7 Steps to Cross the Onboarding Chasm

Some days it seems impossible.

One of the most pressing challenges facing the SaaS industry is that of improving user onboarding. Steps that must be taken to generate successful adoptions of your software by new users are not always intuitive or clear, because there are so many variables that can come into play.

In this article, we’ll help make things more straightforward by looking at some tangible ways to increase User Onboarding for any SaaS buisness.

#1. Know Your Core Goals

If this first step is not in place, the next ones will be very difficult.

Think about and hone in on what your software is all about – the philosophy behind it and the essential service it seeks to provide. Then, as you develop your onboarding process, make sure each step relates back to that core goal. This will not only help you eliminate unnecessary features; it’s an organic way to help your SaaS be as intuitive and user-friendly as possible.

#2. First Impressions Count

Exactly how you want to make your first impression will depend on what kind of SaaS you provide. But whichever method you choose, make it eye-popping.

This is your new user’s first look at your product and brand, so it needs to be memorable.

The “joyriding” approach allows first-time users to sit back as you provide a virtual tour of the program or website.

Another option is to encourage users to engage with your service in a hands-on way right from the beginning, whether via a step-by-step account setup process or by letting them choose personalized features for their account.

#3. Think Like a User

This means thinking about what users want, but also about what they might not want. Avoid overly long onboarding processes if possible, as new users may become frustrated and quit. It’s best to start out simply and increase the complexity of the onboarding process only as users become more familiar with the system.

Consider whether any steps can be removed from your SaaS onboarding; it’s easy to make things more complicated than they need to be. If your software requires a tutorial or an extended sign-up process, include a progress bar so that users will know how near completion they are.

#4. Provide Resources for Confused Users

Right from the start, help first-time users to know that you are in their corner by including a number to call and/or an email address to write to if they are experiencing difficulties. If possible, offer live online support that can easily be accessed during the account setup process.

In early 2012, Gartner advised clients that the emerging need to support customers on the Internet and social media, as well as on mobile devices, was having a profound impact on future planning.

For example, successful websites such as those of Wellpoint or Target, have help options that are immediately recognizable.

#5. Keep It Easy

Speaking of account setup, it’s beneficial to integrate existing social logins into your SaaS if possible. This way, new users don’t need to come up with a new username and password which they might well forget.

Recent research suggests that 92 percent of users who forgot a password for a website simply stopped using it.

Social logins enable your service to avoid this pitfall.

#6. Make Onboarding a Continual Process

Onboarding becomes a continual process when you encourage users to add information to their profiles on an ongoing basis well after their initial account setup. This helps the client to further explore the site and to see new ways in which they can benefit from it. If users have left a particular section of their profile blank, offer periodical reminders in which your site coaxes users, in encouraging language, to take the next step in continuing the user onboarding process.

#7. Track Metrics

It’s important to have hard data in order to evaluate what’s working in user onboarding for your organization and where things can still be improved. Focus on how readily users take each step in their path to onboarding.

What percent of initial users become onboarded users?

What percent of onboarded users become frequent users?

And what percent of frequent users pay for a service from your site?

Gathering and analyzing this data will allow you to see the strengths and weaknesses of User Onboarding within your SaaS, and to act accordingly.
Following the above seven steps will help you to eliminate potential pitfalls in User Onboarding, and increase your company’s retention rate for new users. Whichever onboarding strategy you choose, remember that User Onboarding is not separate from or incidental to your SaaS, and it is not just a way to get new clients in the door. It is an integral piece of the SaaS puzzle, and as such, it should speak volumes to your customers – both potential and returning – about who you are as a company and where you are headed.


Sydney Rootman is the Editor and Lead Writer for SaaSAddict. SaaSAddict shares news and information on SaaS, cloud migration and product marketing, in hopes of fostering discussion and interaction with the professional community.