2019 and 2020 have to be Evernote’s years of success.
For the world’s most popular note-taking app the last 5 years have been tough, both structurally and for the team. A lack of development, combined with a few changes in the core team, Evernote has seen its fair share of changes and movements within the company.
Whilst Evernote remains the most used note-taking app, with a whooping 225M active users globally, and arguably, the world’s most well-known personal productivity software, it is loosing many loyal users.
Services like Coda, Airtable and Notion have crept up on Evernote napping, and provide a new alternative to the note-taker. In this article, we’d like to breakdown the three core stages of Evernote’s fall from power.
The demise of Evernote is not on the cards anytime soon, but how will it fair in the years to come and why a look back at its vibrant history will provide many lessons to the next chapters of Evernote.
1. Over Expansion of Services
As Evernote became the world’s most used productivity tool, so did the brand. Evernote was well-known for its services and creative culture.
With a yearly conference, Phil Libin would show off the company’s new set of updates.
You could buy Evernote connected products from the “Evernote Market” and the team felt like they were listening with exploration into how people used the product around the world.
Whilst Evernote Market and many of the sub-services like Evernote Skitch and Evernote Food were helpful for a small sub-set of users, Evernote was too diverse.
Explaining Evernote to new users became harder and harder, and the lack of on-boarding stopped many free users converting the the benefits of Evernote Premium, which put many strains on the Evernote product. Evernote was a deep sandbox with very little explanation without vast research.
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Whilst I personally loved the times of Phil Libin, very much, I’m not sure whether the over-expansion of products was the best thing for the company’s long-term success, as I look back.
Explaining Evernote to new users became harder and harder…
The range of tools, combined with the brand felt novel, but must have been a huge burden financially to the team.
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Evernote was too wide as a service and lacked the capacity to convert. It needed help to win in its next chapter. This is where Chris O’Neill stepped in, during the middle stages of 2015, to help bring back profits and convert more free Evernote customers into Premium accounts. Chris was from a Google background, but the board decided his focus would be profit and onboarding.
2. Profitability & On-boarding
Whilst the unicorn still had the love of the users behind them, Chris O’Neill’s role as CEO was focusing on on-boarding, for new users and gaining profitability, which debatably was a top priority as many users remained free on Evernote. A year in Chris’s tenure at Evernote, prices rose.
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Alongside this, the product became more fine tuned for newbies to Evernote. The on-boarding was cleaner, a Community Leadership programme was developed and the team focused more attention back on Evernote Business, a long ignored segment of Evernote’s service.
During this time, Evernote lacked product development. Over the 2 year stint between 2015–2017, there was only one major re-design and it was as successful as many predicted.
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Evernote paused a lot of design-focus to put their attention into both the on-boarding and the sustainability aspects of Evernote, which was passed down the line from the previous tenure at Evernote.
Over his time at Evernote, Chris brought back the on-boarding experience to make Evernote easier to absorb, and the profits back to Evernote, but hit backlash with many job losses and lack of development to his name during his time at Evernote.
3. A Lack of Innovation
Skip forward to 2018, and we’ve had a quiet year.
Despite the staff issues, Evernote have lacked a key component of product innovation. With Spaces and Templates being their only two major features updates of the year, combined with a brand re-fresh, which many of the community argue, wasn’t needed, Evernote have had a tough year.
Chris O’Neill only recently passed over the torch to new CEO Ian Small, and the new tenure begins for the Evernote CEO. With Chris’s focus on profits paying off, according to a report, O’Neill stated Evernote grew 20% in the first half of 2018, and having $30 million in cash on its balance sheet and Evernote would exit 2018 generating more cash than it spends.
With all of the focus on profits, Evernote has demonised many of its long-term users, causing tension with the lack of features and design that Evernote traditionally delivered back in the old days.
Even though design and features are the most important, Evernote users were unhappy with the lack of progress for several years. Combined with a lack of attention, thanks to the growing Evernote Business development.
Many Premium users were flooding out and hanging up their loyalties and creating new bases on tools like Notion and even sub-tools like Bear, Standard Notes, OneNote or other such note-taking applications.
The new CEO Ian Small seems really focused on listening. All of these stories, customer experiences and absorbing them into Evernote is one of his major focuses over the next few months.
Last week, I got to sit down with him and here’s some of my key takeaways. A key lesson from the meeting, is that it will take time. Ian needs to learn all things Evernote before setting down a roadmap and building on what’s already there.
Will 2019 be Evernote’s Year?
Short answer. No.
Evernote need to spend the next year to re-build and begin to launch new feature sets, spend time with customers, telling stories and delivering on product. They need to deliver on the product.
Once they’ve had a full year of doing this.
Yes, I believe 2020 will be their year to come back to original glory.
What are your thoughts on the future of Evernote?
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