Optimizing SoundCloud Onboarding

With the Help of Motivational Theory

soundcloud case study phiture


increase of creators completing the key onboarding metrics

The Challenge

SoundCloud is an artist-first platform powered by an ecosystem of creators uploading content for consumption by SoundCloud's vast user base of listeners. Providing creators with a distribution platform and the opportunity to interact with millions of unique listeners creates a feedback loop benefiting both creators and listeners. The more music creators upload, the more opportunity they have to build a following, whilst also providing a richer experience for listeners on the platform. With this in mind, SoundCloud seeks to increase the number of first time uploaders (creators) to return and upload more music. A cluster segmentation analysis showed that early lifecycle behaviors and validation metrics affect creator retention down the line. SoundCloud identified three critical events that, if performed within the first few days of a creator’s first upload, will lead to:
  • Higher long-term creator retention and lower churn for core creator activities
  • Higher session counts
  • Higher subscription conversion rates
 Increasing retention is a common goal amongst industry leaders – and is becoming increasingly difficult as the competitive landscape for sharing and streaming music becomes crowded. Leveraging personalized lifecycle marketing is one of the key levers to activate & engage new creators early on by nudging them toward key creator actions early on in their lifecycle. Understanding this shift away from simply educating users during onboarding, the goal was to design an experience that prompts creators to complete these actions within their first three days, i.e., with a sense of urgency.

“Through their expertise in behavioral science, Phiture helped us both onboard and retain first-time creators in our platform, an essential goal for SoundCloud's success. The creator onboarding series had the exact result we were hoping for, showing the usual knowledge and expertise we've come to expect from them.”

Marcus Holder, Senior CRM Manager@ SoundCloud

The Solution

Phiture designed an experiment that utilized a well-researched psychological concept called the “endowed progress effect” and activated the power of in-app messaging. The “first upload series” is a series of CRM communications that is triggered as an onboarding program when a user uploads their first track. It is growth marketing’s first chance to reinforce SoundCloud’s value props and help creators finding success connecting with listeners, getting their music heard and beginning to build a following) quickly. The “endowed progress effect” is a phenomenon whereby people provided with artificial advancement towards a goal exhibit greater persistence towards reaching the goal (Nunes and Drze, 2006). With this theory in mind, we built a creator onboarding series that uses a psychological framework to drive creators to complete 3 key metrics that have been identified by SoundCloud to increase creator retention.


The Results

+18.56% uplift in creator onboarding – i.e., creators completing key metrics identified by SoundCloud. Motivating new users to complete key events within their first three days helps to reduce the time spent by artists getting set up on the platform, increasing their opportunity to interact with listeners and build a following. Optimizing onboarding in this way, utilizing innovative new research and concepts, helps to balance the quantitative with qualitative. It is important to utilize psychological concepts as a lever for CRM experiments, as this approach can help to identify high-impact tests based on well-researched concepts that are rooted in evidence-based, human psychology.

SoundCloud is an online audio distribution platform and music sharing website based in Berlin, Germany, that enables its users to upload, promote, and share audio.Client: SoundCloudWebsite: https://soundcloud.com/Services: Onboarding, CRM, In-AppProject period: 2021 soundcloud logo