How to sunset a feature (and tell your customers)

When you decide to remove a feature, use these templates to tell your customers.

Apr 23, 2024

Apr 23, 2024

So, you've decided to remove a feature from your product.

How do you break the bad news? Your customers will be furious. It will drive them to competitors and lower the value of your solution. Removing a feature from your product is an act of business terror, no matter how you spin it.

Some of you believed that last paragraph, and we need to fix that. Sharing the news with customers doesn't have to sound like a eulogy. And it can even be helpful.

This guide has templates and communication tips for sunsetting (“unshipping”) features in B2B.

Oh no, I have to share bad news!

A trap people fall into with communicating feature removals is they believe it is bad news. It may feel like bad news, but that assumption leads to the wrong message. Worse, it makes this process exhausting.

What should your message include?

Your story needs to cover three things:

  1. Why change is needed

  2. What you decided

  3. What happens next (and how it impacts customers)

✅ The rough structure: “Due to [CHANGE/DISCOVERY], we’ve decided to [RETIRE FEATURE]. We’ve prepared a migration guide with a few options for transitioning…”

❌ Don’t do this: “[FEATURE] will no longer be available after September 2024, we apologize for any inconvenience. Please plan accordingly.”

In the second example, the message is impersonal and not very helpful. In the next section, we'll look at how to make sure your message is authentic and clear.

How to frame your announcement

When you share the update, a few easy ways you can keep constructive and authentic:

  • The message should come from a named person. In most cases this will be someone from your product or customer team.

  • Say the decision. Say “We’ve decided to…” or “We’ve made the decision to…” in definitive, clear language.

  • Do not assume you’re delivering bad news, or need to apologize. Focus on the path forward instead.

Showing you understand the impact of changes on customers is key to a great product update. Your customer-facing folks will have this conversation on calls or via recorded presentations. They may receive tactical follow up questions, and you should prepare them. In the next section we'll walk through how to do this using a couple common scenarios.

Why this works

Removing a feature from your product is news to most of your customers, but actionable to a small group. If you assume change is bad news, it muddies your message and may not even be how your customers view the situation. Expect responses from most of your customers to be “Makes sense” or “Thanks for letting us know” at most.

When you communicate product changes successfully, it signals to customers that you will handle future issues with similar care, even if this one doesn’t directly affect them.

Scenario #1: Replacing a legacy feature with a newer version 

Your narrative: “It made sense at the time, but customers now have better options available.”

If you need folks to adopt a different feature instead, your story should contrast "What was the world like when you launched the feature" → "What the world is like now" and the transition between them.


"We first introduced [FEATURE] in 2019 as a way to [GOAL]. Since then we've added simpler ways for you to [Do the same thing]. As a result, we've made the decision to retire [FEATURE] and continue support in [NEWER VERSION]."

Why this works

Retiring a feature doesn’t always mean you made a mistake, but that the product needed a change. We do not regret the invention of DVDs or VHS. Both did their job for a time before making way for the next thing, from BluRay to streaming on Netflix. You can invest in the tools available at the time, and eventually those tools have to change even if the goal is the same.

Prioritizing change is tough. Customers will take as much time as you give them if left unattended, so you have to strike a balance. Your customer success team is a great resource, and can help personalize delivery by use case.

Scenario #2: Removing the feature entirely

Your narrative: “It made sense at the time, but we’ve decided to focus on where we have greater impact for customers…”

Sometimes a feature doesn’t make sense to continue supporting. This can happen when features do not align to the company strategy, have low impact for customers, etc.

Avoid showing visuals unless absolutely necessary. It doesn’t serve your message to put more visibility on a feature that’s going away soon.

If the change is minimal, including this type of removal as part of a larger update can help keep the message constructive. With lead time, you can include it as part of a regular check in (“wanted to make you aware of something early…”) or in a monthly roundup of product updates alongside other change management notices.

If the change is more substantial, handle it with the same care of a pricing update — clear and focused message, no burying the lede. Good communication means they understand it, not just that you “technically” said it.

Why this works

It’s important to keep confidence that you won't pull the plug on features for no reason. This may seem obvious, but you will find customers with vivid memories of cleaning up a mess caused by a past vendor with poor communication. You may be different, but they don’t know that yet.

