Growth & Marketing

October 25, 2020

December 17, 2020

User onboarding for SaaS: finding the path for your audience

Table of contents

User onboarding is a key factor for the success of your product, and you have probably heard a thousand times this... but do you know exactly what it entails?

With this article we inaugurate a series of posts to analyze, clarify and provide examples, solutions and tools to help you build the user onboarding flow that your SaaS deserves.

What exactly is user onboarding?

When we think about how to make it easy for our users, we usually start visualizing guides and help elements all over the interface: a welcome screen, a walkthrough, tooltips, contextual help... but user onboarding flows go much further than this.

Actually, the user onboarding flows start with the very first information they receive about your product and the path created from anywhere, on any channel, to get them to sign up and give it a try. Indeed, it makes for a fairly sophisticated process that combines different contents and interactions that will make the user decide to stay or leave it.

Which is the goal?

The main objective of user onboarding flows is to get the user to adopt the product as a commonly used tool in their work. To achieve it, the flow should meet some requirements:

  • To be engaging. The onboarding flow should catch the user's attention from the first moment, but also maintain it throughout all steps or phases.
  • To be clear. We should clearly explain what we expect the user to do at all times, but also be honest with what they can really get from the product.
  • To be consistent. Trust and credibility is the basis of any relationship, also with our users. Make sure your proposal really meets this requirement.
  • To be valuable. The value proposition of our product or service should also be shown, directly and explicitly, in each phase of the flow.
  • To empower the user. It is not just about convincing how good your product is, but to grant them a series of skills that they would not have without it.

Which are the phases of the flow?

Most of user onboarding flows consist of these 6 steps or phases, although they may vary depending on the type of product or service:

1. Connection at first sight — Brand & Content

The first contact that your potential users will have will be always with your content. The homepage of your website, any page or landing page or any content spread on social media, the visual identity of your brand and its messaging are the first elements that will attract (or not) their attention.

Make sure that you speak the same language as your audience, use the adequate keywords, a voice and tone that capture their attention without being disrespectful, and that both content and design are useful, attractive and interesting for your target. They really are key points when it comes to getting the next click from your potential user.

2. Convincing the user — The value proposition

Once you have caught their attention, you must draw your best weapons. Check that your best arguments and value proposition are present and clear at all times, especially in texts and elements close to calls to action.

If you are trying to attract different types of users, you can target each of them with a landing page and specific content blocks to show the most suitable arguments for each of them. Simply remember that, even if you make specific pages, the arguments for each profile should have a presence in main sections of the web, such as the front page.

3. Giving it a try — The registration

The registration or sign up process is a hot spot in onboarding flows. At this point, clearly your user wants to take a look at your product and we should not put too many obstacles, but balance our needs and requirements with the best security and UX practices.

Building a form that offers minimal friction for new users and also collects the data that our team needs may seem like a challenge, but it is easy if you know how to use and combine social login, passwordless flows, data enrichment... Just think of the ideal flow, test it and iterate until you get the best results.

4. Introducing the tool — The quick overview

It is possible that some users arrive at the interface of your product without knowing or having seen much about it, so it is worth summarizing the goals and key points of your service in the shortest possible time.

Usually, it consists of a short video that is shown over the interface as soon as you register, and that you can skip, or that is sent in the welcome email, but it doesn't always have this format. Sometimes it is a slider or presentation. It really depends on the case, there is no unbreakable standard.

5. Knowing the interface — The walkthrough

One of the last hot spots in onboarding flows is what we normally think of as a walk through the interface, forgiving the redundancy, showing the main features and how to start using them with different elements of contextual help.

To build this may seem like an easy task, but its complexity really depends on the interface itself and our users' skills. There are many different approaches, but a good option is to make it flexible, allowing content to be skipped and accessed on demand later.

6. Keeping in touch — Mailing & Support

Two-way communication is essential on user onboarding processes if you really want to know and understand how everything is going for your users and which are the difficulties that they are facing with your product or service.

Providing a way of contact in the interface itself, proposing surveys, asking for general or specific feedback, setting up a mailing sequence... There are different ways to know what they think about the product and its usability without being too intrusive, you just have to find the ones that your users respond to best.

Is this really that important?

According to a study on user onboarding conducted by Pendo in 2017, companies with tailored onboarding flows are less likely to report high rates of customer churn and that it has a direct impact on customer loyalty and recurring revenue.

Specifically, the annual churn rates collected in their study range from 26.3% of the platforms that did not have onboarding flows, to 22.7% of those that had generic onboarding flows, while those that had tailored flows had a 20% rate. That is, a difference of more than 6% in their annual churn rate.

This may seem like a small amount, but according to renowned marketer Neil Patel, «a 1 percent difference in churn can have a 12 percent impact on company valuation in 5 years». Not enough to think about it?

So... How can I build an effective onboarding?

There is no magic recipe, but almost as many versions as there are projects. Although there are some good practices, tools, examples and resources that we will address in the next articles.

The best way to discover which is the best onboarding flow for your SaaS is simply to analyze, build, test and iterate. Shall we get to work?

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