Need to convert more trial users into paying customers? You must keep an eye on your churn. Cutting churn by just 5% can boost your revenue by 75%.
The poor onboarding process is one of the top contributors to churn.
The good news is onboarding is one of the obvious things you can fix first. To convert new users into power users, you’ve got to provide them with the best onboarding experience possible.
Think some onboarding inspirations will help you?
Lucky you, you’ve just landed at the right place
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what makes an onboarding experience so good by looking at real-world SaaS examples. By learning from them, you’ll craft your own effective user onboarding flow.
In a hurry? Skip to the 15 best onboarding examples right away.
What is the user onboarding experience?
The user onboarding experience is the collective process of introducing your product to new users and customers.
The experience combines all the product interactions new users encounter as they sign up for your SaaS. It includes signup forms, in-app guides, onboarding emails, and more.
You may not be aware, but onboarding starts when a user first hears about your product and continues throughout their entire lifecycle as a customer.
The onboarding process begins even before the signup process. For most, it starts on your website’s homepage.
75% of people see the homepage as their first impression of your website.
Conversely, onboarding continues even after the trial period. You’d have to onboard users when they activate their subscription, when a new feature goes live, or when they upgrade to your enterprise plan.
Simply put, onboarding should be considered in multiple phases of the user journey.
At each pivotal moment, it’s best to give new users useful content, product guides, and support to help them get the most value out of your SaaS.
Keep them excited again and again, and they will stay. They’ll NOT churn.
Onboarding tip: Advanced behavior emails are the best ways to keep users in the loop. But not all email marketing tools can send this kind of email. You need to use a marketing automation platform built explicitly for SaaS, like Echarge. Try out Encharge for free.
Why invest in making your onboarding delightful?
The goal of onboarding is not only to introduce users to the product as quickly as possible. It’s also to motivate them to continue using it over time.
Here are a few more reasons why delightful onboarding makes sense.
Good onboarding makes users stay
Do you know that 25% of users abandon an app after one use?
It’s an ugly truth. Effective user onboarding will improve user engagement and retention. When users have a positive experience from the onset, they’re more likely to continue using your product, upgrade to a higher-tier plan, and even recommend it to others.
90% of highly engaged customers buy more.
It cuts down churn
We know you hate this metric.
But don’t worry. A good onboarding experience can fix this if you have a product-market fit in place.
While you have little control over many factors that influence churn — like seasonal demands and customers going out of business — you have total control over customer onboarding.
Great onboarding makes it easier to collect valuable user feedback
A delightful onboarding experience makes customers feel more invested in the success of your product. Satisfied users are more likely to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement right after they get to their AHA moment. And this will, in turn, help shape your upcoming product development.
Additionally, a good experience creates positive associations with your brand and product, making customers more willing to provide feedback and engage with your team.
Read more: How to find the critical Aha moments in your product?
Effective onboarding decreases support tickets
The more troubles users have in navigating your product, the more customer support tickets pile up, drowning your customer support team.
Instead of solving complex problems, your CS team is dragged into resharing help articles again and again and maybe even recording mini-demos that take all hours.
Support is less likely to be needed when users can easily navigate your product and onboard themselves.
It serves as a good point of differentiation
SaaS is a congested industry. Just take a look at productivity apps or AI tools.
A well-thought-out SaaS onboarding process is a great way to stand out. It’s an opportunity to show off your brand’s personality, values, and commitment to customer success.
By infusing your onboarding experience with your flavor, you’ll create a unique connection with your customers that goes beyond the functional benefits of your product.
Nearly 90% of people show increased loyalty to businesses that invest in onboarding content.
Now, this is one of the best onboarding experiences you can give.
What great user onboarding makes your users feel
If the onboarding process is done well, users will be more likely to become long-term customers, raving fans even.
Here’s how your onboarding should make your users feel:
Great user onboarding will leave users feeling welcomed and understood.
