July 8, 2021

User onboarding: how to engage, retain and captivate users

Onboarding is not just user training: properly structured onboarding will show the user the maximum benefit of the service and lay the foundation for retention and additional sales.

Before we start talking about onboarding, take a look at a small (fictional, but quite realistic) case study.

Meet David.

David’s main passion is fishing. David moved to another city and found that he was completely unaware of fishing spots. After some time, he saw an advertisement for the “Happy Fisherman” service, which promises David to show the fishiest places and report bite forecasts. David installs it, but the trouble is that he cannot figure out how to set up the desired location, is disappointed in the service, and deletes it.

“Happy Fisherman’s” developers do their best, marketers do their best, designers do their best, but David left anyway. Who lacked intelligence and ingenuity – David or the team of the “Happy Fisherman”? Of course, the team. They could not show the customer the value of the product and help him solve the problem. This can be fixed very easily by thinking over and setting up onboarding.

What is onboarding

Onboarding is the process of familiarizing a user with a product, which helps them to feel the value of the product.

This is not just user training: properly structured onboarding will show the user the maximum benefit of the service and lay the foundation for retention and additional sales.

Why onboarding is important

According to Sixteen Ventures research, a customer who didn’t feel the value of your service in their first interactions will leave within 30-90 days. And he is unlikely to return because competitors are already waiting for him with open arms and cool onboarding.

Feel like your profits are draining away? Work on onboarding. To finally be convinced of its importance, take a look at the statistics:

◾️ you will lose 75% of new users within the first week;

◾️ 40-60% of users who started the trial period will use your product once and never come back;

◾️ more than ⅔ SaaS companies have a churn rate of more than 5%.

As you can see, a lot depends on the first impression. The first session determines whether the user will continue to work with the service. Thoughtful onboarding that shows the customer that you care about their success will help you turn casual users into loyal customers and loyal customers into brand fans. Below we will describe some other pleasant results from onboarding.

Less customer churn

We all remember the fateful meaning of 90 days, after which uninvolved customers get frustrated and walk away. It is important to have time to show customers (including through onboarding) that their life will be much better with your service. This way you will retain more customers and lose less profit.

Satisfied customers

The client will be more likely to be satisfied with your service if he can understand the logic of his work and solve his problem with minimal effort.

A service with amazing functionality that is difficult to use is unlikely to be successful – adapt to the client, help him understand the product, and show him the beauty of your offer – onboarding will help with this. A customer who realizes how good your service is will be with you longer and bring you more profit and new customers.

More new clients

The clearer and more effective your service are, the more likely it is that customers will recommend it to other people. There will be more customers (and more profits). According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 84% of B2B decision-makers start buying with referrals – sounds like a strong argument to work on onboarding.

Higher efficiency

A reliable and repeatable onboarding process leads to better user activation, lower churn rates, and more revenue and customer referrals. Accordingly, work efficiency increases and you can scale your business.

The clear focus of the project

By defining user expectations ahead of time while onboarding, it will be much easier for you not to waste time on unnecessary things and keep a clear focus on the project.

Why onboarding is needed

Onboarding helps to solve several important problems:

 ◾️ Training: onboarding shows the user how to work with the product;

 ◾️ Involvement: onboarding helps the user to see the benefits and benefits that he will receive from the service;

 ◾️ Retention: a user who has learned to use the product and profit from it in the onboarding process is likely to continue using it.

How to build an onboarding strategy

Not thoughtful onboarding in advance, in which the service seeks to show the client all at once an avalanche of annoying prompts, is worse than the absence of onboarding. It will not help the user to activate the product and will leave an unpleasant impression. Effective onboarding is impossible without a well-thought-out strategy. Before starting onboarding for first users, have a clear plan and set a specific goal. Of course, over time, you will learn more about your customers and adjust your onboarding, but first, focus on the product features, customer base, and key principles of customer retention:


◾️ Encourage customers to use your product more than once in the first week. This will make the client more likely to feel the value of your service and want to continue working with it;

◾️ Develop a use plan – the client must understand what he is doing and why feel his progress, and benefit from the service;

◾️ Make your product irreplaceable – add useful functionality that competitors do not have, or make similar functionality superior. Show this during onboarding to reduce churn.

