AARRR Ecommerce Metrics Metrilo

Activation: AARRR Funnel Part 2

As we announced, we’re starting a series of articles on the popular framework of metrics ecommerce activation Metrilocreated by Dave McClure called AARRR Funnel or Pirate Metrics (watch his presentation of the AARRR funnel).

They include acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and revenue.

We already demystified the first one – Acquisition. For an overview of all five, check out our article AARRR Metrics For eCommerce Stores: The Holy Grail of Growth.

Here, we’re going to talk about AARRR Activation, the second step in the AARRR funnel – why is it important and how it can be influenced.

We’re focusing on essentials and providing beginner guidance for e-commerce entrepreneurs who don’t fancy themselves experts, but rather keep asking, “How can I start selling more?”.

Activation in ecommerce:

  • Types of activation
  • Measuring activation
  • Lead nurturing
  • Building relationships

What’s activation for the AARRR funnel?

In general, AARRR activation is defined as the first real interaction a visitor has with a website.They land on the site and either do something or leave. In eCommerce, it’s a little bit trickier since, in most cases, websites serve as product catalogs and are focused on conversions.

Statistics show that as much as 96% of people who land on websites are not ready to buy.

To illustrate this point, here are a few examples of activation – they all indicate some interest in what you sell:

  • Registering for the site
  • Subscribing for a newsletter/ blog

    Subscribtion For Resources


  • Downloading a resource

    Lonely Planet Free Travel Guide

    Lonely Planet

  • Following on social media
  • Watching a demo [for example, see Stox Energy’s product movie]
  • Using a tool provided for free

    Shoes Guide

    ties.com: The Gentlemanual

  • Browsing through gallery/ lookbook

    Barney Cools Lookbook


  • Reading content

    Tips Page


It’s important to set goals for all such activities that will be considered a valid AARRR activation because:

  • Registering is not enough, they have to come back and log in somewhat regularly.
  • The opening of the emails or unsubscribing indicates if they were genuinely interested or not.
  • You can’t control how people use a downloaded resource, but if they keep coming back, that’s a good sign. Or whether they were happy to give some personal details in exchange for the resource in the first place.
  • You want them to be active in the social media conversation (although it’s hard to control, too). Entering contests or sharing of “harmless” content like holiday promotions is a good indicator of interest.
  • Did they watch the video to the end or stopped after 5 seconds?
  • You offer a free tool – let’s say it’s simple 3D visualisation to help them choose vintage furniture. Simply finding it is not an activation, playing with it for 20 minutes is. Coming back later to play some more is awesome 🙂
  • Visitors come and go. Those who browse your products for hours (and often!) are worth being chased for more.
  • 30 seconds spent on an article is not the same as reading for 15 minutes.

All these show that not every action a visitor takes is activation so it’ll do you good to set realistic thresholds and analyse data correctly.

How do I measure aarrr activation?

Once you’ve settled what counts for activation, look at the percentage of visitors who meet the criteria. What share watched the demo? How many read your emails regularly?

Keep track of the activation rate of each option you provide. Then, analyze and drop the ones that don’t work, while expanding the ones that do.

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Customer behavior tracking and action-based email marketing

Lead nurturing

Aarrr activation is essentially gathering leads and nurturing them. You’ve heard about nurturing leads, but how to do it?

You see, all the activation techniques listed earlier don’t sell directly. Instead, they’re designed to capture attention and, in the best-case scenario, make people come back for more. The information, resources, ideas, news, or deals you provide should be valuable to your visitors.

Cider lovers would be interested in reading about artisans who make their favorite drink, and pet owners would appreciate practical advice on grooming and training.

Some statistics show that 81% of people who shop online in the US read blogs for product info and insights. If visitors are not in a shopping mood, you can only make that first visit happy by giving them something else that’s fun.

What are you waiting for?

Wonder if emails can help you establish the connection you need? This guide to How to Nurture e-Commerce Leads Without Being Too Pushy might come handy.

Feeling like you got this lead nurturing thing? Do you have different types of content and hooks at the various stages of the funnel? An article by Weidert Group explains in detail why that’s necessary and what types of content work best at each stage.

User interface can get in the way of activation

Already have awesome ways of keeping visitors on your site? Do they know?
Make those additional perks you have visible so visitors find them easily. What’s the point in investing effort and money in developing them if nobody finds and uses them.