The worst thing you can make them feel is confusion, like when you don’t send any confirmation or welcome email.
Welcome users by:
- Sending a verification email as soon as signing up, followed by a welcome email
- Showing them where to find stuff they need: the help guides, support channels, and customer happiness officers, or a SaaS community where they can connect with fellow users
- Telling them what to do next with your product so they take action right away
Whether your user is a tech nerd or a technologically challenged, the best onboarding experience should make them feel smart.
Don’t make things hard or complicated. Boost your customers’ self-esteem. Make them feel accomplished.
Think of video game training. Give them a quick win! When they do, it’s more likely that they will continue exploring your product.
- Give them a checklist of what to do in the form of in-app checklists
- Nudge them in the right direction with hotspots and nudge emails that show them where to go next.
- Make the first step so easy and light that they can do it within minutes or seconds. If you have a sophisticated product, create templates or workflows they can easily play with.
- Send reward emails as soon as they perform an important action in the app.
Make users excited and eager to do more whit your product.
Keep them on their toes, but don’t give away everything immediately. It’s a delicate balance between guiding them and leaving a bit of exploration for them. You can do so by:
- Creating a gamified onboarding process that rewards users for completing specific tasks or milestones.
- Adding a checklist of the essential features to explore first.
- Showing them the possibilities with a full-blown in-app demo or inviting them over for a demo call.
Make users feel relieved that they finally have your app to solve their issues and don’t have to spend hours figuring out how to use your product to fix the issue themselves.
This applies especially to “all-in-one” tools with many features and use cases to explore.
- Provide extra support via proactive customer help.
- Share access to the knowledge base, troubleshooting guides, and tutorial videos
- Cultivate a rhythm of customer education through regular webinars
The feeling of being reminded is an important but often missed aspect of onboarding.
A great onboarding process has a way to check your users’ progress and remind them of incompleted tasks. This reinforces their decision to try and use the software.
Do this by:
- Using in-app messages to remind users of important features when they’re inside your app
- Assigning a customer success officer to actively check in with new users
- Communicate effectively by sending a mix of time-based and behavior-based emails
Need help with reminding users based on their actions? Try Encharge — a marketing automation software that specializes in sending emails triggered by a user’s behavior or actions. Send targeted follow-up emails when users do or don’t do something with your product.
Tap onto these emotions during the onboarding experience. Leverage curiosity-sparking elements to encourage product adoption and user engagement.
What great onboarding looks like? 15 examples from successful companies
Onboarding experiences can make or break a user’s opinion of your product. Do it right, and you’ll leave a lasting impression on users!
It’s time to see what an effective onboarding experience looks like on screen.
We’ve gathered concrete examples from top SaaS companies who got an A on their onboarding game.
Trello: In-app product showcase
When you sign up to Trello, they have this Welcome Board prepared for you.
It shows what a “finished product” looks and feels like. This trick works best for sophisticated apps with a wide use case, multiple features, and heavy input needed from the user. You turn down the friction factor to zero when you do this.
Notice how the cards have short descriptions and actionable texts, like “Click on this card to open it and learn more…” And when you open it, it teaches you more stuff.
Like this one:
The ready-to-explore examples act as an onboarding guide, a checklist, and a self-serve demo in one
Notion: The perfect signup transition
Remember how we said onboarding starts when users first hear about your app?
Notion nailed this with their homepage. The homepage immediately communicates what the platform is and what it can do for users, highlighting its key functions.
When you sign up and go inside the app, it still looks a lot like the homepage. The branding, style, colors, and fonts!
The mistake that other SaaS make is they have not made the UI and UX seamless. If the website and app feel like two different brands, it feels off and can affect your credibility.
Ensure you have the same look and feel on the landing page and web app. I fyou have a mobile app, make sure it’s synced to your web app too.
HelloSign’s easy signup
Talking about effective signup forms?
The HelloSign signup only requires you to enter your email address.
