A Definitive Guide to Product Onboarding

First impression matters!

The first impression of a product is not only what users see in your product but also how they learn using it.

You should know that your users need a helping hand when they start learning about your product.

One of the most make-or-break points in a product user journey is where it begins. 

The first step of any user starts with onboarding. This very first step can either make a bond between the user and the product or break it together and become a churn. 

You know what they say; you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

So, how can you make good first impressions and deliver an excellent product onboarding?

In this guide, I will give you insights into the aspects of the product onboarding checklist, from what onboarding means and what defines successful product onboarding to product onboarding best practices (and more.) 

What is Product Onboarding?

Product onboarding is introducing a product or service to users or customers. Product onboarding makes up a crucial part of the product adoption process. It allows users to learn a product’s features, how to use it, and warm up to it. With the help of product onboarding, you help your users learn how to make use of your product to the fullest.

Product adoption, in short, refers to a process of implementing, integrating, adding value to the day-to-day life of customers. It involves both training and support.

It’s essential to understand the product onboarding and the adoption process because both are the key elements for your business – particularly if you wish to improve your onboarding process. 

what is product onboarding
Product onboarding is an ever-ongoing process.

Today, the number of SaaS providers is rapidly growing in number. Those companies who are late to adopt the latest technologies and meet the users’ needs lose their customers eventually and go bankrupt.

User onboarding plays a key role in increasing a SaaS product’s Return on Investment (ROI.) Effective onboarding is never complete without a proper product onboarding process and adoption strategies.

We will talk more about the best practices for product onboarding and give you amazing tips, but now let’s take a look at the tiny nuance between “user onboarding” and “product onboarding.”

What is the Difference between Product Onboarding and User Onboarding?

Product onboarding and user onboarding are related terms. Although they are often confused with one another, the two are different.

Product onboarding refers to the macro systems adopted to make the product more discoverable, especially during the early stages of a customer’s journey. User onboarding, on the other hand, is applying those systems at the individual user level.

Additionally, keep in mind that;

  • Product onboarding and adoption focus on product experiences.
  • User onboarding and adoption focus on the user experience.

The key difference between product onboarding and customer onboarding is all about the underlying model, framework, and strategy for the product. 

Different from customer onboarding, product onboarding also involves a part in the employee life cycle. It helps them understand the product and how to get the most out of it—in short, establishing new strategies to develop your onboarding processes critical for users and employees to adopt new technology faster and more effectively.

Why Product Onboarding Matters

Optimizing the onboarding process can make a positive change in your product’s profitability and revenue as it will highly improve the user experience. This makes product onboarding top-of-mind for any business that invests in a product, especially SaaS companies.

For example, a company implementing a new SaaS platform would be concerned with:

  • Improving software ROI
  • Raising users’ skill levels effectively and quickly
  • Streamlining the onboarding experience to minimize user frustration and burnout
  • Helping users utilize the software to the full extent
  • Increasing employees’ productivity

All of these are related to onboarding since poor onboarding experiences cause frustration, and companies end up losing new users.

why product onboarding matters
Product onboarding is shedding light on road for your users.

Product onboarding experience affects not only the marketing side but also the important metrics and KPIs that concern the SaaS product developers, such as:

  • User engagement
  • Customer retention, longevity
  • The product’s bottom-line profitability.

Product adoption is an essential stage in the product experience that can have an immense effect on any business invested in technology or product such as SaaS.

What Defines Successful Product Onboarding?

Now that you know the answer to “what is product onboarding,” we can discuss what defines successful onboarding.  We will go into more detail later when giving product onboarding tips, but for now, know that an ideal product onboarding process should meet these qualities:

  • Usability: Your product should be easy to learn. The more usable a product is, the higher the user engagement. It also reduces customer frustration.
  • Simplicity: Simple user experiences let users complete their goals quickly. They also keep users engaged.
  • Usefulness: The Nielsen Norman Group highlights that usefulness depends on utility and usability. 
  • Utility: Utility indicates functionality or, in other terms, whether the product does what the users need to do.

It’s vital for onboarding specialists to understand the factors that influence the onboarding experience and make any necessary improvements.

 Since the onboarding process also includes areas such as product training, product design, support, and UX design, they need to look from a detailed perspective.

