Blog Building a world-class user onboarding experience

Building a world-class user onboarding experience

In our latest guest post, Ketan Pandit, Head of Global Partnerships at customer engagement and user retention platform CleverTap explains the importance of onboarding and outlines ways to get it right.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

A good onboarding experience tells the user you care about them and that they are important. No detail is too small.

The average mobile app loses 77% of it’s DAUs within the first 3 days after install. With customer acquisition costs skyrocketing every day, and across channels, a memorable user onboarding experience sets the tone for a wonderful app experience.

Why User Onboarding Matters

Mobile apps have one chance to make a good first impression. Effective onboarding is known to improve the likelihood that users adopt your product by a magnitude of 7x. The average smartphone has about 80+ apps installed — imagine if the user had to learn how to use each app on their own. The cognitive overload would absolutely ruin the app experience no matter how beautifully it was designed.

Good user onboarding has two primary purposes — one, it helps to activate the user, and two, it works to improve retention. Activation happens when the user understands the app’s functionality, and how to undertake the core action. Retention is the user’s motivation to return to the app and perform the core action again.

For example: in a food delivery app, activation would mean the user has figured out how to search for their favorite cuisine or restaurant, and how to place an order. Retention would ensure that they come back to order again.

Good onboarding sets the ball in motion for activation and establishes the roots for strong retention.

How Do You Build a Good Onboarding Experience?

  1. Keep it simple

    The user onboarding experience is not the same as a product tour. It should help the user discover the true value of the app, not its entire feature set. Research shows that an optimal onboarding should be restricted to showcasing three benefits. Any more and you risk overwhelming the user. Any less and you may not be able to convey the core value.

    Duolingo, the language learning app, has an excellent onboarding experience. It starts with its core promise: “Learn a language for free. Forever.” Next, it helps establish the user’s motivation to learn a new language. It then goes on to establish the course overview, goal, and language level of the user.

  1. Get to the core value proposition quickly

    Users want to know what problem the app will solve for them. And quickly. Mobile users have notoriously short attention spans, and it’s important to deliver the key message within this window. This is also a good opportunity to demonstrate your app’s USP.

    Khan Academy’s core value proposition is apparent as soon as the user initiates sign-up - a classic example of kicking off onboarding before sign-up. Khan Academy delivers its core value proposition quickly and effectively and showcases brilliantly that onboarding best practices are applicable for both web and mobile.

  1. Be transparent about the permissions you seek

    Asking for permissions is a big friction point for most users. It is one of the biggest reasons why users don’t complete an onboarding process. Some apps may require access to the microphone, camera, location, contacts, or some other privacy options. Being transparent and upfront about why those permissions are needed — specifically how it will improve the app experience — can go a long way in increasing opt-ins.

    Zelle allows users to transfer money between US banks. They very clearly state how they use your data and address security in their onboarding process. Their efforts create a feeling of trust in their brand.

  1. Establish trust

    The key to successful onboarding is gaining the trust of your user. This is especially true for apps that deal with financial information such as banking apps, payment apps, digital wallets, or insurance apps. One way to establish trust is to let them use the app, even if it is with limited functionality, before asking them to register.

  2. A/B test your user onboarding

    Continuous improvement is the only path to effective user engagement and retention. Marketers A/B test everything from landing page design to copy and headlines. Why should onboarding not be subject to the same level of rigor?

    Reach out to week 1 churned users to understand what didn’t work for them. This is a time-sensitive activity and these users are more likely to have churned because of a poor onboarding experience. Learn from this churn.  Experiment with personalization. Test the effectiveness of your onboarding by inspecting whether they complete a specific action.

Onboarding isn’t necessarily a one-time activity. As your app adds more features and functionality, it may become important to engage in continuous education of your users. More complex apps may break down onboarding into mini phases to gradually guide users through more in-depth operations. The point is: effective onboarding builds trust with the user and establishes the foundation for a long and healthy user retention.

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