If you ask users for too much information right off the bat, it can be overwhelming and may even discourage them from completing the first step in the signup process. Except if filtering signups is really your goal, then you can create friction intentionally.
Another thing is they also allow users to sign up using social media accounts, like Google or Facebook, making the process a lot more convenient and fast!
Zoom: Helpful resources and chatbot support
Just look at those resources! Zoom helps its users learn and use their platform fast.
With these, the learning curve is less steep. It also gives new users the aid they need to get started. They also offer chatbot support to users who need extra help. This is impressive, given that Zoom is already a simple tool to use.
DirectIQ: Getting started checklist
When a user first enters your app, it’s natural for them to feel unsure about what to do next, especially if you just throw them into a busy Dashboard. Where do they click? What happens next?
DirectIQ makes it to our list because they have a clear checklist of steps to get started. This guides users through their onboarding process, giving them a sense of direction.
Ahrefs: Easy-to-see app-native guide tooltips
One of the key benefits of app-native tooltips is that they’re integrated directly into the app itself, so users don’t need to search for help elsewhere.
Ahref SEO toolset provides users with real-time guidance as they navigate through the app. Users won’t feel lost or frustrated. Plus, supporting users in real time reduces support requests to your team.
Lou: On-cue walkthroughs
This one pops up right after signing up.
And this one appears after navigating the “Goals’ tab.
Lou is a digital adoption platform (DAP), so onboarding is pretty much their thing.
Their on-cue walkthroughs are the best! It comes at the right time, quickly getting users up and running with the features they’re currently exploring. Yep, these walkthroughs are triggered automatically.
Visual learners love on-cue walkthroughs. They’re easy to follow and understand.
Asana: “Truly” self-serve product tours
Asana does a good job of letting users get started with the software at their own pace.
This eliminated the feeling of being overwhelmed or rushed. Users simply go through the tutorial as quickly or as slowly as needed. And they’ll be able to return to certain steps if they want. Instead of waiting for a private demo, users can jump right in and become independent.
HubSpot: Persona onboarding
HubSpot offers multiple suites, hence their tailored onboarding.
For super-established suites like HubSpot, onboarding is tailored to different personas or by possible uses. Users get a personalized and relevant experience by creating different onboarding paths.
It improves engagement, increases user satisfaction, and reduces churn rates. It’s a win-win for both the user and the software company!
Salesforce: Visual welcome
Instead of just presenting users with a bunch of text or instructions, Salesforce welcomed its new users with a video message.
It “humanizes” the onboarding process (despite the video being fully animated). It’s visual, more engaging, and definitely more interactive. Incorporating a welcome video message into the onboarding process can help create a more positive user experience.
Encharge: Behavior-based follow-up
Not all follow-up emails are created equal — behavior-based follow-up emails are tailored to the user’s actions within the software and, thus, are more superior and effective.
Encharge emails help users stay engaged and motivated because since these emails are based on the user’s actual behavior, they’re relevant and useful.
And look at the homepage and signup process of Encharge. There’s a visual “how it works” demo, and the sign-up process for a 14-day free trial can be completed in seconds.
Scribe: Personalized service for you
When I use an app, I want to feel like the SaaS really cares about my experience and is invested in helping me get the most out of its product.
Scribe does a good job of understanding their users’ needs and goals in using their software. The data is then used to tailor the onboarding process to address those specifically. It lets users like me feel like they truly care about my satisfaction as a user.
Height: Security first
Using a verified email with OTP (one-time password)?
It’s not very common, so Height nailed it. By confirming the user’s email with an OTP, the app ensures that the user is who they say they are and prevents fake or spam accounts from being created.
This helps to build trust with the users, making them feel more confident using the app. Fyi, Height is “the source of truth for all your company’s projects”; thus, trust is a big deal for them.
Teachable: Warm welcome video
While a welcome video is meant to give a clear overview of the software’s essential features, it can also help create a sense of connection and trust between the user and the software.
