Customer engagement and loyalty plays an important role in the software industry. While customer onboarding, support and marketing have played key roles, release notes have always been an underappreciated strategy to drive engagement and loyalty. The good news is that there are some simple steps that you can take to improve engagement with your release notes.
Let’s take a look at why release notes matter and strategies that you can use to increase customer engagement using them.Release notes are an underappreciated way to improve customer engagement and loyalty to your product. Click To Tweet
What Are Release Notes?
Release notes are a form of technical documentation produced and distributed alongside the launch of a new software product or product update. For example, release notes may include a list of new features, enhancements or bug fixes associated with an update. A common example would be the release notes for updates in the Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
Example of Firefox’s Release Notes – Source: Firefox
Release notes are typically written by product managers with the goal of educating product users. That said, release notes may be written by developers or other team members for a variety of internal or external audiences. Development teams may also create different release notes for different target audiences with varying levels of detail.
There are several common components of release notes:
- Basic Information: The product, version number, release date or other relevant information for classifying or organizing the release note.
- Overview: A brief overview of the release that includes the most important new features or fixes that are of interest to the target audience.
- Changelog: A list of new features, enhancements or bug fixes included in the release that are short and to-the-point.
- Contact: Contact information or support links for follow-up.
Most development teams treat release notes as an afterthought. While not all target audiences will read them, they can play a vital role in the overall product experience and serve as an important communication medium. Well-written release notes can nurture customer relationships and improve loyalty over time.
How to Increase Engagement
Release notes should be an important part of a wider customer engagement and communication strategy. While they aren’t a substitute for email marketing or other forms of engagement, they help keep users updated in a non-invasive way. They can also keep stakeholders in the loop without adding extra communication overhead.
There are several tried-and-true ways to improve engagement:
- Cater to your audience. Eliminate technical jargon or overly complex language in release notes targeting consumer or stakeholder audiences. If you’re targeting developers, you may want to avoid oversimplifying release notes.
- Keep it short. Release notes are intended to be high level. Readers should immediately understand what’s of interest to them with links to user guides, video tutorials or documentation for more in-depth information.
- Have some personality. Release notes don’t have to be boring and mundane—you can inject some branding and personality. Of course, the level of branding and personality depends on your target audience(s).
In addition to writing style and content, there are several ways to make release notes more visible for users. A dedicated release notes page (e.g. similar to a status page) can help keep everything organized in one spot while website or app widgets can display notifications whenever new updates are made to keep users in the loop.
Automated Release Notes for Jira Features – Source: ARN
If you’re using Atlassian products, Automated Release Notes for Jira can help you automate the generation of release notes and better communicate those release notes to your target audience. You can send release notes via email, incorporate them into apps with JSON or generate HTML that can be used to build a dedicated release notes page.
Examples of Engaging Release Notes
There are many companies that have found a sweet spot when it comes to writing engaging release notes. While having built a solid brand voice, others have leveraged technology to create a very interactive way to keep users up to date with new features. It’s worth considering all of these approaches for inspiration when writing and publishing your own release notes.
Slack always adds personality to their release notes without going over the top—both with new features and bugs. In addition, the platform provides release notes across multiple venues including the App Store, blog posts and an in-app update centre.
HelpScout publishes exceptional blog posts discussing each release. These blog posts often include a demonstration video, in-depth descriptions of new features and a concise list of changes at the end (along with a call to action for UX research).
HubSpot uses in-app modals and tooltips to help customers understand new features when they’re launched. Rather than onboarding a user once at the beginning, the company focuses on educating users as the platform evolves over time.
The Bottom Line
Release notes are an important—although frequently neglected—way to communicate updates to users, stakeholders, developers and other parties. By making release notes more engaging, you can nurture customer relationships and improve loyalty while potentially improving communication with stakeholders and avoiding unnecessary meetings.
If you’re using Atlassian products, try Automated Release Notes for Jira to simplify, automate and improve your release notes. The app makes it easy to pull Jira issues into release notes, target multiple audiences and engage users with in-app notifications.