedback widget on the signup page to ensure customers are using a product that’s uniquely designed to match their needs.

  • Hotjar’s Slack integration to send every recording containing a rage click straight to a specific Hussle Slack channel, which Luke calls “a folder of absolute pain.”

  • The Customer Success team to help check support tickets and look at heatmaps of the page to see an aggregate of where users click, scroll, and move.

Learn more about what Hussle discovers by watching eight minutes of Hotjar Recordings every day.

#With Hotjar Feedback, users give feedback when they encounter a problem
With Hotjar Feedback, users give feedback when they encounter a problem

Next steps to product optimization

As a product manager, you have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to your business and your users. Optimizing your product is one of your most important contributions—but it's not easy to get right.

There’s no substitute for listening to your customers and caring deeply about their experience. Stellar product managers don’t stop at analyzing user behavior—they dig to unearth users' underlying needs, and use tools like Hotjar for data-driven decision-making and improvements. 

Instead of constantly reinventing the wheel, the best PMs leverage user insights to refine successful products through continuous, incremental changes. Ultimately, their product manager optimizations are what make a difference between good products and amazing ones. 

Enhance your optimization with product experience insights

Hotjar helps you optimize your product on a solid, user-centric foundation to deliver small changes that have a big impact.

FAQs about product optimization