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7 Tips to Boost Retention with Automated Onboarding

Let’s face it. In today’s digital age, customer retention is the name of the game. And when it comes to SaaS businesses, the stakes are even higher.

You’ve got a fantastic product, sure. But so do your competitors. What sets you apart is how you keep your customers returning for more.

The secret sauce? Automated onboarding.

Yes, you read that right. Automating your onboarding process can dramatically boost your customer retention rates.

You might think, “How am I supposed to do that without feeling overwhelmed or hiring an army of customer success managers?”

Well, here’s the kicker. Automated onboarding doesn’t have to be a minefield. In fact, with the right strategies and tools, it can be a walk in the park. And dare we say, even enjoyable?

In this guide, we’ll walk you through each step, ensuring you not only boost your engagement rates but also turn your customers into loyal advocates.

What is customer retention?

Customer retention is the art (and science) of keeping your customers hooked to your services. It’s the process of nurturing relationships with clients to encourage them to continue using your product or service.

Why should you care about it?

Because retaining customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Loyal customers are much more likely to refer others to your business, ultimately driving growth and revenue.

According to research by Bain & Company, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can boost profits by 25% to 95%. Now, that’s a stat you can’t ignore.

But let’s not sugarcoat things — this sweet treat has its chunks.

Retaining customers in SaaS is no child’s play, especially with mounting competition and high churn rates.

Customers have higher expectations than ever before and are quick to jump ship if their needs aren’t met. This is where effective onboarding comes into play – a crucial step in the customer journey that sets the tone for their entire experience with your product.

The power of first impressions, why onboarding is crucial?

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The same holds true for onboarding.

Customer onboarding is the process of introducing new customers to a product or service and teaching them how to use it effectively.

It is a crucial stage in the customer lifecycle as it sets the tone for the ongoing relationship between the customer and the product or service provider.

The goal of customer onboarding is to deliver value to the customer as early as possible so that they continue returning to the product and quickly adopt it as part of their daily routine.

A well-structured and efficient onboarding process can:

  • Teach customers about the relevance of your product or service in their daily lives.
  • Provide them with the necessary knowledge, enabling them to benefit from their immediate use.
  • Ensure consistency in delivering positive customer experiences.
  • Help predict potential concerns the customers may face and pre-emptively address them, creating a sense of trust and reliability.

A well-crafted onboarding experience increases customer retention by up to 50%.

A poor onboarding experience can leave customers feeling overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated.

It can send them running in the opposite direction faster than you can say “SaaS.”

Run Running Away GIF by Warner Bros. Pictures

And once they’re gone, it’s challenging to win them back.

We know it can be a bit of a bumpy ride sometimes. However, getting it right is super important since it affects customer retention in a big way.

Here are some common onboarding problems and the impact they can have on customer happiness:

Information overload

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!” except for onboarding.

Sometimes, companies need to tell customers everything all at once, and that’s quite a bummer because it could lead to confusion and overwhelm.

And you know what? Confused customers are less likely to stick around.

Lack of personalization

We all crave that dash of personal touch, even in business.

Sending out generic onboarding materials can leave your customers feeling like just another number on your ledger.

That’s a little off-putting, right?

A more personalized approach can have a warm, welcoming vibe that may just earn you loyal clients.

No clear instructions

“Where do I go, and what do I do next?”

A vague or non-descript onboarding guide is like leaving your clients lost in a maze. This can lead to frustration and may end up alienating your customers.

Poorly designed user interface

Gosh, isn’t it annoying when you just can’t find the right button or navigate through an app or website?

A clunky or overly complex interface can really dampen the user experience, making your clients jump ship.

Minimal support

Leaving new customers high and dry after the initial setup is definitely not cool.

Handholding and continuous, timely, accessible support are key in making sure your clients stay put rather than wander off looking for greener pastures.

Lack of follow-ups

Hello! Are you still there?

A lack of communication after the onboarding process can make clients feel neglected and unimportant.

Follow-ups are a fantastic way to keep the communication channels open and show the clients you genuinely care about their experience.

But here’s the good news:

Automated onboarding allows you to make a positive first impression by providing a seamless, personalized experience for each customer. It ensures that every step of the onboarding process is efficient and relevant, setting a positive tone for their future interactions with your product.

The role of automation in onboarding

What exactly is automated onboarding?

In simple terms, it’s using technology and tools to streamline and personalize the onboarding process for customers, so they adopt and stay longer with your tool, thus increasing retention.

By automating repetitive tasks, sending relevant information at the right time, and providing interactive guidance, you can create a smooth and engaging onboarding experience.

