The rise, fall, and way forward for Evernote

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Welcome again for episode two of Tradeoffs, the present the place Hiten Shah of FYI and I check out how standard firms make selections and the influence of these selections. This week, we’re investigating an organization that each Hiten and I’ve seemed as much as prior to now — note-taking and group powerhouse Evernote. They’re a longtime chief available in the market and one of many first movers within the area, however the tradeoffs they’ve made to get there have put the corporate in dire straits.

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The most important drawback Evernote has is product-market match. As massive as Evernote is, they actually don’t have a deal with on what their clients truly need. And whereas a powerful freemium acquisition technique netted them 225M customers, they’re not benefiting from that base in any respect. As an 11-year-old firm, we are able to assume that they’re battling some fairly robust tech debt points as properly, which actually isn’t place to be with so many new rivals coming into the market.

The Tradeoffs

  • Relying closely on freemium acquisition as an alternative of product growth early on leaves Evernote with a ton of unengaged and sad customers.
  • Early experimentation with area of interest merchandise like Evernote Meals failed and pulled the main focus away from their core worth proposition — syncing seamlessly throughout units. These failures additionally helped rivals see precisely what to not do as they constructed their very own apps.
  • Making an attempt to construct a product that happy everybody led to stagnated growth and unfocused options, making it tougher to compete as new providers entered the market.

How freemium acquisition can go flawed over time

Evernote was one of many first massive freemium gamers in 2008, and so they executed that acquisition technique higher than anybody else. They have been additionally one of many first firms to double down on cellular apps. Driving that main curve helped propel their progress early on, however once they didn’t change with the instances, it put Evernote in a extremely troublesome place.

Their largest mistake was ready too lengthy to revamp their pricing mannequin, giving free customers a big period of time to get used to and depend on sure options. By including limits to the variety of units a consumer can sync to on their free plan, they successfully alienated a giant a part of their consumer base.

Had Evernote made these modifications earlier of their lifecycle, clients would have been skilled to anticipate extra modifications of their plans. Whereas each Hiten and I don’t know if limiting syncing on units was the only option once they up to date their plan, it’s laborious to see if there’s one other worth metric that may have been a better option. Limiting accounts primarily based on variety of notes or storage dimension may doubtlessly have the identical detrimental impacts on buyer notion of their model.

Once we requested clients, How disillusioned would you be when you may not use Evernote? They acquired a product-market match rating of 23%, that means that solely 64 of 277 folks we surveyed could be disillusioned if they may not use the service.

Product market fit score

What we’re on the lookout for is a threshold of a minimum of 40%. Which means that Evernote isn’t offering the kind of worth that clients anticipate from a note-taking app. And to maneuver the needle on that quantity, they’ll need to make important modifications in the way in which they consider their clients.

We adopted as much as ask clients why they might be disillusioned, and right here’s what we discovered:

  • 25% mentioned it retains them organized – “I take advantage of Evernote to arrange purchasing lists, hold observe of children actions, and make lists for virtually all the things in my life.”
  • 14% mentioned they use it for taking vital notes – “I’d be disillusioned as a result of it helps me take notes throughout work for vital conferences.”
  • 13% mentioned Evernote is nice – “Evernote is simply nice. I like it, and it’s nice for my enterprise.”

These survey responses are worrying, particularly the 14% who aren’t utilizing the product every single day and the 13% who haven’t any suggestions in any respect. Whenever you get suggestions on a survey saying that the product is nice, that places your product group is in a tricky spot as a result of they don’t have any indicators about what to work on sooner or later.

A number of this may be traced again to their freemium acquisition technique, which brings in customers who’re all around the map with their necessities and utilization habits. As a product that’s designed for every day use, we discovered that solely about 25% of Evernote clients use the app every single day. That implies that when Evernote builds options that enchantment to the opposite 75% of their clients, they’ll’t capitalize on the diehard followers who actually care and are extra keen to pay.

Product stagnation led to an unengaged consumer base

By attempting to construct a product for everybody, Evernote paradoxically made it tougher to offer the sort of expertise that a lot of their customers need. As one of many first strikes available in the market, Evernote was able to dominate their rivals, however their early deal with good apps failed and gave the remainder of the market a transparent understanding of what to not do when constructing a note-taking app.

Pulling focus away from their core worth proposition additionally drove down engagement throughout Evernote’s total consumer base. Once we requested folks, How typically do you employ Evernote? The outcomes have been actually scary:

How often do you use Evernote?

We’ve talked about earlier than that Evernote is actually a daily-use product, however every day customers accounted for under 21.38% of responses. That features folks utilizing the app A couple of instances per day and About every day. Whenever you check out the survey outcomes, About as soon as per thirty days is the most important proportion by far, with simply over 75 responses.

“As a product supervisor, I’d be anxious as a result of just one/5 of the consumer base are utilizing it every day, and we have to do one thing about that.” —Hiten Shah

This lack of engagement may clarify the responses to our subsequent query as properly, What’s the main profit you obtain from Evernote?

