Why personalized user onboarding is a must for SaaS

Users aren’t the same, so why should their onboarding be

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Jonathan Anderson
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If you had an employee who was responsible for losing a quarter of your customers, they’d be gone in an instant. So, why are SaaS companies still using onboarding practices that create an equal amount of churn?

It turns out that one quarter of SaaS customers abandon products due to bad onboarding experiences, making it the number one cause of user churn. These bad experiences come in many forms: Non-technical users may feel lost if they’re dropped into a product with little instruction. Users in the early stages of adoption may be irritated by immediate upsell attempts. And some may feel overwhelmed by too many complicated steps, not all of which seem relevant.

The key to keeping all of these users from running away screaming is actually fairly simple — personalization. Give each user the onboarding experience they want, all within the same SaaS product. Let’s take a closer look at why personalized user onboarding is so critical for SaaS companies.

SaaS operates across industries and roles.

The customer base for a single SaaS product can stretch across many roles and industries. Brex, for example, targets its financing services to users in the life sciences, ecommerce, and tech startups. Working across a variety of industries, they knew that a single user experience couldn’t suit everyone.  

In order for users from each vertical to feel at home on their site, Brex segmented returning users by vertical and created unique landing pages for each. The result has been a 29% jump in completed card applications thanks to their personalization efforts.

[via Mutiny]

Brex breaks down their onboarding by industry, but segmenting users by role is equally useful. While a developer will be happy to work with code to get your product up and running, providing the same instruction to a marketer would stop them in their tracks. Use your onboarding flow to collect information on industry and job roles, and differentiate the experience from there.

Different users mean different use cases.

SaaS products are masters at multitasking. Take Hubspot, for instance. It can be used for marketing lead gen, scheduling sales meetings, and customer support ticketing to name just a few. Even among those within the same department, users will have different reasons for turning to a product. While one sales professional’s goal may be to automate their processes, another may want to focus on nurturing leads. A user who is interested in one function isn’t necessarily interested in another.

Hubspot quickly realized that the one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding was more like one-size-fits-none, and they revamped their onboarding in 2019. They now use a personalized, goal-oriented onboarding model that segments customers based on their priorities and tailors the onboarding experience to them. By leaving out irrelevant steps and focusing users on what’s valuable to them, customers reach that “Aha!” moment much sooner.

Example of one goal that HubSpot would prioritize for the customer during Sales Hub Professional Onboarding. [via Medium]

Prospects aren’t the same as power users.

Want a sure fire way to piss off new prospects? Hit them with the upsell at first use.

Brand new users and paying customers are not alike. Newbies need to find value in your product before they become receptive to an upsell or even to long-form onboarding content. Meanwhile, veteran customers seeking new uses for your product don’t want to relearn the ABCs of your app; they want in-depth information on the latest features.

In the example below, language-learning app Duolingo does a nice job of keeping it light for new users. Within three steps, Duolingo manages to exhibit real value to users before even asking them for an email address.

[via Appcues]

Meanwhile, Sketch, an inherently more complicated UI design tool, offers customers a dashboard full of detailed feature explainers and tutorials. This sort of in-depth content is just right for nurturing relationships with existing customers as they seek out additional value.

[via Appcues]

Personalizing your onboarding based on where users are in the customer lifecycle is a powerful method for remaining relevant. Give users what they need for wherever they are in the user journey, and they’re far more likely to stick around.

Some users deserve more attention.

Let’s face it: Some leads just matter more. It’s easy to determine a user’s value by asking for company size when they sign up for your product trial. But it's what you do with that information that can turn high-value leads into paying customers.

Marketing data engine Clearbit used their signup data to identify high-value leads and then sent automated, but personalized, emails to each of them. While most users receive a standardized welcome email immediately upon signup, those identified as “Tier 1” have to wait 20 minutes. At that point, the Tier 1 leads receive an automated email that appears as if it were sent directly by a sales rep. These emails are ultra-personalized to include the user’s name, role, team, time zone, type of business, and the technology they’re already using.

[via Clearbit]

Clearbit’s initial trial included fewer personalization features, and even those proved to be incredibly successful, with an open rate of 59% and a conversion rate of 6%. They expect their new hyper-personalized emails to be as effective as manual emails, saving their sales reps’ time for other high-priority tasks.

When you nurture the right leads, conversions rise in both number and in value. Segmenting users in this way allows you to focus your onboarding efforts where they matter most.

Make personalized user onboarding simple.

Of course, no one expects you to do this on your own. Tools like Candu allow you to automate personalized user onboarding by creating user segments based on just about anything. Then serve up different variants to different users, and adjust your onboarding content instantly once you know how users respond.

Want to see how it works? Schedule a demo or try it for free. Your frontend will never look back.


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