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5 Steps for Effective User Onboarding


User onboarding can result in a more profitable product, happier and more successful customers, and improved retention and engagement rates. 

This is why 97 percent of businesses today believe that user onboarding is a necessity for a product’s growth.

Companies are finally realizing how critical onboarding is. However, recognizing this is one thing. Implementing an effective onboarding process is another. 

With that being said, below, we are going to take you through user onboarding in full detail, providing you with advice on the steps to follow for successful user onboarding. 

What is User Onboarding?

Before we look at some steps for effective user onboarding, it’s important to provide a definition of user onboarding.

User onboarding is the process of guiding new users so that they can find value in your service or product. 

This starts from the moment that someone signs up for your product and everything beyond this. It is not simply about teaching someone how to use your software; it is about teaching them how to do so in a successful manner that enables them to achieve their goals. 

Once the onboarding experience has concluded, users should truly understand your product’s value. They should also have all of the information required to use your product successfully on their own.

Five Key Steps for Effective User Onboarding

Now that we have established what user onboarding is, it is important to take a look at the different steps you should follow to implement this effectively:


1- Communicate And Collaborate Amongst Teams in An Effective Manner

It does not matter whether this is your first time implementing onboarding or you are hoping to enhance the current experience, you must establish channels for cross-functional collaboration and communication. 

Your marketing, product, and design teams need to be able to collaborate and communicate effectively to ensure the onboarding process is an effective one. This also involves analytics, user testing, in-app messages, and email campaigns. 

So, just how can you create a more collaborative environment? Well, a good place to start is by putting together a cross-functional “task force” that should meet on a regular occasion. 

Aside from this, it is a good idea to enable team members who deal with customers directly to have a role in the creation and deployment of app flows and onboarding emails. 

You may also want to consider moving some of your CSMs to the product pod in order to be a voice of the consumer. 

There are so many different ways that you can go about approaching this, and there is no right or wrong. It is all about thinking of what sort of communication is going to be right for your business so that this can flow effectively. This should always be your first port of call when creating a user onboarding process that truly works.


2-  Understand The Journey That Your Users Take with Journey Mapping

You simply won’t be able to design an excellent onboarding experience if you do not understand what it has taken for customers to reach this point in the journey. This is why journey mapping makes a lot of sense. 

Start with the endpoint and work backwards. So, you want to start at the point whereby the consumer is getting all of the value they need from your product and it is meeting their goals and objectives. Now, start plotting backwards from this, step-by-step. This will give you a clear picture of where your customers started and how they got to this point now. 

You can use product analytics and cohort analysis so you can notice any trends or patterns. We can see a good example of this in a graphic from Appcues:

Customers Retention

This graph gives you the ability to understand customer retention rates and days since subscription-based on users who engaged with the product’s core features. 

Once you have a working hypothesis, it makes sense to talk with your users so that you can determine whether your insights and presumptions are correct. 


3-  Personalize The Experience with Data

Personalization is something we are talking more and more about nowadays. In fact, over 70 percent of customers today consider personalization to be a basic expectation. 

When you create a product that customers feel is their own personal piece of software, it can be the difference between churned accounts and loyal customers.
Personalization does not need to be complicated; it is simply about making sure that your product or service works for that one person that is using it. 

To achieve this, analysis is your starting point. We would advise doing an inventory of the meaningful differences in the various types of users that use your product. Look for the variable that set one group of users apart from the other. For example, you could have users with different levels of technical expertise.

Personalize the experience with data


You can use these insights with user-declared data, for example, goals, preferences, or job title, and personalize the user experience you provide for each user through segmentation and targeting. 

By doing this, you will be able to provide onboarding that is much more relevant to the person in question. Not only will your product resonate with them more deeply but it will ensure that every user gets value from your product at a much quicker rate. 


4-  Get Rid of The Fluff and Focus on The Value

One of the biggest problems with a lot of onboarding processes today is that they have too much fluff and not enough value. 

We can often get caught up in telling users everything that we want them to know, rather than focusing on what they genuinely need to know. It is about putting yourself in their shoes.

Yes, you may love all of the different features that come with your product but the truth is that your users are not going to care about them as much as you do. Instead, what they want to know is how your product is going to improve their life. 

This is why demonstrating value is so critical when it comes to user onboarding, rather than simply trying to cram in as much information about all of the different features your product provides.

In basic terms: don’t talk about things or show off features simply for the sake of doing so. The chances are that most of your users are not going to need each and every feature of your product in any case.

This is why it is imperative to identify the sort of actions and features that your users are going to need to be familiar with in order to reach their goals and extract optimal value from your product. Once you have determined this, your onboarding efforts can be focused on these critical features. 

Once your users realize the true value that your product can bring, they will then be willing to learn more about it and find out about the other useful features that are available.


5-  Never Stop Improving Your Onboarding Experience

It would be great if we could design something and always get it right on the first attempt. The reality is very different, though. This rarely happens. 

In fact, as the software landscape is changing all of the time, it is simply impossible to get things perfect. We don’t like to admit it, but product design is never simply finished. There is always more that you can do.

Frequent iteration, analysis, and experimentation are critical when developing a great product. 

And, because your product is going to change, so too should your user onboarding experience. It needs to develop as time progresses. 

Furthermore, you need to make sure that you are monitoring, measuring, and optimizing the user experience that your onboarding process is providing. This will enable you to make impactful changes as and when needed. 

Start putting a plan together for how you are going to analyze and track your onboarding process. You also need to think about how you are going to set up a procedure for making regular and quick iterations to continually lower time to value and smooth out any areas of friction that people may have with your product.

Final Words on Effective User Onboarding

So there you have it: an insight into user onboarding and how to get this right at your business. The importance of user onboarding cannot be ignored. This enables customers to see the true value in your products so that they can experience the very best results. 

Rather than leaving customers to figure everything out for themselves, it is important to guide them through the process so that they can learn how to use your product in a way that suits them best and enables them to achieve their goals.

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