How do users experience your Software as a Service (SaaS) product for the first time? The answer to this question will shape how much users bond with your brand and how often they interact with your product in the future. User onboarding determines whether prospects become true fans and whether your product becomes their go-to tool.
What is user onboarding all about?
What do we mean by user onboarding?
User onboarding describes the process by which new users of a tool first learn how it works and are guided through the various functions.
The user onboarding process is especially crucial because a good user experience (UX) needs a sense of achievement. If this doesn't happen, users won't know how to use the tool properly or understand the full range of functions of a software. If the "aha" moment is missing, a person's motivation to use the tool and establish it in their everyday life will fade very quickly.
Today, users have more options than ever - and there are already many tools with similar features to choose from. Plus, our attention spans are shorter than ever and the next possible experience is just a click away. That's why it's so important to convince your users quickly and keep their attention on your software.
The onboarding process is the kickstart to a long-term subscription.
Generally speaking, SaaS companies work in a subscription model. This means customers pay a monthly or annual subscription fee for as long as they use the tool. Unlike a one-time purchase, how long a customer enjoys using and benefits from your software is crucial for your profit.
Advantages of well-planned user onboarding
Before we get to what concrete measures for a good customer onboarding process could look like, I'd like to explain the benefits in detail so you can better understand their significance.
You increase your conversion rate
Many SaaS tools operate on a free trial or freemium model where users can use a limited set of features for free but need to pay if they want extras.
Your user onboarding can become a decisive factor here, as it significantly influences whether the users understand the tool in its entirety and use it meaningfully for their needs - and also how easy it is for them to do so. The easier the product is to use, the more likely users will enjoy it and achieve what they set out to do when they registered.
You relieve your customer support
With a good user onboarding process, many of your users' questions will answer themselves. Instead of having to ask customer support for help, your users can focus on getting results with your tool.
This not only prevents frustration on the part of your users, but it also relieves your support at the same time. You thus save resources that can instead flow into the further development of your product.
You build user trust in your product
People are more likely to trust you if they understand what you're offering them and that's exactly where user onboarding helps. If it's easily understandable, detailed and professionally prepared, user onboarding increases the perceived seriousness of your company. It also strengthens the belief that the tool has a future and will be continuously available and further developed.
You lower the churn rate
People who understand your product, know how to use it and get results will be satisfied with it. And those who are satisfied are likely to remain customers. The more it becomes part of the user's daily routine, the less likely they are to unsubscribe. And user onboarding is the key to understanding your SaaS tool.
You increase the recommendation rate
Increasing satisfaction also boosts the chance that users will recommend your tool to others. Already during onboarding, they get to know features they can see supporting friends or business partners in their processes. And since everyone would like to be the one to make a good recommendation, appropriate user onboarding can work wonders.
What makes for good user onboarding?
Now that we know how important user onboarding can be for your business, let's look at the following question: what could my onboarding look like to turn prospects into long-term users?
One thing we can say for sure is that three short sliders explaining the core functions of your app, program or any other tool isn't enough. But it's a good start. In the first step, I recommend naming the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of your product and clearly stating which problem it actually solves. If readers feel addressed at that moment, they'll continue to listen to you attentively and you can initiate the next phases of your onboarding.
All this happens on your website before readers register. With concise information, illustrations and clear call-to-actions, you lead them to registration. With screenshots of your SaaS, you build more trust.
Finally, the registration should be as simple as possible and only ask for data that's actually necessary. At the same time, you can ask for voluntary information that concerns the use of the tool at this point.
What challenges, for example, is the user facing that the tool can solve. With this information, you can of course further optimize the future user experience by learning more and more about the problems of your users.
On the other hand, you also have the option to make the user's dashboard dependent on the answers to their questions - and to highlight the crucial functions. This way, you simplify the use of your tool for your users, increase your users' satisfaction and enable them to achieve even better results more easily.
After successful registration, you should automatically send new users an email that describes the next steps and includes direct call-to-actions to encourage users to interact directly with your tool. At the same time, you can refer to possible documentation or other resources in your email that help users get to know your product.
A call-to-action from your email should lead the recipient to the login. The first impression counts! Keep the screen after the first login simple, visually appealing and give your users the opportunity to decide for themselves what happens next. For example, whether they want to watch a video that explains the product or start using it directly.
And if someone wants to start using your product right away, you can use tool tips in the dashboard to explain the individual functions. For example, by displaying corresponding notes on the various buttons and icons of your software, explaining what they mean and what they do. This way, users can playfully get to know the functions of your site and use them directly.
I recommend including a checklist in this product tour that users can work through to complete the onboarding process. After completing the checklist, users can be advised they're ready to use all the features of the tool.
More tips for successful user onboarding
In addition, there are various other ways to take your users by the hand after the first use and thus ensure they continue to work with your tool in the long term.
3 Tips for ongoing user onboarding:
- Emails: Send your users emails at regular intervals to make them aware of the different features of your tool. Encourage them to invite their team members, send them new case studies and make them aware of new features. Pay attention to the open rates of your emails and adjust the frequency accordingly.
- Documentation: While many users only work superficially with your tool, there are others who want to go into more detail - for these users you should provide detailed documentation. This will increase their satisfaction and relieve your support at the same time. You can also use public documentation to increase your SEO rankings.
- Onboarding call: Everyone is different. Some people like to watch videos for onboarding, others prefer to read or get an introduction by phone. Give your users the chance to schedule an onboarding call with your team where they explain the features of the tool.
Once you have a good user onboarding process in place, keep an eye on it and measure user behavior. Using various metrics, you can see which measures are working and how well. This is especially interesting with regard to test phases or freemium models to monitor which part of the process ultimately leads to turning users into paying customers.
User onboarding has a significant impact on your sales. That's why you need to attach a lot of importance to it. There are various ways to optimize the first impression a person has of your product.
The more your users feel understood, the more likely they are to become and stay customers. Your task is to make it as easy as possible for your users to achieve results with your product. The user onboarding process lays the foundation for this.