Product growth analysis of Headspace

Today we’ll conduct a product growth analysis of Headspace, a mobile app in the meditation and wellness space. According to Wikipedia, Headspace has over 6 million users (as of 2016).

That’s quite a good number. Let’s see if we can discover ways for Headspace to improve their growth through product-driven efforts.

Note: I will reference the 8 Core Drives throughout this post. You can use the below as a reference guide:

Discovery and On-boarding analysis

The first step for any product growth analysis is to go through the discovery and on-boarding of the app. The Discovery Phase should drive the user to create an account, while the On-boarding Phase sets the tone for the “rules of the game”.

Above are the first three slides a user sees after downloading and opening the Headspace mobile app.

The slides heavily utilize CD2: Development & Accomplishment to motivate a user to create an account:

  • “made simple”
  • “in just 10 minutes a day”

These keywords are all extrinsic, White-Hat motivators to drive a user to create an account.

Recommendations: during the Discovery Phase, it’s important to utilize Black-Hat motivators to drive a user to create an account. Headspace currently tells me about how the app will benefit me (CD2); however, I have no sense of urgency to create an account right now.

Here is how Headspace can utilize Black-Hat Core Drives:

CD6: Scarcity & Impatience: “Create an account within the next 10 minutes and receive a special link to try out Headspace Pro free for 30 days”

CD8: Loss & Avoidance + CD5: Social Influence & Relatedness: check out the image below to see how Basecamp uses CD8 + CD5 to drive a user to create an account.

If you’re running around with your hair on fire because of emails, text, and meetings, then Basecamp can help you put out that fire right now.

Headspace could potentially do something similar, showing an image of someone incredibly stressed, and how Headspace can help calm this person.

Above I want to point out 2 UX issues:

  1. On the screen to the left, I tried to sign up with an email that already exists. Instead of prompting me to “try another” email, the system should prompt me to instead log in with that email.
  2. On the screen to the right, there is a bug with the learn more bar. Small issue that can easily be fixed during a Sprint.

Above you’ll see the CTA (calls-to-action) to get a user to sign up for a Headspace subscription.

Challenges with the screen on the left:

  • There’s too much text. I recommend testing this screen with UserTesting.com or customer development interviews to test if users actually read and comprehend all of the text.
  • Headspace is using keywords that a new user most likely doesn’t understand: Headspace SOS, Classic, and On-The-Go. A user will most likely ask themselves, “What do all of these mean?”.
  • There’s no sense of urgency. My hunch is that a lot of users leave this page without clicking “Yes Please” because there is no sense of urgency to purchase a subscription right now.

Recommendations for the screen on the left: A/B testing the copy and icon are key to improving this screen. There are many ways to test and improve this screen; below are just a few ideas:

  • Give an offer with a countdown timer to increase urgency to subscribe
  • Show icons of all the packs to make it concrete that the user is getting a great deal
  • Show a real-time number that increases with all of the people subscribing to Headspace (social proof)
  • Show friends who have subscribed to Headspace (would require a FB Login)

Challenges with the screen to the right:

  • Yearly and Forever options to not clearly display how much money you save by going with these options.
  • Headspace can make the middle option (the Desired Action) more prominent so that the user is compelled to click on it.

Recommendations for the screen on the right:

  • Add $ amount saved for subscribing to the Yearly or Forever options.
  • Change the color of the button for the Yearly option to make it a cleared Desired Action and compel the user to click on it.

An invitation mechanism is fantastic for word-of-mouth. Uber, Lyft, and many other apps have utilized invitation mechanisms to increase their K-factor and spread like wildfire.

Here are some ways that Headspace can improve their invitation mechanism and increase their K-factor:

  • Why should someone invite a buddy to Headspace? Apps like Lyft and Uber give you and your friend a discount for your next ride. Can Headspace offer something similar?
  • Many users don’t have the email of their friends saved to their address book on their phone; instead, they use Facebook Messenger or apps like WhatsApp and LINE to communicate with their friends. Headspace can give an option to invite their friends utilizing these messenger apps.

Product growth recommendations for Headspace

How to improve social engagement on Headspace

I love the design of Headspace: it’s very cute and whimsical. It immediately reminded me of a very popular app on the iPhone: Two dots.

Two dots does an incredible job at motivating a user to connect via Facebook and then drive engagement through this new social awareness of users and friends. Check out the flow in the screen below.

In the screen to the left, you can see that I have not yet connected on Facebook. You can see the copy compels me to connect: “Think you’re good?”.

As a user, I think I’m good, but this challenge compels me to connect on Facebook so that I can see how I stack up against my friends. In addition, Two dots utilizes CD4 by dangling a +10 bonus points for connecting on Facebook.

In the middle screen, I am immediately rewarded with a leaderboard after I connect via Facebook. I can see that I currently rank in 30th place, which may motivate me to play more so that I can beat my friends.

In the screen to the right, I can see my journey and which of my friends are on the same path. I feel that Headspace can learn a lot from this screen, as Headspace is similarly set up in modules and multi-day journeys.

I feel it would be cool to know that my friend and I recently did an SOS session. It utilizes CD5 to make me feel like we’re in this together.

How to improve the referral program

Uber is of course the master at this referral program. Although Uber is a completely different app, there are principles that can be learned, used, and applied at Headspace.

  • Clear CTA that compels the user to click “Free Rides”
  • Clear copy “Want more Uber for less” that tells a user why they should care about this screen
  • Sets a monetary value on the referral: “Click on this link and earn $15”

Can Headspace encourage users to invite their friends by giving them access to all of the meditation packs free for 30 days?


There are many ways to utilize Octalysis to improve the growth of a product. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you analyze the growth of your product.

Published by

Jun Loayza

Jun Loayza is the Chief Growth Officer at Bunny Inc. In his startup experience, he has sold 2 technology companies and raised $1M in angel funding. Jun lives in San Francisco, CA with his wife Kim.

2 thoughts on “Product growth analysis of Headspace”

  1. interesting points but are you looking at anything in the terms of what headspace is trying to help solve (from the users POV)? the HS product is not selling something per se but helping to solve a users potential mental issue. therefore the black hat pushes (ie playing to a tme based fear) is the exact thing that some of the potential users are coming to help curtail and what headspace is trying to stay away from since fear of is an issue is what their product helps. do you feel that some of the ecommerce approaches you’re supporting could be construed as unethical and/or counter- intuitive (SPECIFIC TO THIS PRODUCT)? While i agree those approaches totally work for a sales based product and/or something like gaming – dots (that you reference), but for a meditation wellness app it seems a bit off…thoughts?

    1. Hey Robert, thanks for the comment.

      First and foremost, any analysis done from the outside will be missing important factors in determining the ultimate strategy that a company will execute; in particular, we are missing the business objectives.

      Utilizing Black Hat Gamification techniques is not necessarily unethical; on the contrary, if we’re using techniques to drive a user to download an app that will help them becomes less stressed and in turn perform better at work and in their personal life, then I believe we’re making the world a better place.

      Black Hat Gamification techniques do tug at the urgent motivations of a user, which is why they’re highly used during the Discovery and On-boarding phases. These techniques could lead to stress, obsession, and anxiety, which our contradictory values to Headspace. When deciding on a strategy to execute, it’s important to have alignment between company values and company objectives.

      Ultimately, my analysis is a high-level one that is meant to showcase how Octalysis works and get the decision makers thinking about ways to improve their growth model.

      Before executing on any strategy, I highly recommend conducting customer development to understand how any changes will impact new and current users, as well as utilize A/B tests to fine the balance between urgency and upholding the company values.

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