  • 22% mentioned it retains them organized – “It permits me to arrange my notes in a single digital place. Evernote permits me to maintain all the things in journals and arranged in a extra concise method.”
  • 12% mentioned ease of use – “The appliance is easy to make use of. It’s simple to jot down and acquire my notes.”
  • 11% mentioned syncing throughout units – “With the ability to take notes and sync it throughout PC, laptop computer, and telephone.”

When solely about 1/5 of your consumer base say the first good thing about your note-taking app is staying organized, that’s fairly telling. Mix that with the truth that roughly 1/10 of your clients don’t acknowledge your core worth (syncing throughout units) as the first profit, and you’ve got an enormous drawback. Making an attempt to enchantment to everybody and never constructing the performance that core clients wish to use made Evernote’s product really feel stagnant, which is certainly a tradeoff they need to by no means have made.

This stagnation additionally explains Evernote’s NPS rating. On a scale of -100 to 100, they rating a 1, that means that only a few of their clients are pleased with the product proper now.

We requested a followup query to assist suss out some issues that Evernote can do to assist flip issues round by asking, How can Evernote be improved?

  • 32% mentioned it’s good as is – “Evernote is nice as is. I like Evernote as it’s.”
  • 7% mentioned a greater interface – “Structure might be improved. It’s been stagnant for years. Much less litter and extra intuitive interface.”
  • 5% mentioned extra integrations – “Higher integration to different apps like calendars and writing apps.”

Hiten would undoubtedly deal with the integrations as that’s the place Evernote is missing essentially the most aggressive benefit. However what’s much more telling is that 32% of individuals mentioned the app was good as is. Whereas it would sound like factor, once you mix that response with the NPS rating of 1, it’s terrifying. Roughly 1/three of Evernote’s clients don’t care sufficient in regards to the product to consider how it may be improved. Evernote’s mission managers should be having a extremely laborious time determining methods to change buyer notion of the model.

Evernote wants to determine why customers swap platforms

Because the market continues to develop and new rivals enter the sport, Evernote might want to double down on their retention efforts to outlive. We’ve already seen that they’re probably not benefiting from their enormous consumer base, and in the event that they proceed to lose clients to providers like OneNote, Google Preserve, and Notion, Evernote might be left behind totally.

One other added situation is that lots of these new gamers supply a “Change from Evernote” operate as part of their very own worth proposition. I requested Hiten an analogous query in the beginning of our chat as a result of each of us have seemed as much as the corporate a lot through the years, and I wished to see if he truly used Evernote anymore. He’s converted to Bear, and I now use Notion, which simply goes to indicate you ways severe Evernote’s retention drawback actually is.

“I feel the low-hanging fruit is an app refresh. That is what the analysis reveals. Evernote must be contemporary and energetic. It doesn’t suggest you need to add options, simply brighter colours or one thing like that as a result of of us suppose this firm hasn’t saved up with the instances.” Hiten Shah, CEO and Founding father of FYI.

To battle this, Evernote wants to seek out methods to indicate clients that they acknowledge the problems with the app and are actively making modifications to deal with them. From what we’ve seen, folks suppose the corporate simply desires to relaxation on their laurels because the established incumbent.

That feeling is proven within the following graph:

Have you ever recommended Evernote to anyone?

Whereas 64% of individuals are nonetheless recommending Evernote as a device, we might anticipate to see a a lot greater quantity for an organization that holds a lot model recognition available in the market.

We requested these folks, What would you doubtless use as an alternative choice to Evernote?

  • 18% mentioned OneNote – “I even have Microsoft OneNote, though I discover it’s not too user-friendly, however it would do instead for Evernote.”
  • 11% mentioned Google Preserve – “OneNote or regardless of the Google different is.”

Each of those platforms combine closely with different providers. OneNote, particularly, comes bundled with Workplace. Google Preserve is the native telephone app, which we additionally see instead for a few of the survey respondents.

These responses present that most individuals aren’t actually all that thrilled with their alternate options both. If Evernote was capable of replace their app to provide it a brand new look and add in some integrations with extra standard platforms, they may simply hold a few of their clients round.

Drastic modifications might assist Evernote keep on high

The tradeoffs Evernote has revamped the previous decade helped them climb to the highest of a nascent market. However their rivals at the moment are amassing thousands and thousands of their very own customers. Evernote must discover a option to repair their issues with low engagement and rare utilization.

The issue with making these modifications all comes all the way down to potential inner constraints. The pace at which Evernote could make modifications to their product could have a direct influence on their skill to struggle off a few of these up-and-comers. If Evernote is going through important tech debt points, the engineering and growth time required to launch any modifications jumps up shortly. Elevated pace typically comes with a tradeoff in high quality, which additionally they can’t afford.

An app refresh might be their best choice in the meanwhile. Whereas it doesn’t handle a few of the extra severe points Evernote faces, it will possibly undoubtedly work to win again some belief from their consumer base. If they begin eager about the 225M consumer base at their disposal as leads as an alternative of shoppers, they’ll additionally begin with a extra focused outreach to provide particular segments what they really wish to interact.

That wraps up episode two of Tradeoffs. We’d love to listen to your suggestions, so tell us what you consider the brand new present on social media. (Patrick Campbell)


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