How to Improve User Onboarding with Data
How data improves the user onboarding experience
The user onboarding experience is crucial to get right for your product. As you begin to scale up your user base, you won't be able to manually guide each user through the onboarding experience. So a good onboarding flow highly impacts how successful your product is going to be. Some products like Slack and Dropbox are renowned for their ease of use and how easy it is to get started. However, it took years for them to get it right.
Only a small segment of users will intuitively "get" your product from the moment they sign up. Most users likely need to be guided by your product to help learn about its feature set. For teams looking to improve the onboarding experience, they can leverage data to discover issues with the current onboarding flow to find out why retention is decreasing and users are churning.
In this post, we'll cover how to improve your user onboarding experience with data to ultimately improve the product experience.
What is user onboarding?
User onboarding focuses on providing a walkthrough of a product's features and user interface. The goal of user onboarding is to familiarize users with a product so they're more likely to use its features. You've probably gone through onboarding yourself when using a SaaS product.
With features like tooltips, checklists, tutorials, product tours, and more, onboarding has different names, but the end goal is the same: to improve the product experience for users.
Why is a good user onboarding experience important?
A great user onboarding experience has a big impact on the success of a new product. Here's why you should invest in improving the user onboarding experience.
Improve activation rate for new users
Getting a new user registration is great, but it means nothing if the user doesn't have the motivation to interact with your product. A great onboarding experience familiarizes active users with your product so they can become more comfortable with its features.
For example, let's say your product is a BI tool. With your onboarding experience, you can use a checklist to walk a user through the setup process for integrating the specific data warehouse they use. Instead of telling the user to enter an API key, you can create different onboarding experiences for integrating warehouses like Redshift and Snowflake to "personalize" the onboarding experience and tackle specific use cases. By offering detailed guidance, users are more likely to engage with your product and stick around.
Improve retention rates
Retention is one of the most important metrics to measure a product's health. Engaged users are more likely to come back and use your product over and over again. If users don't see the value proposition in using your product, they're going to churn. This leads to lower daily active users (DAU) and lowers your chances of a customer renewing their subscription (if it's a paid product).
Ensure a better user experience
Do you ever stop using an app because it's unintuitive or difficult to navigate? A great onboarding experience reduces friction and makes it easier for users to use your product without getting your support team involved. As users find the "aha moment," they're more likely to stick around.
Convert more free trial users
If you have users on free trials, it's vital that users have a great first impression of your product to eventually convert them into paying customers. For example, if your product is a BI tool, users need to know that connecting their data sources and creating visualizations are easy and simple to do. If there’s friction with setting up your product, users are likely to look at other products.
How to leverage data to improve onboarding
Users generate a lot of data as they interact with your website and product. Here's how you can leverage that data to improve the onboarding experience.
1. Review the customer journey
The best place to start is to identify the various stages–no matter how short–that take place during the onboarding process. As customers are most likely to drop a product within the first period of using it, you should focus on that.
Understand the various paths a user takes to get to be a ‘user’ of your service. Identify each stage within each of these paths, regardless of how small. This includes where they found your product, what they see when they open the product, and how they are guided through to the point of being a regular user. Create an onboarding process flow chart to visualize the process and ensure you see every step of the onboarding roadmap.
2. Create a funnel in a product analytics tool
Once you've identified the customer journey, you should replicate those stages using a funnel model for analyzing your customer retention. Tools like Mixpanel, Amplitude, Heap, and Indicative make this much easier to implement. Within your analytics tool, you can track relevant events at each stage of the funnel to begin measuring the performance of the onboarding process.
3. Find where users are dropping off during onboarding
Once you have users going through the onboarding process, the analytics tool will collect the data it needs to find where the users are dropping off. For example, if you have a 5-step onboarding flow, the data might show that users are dropping off at step 3.
This is where granular data comes into play. By zeroing in on users who dropped off at step 3, look at specifically where or why they drop off at step 3. At this point, it's worth collecting feedback directly from users to find out what's going wrong with the onboarding flow. You can leverage surveys, emails, live chat, customer service tickets, and more to connect with users and collect feedback on why they didn't finish onboarding.
4. Create experiments to improve the onboarding flow
Once you have all the data and feedback from users, you can begin to modify the onboarding flow to address their concerns. Instead of completely changing the onboarding flow for every user, create A/B tests for onboarding experiments to see if your changes have any impact.
Once you’re done with this four-step process, work to implement the changes that get the best results. This may involve using more than one method that showed success. If you try five different tactics and two show extremely positive results, consider finding a way to make a change that includes both successful tactics to get the best results. Be sure to continue tracking, continuously refining the process to get the best results over time.
User onboarding metrics to track
There are dozens of metrics to track during the onboarding process. Here's our recommendation on the three most important onboarding metrics to measure user onboarding.
Cohort retention rate
As mentioned earlier, retention is a key metric. The cohort retention rate measures what percentage of users come back to your product after a specific amount of time.
Why it Matters
The user retention rate matters because you have to know how many users are coming back to your product. If the retention rate is low, it could signal that the product itself has issues and that users don't find it valuable. By measuring retention, product teams can measure the overall health of their product to address issues as they come up.
Product activation rate
There are several metrics to effectively measure the product adoption rate. Essentially, you want to define the usage rates of individuals and accounts by measuring how often they access your product, which features they leverage, and how long they use the product. You should measure product activation rates up to 90 days after the completion of onboarding.
Why it Matters
Product activation rates will give you insight into the effectiveness of your onboarding process. Successful early activation forces us to consider how each aspect of onboarding contributes directly to product use and the realization of business goals.
User onboarding best practices
Here are some best practices to keep in mind if you want to deliver the best user onboarding experience.
Create a knowledge base
A knowledge base provides helpful resources, blogs, videos, demos and much more to make the onboarding experience smooth for a first-time user. Many products today are self-serve, so having an ample amount of resources to help users is vital.
Implement a user onboarding tool
There are plenty of tools available today that can help with creating an onboarding experience with minimal coding involved. They can do things like setting up product tours or creating simple onboarding checklists to incentivize users to interact with specific features.
Here are some of the most popular tools for creating an onboarding experience:
Use a customer data platform (CDP) to determine what your best users have in common
A CDP is a vital tool to have in your analysis toolkit. With a CDP, you can build user profiles to determine who your best users are. With this data, you can look at the common behaviors and demographics of users with the highest engagement to see what they have in common.
With data, the onboarding process can be vastly improved. Get started with Freshpaint today to build your modern data infrastructure.