6 Simple Steps to a Winning Customer Onboarding Strategy

Customer onboarding is an important part of customer retention. Here are six best practices to build your onboarding strategy

October 11 2019


Making a good first impression is easy to do in person. You can smile, dress smart, and have a strong handshake. But what about first impressions online?

It’s important to create a good first impression during the customer onboarding process. It determines the rest of a customer’s perceived value of a product or a brand.

Increasingly, relationships don’t just start but are maintained online. People can simply stumble across your website or social media account and make a quick judgment before they even interact with you.

We know why a customer’s first experience with a brand is absolutely critical - let’s go through how to make it count.

Choose Your Onboarding Process

Customer onboarding is the process of proactively guiding your new customers through your product, site, or app. The aim is to show the customer how it works and its value, so they can learn how to use it themselves and continue using it.

What this entails is going to vary depending on the characteristics of your product and its features. But when it comes to creating the onboarding process, you have two options:

Low touch

This approach works for straightforward products with high volumes of users. Using this approach allows your users to figure the process or product out on their own.

You’ll be allowing the users to work their own way through the onboarding process, but can provide guidance and extra instructions, if necessary.

Example- Duo Lingo

best practice example in customer onboardingDuolingo is an app that allows users to learn a new language in a fun and easy way.

Their onboarding process includes a couple of introductory questions, such as the language they’d like to learn and at which level, then the user just dives straight in.

This allows users to get on with the actual activity straight away and keep them interested. The app then asks for more information further down the line.

High touch

This approach is best for more difficult onboarding processes, allowing the user to have constant access to instructions.

Example- Canva

how to use tutorials in customer onboarding

how to use tutorials in user onboardingCanva can be quite a tricky app to use, so they include “challenges” in their onboarding process to ease their users in. The method of introducing gamification into the onboarding process is creative and a fun way for the user to learn how to use the app.

In our last blog, 13 Proven Ways to Improve Customer Experience, we mention that simplifying processes will make it easier for customers to get what they want from you - improving their overall experience.

So, once you’ve decided on your onboarding approach, there are guidelines to maximize the success of your customer onboarding process.

1. Set expectations

It’s easier for a customer to take the time to sign up for a service when they know exactly how long it’s going to take.

During the onboarding process, show the customer exactly which stage they’re at and how much further they’ve got to go.

As an example, take a look at Etsy’s onboarding process:

best practices of customer onboarding from EtsyNot much differs from the usual, except for the progress bar at the top, but why’s this such a big deal? Well, the customer knows exactly which stage they are up to, and that’s an important difference.

It’s easy for customers to get frustrated when they are going through the onboarding process, but a progress bar gives them perspective on where they’re up to. They might be on their third page of inputting details, ready to give up, but if they can see that they only have one more step left to go, they could be more likely to see it through.

2. Streamline your sign-up process

Asking for a lot of information at the onboarding stage is a problem. People may be tempted to abandon the process, therefore abandoning your product or service.

If it doesn’t deliver value for either them or you, consider not asking for it.

For example, instead of asking the user for their name, email, telephone number plus their date of birth, profession, hobbies, their favorite movie, and so on - just ask them for basic information.

After all, everything else, besides their name and email address is unnecessary during the beginning of the onboarding process.

Every piece of information you ask for is another step for the customer to take, and it may sound redundant, but every second counts. Especially in the eyes of your customer.

Consider asking for just what you need to be able to get started - and then ask for everything else a little further down the line. That way, customers can start experiencing the value of the product before you start asking them for more information.

LinkedIn does this particularly well:

how linkedin onboards usersA personal profile on LinkedIn requires a lot of information and requires a lot of time from the user. LinkedIn asks for all of the information gradually, every time the user logs in - a much more effective and less daunting process than asking for it all at once.

3. Use instructional videos

85% of people would like to see more videos from brands - so why not include one in the onboarding process?

Use videos to walk new customers through processes and products, in a clear, concise, and creative way.

A study shows that 75% of people are more likely to watch a video than read through a text document - so the same can be said for instructional steps.

Videos are more user-friendly and give users the option for a quick download of the onboarding information. Short and concise videos are key, as they’ll encourage better user engagement.

Take a look at this example from Uber.

example of uber's onboarding processWhat’s amazing about this is that Uber never has any face-to-face training with their drivers - they solely use videos like this - proving that an effective onboarding process can save time and money.

4. Make it skippable

This is a simple but effective tip that can frustrate customers if it’s overlooked. Give your customers the choice to skip through a lengthy “How to” onboarding process.

For a lot of products, “new” users might not actually be new. They may just be downloading on a new device or signing up with a new email address - so they could’ve used the product before.

So, making these users go through another onboarding process if they don't want to could be potentially discouraging for them.

Make sure to have a “Skip” button that’s easily accessible, like the example from Airbnb below:

make onboarding steps skippableThey give users the option to skip the how-to’s and either just log straight in or sign up. This will be useful to customers who have just re-downloaded the app and want to get started straight away.

5. The welcome message

Your first communication with your customer is crucial, whether it’s via email or a chat app.

It’s easy to be tempted to pack it full of information - but less is more here. Welcome the customer, make it clear where they can go for more information and help, and then direct them to the next step.

Welcome messages in the customer onboarding processIn the example above from ASOS, they get it right by including a welcome greeting. Then they point new customers in the direction of where they can get help- if they want to.

For more examples, check out our blog: 6 Essentials of a Great Retail Customer Messaging Experience.

6. The “aha” moment

The goal of your onboarding process is to get the user to their ”aha” moment. But don’t be misled, the “aha” moment is more than just a single moment, it’s a set of actions that separates the customers who find value in your product from those who don’t.

Customers who find value come back. Identify which actions separate customers who stay and the customers who don’t. Distinguished this, and you’ll know what the “aha” moment is.

Take a look at your own customer data. Is there a notable point where customers are more likely to proceed?

Here are some examples:

  • Facebook defines theirs as when a user has added seven friends to their profile within ten days.
  • Slack describes their “aha” moment when a team has sent 2000 messages on the platform.

The Ultimate Guide to Messaging

Having an omnichannel strategy that offers your customers an array of channels to communicate with you throughout the onboarding process is important.

You may find you take different approaches in a year's time - this is totally fine. To have an effective and enjoyable onboarding process, you need to continually test and adapt accordingly.

Stick to the mantra test, learn, and improve, and you won’t go wrong.

If you enjoyed this article, download our eBook ˝The Ultimate Guide on Messaging˝ - a comprehensive guide to supercharging your business with customer messaging.