Take a look at the journey a visitor of the UK Ikea site must take to reach their 3D Planning tool that’s free and makes kitchen remodeling easier. However for kitchen remodeling ideas, you can check out this textured granite countertop here and for sure it will be a highly coveted addition to your home! It’s a great idea, but it takes 3 steps to get to a page where visitors are asked to install the tool. Not sure it’s very appealing to those who are just browsing. It looks time-consuming and heavy.
Ikea 3d Tool

In short, the trick is to put yourself in their heads so when they’re ready to buy, they don’t look anywhere else. If they’ve already played with a virtual stylist assistant, for example, the chance of placing an order goes up significantly.

If you, on the other hand, don’t give them anything else but sales calls and a product catalog, people might browse around and leave, missing the opportunity to bond with your brand.

In the AARRR funnel, retention comes after aarrr activation so a happy first experience should lead to repeat comebacks – sometimes a purchase takes time. It’ll save you money to make sure that it works great before investing in wider product range, free shipping for all and other perks down the funnel.

Activate the acquired people first – they most probably wouldn’t convert right away without engaging in some way with your store. And make sure to monitor how much time it actually takes them convert – it’ll give you an idea how effective the whole process is.

Check out the next article in the series where we talk about retention in the AARRR funnel.

Studio Two For Barrington

We know you’re fed up with theory – it doesn’t show you results. That’s why we also have a case study on activation for you.

It shows how аn ecommerce coffee business, the Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, activates its prospective customers while operating both online and offline.

AARRR activation case study: How a coffee brand does it?

As Kevin Sprague, who helps Barrington with marketing, says, “Selling coffee is a simple process – it’s basically: Do you want coffee or not.”

The good thing is they don’t get much unqualified traffic in the first place since anybody looking for coffee roast delivered in the area is genuinely interested in their product.Barrington Coffee Bags

It’s not one of those products people go desktop shopping for, unlike clothes, for example.

That is why they are bold to set their activation goal straight to conversion. Kevin says it is a carefully selected goal – when your end goal is selling, “there is no point in messing around with leads”.

An interesting statistic is that in most cases people place an order with Barrington first and subscribe to their newsletters later. What activation are we talking about then?

Well, one way to look at it is that purchasing is a form of activation for a taste-driven product. It’s a form of sampling (Barrington offers a sample bundle to the indecisive too).


With a staple product like coffee, people need little incentive to go ahead and order, even after refraining the first time they discover the brand. Kevin sees good conversions on exclusive offers, tailored to what products visitors seem to have been interested in while browsing.Barrington Seasonal Gift Card

Also, as they discovered seasonal peaks in sales (analysis for the win :)), they started having additional holiday offers. For example, it turned out many people are willing to give cookies or coffee as a Valentine’s Day gift so why not have cookie baskets to ship to your loved ones or send them coffee a little push? They’re a chance to prove your love to them!


Another interesting discovery the Barrington team made after starting using eCommerce analytics software was that one of their best-converting channels are specific coffee review websites. Until then, they were present there, but nothing more.Content Gallery

Now, the Barrington Coffee blog features scores and reviews from those websites and provides detailed information on the farms where the coffee beans come from.

All this helps coffee connoisseurs choose the best blend for their taste and establishes Barrington as a vendor in favor of high quality and transparency.


We separate those from content because the team works especially hard to educate coffee aficionados to make the best coffee.

From video tutorials on using a particular coffee machine and home brewing tips to professional barista courses and flavor navigator…..the guys really want you to know and appreciate good coffee!

Does this activate people? Hell, ya, they read and discover a brand new world. If this is not enough to make them open a coffee shop, they will at least want to try some of the exotic roasts.

Physical locations

Yes, this one is unorthodox, but we like an untraditional approach when it’s working. The company has two cafes in Boston, MA, where non-believers are welcome to get lost in all different flavors available.

Those physical locations can often be the customer’s first touch with the brand and following a positive experience, they may go online.

Sounds simple and doable, right? After all, the really interested prospects should not need much persuading. Granted, one-time sales are still sales, but if you truly work towards retaining customers and sustainable flow of revenue as the AARRR framework suggests, one-timers don’t help.Barrington Customers

Barrington Coffee Roasting Co. reminds us that goals should be set in correspondence with your product and audience. If activation in AARRR terms is to grab people’s attention and keep your brand at the back of their mind, the simplest tricks seem to work best for some product categories.

Check out the rest of Barrington Coffee’s story and tactics in details

How to sell coffee online successfully


About the author

With experience in FMCG and marketing, Dimira writes to help the brands of tomorrow succeed and believes passion is a key ingredient in any business.

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