7 secrets to boost retention with automated onboarding

Very few things match the excitement and potential of onboarding a new user to your platform.

It represents the beginning of a relationship, an opportunity to set the stage for the rest of the customer journey.

However, a disjointed or confusing onboarding process can lead to customer churn — which none of us desire.

Enhancing your customer retention game goes beyond just delivering exceptional products and services — it includes providing seamless onboarding experiences, too.

Here are seven tips on how to leverage automation and enhance customer retention.

1. Personalized experiences

Everyone likes feeling special, right?

A customer’s onboarding journey should feel like a personalized road map, guiding them through precisely what they need.

It’s that hand-held, name-embroidered glove that makes people feel special and cared for, increasing the likelihood of them sticking around.

When we adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, we often miss out on addressing these unique needs.

A survey by SmarterHQ found that 72% of consumers only engage with marketing messages customized to their interests. This explains why an automated onboarding process designed to deliver personalized experiences is invaluable.

Automation makes personalization scalable. You can offer a dynamic onboarding journey that changes based on user behavior or attributes.  

See how Canva addresses different user groups separately and provides them with unique journeys.

This way, the experience is tailored to each user segment’s specific needs and preferences, enhancing their engagement with the platform.

Canva onboarding personalization questionnaire

Pro tip: Milestone or reward emails can recognize and celebrate each step a customer takes in the onboarding process. Acknowledging their progress makes the customer feel more connected and valued by your business.

Each email/notification can be personalized with the customer’s name, situation, or any specific detail related to the customer’s actions. It feels less like an automated response and more like a personally written message.

Using language that salutes the customer’s progress enhances the personalized feel of your milestone emails/ notifications. 

2. Timely and relevant communication

Communication is not just about striking up a conversation. I cannot stress enough the importance of the “right message at the right time.” It’s what turns a potential lead into an actual customer.

A study by MarTech Advisor revealed that personalized, triggered messages could drive up to 3 times engagement compared to batch-and-blast emails, a common email mistake many businesses make.

With automated onboarding, you can schedule timely and relevant communication.

Automation takes the grunt work out of communication, ensuring that human error, like forgetting to send an essential email, doesn’t hinder the user journey.

Several types of communication can be automated during the onboarding process to ensure customers have a smooth and seamless experience:

3. Interactive tutorials

We all know the struggle of figuring things out when you’re new. Simplifying this process through interactive tutorials makes the task easier and fun.

Remember building blocks, anyone?

Instead of bombarding users with complex information, why not break it into bite-sized interactive tutorials?

Trust me, they will thank you for it.

Interactive tutorials simplify the learning process, making it easier for users to understand and engage with complex functions. 

Instead of struggling to figure things out on their own, exiting the app to ask someone else, or combing through the help center to locate what they need, new clients can run a walkthrough. With a tutorial, they can utilize a new tool immediately, increasing user adoption.

Research by Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience demonstrates that people remember 90% of what they do compared to just 10% of what they read.

Automated onboarding can provide these tutorials at critical junctures, guiding users step-by-step while allowing them to learn through active participation.

When users learn how to use your product with minimum effort, they will likely continue with you after the free trial ends.

PRO TIP: An interactive tutorial will be similar to your feature callouts, except they will appear as the user completes one task to show them how to accomplish the next one. Make sure to create contextual tips that teach a user how to complete a task.

Notion’s assistance widget provides a straightforward pathway to its help center and direct communication with the customer support team. Its simple design intuitively guides users towards accessing self-help resources.

Notion self-help resources

4. Progress tracking and feedback

Users love seeing their progress! Nothing beats the joy of seeing your progress. It’s a psychological driving force. Keeping users in the know about their onboarding progress can be a powerful motivator. It’s like having a roadmap that clearly outlines the journey ahead.

And feedback? That’s your guide to improvement.

Automation ensures nobody’s left in the dark. Automation tools can make this process efficient and instant, providing feedback at the right points to ensure users are not straying off course. 

Tracking customer health through onboarding can give you advance warning of potential churn and offer the chance to fix small issues before they become big problems. This can help improve customer retention and build lasting relationships.

Implementing this is a proven way to engage users, with 92% of respondents to a PwC survey stating that they value progress-tracking in their digital interactions.

Visuals are a powerful tool to track and communicate progress during customer onboarding, particularly for automated processes where there is minimal human interaction.

