5 steps for delivering exceptional User Onboarding in SaaS

Sumit Shrestha
Digital Marketer

When it comes to user experience and software, first impressions matter. From a business perspective, those first impressions not only last, they have the potential to improve user retention and increase a customer’s lifetime value. That’s why providing an optimized user onboarding experience is so important to get right, the first time.

Peter Loving is a UX/UI designer and founder of UserActive who helps software as a service (SaaS) companies to create meaningful products users love. In a recent Knowledge Sharing Session (KSS) held by Proshore, Peter explained his approach to user onboarding and how to design an exceptional experience.

> Watch the KSS recording on demand

Common challenges for user onboarding

The barrier to entry to SaaS is lower, but the requirement for a better user experience is higher. The requirement to demonstrate value quickly and an intuitive product is also critical.

From a tricky integration to people signing up, but not actually using the product, user onboarding brings its own unique set of challenges for software companies. Whether it’s how to get users to be more active with the features of your product, or reduce churn, it can be difficult to know the best way to onboard customers. Here are three common challenges:  

  1. Firstly, research shows that for SaaS products, around 30% of users log in once – and never come back. That’s almost a third of all new users. When you then consider that there’s another segment of users who log in several times, and don’t return, it becomes clear that churn is a fundamental issue for SaaS providers. 
  2. Secondly, after wrong product fit and lack of engagement, poor onboarding causes churn. By building loyalty and impressing your users from the get-go, you can create the opportunity to demonstrate that you can solve their problems and provide value. Without this, there’ll be little to no commitment from the user to move forward with your product. 
  3. Thirdly, no matter what your sector or niche, SaaS is an increasingly crowded and competitive market where effective onboarding is becoming a key differentiator. Approaches such as product-led growth mean that products are becoming more self-service orientated. Users are getting accustomed to being able to do more themselves without requesting help. 

The business and customer value of onboarding means that software companies are investing heavily in their onboarding flow. Getting it right, making it intuitive, and creating value quickly are essential for making your product stand out from the pack, and differentiate your offering from competitors.   

So what can you do to make a really strong first impression, and create a powerful impact to help retain a greater percentage of these early-exit customers? How can you prevent users from leaving and encourage them to make repeat visits?

How to approach user onboarding?

82% of enterprise organizations rate their onboarding approach as a key driver of value.

By making the right impression, you increase the chances of getting new users to come back again, and again. To do this successfully, you need to provide an optimum onboarding experience for your SaaS users. This means treating them like a guest at a luxury hotel, and here’s why.

When you arrive as a guest at a five-star hotel, you’re warmly welcomed so that you feel valued, and you’re suitably impressed by the reception. The hotel thanks you for booking and says they hope you enjoy your stay. Next, the hotel delivers your bags to your room and shows you all the available facilities, such as the restaurant, a spa, a swimming pool, events, and so on. This might include a short guided tour as well as demonstrating the features of your room, how you can get help, and who’s available to support you during your stay.   

With a SaaS, your user arrives with a problem that needs to be solved. Immediately, you want them to feel that your product will solve their problems and provide a sense of relief. To help the user get started, it’s advisable to:

  • Demonstrate the features of your product 
  • Show how they can get help and who’s there to support them
  • Direct them to relevant content to help educate them on using your product.

If you view your product as a five-star hotel, you’ll give users a great experience and impress them by demonstrating its value. Identifying where users are dropping off can help you identify content gaps, such as a user guide for getting specific functionality set up.

What an optimum onboarding flow looks like?

Optimal onboarding has five key stages. Let’s take a closer look at how each one works. 

1. Welcome your new user

By showing appreciation for a new user signing up, they’ll feel valued. By carefully framing your offering,  you can also provide reassurance by confirming that your product is the right choice for their needs.

This is also an opportunity to educate the user on how the product will solve their issues, and build their expectations in anticipation of using the product. This stage of the process requires careful consideration of how you want the user to feel, such as relief that they’ve found a solution, empowered to solve their problem, or eager to get started.

You can achieve a warmer welcome by including a 60-second welcome video to let users see the value of your product before you make any mention of pricing. Focus your users’ attention, one step at a time, and follow a process. 

2. Help them visualize success

Think of a journey. Your user is travelling from A to B. There’s a problem they need to solve. In simple terms, your product is the vehicle that’s going to take users from being sad about an issue to feeling happy that it’s resolved.

For this reason, it’s important to fully understand your customer’s needs and how your product can help. Perhaps it opens up a new sales channel or saves time. The next step is to show users how your product takes care of their problems – and paint a picture of their future success. 

3. Showcase your product’s value

With the end result fixed in your users’ minds, it’s important to demonstrate how your product can solve their pain points. With clarity over the pain points, it’s important to match pain points with the features (and therefore the solutions) your product brings.

This validates that your product meets their needs and gives you the chance to demonstrate the benefit of each feature. For example, your SaaS might enable users to sync information, and automate product updates quickly and efficiently between different e-commerce platforms.  

4. Promote user habits

By this stage, your users can visualize future success. They know how your product solves their pain points, and they can see the benefits that different features bring. Now they’re ready to start using your product, it’s time to promote user journeys and help them start ‘doing work’.

In order to promote good user habits, you need to incentivize them to get value from your product. Your planning should start with a list of work that needs to be done to achieve the end result. Understanding the steps they need to take can help you determine the navigational flows required. The key question here is: what can your product do to remove as much work as possible from your users?

Showing users how you can facilitate their journey is a great way to get them onboarded and up and running in no time at all. This will also help to build loyalty and commitment within your product.

5. Reduce onboarding friction

In order to reduce onboarding friction, it’s important to map out the steps required at every stage of the process. That might include things like account set up and sign-in, integrations with other apps or services, configuration management, and setting up a dashboard.

With the process mapped out, you’re then able to identify the points of friction and design an onboarding flow that does as much of the work as possible, minimizing the amount of work required from the user. This might include things like the option to skip certain non-essential set-up features, such as personalization, or helpful guidance such as step-by-step instructions for connecting integrations.

Essentially, you need to remove as much friction as possible by taking control of the heavy lifting and reducing the user’s workload.

Creating capacity for exceptional onboarding

Without question, getting onboarding right can help to reduce churn rates, keep customers engaged and committed, and ultimately differentiate your SaaS product in a competitive market. Following these five steps, from welcoming new users to identifying opportunities to reduce friction, can help create an exceptional SaaS onboarding experience. 

Need additional capacity to develop your SaaS onboarding process without hiring expensive, in-house developers?  Whether you need to increase developer capacity in the short term or bring in a managed team to handle your entire product going forward – Proshore’s development teams are ready-to-code an exceptional SaaS user experience. 

Book a call with Peter and Proshore’s Account Director, Jeroen van der Horst, today. You can also watch the insightful KSS in full, below.

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