How many online accounts or free trials have you signed up for this year? Probably so many you can only hazard a vague guess at the actual number. How many do you actually use? A handful?
A huge factor in keeping customers who sign up for an account with your company is the onboarding process, or the actual experience of creating an account. Your customer onboarding process—your first interaction with a consumer—sets the tone for your relationship. Done well, onboarding has incredible potential to develop customer trust, showcase the value of your product, prompt conversion, and increase word-of-mouth buzz about your company. Done poorly, it can turn customers away.
Let’s look at ten things you can do today to take your onboarding process to the next level.
Learn by Example
Do your research. Sign up for a few free accounts with Gmail, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like, and take notes on their onboarding processes. Note the copy and calls to action they use, the visual design, the length of the process, whether they employ a social sign-in… Any hugely popular product or service will have streamlined their onboarding to only the most effective elements. Learn from their experience.
Think Like Your Customer
What is your consumer’s goal in using your product or service? What is the aha! moment where a potential customer makes the decision to convert? Get to this point as soon as possible by offering a taste of the value of your product: let consumers try it and get hooked. Getting to the value quickly in the onboarding journey can shorten conversion time.
It can be helpful to work backwards from your onboarding goal. When can your company consider a customer successfully onboarded? For some companies or products, success means a customer is engaging with other users; for others, it means a purchase or subscription. Determine what successful onboarding means to you, then figure out the steps consumers need to take to reach that goal. From this perspective, onboarding is more than just the few minutes needed to sign up; it is actually a long process of carefully cultivated interactions.
Keep It Simple (And Short)
Try to get down to bare bones for a sign-up. What is the most basic information needed to set up and use an account? Asking for too much information or action on the user’s part too soon may scare potential customers off. An overly lengthy onboarding process can cause consumers to bail before completion.
Keep onboarding simple and clear to minimize confusion. Do use onboarding as an opportunity to (briefly) walk consumers through how to use your service or product.
Anticipate questions the consumer may have and address them. One very important question to keep in mind: “How long is this going to take?” Find a way to visually indicate the length of onboarding and a consumer’s progress through it.
Use Consistent Branding
Your onboarding process is essentially an introduction to your company and your product. Keep the tone of onboarding copy and the visual elements consistent with your branding across the board—reflecting your company’s personality.
Communicate at the Right Time
Carefully consider the timing of communication over the long term. Messages to a consumer should be triggered by their individual progress through the onboarding process, not by an arbitrary amount of time elapsed. Don’t send a message asking for feedback when the user has just signed up. The right messages at the right time in onboarding will encourage consumers to take the next step.
If creating and engaging with a social network is part of your offering, begin connecting consumers with their friends immediately. A social sign-in (Facebook being the most common) will facilitate this step, but it can also be done with email contacts. Make it intuitive for new users to add their contacts, and provide some suggestions of influential accounts they might be interested in following.
Welcome Customers Aboard
Send customers an email to warmly welcome them and reiterate the basic information from the sign-up process. Let new users know this email is coming (as well as who the sender will be and what to expect from the content) when they’ve completed sign-up to help ensure it will be opened and not marked as spam. A welcome email is also a great opportunity to offer a discount to convert and/or tips about using your offering.
Offer rewards to consumers who share your product with others. Again, timing is everything. Don’t push customers to refer others until they have had time to actually use your offering and experience its value. Wait until the end of a trial period approaches or a few weeks after the initial sign-up.
“Be religious about measurement,” says Yahoo’s Flurry Mobile Product Lead Kenton Kivestu in an interview with Entrepreneur. Track analytics at every step of the process to get “a full picture of the user onboarding funnel.” When you can see how many consumers are moving forward at each onboarding step—and how many aren’t—you can tweak and test individual elements of the process to increase conversions.
Test and Solicit Feedback
Ask family and friends to walk through the onboarding process and give you feedback. Kivestu recommends you even sit and watch them sign up to see the true first-time customer experience.
Use the analytics you’ve measured to streamline, improve, test, and continue to refine your onboarding process. Consider including a prompt for customer feedback about the experience in your welcome email or in a follow-up message to further inform your next move.
What You Can Do Right Now
Could your onboarding process use a makeover? These tips will get you started.
- Create a few accounts with big-name companies and study their onboarding processes. Take notes!
- Have friends and family try your current onboarding process and offer feedback on elements to streamline or change. If possible, sit with them as they sign up to see their unfiltered reaction.
- Think about what a successfully onboarded customer—an engaged customer—looks like. Work backwards to create steps that will guide potential customers through onboarding to reach this ultimate goal.
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