Building a Loginless Experience for 1B people
This is the sixth post in our PLG Series, where we write deep dives on the experiments, strategies and tactics that we used at Rows to accelerate our product-led growth motion.
Make sure to check out the previous articles on How to use content in PLG growth and Using Calculators to Drive Traffic with SEO: An In-Depth Look.
In March 2023 we sat down for another quarterly product roadmap meeting. We had been building Rows for 6 years and had just launched Rows 2.0.
In the midst of our discussion, an old unconventional idea resurfaced. To let people use Rows before signing-up. To turn the product into the homepage. We didn’t have a name for it. Only a codename: Loginless.
The timing had never been quite right. The product just wasn’t ready. But with Rows 2.0, it was.
4 months later we nervously launched it.
We named it Instant Rows⚡and it is the fastest way for anyone to use a spreadsheet, anywhere.
Why Instant Rows⚡
To understand why we built Instant Rows⚡let’s look at the following diagram.
The decision to build a ‘loginless’ experience comes down to 2 vectors:
Market size: The larger the potential audience of the product is, the more likely it is that there is a lot of variability in what they want to use the product for. A traditional homepage will have a hard time communicating the right value to the right person. This was certainly the case for us, as people use Rows to create lists of leads, run PPC campaign reports, build mortgage calculators, and hundreds of other long-tail jobs.
Prior-knowledge: Some products are hard ‘to get’. Others fall into one of two types: are either incredibly simple (like Excalidraw) or are of a category so ubiquitous that the audience already has all the context and conceptual knowledge to use it. Spreadsheets are definitely the latter. Love them or hate them, you’ve seen them, used them, and shared them.
Over the last 5 years, as the product got simpler to use and more powerful, we had those two vectors converging: more and more people could use the product on their own to build incredible things. That’s when we knew we were ready.
This leads us to the other reason to go loginless: conversion rates.
Only a very small percentage of the people who came across your website will ever experience the product. According to Kyle’s survey in his Growth Unhinged newsletter, for freemium PLG products, that’s 6%. Think about that for a second. 94% of people who visit your website never try out the product, where you’ve spent most of your time and money building.
We saw this first hand at Rows. Even though our conversion rate to sign-up was slightly higher (7-10%), it still felt too low.
And so we reach the loginless formula. If:
you have a very large audience;
that can get value from the product on their own;
a business model (freemium) that does not require you to monetize everyone;
a product that can be experienced in ‘single-player mode’,
Why do you need a landing page? You don’t.
You can lead with the product. It’s ‘the epitome of PLG’.
How (to do) Instant Rows⚡
Now that we had decided to build the loginless experience, there were two other big Product Growth decisions to take:
[Activation] How do we guide the user through the spreadsheet once they land?
[Conversion] What are the drivers to sign-up?
Welcome screens, pointers and onboarding
Balance is a delicate thing. That’s a truism, but it’s certainly one we felt with Instant Rows⚡. We wanted to keep the experience as frictionless as possible, but give visitors a hint of what makes Rows special.
People that import data from an Integration have higher retention.
Thousands of people sign-up every week to try the AI Analyst.
That’s how we decided where to focus: the Data actions panel where people can import data from +50 sources, use OpenAI and connect to custom APIs, and the AI Analyst✨ and table actions. Many of us can use a little extra help, so we added an additional nudge to our Help section.
Finally, we had a little fun adding a randomized set of intro messages that mix humor, spreadsheets, and irreverence (so, right on brand).
Since launching Instant Rows⚡ we’ve learned that the biggest driver to sign-up is getting people to add anything on the spreadsheet:
27% of accounts who did any execution signed-up.
59% of accounts who imported at least one file signed-up.
43% of accounts who used at least one integration signed-up.
We’re adapting the welcome (empty) state of the spreadsheet with direct, one-click paths to importing data onto the spreadsheet in multiple ways.
The decision of which features were gated in the loginless experience was straightforward. We wanted Instant Rows⚡to be feature complete for individuals to build whatever they’d like - the ‘single-player’ mode - but drive people to sign-up for collaborative experiences - the ‘multiplayer’ mode.
That’s why Instant Rows gives you access to everything you need to build something of value - Integrations, data refreshes, access to the AI Analyst ✨, OpenAI, even use the Rows API - but nudges you to sign-up when you want to share that work with someone else, or embed it in a third party app.
This was certainly not the only possible path - I could see us having a live collaboration mode that does not require sign-up - but it was the fastest to ship.
What to measure
Then there are the events. We mostly kept the data infrastructure intact with Instant Rows⚡, adding two new events that capture the moment a new workspace is instantiated, and the moment when an anonymous user signs-up.
Below is the summary table of those events.
Dude, where’s my landing page?
There is (still) one. It’s at rows.com/product.
Instant Rows⚡ results
Now, to the results 🥁.
Is Instant Rows⚡a success? So far, undeniably, yes.
How do we know? Three ways:
The conversion rate to sign-up rose by 72% from 11.1% to 19%.
The activation rate of users who converted from a sandbox account is 30% higher than those who sign-up via other channels (e.g from mobile)
We have hundreds of people using the product >3 days a week in their sandbox accounts. Many of them would have never tried the product.
Those 3 KPIs have stayed remarkably stable in the 5 weeks since we launched, which is a positive indicator these early good results will continue.
Finally, I’ve loved seeing the PLG and Product Marketing community reviewing, commenting, sharing their love and asking a ton of questions about Instant Rows⚡
These conversations have already contributed to changes in user onboarding, and will continue to shape how we evolve the loginless experience.
Solving the ‘blank canvas’ problem. Rows starts clicking in people’s heads once data is added to a table. Now our job is to make that happen for more people, faster. Everything else flows from there.
If you’ve been through this whole article and haven't tried it yet, head to your desktop and go to rows.com. The rest, as they say, is history frictionless.