And that’s what Teachable did. They put a friendly face and voice to the software, so users are more likely to feel comfortable. This makes sense too as Teachable is all about enabling their users to create helpful videos.
Webflow: Smart, interactive walkthroughs
True enough, interactive walkthroughs can make a huge difference in the user onboarding experience.
Webflow helps users quickly learn the basic functionalities and features of the app, which can save time and frustration later on. Interactive walkthroughs can engage users more effectively than traditional tutorials or manuals.
8 core components of an effective onboarding process
After seeing the examples above, we’ve identified the 9 common points from all of them. These are what effective SaaS onboarding processes are made of.
1. Frictionless sign-up process
An optimal sign-up process that’s simple, fast, and efficient is a core component of an effective SaaS onboarding experience.
It ensures new users can quickly begin using the product without unnecessary roadblocks.
Reducing the number of form fields, minimizing steps, and providing social sign-up options or even a single sign-on (SSO) capability encourages more users to sign up.
2. Dedicated user onboarding checklist
It’s human nature to find joy in tracking success and seeing your goals achieved. This is why adding a user onboarding checklist is a good element.
With a checklist, users will quickly see their progress and what they need to do next. It ensures the timely completion of all necessary steps — which is a big win for the onboarding team and the users themselves.
3. App-native examples
Need to showcase the finished product, specific features, or use cases? In-app demos give users a taste of what your SaaS product can do for them without asking them to set up a lot of things. It can take many forms like:
- Ready-to-use templates
- Built-in workflows
- Sample products (funnels, forms, or charts) that users can duplicate and customize as their own
4. On-cue and interactive walkthroughs
If contextual guidance is your onboarding goal, on-cue walkthroughs are the core component of your process. They can be triggered at the right time and in the right context to provide maximum value to the user — yes, they’re initiated by user actions.
Have you ever clicked a button or navigated to a new page, and a walkthrough appeared? That’s on-cue and context-specific guidance on how to complete a task. Interactive walkthroughs let users interact with the product and simulate real-world scenarios.
5. Self-serve product tours
They’re similar to interactive tours but are “self-serve”. Unlike triggered walkthroughs, users can access self-served product tours anytime.
These are often used to replace traditional user manuals or instructional videos. And they’re often tied up to the onboarding checklist.
6. Persona-tailored flows
If your app has different use cases for different personas, consider creating a persona-tailored flow for your onboarding process. Personalize the onboarding experiences based on individual users’ specific needs and preferences so they get value from the app.
7. Knowledge base
When you sign up for a new software service (despite anticipating what it can do), you’re often thrown into a new environment with unfamiliar tools and features. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright frustrating.
But with a knowledge base, you have a friendly guide that gives you the step-by-step process. A knowledge base is a perfect place to store all the information a user might need to get started with your software. It can include:
- Getting started guides
- Troubleshooting guides
And because it’s available 24/7, users can access it whenever needed. That’s whether they’re just getting started or presently running into a problem.
8. Behavior-based emails
When your users get an email triggered by their own actions, they’re likely to open and read it. That’s because the email feels personalized and relevant to them, which makes them more engaged with your brand overall.
And this is Encharge’s specialty. It’s a marketing automation platform that lets you send automated emails based on your users’ actions.
Doing this increases your chances of getting users to open and read your emails and prompting them to activate and do the jobs that need to be done inside the app. Pretty sweet, right?
7 best practices when designing your user onboarding process
Effective onboarding increases user adoption, engagement, and retention, while poor onboarding can lead to frustration, disorientation, and churn.
So, here’s a breakdown of best practices for designing an effective user onboarding process — and letting your users get the best onboarding experiences they deserve.
Best practices to design a delightful onboarding experience
- Showcase the entire onboarding process clearly from start to finish
- Engineer the signup process to support onboarding
- Personalize the experience.