Here are some commonly used visual trackers:

  • Progress bars
  • Checklists
  • Step-by-step indicators
  • Pie charts/ doughnut charts
  • Gantt charts
  • Roadmaps
  • Infographics
  • Timelines
  • Gamified trackers
  • Flowcharts

5. In-app guidance

Exploring a new app can feel overwhelming.

In-app guidance is a set of resources and prompts that assist users during the onboarding process of a product or application. It acts like a concierge, providing advice and showing users around.

It can be used for both new users, to drive user activation, and advanced users, to drive user engagement and adoption. This eases the learning curve and improves user efficiency.

Automation takes in-app guidance to the next level by displaying prompts or pop-ups that guide users at their point of need, simplifying navigation and preventing frustration before it arises.

Imagine it as your app’s version of Clippy but without the annoying interruptions.

PRO TIP: Combining high-touch and low-touch onboarding can yield a seamless user experience. Begin with a high-touch approach and gradually transfer to a low-touch process as the user becomes more familiar with your system.

High-touch vs. low-touch onboarding table comparison

In this way, users receive personal assistance during the initial, more complex stage of their journey.

As they gain confidence and understanding, they can transition to using self-service resources, freeing up their resources and allowing users to learn at their own pace.

6. Continuous learning opportunities

Here’s the kicker — if your users aren’t learning, they’re probably leaving. In this fast-paced digital world, there’s always a shiny new toy waiting just around the corner.

But by offering continuous learning opportunities, you keep your users engaged, challenged, and, most importantly, sticking around.

Think about it. If you’re constantly helping your users improve, they’re not just using your product — they’re relying on it.

They’re growing with it. And that’s a bond that’s hard to break.

Now, I hear you thinking, “That sounds great, but how do I actually implement continuous learning?”

Well, that’s where the wonders of automation come in!

With the help of automation, you can create personalized learning paths for your users, tailored to their specific needs and skill levels. You can provide targeted resources like:

  • Tutorial videos
  • User manuals
  • FAQ pages
  • Webinars
  • Live chat support
  • Knowledge base articles
  • Case studies
  • Product demo sessions
  • Online courses or training programs
  • Community forums

You can set up automated reminders for new lessons or challenges, keeping them engaged and on track.

You can even use automation to gather data on user performance and tweak your learning materials accordingly!

In short, automation doesn’t just make continuous learning possible – it makes it effortless. And in a world where time is the most precious commodity, that’s a game changer.

7. User segmentation based on behavior

Last but certainly not least, behavior-based user segmentation is essential to the onboarding process.

This could be anything from the features they use, the pages they visit, how often they log in, and even the challenges they encounter.

It’s like watching their journey and understanding their preferences at a granular level.

Not all users are created equal – they have different needs, characteristics, and skills, and it’s crucial to cater to these differences for a successful onboarding experience.

Some common methods used in behavioral segmentation include:

  • Purchasing behavior
  • Usage rate
  • Occasion or timing
  • Customer loyalty
  • Benefits sought
  • User status
  • Interaction behavior
  • Customer satisfaction

For instance, you’ve noticed that a user is frequently using a particular feature that is enhanced or only available at a higher tier; an upgrade email could be timely.

A discount offer in your upgrade email can be a powerful incentive for customers to consider an upgrade. This is especially true if they were contemplating it but unsure about the cost. A discount could be just the push they need.

Here’s a fantastic example from Evernote:

Evernote upgrade email

With today’s technology, automating user segmentation is not just possible; it’s actually pretty straightforward.

You can use various automation tools to track user behavior, segment users accordingly, and even automate the delivery of personalized content or onboarding experiences.

This doesn’t just save you a ton of time and effort but also ensures a consistent and effective approach to user segmentation. It’s like having a personal assistant who knows your users inside out and can tailor their experiences perfectly.

Not to mention how this can boost the likelihood of long-term user retention!

Pro tip: Create user personas for each of your primary user segments. These personas can be crucial tools for understanding user motivations, behavioral tendencies, and common challenges, ultimately leading to more effective onboarding strategies for each segment.

Your turn to shine!

So there you have it – the 7 secrets to boosting retention with automated onboarding. Remember, effective onboarding is about more than just introducing users to your product; it’s about creating a positive, engaging experience that keeps them coming back for more.

By now, we hope you’re pumped up to enhance your automated onboarding strategies and leave no stone unturned to make your customers feel valued. As a savvy business, you know what’s best for your company. It’s time to empower it with extraordinary onboarding practices!If you need help with setting up your onboarding to retain more customers, feel free to book a free call with us.

Read next: 9 Customer Retention Strategies to Try in 2024 (+ Real Examples)

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Camille Richon
Founder Payfacile
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