Give a clear next step via migration plan

If possible, frame the change as a migration instead of a removal. Migrations are easier to navigate and include migration plans, dates to transition, etc. 

Migration doesn’t always mean the retired feature and the new feature do the same thing. For example, removing a phone call integration to focus on email and async notifications. It changes the narrative from “We aren’t doing this anymore” to “We're doubling down on [something else] instead”.

It feels worse to lose something you had than to lose something you never had. Loss aversion is a psychological motivator, and you can change your message delivery to frame sunsetting more constructively. Rather than focus on what’s going away, your announcement is about the path forward.

Customer team: “You may have seen the update that we’re retiring [FEATURE]. Can we spend a few minutes to make sure you feel good about the path forward, or if there’s additional help needed to make this transition smooth?”

How to segment your target audience

Which customers to contact for feature removal notices

Pick your target audience from ongoing usage (think: rolling 180 days) not lifetime activation. This is the group that will actually need your help. Especially in B2B, users in the account turn over as people change jobs. Emailing every account with a user who touched the feature three years ago doesn't make much sense for most features.

Don’t forget to turn off feature functionality for new sign ups as soon as you can. It simplifies expectation management for your sales team, otherwise they will have to say "This is going away" on demos for the next few weeks.

When you give a change notification to existing customers, it will typically include a courtesy window of weeks to months so folks can prepare. This is especially true for complex organizations with many moving pieces in enterprise.

However, a new customer that signs up today will not have the context. Also, you probably do not have a commercial relationship with them which guarantees the previous functionality. You do not have to wait until the posted date to make the change for people in this category.

Optional: Segmenting customers with feature flags

Your engineering organization may be able to adjust available features to specific accounts using “Feature Flags”. Feature flags are a way to control access which accounts have access to specific functionality. If you’ve ever used a product where you can “turn on a new feature” or opt into a new experience, you already have a basic understanding. Feature flags are useful tools to sunsetting a feature because you can alter the default behavior for different groups of users.

For example, the outgoing feature is turned off automatically for any new accounts signing up after a specific date. Or perhaps folks who never used the feature yet have it turned off faster. You can break down the transition process into smaller groups and focus on how to deliver the message to them best. In some cases, you might not even need to say anything proactively, aside from a standard update notification or support doc for change management.

Cutoff dates for feature availability should vary by plan or signup date. Longtime customers often have legacy data or more entrenched workflows which need time to transition than someone who started out three weeks ago.

Slowly reducing the number of impacted people over time is a good way to catch potential issues too, which increases the odds you have a smooth migration to the brave new future without your legacy feature.

Example email to customers

Last year we introduced [FEATURE], as a new way to [COMPLETE GOAL]. The reception so far has been promising, and we will continue expanding it in the months ahead.

With this update, we’ve made the decision to retire [OLD FEATURE] by Fall 2024 for existing customers. For the small number of customers still using this functionality, we’ve prepared a migration guide for you to understand how to port this use case to the new approach. Your customer team can help you personalize it and answer any specific questions about impact for your account.

Why? Going forward, we’re investing to make sure [FEATURE] is the best way to experience the product. We know changes like this can be disruptive, so we’ve also included some templates you can use to let your users know directly too. A message will appear in the product for [ADMINS/END USERS/EVERYONE] using this feature starting tomorrow.

Other examples and soundbites

  • “[…]What we found is that only one organization had multiple people taking advantage of this feature. While valuable, we realized that by keeping this feature in the product it prevented us from fully exploring some modern alternatives to solve the same problem for everyone else. As a result, we have made the decision to retire [Feature] by September 2024 and migrate existing users over to XYZ”

  • “[Starting today, this feature will no longer be available to accounts created as of today, and for existing customers we will migrate you to the new feature by later this Fall. Your CSM will be available to help answer any specific questions for how to manage the change with your account.”

  • ”For 99% of customers, this change will have no noticeable impact on their daily usage. If you are uncertain about the impact within your organization, please contact your account team to learn more.”

  • How LinkedIn retired their Stories feature

  • ZenDesk explains in advance how the process of feature removal works, as a support doc. This is good for expectation management, in the same way having a status page to notify of downtime helps prevent future issues.

Shipping something new? We have tips for writing new feature announcements too.

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