Remember that your service may have many clients, but you should be one for each client. Make sure every customer is happy – this will require as much customer information as possible from all touchpoints.

Understand your buyer

Turn on empathy and imagine your customers to the smallest detail: how they behave, what they are guided by, what can please them, and what will repel them. Understand what problems they may have during the onboarding process and try to fix them.

Set clear expectations and demonstrate the value

Agree with the client onshore about what he wants to get from the service and show him the specific value. Each step of onboarding should tangibly bring the client closer to this goal, so the client will strive to achieve it and it will be more difficult to stop the emerging difficulties.

Keep in touch

In the first stages, it makes sense to supplement the onboarding process within the service with emails. Obviously, your new user goes to email much more often than to the service where he just signed up. Send emails to the customer to remind them of yourself, encourage them to log into the service, complete the profile or customize the product, and get closer to achieving their goal.

After that, the client will be guided by tips in the service, but do not forget about emails – inform the user about updates and share tips on using your product. Please do not annoy the client with an avalanche of emails. At first, they are useful for activating the user into the product, but after that, it is better to limit yourself to a weekly mailing with the most important materials and news.

Create customer-centric goals

Each client’s problem is unique and therefore requires unique goals and metrics. Let each user define their moment of success and specific measurable milestones along the way. It is important that individual progress is visible and the client is happy that they are using your service for a reason.

Strive to impress

Strive to delight customers with excellent service performance. Let each contact leave only pleasant memories for the user, the desire to continue working with you further, give you all their money, and tell all your friends that they, too, urgently need to give you all their money.

Track and measure your success, identify weaknesses

Collect customer feedback, identify different opinions, and track key metrics so you know what is effective and what can be improved.

Onboarding evaluation metrics

We have no doubt that you have carefully thought out your onboarding strategy, have chosen the best methods, and are absolutely confident that you have helped the user to remove all obstacles. You are amazing – but not necessarily that your onboarding is as good as you think it is. To understand how effectively you are activating a user into a product, track the indicators of several key metrics that will show the real user behavior in your service.

So, the main metrics that should be monitored and improved:

Churn rate

One of the most important metrics for your service is the number of people who stop using it for any reason.

Keep track of how the churn rate changes with all the changes in the product and onboarding. Perhaps, with the help of onboarding, you can reduce the churn of customers who did not understand the logic of working in the service (and the lower the churn, the more profit, Karl).

LTV (Lifetime Value)

Lifetime Value is the profit that you receive from the client for the entire period of work with him. Note that this is a key marketing metric, as customer acquisition should never be more expensive than LTV. The performance of this metric is influenced by a million different factors, including the duration of the customer’s interaction with the service. High-quality onboarding can help extend the customer’s time with the service and have a beneficial effect on LTV.

Customer retention rate

This metric will help you determine the reasons for customer churn. Track when your retention rates are lowest to improve them. For example, if you’ve lost most of your users during the first days after signing up, you might want to improve your welcome messages and motivate users to get started with the service faster.

Consumer Loyalty Index (NPS)

The main criterion by which customer loyalty is assessed is their willingness to recommend your service to friends and acquaintances.

Onboarding creates a positive experience with the service, more importantly, a positive first interaction. Consequently, onboarding improves NPS performance.


We hope that by now you have an idea of ​​what onboarding is and are already making Napoleonic plans for engaging and retaining customers.

Take another look at the main points in onboarding so that your client is happy with onboarding and you are happy with the profit:

◾️ Define customer expectations in advance and explain to him the value of your product;

◾️ reduce the time to get the first value;

◾️ thoroughly know your client and his unique goals;

◾️ understand what obstacles the client may face and eliminate them;

◾️ guide the client through the product settings in small steps and always be in touch;

◾️ work on tutorials: break them down into several steps with simple instructions, make them easy to hide and easy to find.

◾️ more, more, even more personalization for onboarding! Develop an action plan and goals with the client;

◾️ don’t forget about useful metrics;

◾️ celebrate victories with the client so that he feels the result even at the very first steps.

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July 8, 2021

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