Biggest Challenges You Might Face

I have put forward the advantages of product onboarding, such as improved customer experience, increased productivity, and engagement. However, things aren’t always sunshine and butterflies. There are certain challenges that many companies come across.

Companies and particularly onboarding specialists should overcome these challenges to provide a successful onboarding process.

  • Learning curves: In terms of a SaaS product, the biggest challenge you can encounter is the “learning curves.” The onboarding process should apply to learnability because every SaaS software solution has a specific learning curve.  
  • Product design, support, and training are all important factors that affect learning curves. Therefore, you must focus on improving and optimizing learnability over time.
  • Frustration: If your SaaS product’s training is ineffective, the design is confusing, and the support is poor, users can easily get frustrated. This, as a result, leads to burnout and abandonment. 
  • Burnout and abandonment: When customers abandon a product, chances are they won’t return again. In order to avoid this situation, onboarding specialists should identify why users abandon the product and do their best to fix the problem. 
  • Disengagement: Users can experience disengagement, for example, if a product is uninteresting, if it’s challenging to learn, or if your onboarding process isn’t welcoming enough. You should avoid disengagement at all costs because it can cause many issues, including low user productivity and user churn.

Obviously, there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid and challenges to overcome. Still, the good thing is you can prepare an amazingly effective product onboarding with careful planning and a structured approach. 

So, now that we have covered all the primary knowledge bases about product onboarding, let’s see the best practices.

5 Product Onboarding Best Practices, Tips, and Strategies

Below, I will go through some of the product onboarding best practices to help you outline a strategy in order to optimize your product’s onboarding process. 

1- Establish a Structured Onboarding Process

Whether you are running a medium or large enterprise and developing new products or adopting them internally, a structured product onboarding can bring a high return on investment (ROI.)

However, the first step is to actually decide to implement a product onboarding process, which requires a commitment. Why commitment? Because in order to demonstrate the value of the process, and earn support, as well as;

  • Developing proposals, strategies, and project plans,
  • Obtaining executive sponsorship

If the organization already has an onboarding process, then these steps may not be necessary.

Instead, professionals should evaluate the results of the process and if it is sufficient to meet the goals.

2- Leverage Data & Insights to Make Decisions

Data and insights are the cornerstone of any business project, including product onboarding. You can leverage them to assess the performance of the process, identify problems and things that require improvement.

Apart from these, data and analytics can help:

  • Improve and optimize the onboarding funnel. 
  • Monitor user engagement, behavior, performance, and sentiment.
  • Provide insights into the product design.
  • Offer insights into the onboarding process.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics allow you to determine the value of onboarding, tracking progress, evaluating pros and cons, and gives an insight on how to keep customers engaged as well as further improvements.

3- Keep Your Strategies User-Oriented

Today, when we talk about business strategy or digital transformation, it doesn’t solely mean employing the latest technology tools. It also includes delivering value to customers. In terms of providing value, user experience has taken the spotlight long ago in any business model.

That means your product onboarding strategy should be user-oriented. After all, your customers’ experience with your product defines its success. 

Being customer-oriented means that your customers should lead the way when it comes to:

  • Product onboarding
  • Product design
  • Product adoption
  • Every other aspect of product experience, from marketing to support

4- Focus on Staying Agile & Adaptable

As with any other customer-centric process, product onboarding should be shaped around the customer/user. Since the needs, goals, and expectations continuously change, products, product adoption processes,  and product onboarding programs should be able to adapt and change as well.

Therefore, staying agile can benefit any business area, including experience management and onboarding.

From this aspect, products and related processes should be:

  • Adaptable 
  • Efficient
  • Responsive to the changing user needs

5- Look at the Users’ Entire Digital Environment

Not only customer needs but also the digital environment they are in is continually changing. Many experts agree that constant learning and growth are the new normal. 

It’s easy to see why. Today, employees need to learn and adopt new digital tools constantly. They need to learn, train, and upskill to stay competitive. Employers also require them to learn digital skills quickly and demonstrate maximum productivity. 

However, with the digital disruption of the workforce, not all employees possess the required skills. In fact, most of them don’t. 

