User Onboarding

Guide First-Time Users of your SaaS in 6 Steps

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    Home / User Onboarding / Guide First-Time Users of your SaaS in 6 Steps

    According to one customer service study, over 50% of American consumers have canceled a planned transaction or purchase as a result of bad service, and one in three people admit that they would likely switch companies after just one instance of substandard service.

    Another study found that US companies lose over $130 billion every year as a result of avoidable customer churn.

    Furthermore, four out of five American consumers consider speed, convenience, knowledgeable assistance, and friendly services as the key elements of positive customer experiences.

    These are the factors that SaaS companies should focus on when it comes to user onboarding.

    Such companies work in an environment characterized by fierce competition, low switching costs, and innumerable alternatives from which to choose, so they have little margin for error if any at all when it comes to delivering positive, memorable, and seamless user experiences. 

    What is the definition of User Onboarding

    User onboarding starts with the users' first interaction with your business and continues from thereon. Some companies define user onboarding as the walk-through that customers are given when they first use an application, but defining onboarding this way is an easy mistake to make.

    Product advertising, consumer education, onboarding, and long-term engagement are sometimes thought of as separate steps from each other when, in fact, they should all be taken holistically as integral parts of your overarching sales, marketing, and customer outreach strategies.

    user onboarding for SaaS

    To put it a different way, effective marketing, clear messaging, and interesting educational material can drastically improve your chances of easier onboarding, and if users are onboarded more easily, you make establishing long-term engagement that much easier as well.

    To help you understand how crucial user onboarding is for your first-time SaaS users:

    63% of customers say that user onboarding is crucial when they make their buying decisions. Also, 55% of users said they have returned a SaaS product because they did not know how to use that product. 

    When you take these statistics into consideration, you can see that user onboarding is crucial to acquire new users and also retain those first-time users by helping them keep finding value in your product.

    Using a third-party user onboarding tool will help you efficiently run a satisfying onboarding process. Start your free trial with UserGuiding and provide an all-around user onboarding experience for your SaaS businesss.

    Here's our popular article User Onboarding 101 for further reading.

    Here are the 6 steps of user onboarding that should be included or optimized if already exists in your end-to-end application or service delivery design.

    How to Guide New Users to a SaaS

    Step 1: The Sign-Up Form

    Minimize the time (and the steps) it takes to initiate a relationship between you and the customer.

    Usually, you can do this with as little as two questions: the user’s name, and their email address.

    Additional data can be taken later once the user has had a chance to use your app, which is the only goal at this stage. Do not make the mistake of confusing the goals of one step with the goals of another. Otherwise, you risk diluting your messaging and duplicating your efforts.

    If you make Step 1 difficult for them, few people will make it to Step 2, to begin with.

    Step 2: The Welcome Email

    When it comes to the welcome email, no one likes a hard sell, but intimate to the user that you have received their submission and that you are happy they have opted to give your service a try.

    Thereafter, you can debrief them with a few of your most compelling unique selling propositions (USPs): how you are better than the competition, what you do differently or better than anyone else, and what users can gain by using your service.

    Back your claims up with convincing data, if available.

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    Step 3: Drip Campaigns

    Drip campaigns should not be used to bombard the user with information on all of the cool features you and your team have worked tirelessly to develop.

    Just introduce one cool feature at a time, that too as succinctly as possible. You can add a few FAQs so that the user knows ahead of time how to navigate potential pitfalls as well (remember what we said about clear messaging and good educational material helping with onboarding down the road?)

    Alternate between educational emails and other types of information. You can share interesting and relevant industry news (which can help you become a thought-leader in the minds of your readers), encourage your users to complete their profile, or tell them about bonuses or rewards for using the app; gamification of this sort has long been known to be a powerful stimulus that SaaS companies can use to their advantage.

    When the time comes, nudge them toward renewal, signing up for a higher-tier or premium offering, or congratulate them on milestones (such as on their one month or one-year anniversary with your service).

    Step 4: First Log-In/Product Tour

    The first log-in and product tutorials are usually what people consider ‘user onboarding’ to mean, even though it is clearly so much more.

    What you need to do at this stage is thank the user for getting this far, reiterate some of your most compelling benefits (a clean infographic works great), and very clearly direct the user to what you want them to do next.

    Remember what we said above: do not confuse the goals of one step with those of another, and keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. Keep the interface clean and colorful (within the bounds dictated by your corporate identity), as well as fun and interesting.

    Do not overload the user with facts and features; they will get to the more advanced services you offer when they are ready. For now, let them get right to what they signed up to do.

    For their very first experience with your product, we advise you to stick to the interactive product tours. They perform great in teaching products to users while increasing user activation.

    Make sure you check out our article The Biggest Reason Why Your Business Needs an Interactive Product Tour.

    UserGuiding develops custom onboarding solutions like easy-to-create interactive product tours for your target users without any coding, complete with goal tracking, market segmentation, detailed analytics, net promoter score surveys, and more, to help you understand the users you want to attract and deliver fun, smooth, and effective onboarding in no time.

    Start your free trial today by clicking here! and let UserGuiding help you guide the new users of your SaaS business.

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    Step 5: Notification Settings

    This is a necessary evil in the user onboarding space, so make it as quick and painless as possible.

    A few key points to keep in mind are that you should always give your users a choice when asking them for information or when you ask them to set various settings and make sure to package the options so that the default is the easiest option and is also what you want them to do.

    Don’t overdo notifications so that they become a nuisance or underdo them so that they have no impact on the user whatsoever. Gentle reminders after a certain period of inactivity (say, one week), automated to be sent at specific times of the day (so avoid late-night or business-hour pings) work best.

    Step 6: Following Up

    Round off the onboarding cycle with effecting follow-up emails and calls.

    Don’t try to follow up with a client so soon after they sign up that they have nothing meaningful to share; don’t take too long either because you risk alienating them and losing your ongoing connection.

    Maintain your email funnels with useful, interesting, and fun information, send your users complimentary gifts (anything from a discount to swag to free access to insights or white papers), and ask for feedback so that you can begin from the top down once again and iteratively improve all six steps of the process based on real user comments.

    Product adoption solutions that can help you get these six steps right can significantly reduce your development, marketing, and deployment costs and can get you to market in shorter and tighter iterations.

    They can also help you more effectively incorporate user feedback and pinpoint where along the onboarding process they face obstacles or fall off the grid.


    Like I said before, user onboarding for SaaS is not only important for acquisition but it is also crucial for retention. Starting from the first interaction of a user with your brand, you should guide your first-time user to finding value in your product.

    An excellent onboarding experience will help you turn your new users into loyal customers. Especially for a SaaS business, a self-serve product with an all-around user onboarding process is a must.

    All you have to do is:

    • prepare a sign-up form
    • send a welcome email
    • start drip campaigns
    • provide a product tour
    • send notifications
    • and follow up.

    Following the above-mentioned steps and using a third-party user onboarding software such as UserGuiding, you will help your new SaaS users find value in your product and eventually retain them as satisfied customers.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    ❓What happens if I can't guide new users effectively?

    If you can't guide your new users effectively, they will struggle to find the value proposition of your product and the majority will eventually churn.

    👤 Whose job it is to manage new user onboarding?

    Although user onboarding requires collaboration between every internal team of a company, the biggest responsibility falls on product managers.

    🚀 What is the best way to guide new users of a SaaS?

    The best way to guide the new users of a SaaS business is arguably interactive product tours. They allow you to increase activation and engagement while teaching the product to users.

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