User Onboarding

What is user onboarding?

User onboarding is the crucial process that starts from the first login of a new user and ends up in their aha moment, and usually beyond. During this process, they see first-hand the value product offers and how to achieve it.

There are a few ways to onboard users: online manuals, product showcase and walkthrough videos, demos, and automated interactive experiences. Automated interactive experiences is relatively new and is preferred by the majority of product owners.

What are the stages of User Onboarding?

Regardless of the onboarding method, there are 5 stages to user onboarding:

1- Conversion:

This is the process where a potential user didn’t start to use the product yet. The aim here is to convert this individual into a free-trial(if it exists) user. This part is mostly in the hands of the marketing team and depends on the material they have at hand to convince to the user to try the product.

2- Hook:

At this stage, there are users logged into the product for the first time waiting to be hooked. There should be a quick path to a point where users say “wow!” to the value the product offers, or how it offers it. It could actually be anything that pushes them further in the onboarding.

3- Trial:

Now that users are intrigued about the product’s value, they can try and see what effects it will have on regular use. This could last as long as the free-trial period, and users determine whether the value of the product is worth or not.

4- Deployment:

This is the stage where a user finds the product worthy and becomes determined to adopt it. They are likely to start integrating the product into their work/daily lives to make it a part of them.

5- Feedback:

Here is the most valuable part of a user onboarding where the business can achieve something valuable: feedback. Feedback regarding the user onboarding experience, the product’s value proposition, the UX design, or the functionality can help make changes that’ll improve the experience of future users.

Why is user onboarding important?

User onboarding is what determines whether the product or the service and the business is going to be successful or not as it has direct influence to every important metric.

First off, it is directly related to product adoption and feature adoption rates. Users decide whether to adopt the product and its features until the end of the onboarding process, and a well designed onboarding can help users see the value of the product first-hand.

Second, it has an active say in the early user retention and churn rates. Most users stop using a product because they don’t know how to use it, so if the path to value is obstacle-free thanks to the well designed user onboarding, the user must see how it will contribute to them during the next few months.

Third, the well onboarded user is likely to go beyond being a regular customer, turning into a fan of the business and the product or service. Users who advocate for a product will recommend it in their communities, creating free marketing campaigns that end up in revenue.

And lastly, the best way to reduce the need for customer support in a user’s journey is onboarding properly. Only by doing this, the questions that are related to the functionality of the product can be answered initially in an effective way and stop being directed to customer support in the later periods of user journey.

What are best practices for user onboarding?

The perfect user onboarding is simple, to the point, interactive, automated, and personalized. It might sound like a lot to do at first but by checking each of these points one by one, the user onboarding experience that turns first time users into fans can be achieved.

  • Simple: the user onboarding material should not be complex, it should be well understood by everyone with different levels of technical knowledge.
  • To the point: the user onboarding shouldn’t be filled with unnecessary details, it should be a clear route to the “Aha!” Moment and nothing more.
  • Interactive: the user onboarding should be interactive, where a user can not only watch but learn by doing; as it is the best way to understand a concept.
  • Automated: the user onboarding should be automated, live 24/7, and working perfectly without the need for external input.
  • Repeatable: the user onboarding should be repeatable by any user at any stage of the user journey. They must have access to the information at all times in case they’ve missed any details or sections.
  • Personalized: the user onboarding should be unique to each person, as everyone has a unique need and motive that can be met by a different approach.
  • Rich with onboarding elements: the user onboarding should not only consist of the product walkthrough, various other onboarding elements should be incorporated to complete the experience with different materials. Onboarding checklists that give a sense of goal tracking and in-app messages that boost engagement are the most common and suitable elements to consider.

Selman Gokce

Selman Gokce is the Senior Inbound Marketer of UserGuiding. He is highly invested in user onboarding and digital adoption, especially for SaaS, and he writes on these topics for the UserGuiding blog. When he's not writing, you can find him either listening to LOTR soundtracks while cooking or getting angry because he lost in a video game.

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