What is an Onboarding Flow? | 101 Guide for Beginners
Onboarding flow is like getting blinds for the horse. You want them to see what you want them to see in order to win the race, and in this case, learn to use the tool.
But the single question that product managers and product teams come across is, how do I approach creating the first onboarding screen?
The answer? Here's a comprehensive guide we created to guide you on creating your first onboarding flow. A few things we cover in this article:
- Steps to create onboarding flow
- 3 onboarding flow examples to take inspiration from
- 3 tips to make your onboarding flow stand out
What is an Onboarding Flow?
Onboarding flow is a multi-step process that showcases the product in action and teaches users how to use your product or service. It acclimatizes the user to the new software, its navigation, its UX, buttons, and CTAs in order to improve product stickiness.
By providing an effective onboarding flow to users, you can:
- Increase product adoption
- Increase user activation
- Increase customer retention
- Reduce customer drop-offs
Ideally, the onboarding flow screen appears right after the first-time user signs up for the product. They get to see the information that guides the user on the product features and how they can use the platform.
These instructions use onboarding elements like modals, tooltips, and product checklists, and progress bars to provide clear instructions about the product and make the in-app onboarding experience seamless.
What Onboarding Flow is Not?
User onboarding flow is not all about teaching the core functionality of your product.
It's not about having a signup page on your website where you ask new users their first and last name, and email address to get inside and start using the product.
It's about showcasing the real value of your product for the active users to keep coming back to your product and providing the exact solution they came for: how will this product solve my problem and improve my life?
When the users (and customers) see the value your product is delivering as soon as they start using it, they'll use your product often and recommend it too.
Besides showcasing the product features, user onboarding flow is also about getting them used to your product’s UX design, and creating brand awareness.
How to Create an Onboarding Flow?
Creating an onboarding flow is not a tough nut to crack. Here's how you can create your first onboarding flow:
Step 1: Understand Your Customer’s Goals
Why do your customers need your product? To understand your customer’s goals, you need to define the jobs to be done (JBTD). JBTD is the process of creating products based on your ideal customer’s specific needs, goals, jobs, and approach to purchasing the product.
By using this approach, you step in your ICP’s shoes and understand the exact reasons they’d opt for when purchasing the product.
- Who your customer is
- What are the pain points they are currently experiencing
- What things will make their job easier
- What would stop them from using your product
- What could be the reason for leaving your product
But how will you find the answers to these questions and understand your customer's job to be done to create a customer-centric onboarding process?
- Use in-product surveys: Get user feedback on the product through in-app messages. See how your product satisfies the user and the value your product is providing to them, what's missing, and how you can prove the product.
- Use Customer Data Platform (CDP): Collect customer data from multi-touchpoints and interactions. Compile this information and create your ideal customer profile.
Step 2: Build Multiple Onboarding Flows and Segment Users
Instead of creating a single onboarding flow for every user, create multiple onboarding flows based on their ideal user persona. This helps you personalize the app experience for each user and leads to gradual engagement.
Here are a few examples of how you can personalize the onboarding flow for multiple users:
- Create onboarding guides for different languages, dialects, and geographical locations
- Create different how-to and why-to content for each flow
Next, segment the users into the right flows based on the ideal target persona. Based on the response to onboarding questions, find the commonalities and group users with the same response together.
For example, if you’re a productivity SaaS software and you ask the user their goals for using the platform, you can group users with the same goals together.
Step 3: Offer Value Early
Showcase the core value proposition your product can offer the customers right at the beginning of the onboarding process. This helps you activate the users and reduces customer churn.
To offer early value to customers and activate the users, here’s what you should do:
Focus on core features and functionality relevant to target users
Leverage content assets like videos, knowledge base, product guides, etc. that guide the users about these functionalities in detail.
For example, Sellular has created a library of product videos on different functionalities like sales automation, calling, sequences, etc. to showcase how the user can use the specific feature in their workflow.
Monitor user onboarding sessions
This helps you understand how users are moving through their onboarding user journey, the blockages they face and what steps you can take to remove the friction and streamline their experience.
Send behavioral emails to motivate the users
Based on the user’s actions, you can send them emails related to a specific task with a CTA and link back to the task.
For example, after a user signed up for Mailmodo, they received an email from the brand suggesting a few tasks they can do to understand more about the platform like sending emails, adding team members, and creating templates.
Step 4: Create an Intuitive User Sign-Up Experience
Most companies make it complicated for customers to sign up and start using the product. They’ll ask the customers for their name, email address, job profile, company name, industry they work in, number of employees — and whatnot. In fact, according to the State of SaaS Onboarding 2022 Report, 76% of users have a friction-based signup process.