Since the digital environment continually introduces new digital tools to employees, organizations should leverage product onboarding to teach the right digital skills set. 

Employee onboarding is particularly essential for SaaS companies’ employees as well as any business invested in technology. 

To adapt to the digital environment and improving productivity with product onboarding, businesses should concentrate on;

  • Streamlining and integrating digital workflows

Most employees use multiple tools to complete a given task. That’s why adoption and onboarding specialists should include the digital workflow as a whole and not just a single tool.

  • Support perpetual digital adoption and training

In today’s business environment, the tools and software upgrades and regularly change; employees also need continual skills development for maximum productivity.

  • Maximizing productivity across multiple

Just as optimizing the product onboarding process for the entire workflow, organizations should also include multiple platforms in the process.

As it’s clear to see, product onboarding goes beyond just the user and the product. It includes a smooth transformation to prevent digital disruption.

Product Onboarding Tools and Software

After talking about what product onboarding is and its best practices, let’s answer another essential question. 

So, what are the user onboarding software on the market?

Modern workflows require the use of multiple tools and platforms. So does onboarding. 

Here are some of the most common onboarding solutions:

UserGuiding – Better SaaS User & Product Onboarding

userguiding product onboarding tool
You can analyze and track the performance of your onboarding processes with UserGuiding.

UserGuiding is a no-code onboarding solution that helps you build interactive product guides in minutes.

UserGuiding helps you:

  • Segment users to give you the ability to understand each user individually.
  • Create unique and personalized interactive guides for each user to increase feature adoption.
  • Implement onboarding to the entire user journey and use in any department of your company, from customer success to marketing.
  • See in-depth analytics and optimize accordingly.

If you want to increase product adoption quickly and easily, you can start using UserGuiding.

Wyzowl – Animated Video Onboarding

wyzowl video onboarding tool
For video guides, Wyzowl helps you achieve all of the above.

Wyzowl is an animated video agency, and they specialize in explainer videos that illustrate your product and your features.

If you think that the features of your product need more showing than doing, then Wyzowl is a great choice for you.

Wyzowl helps you create:

  • Animated videos
  • Demo videos
  • Interactive Videos
  • Live-action Videos
  • Animated Graphics

If you want to provide a better user experience during product onboarding, you can combine Wyzowl’s explainer videos and interactive elements.

Intro.js – Open Source Library for Creating Product Guides

Intro.js onboarding tool
With a little bit of technical background, Intro.js will provide you with the resources to create perfect guides.

Intro.js is an open-source library that you can use for creating user guides and feature introductions.

If you have a technical background or a developer on your team, Intro.js can help you:

  • Customize the onboarding processes
  • Create step-by-step tours

HR Platforms & HCM Platforms

HR and HCM platforms provide a variety of HR-related functions, including:

  • Orientation and onboarding
  • Surveys
  • Training management
  • Payroll management, benefits, retirement, and insurance
  • Document processing
  • Self-service portals, and more.

Apart from onboarding software, HR, and HCM platforms, you can also consider using analytics tools, employee training tools, and digital adoption platforms (DAPs.) 

Conclusion

In this guide, I wanted to give you insights into product onboarding from many aspects, including what product onboarding means, product onboarding best practices, the difference between a product and user onboarding, and why it matters.

I hope you found this guide helpful. Where to go from product onboarding? 

Here is another resource for further research:

Frequently Asked Questions


What defines successful product onboarding?

Successful product onboarding is the process of demonstrating and explaining the use cases and features of your product to users. The better you help users internalize and understand your product, the more likely you will be able to retain those customers. In other words, with a successful product onboarding, you help your users make use of your product in the best way.


What comes after onboarding?

Onboarding is an ongoing process because, after the initial onboarding process, you are responsible for helping your users learn about the new features that you launch. That is to say, you need to constantly keep updating users about what comes next.


What is the most common process of onboarding new customers?

The most common process of onboarding new customers is to help them via interactive guides. Interactive guides help you save time and resources. They are customizable and can be made personalized. With the help of interactive guides, you can engage with users throughout their whole journey.

a definitive guide to product onboarding

Serhat Erdem

Serhat is the Creative Content Writer of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that 2000+ companies trust in their user onboarding.

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