- Make the onboarding steps easy and simple
- Leverage the power of emails to nudge action
- Measure the effectiveness of the onboarding process
- Make sure your process aligns with your single value proposition
1. Showcase the entire onboarding process clearly from start to finish
It’s essential to have a clear and transparent onboarding process when introducing users to a new product or service. When everything is laid out from start to finish, users better understand what they’re getting into and what they can expect.
That’s why it’s so important to showcase the entire onboarding process, so users can see all the steps they need to take to get started.
2. Engineer the signup process to support onboarding
It’s important to engineer the signup process in a way that simplifies the overall process. One way to do this is by getting user info during sign-up and letting them in an onboarding tailored to their persona.
This not only simplifies your backend user tagging for future trigger-based emails and campaigns. It also allows users to quickly start using the product in a way that’s relevant to them.
3. Personalize the experience
One effective way to improve user engagement and retention during onboarding is by personalizing the experience based on individual user preferences, interests, and behaviors.
By tailoring the onboarding experience to meet the unique needs of each persona, you increase product adoption and user engagement.
For instance, offering different onboarding experiences for beginners versus power users can help each group feel more supported and understood, ultimately leading to a better overall user experience.
4. Make the steps easy and simple
Make sure your onboarding process is straightforward and easy to follow. By providing clear instructions and reducing the number of steps needed to complete a task, you can help users feel more confident and motivated to use your product.
Remember, the goal is to help users get up and running quickly and easily, so they can start experiencing the value of your product right away. (But don’t feed your users like a baby! You may smother and overwhelm them.)
5. Leverage the power of emails to nudge action
Don’t underestimate the power of emails when it comes to nudging users to take action and complete tasks. Emails are still your best buddy.
A well-crafted email onboarding sequence goes a long way. Sending behavior-based emails lets you provide personalized recommendations based on user behavior or highlight key features to encourage users to engage with your product.
That’s where nudge emails come in. With a tool like Encharge, you can remind people to complete critical actions in your app. Below is the automation we have created for people that fail to create a flow in Encharge within the first 3 days of their trial. They will receive an email asking them if they need any help creating their first flow.
Using email correctly will keep users engaged and motivated to explore your product to its fullest potential.
6. Measure the effectiveness of the onboarding process
To improve your onboarding process over time, it’s crucial to track and measure its effectiveness using key metrics such as:
- User engagement
- User retention
- User activation
- Feature adoption
- Customer satisfaction
- Trial-to-paid conversion
- Number of customer support tickets
- Customer churn
By keeping tabs on these metrics, you’ll identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimize the onboarding experience.
For example, if you notice a drop in user engagement, you can use the data to pinpoint where users are getting stuck and adjust your onboarding flow accordingly.
Continuously monitoring your metrics and iterating on your process will ensure that your onboarding experience continues to improve.
7. Make sure your process aligns with your single value proposition
It’s crucial that your onboarding process aligns with your product or service’s single value proposition. This means that your process should emphasize the core benefit your product provides users, and hit on their pains too.
Say, for instance, if your product is all about improving productivity by automating receipt encoding, then focus on teaching them how to start automating the process.
If you align your onboarding process with your value proposition, you’ll motivate users This motivates them to move forward and stay on board.
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On giving the best onboarding experiences
When bringing new users onto your product, it’s essential to think beyond just checking off a box on your to-do list.
You want to create the best onboarding experience that’s clear, helpful, and gets new users excited about what you have to offer.
Make sure to let your users feel welcomed, smart, excited, relieved, and, most importantly, reminded.
Attention is today’s currency. Users sign up to your app and forget that they did the next day. So remind them why they signed up in the first place and stay on top of your users’ minds.
A great way to do this is to send out behavior-based emails. When you nudge users to take action at the right time, they tend to go to the AHA moment faster.
Do trigger-based email onboarding perfectly with Encharge. It automates onboarding emails so users get the most out of your app and convert.
Taking the time to create a great onboarding experience can turn new users into loyal fans.
So take control of the process and start making the best onboarding experience for your new users. Try Encharge for free today.