Here’s the thing: whether it is a first-time user or an unregistered user, each of them wants to start using your product quickly. They don’t like friction in the signup process and so, aim to remove the barriers. Simply, shorten your signup form and have only three form fields: name, email address, and company name.
If you want to go a step further, you can provide the customers with a Google sign-in option. This reduces an extra step, and all they have to do is sign up with just one click.
Few quick tips to remove friction from your signup process:
- Avoid asking the user to confirm their email address. Instead, do this step after they have interacted with your product.
- Use Single Sign-On (SSO) to make signing up easier for new and first-time users.
- Keep the number of additional questions short — a maximum of eight or ten questions, which can be divided into two screens.
Step 5: Pick Your Onboarding Elements
User onboarding elements handhold the user through the entire onboarding process, address the customer’s specific needs, and streamline the user experience.
Some examples of the onboarding process include:
- Onboarding emails: Welcome your users and guide them through the onboarding process. Tell them what the first step the user should take or where they should start exploring.
- Video checklists: Create a checklist of super short feature videos that explain one feature or aspect of it quickly. This way, users can select what they want help with and navigate the tool without having to sit and watch the entire product tour.
- Guided product tours: Use guided tour software like Storylane to create step-by-step in-app guides that instruct the user about the specific product features of the product, their core benefit, and how you can use the particular feature.
- Walkthrough videos: Create pre-recorded videos to showcase to the users how to navigate the product.
- Knowledge base: Create a knowledge base or help center and answer every single question that your regular users have asked you in the past or questions that you feel the user may get stuck with while navigating a complex product.
- Live chat: Integrate live chat software to start interacting with the users and respond to their queries instantly.
Step 6: Personalize the Onboarding
When you have different customer personas using your product, providing the same onboarding experience to each customer would be a big mistake.
So, create tailored experiences for different user segments. But how to do it? Here are a few ways for personalized and tailored experiences:
- Personalize by name/ role
- Create different tours for different stakeholders of the buyer journey. After segmenting the users, personalize which tours are shown to which prospects within your customer base depending on the segmentation
Step 7: Engage in Continuous Discovery
Once the onboarding process is completed, is your job done? No, it has just started. Double down on nurturing and engaging your users so that they can learn more about the product. This will help the product stay on top of the mind of the customer. And that’s a big goal, for them to continually believe in the tool and keep coming back to it. A few ways you can engage the user in a continuous journey and improve your customer experience include:
- Use web analytics tools to track user engagement, activation, and retention rates.
- Find out NPS and CSAT scores to spot areas of improvement in your onboarding process and increase customer satisfaction.
- Use exit surveys to understand why customers are downgrading. Use these granular insights to identify the blockers in your onboarding process and optimize it.
3 Examples of Onboarding Flow
The 7-step onboarding flow process is great to learn from but isn’t it better to see it in action?
Here are 3 user onboarding examples you can take inspiration from:
Mailmodo, an email marketing platform directs the user to the signup page after they click on the ‘Try for free’ button on the website. Next, they are directed to the signup page where they have to fill in information — name, and business email address to get the user inside the product.
After a few onboarding questions the user gets to start using the product.
Here, two onboarding elements welcome the visitor:
- CTA to schedule a demo
- Product checklist
For most of the key actions, Mailmodo has added three things to the product checklist: a video related to the task, a CTA to learn more, and a CTA that directs them to the specific task.
Also, once the user has signed up for Mailmodo they start receiving onboarding emails that guide the user to the specific task they can take and the product features they can use to maximize their workflow.
Why does this work?
- They create an onboarding sequence and send a series of onboarding emails to the user that guide them on how they can use a specific feature and link back to the task so that they can start.
- They add videos with each action on the product checklist to educate the user on how to achieve the specific user action.
- It uses a progress indicator to track the progress of the user onboarding and how the users are engaging with the product.
Vidyard, a video messaging and asynchronous communication platform asks onboarding questions to understand the user’s goal by using their product.
Once the user answers these two questions, the user is guided to another screen where they are guided to install Vidyard’s Chrome Extension.
Next, the user will land on the main screen where they’ll see two meaningful actions: record the video and upload the video. On the left side, you’ll see the product checklist that tells the user the actions they have completed in the onboarding process and the remaining steps they need to complete.
Under the product checklist they have provided two CTAs — ‘Learn more’ and user action to the product like ‘Record the video’, which drives the user to either learn more about the product or take action and complete the onboarding process. Plus, it includes a progress bar that determines the completion percentage of the onboarding process.
Why does this onboarding flow work well?
- Vidyard’s onboarding model quickly introduces their value to the user by encouraging them to install the Chrome extension, and uploading/ recording the video on the dashboard (when they enter inside the product screen).
- It uses product checklists to showcase to the user the onboarding actions they have completed and the remaining actions so that the user knows the exact steps they need to complete the onboarding.
- It uses a progress bar that indicates the percentage of product adoption and the success of the onboarding process
Ignition, a client billing automation platform asks the user for their main objective for using the product and provides them with four options to choose from.
Once the user chooses the relevant option, they’re directed to another screen where they ask for more information like their name, company name, phone number and country, and the source the user found about the platform. They are then directed to another onboarding screen where Ignition asks the users the additional details to understand the user better.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll enter the platform. Here, the user will see a modal on this screen that introduces the user to the platform. To learn more about the platform, the user will click on ‘Get Started’.
Next, they see three onboarding elements: video showcasing the product tour, product checklist, and guided product tour to achieve specific user actions.
When the user clicks on a specific task from the product checklist like experience client billing, they can view a modal with a CTA to view the guided tour to understand how to set up the specific task.
When the user takes the action to view the interactive demo, they enter into a new screen where the guided interactive demo starts and the user can learn everything about using the feature.
Why does this onboarding flow work?
- The signup page includes intuitive elements that make the signup process quicker for the user i.e., signing up with invoicing software like Quickbooks.
- It uses a combination of different onboarding elements: pre-recorded product tours, product checklists, in-app guide elements like modals, and guided product tours which makes learning about the platform and each specific feature seamless for the user.
How to Make Your Onboarding Flow Stand Out?
Onboarding flows can be boring to someone with a unique pain point, which is usually the case. So, how can you encourage users to watch them? Make it stand out, and interesting. Here are few expert tips to help you refine the process and make onboarding flows more interactive:
Tip 1: Map your Onboarding Process Based on Multiple Personas
"Most of the products solve for multiple personas. As such, the value props and aha moments for each persona are almost always different. Hence, it's important to map your onboarding flows based on the persona and their expected goals to create a persona-based user onboarding experience."
How do you do that?
"In the fear of adding friction, most companies do not ask new users to define their primary use case but it isn't a hindrance, and most users would be happy to provide that information. So ask your users about their persona and then direct them through their relevant flows. This will ensure everyone achieves their primary objective rather than a universal objective." — Anand Vatsya, Product Marketer at Storylane
Tip 2: Answer User Objections
"Creating user onboarding flows that answer some of the objections new users might have is important.
For us, a client in the music streaming space needed to streamline their app onboarding flow to reduce the number of users bouncing off before finishing their account setup.
We added the option for users to visit the app as a guest without giving their personal data only increased the sign-ups but also reduced the number of users who bounced off before finishing the signup process."
— Methuselah Marava, Digital Marketing Executive at upMention
Tip 3: Use a Combination of Product Walkthroughs and Guided Product Tours
When picking your onboarding elements, instead of focusing on one element, choose both: product walkthroughs and guided product tours.
Doing this basically puts the ball in their court, in this case you are giving them the choice of learning about the product on their own.
Enhance Your Onboarding Flow with Interactive Product Guides
One best way to elevate this onboarding experience is by using a combination of product tours, in-app product guides, product checklists, and progress bars.
Storylane can help you enhance your onboarding process by letting you record your product screens — and create pre-recorded product tours and interactive product guides.
Want to see how Storylane can help you weave better in-app experiences? Book a demo.
Q1. What are onboarding flows?
Onboarding flow is the process of introducing the product and the user interface of your product to new users and customers.
Q2. What is an example of user onboarding?
After signing up for the product, you are guided to a screen where the user needs to ask certain questions like:
- What is the goal of using the product?
- How do you plan to use the product?
- How many team members do you have on your team?
By answering such questions, you move ahead in the onboarding process, and it helps curate a personalized and contextual onboarding experience for the user.
Q3. What is good onboarding flow?
A good onboarding flow educates the user on how to use the tool and makes them feel valued. It sends them a welcome email and provides a seamless learning curve so that the users know the exact steps they should take to freely explore the product and become proficient in using it. The successful onboarding flow formula includes: right content, right channel, and right timing.
Q4. What are the three pillars of onboarding?
The three pillars of a successful onboarding include:
- Understanding the users and segmenting them
- Personalizing the onboarding experience
- Creating a guided customer journey
Q5. What are the six critical steps of onboarding?
The six steps of creating a user onboarding process includes:
- Understand your user’s goals
- Build multiple onboarding flows and segmenting users
- Offer value early
- Create intuitive user signup process
- Pick your onboarding elements and personalize
- Offer feedback and improve your process
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