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Advanced Guide to Creating Personalized Onboarding Experiences - 5 Steps

Have you ever visited Disneyland? If so, you must be familiar with their magical customer experiences. Disney is surely famous for delivering the exact experience you want; however, its success comes far from a magic wand or fairy dust. From a business angle, it is simply a result of extensive planning and execution of personalized onboarding to satisfy every unique visitor.
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Written by
Aysenur Zaza
Published on
September 30, 2022

The one-size-fits-all onboarding approach does not apply to businesses anymore. Good onboarding involves personalization. Segment users according to their behavior, use case, or milestones to personalize your onboarding strategy. 

"Employees pay attention and ask guests about their visit and are encouraged to create one-of-a-kind interactions. Disney collects huge amounts of data to understand guests both as a whole and as individuals," says Blake Morgan in her Forbes article.

"Employees pay attention and ask guests about their visit and are encouraged to create one-of-a-kind interactions. Disney collects huge amounts of data to understand guests both as a whole and as individuals," says Blake Morgan in her Forbes article.

While Disney's onboarding takes place on-site, it can still inspire you to personalize your own user onboarding process to establish stronger customer-company relationships and connect with your users on a new level.

We've listed five essential steps and examples for creating personalized onboarding experiences. Without further ado, let's jump right into the belly of the onboarding personalization beast!

TL;DR

  • The one-size-fits-all onboarding approach does not apply to businesses anymore.
  • Good onboarding involves personalization. Segment users according to their behavior, use case, or milestones to personalize your onboarding strategy. 
  • Interactive elements like tooltips, checklists, and step-by-step guides ensure that the users are on track for product activation.
  • Use data such as location, name, job title or company to interact with your users outside the app by sending personalized onboarding emails.
  • Providing a concierge onboarding experience with 1:1 product demos or webinars also secure deeper relationships with users, especially if you provide feature-rich products where live support is important.

What is Personalized Onboarding?

Personalized onboarding is a type of user onboarding experience focusing on understanding the needs of users. By adjusting the onboarding materials accordingly, you can increase retention rates and help users realize the value of your product or service earlier. Having a strong onboarding process is also helpful for creating a stellar first impression and capturing more leads.

Imagine for a moment that you work as a content marketer at a SaaS company and you are looking for a tool that will help you find new topic ideas and show competitors. 

After a quick search, you decided to sign up for a tool that looks just like what he needs: features showing keyword difficulty and traffic, how competitors rank in SERPs, and other related search terms and questions you can use to enrich your content.

After the initial sign-up, you run the first content topic idea to test the product. And things do not go as planned.

Why?

All you wanted was to see if the topic idea was search-worthy; instead, you got all the features thrown at you. You can probably guess what is next:

Try to understand how the product works for a little while, get overwhelmed by all the options and features that you do not need yet, log off and start searching for another tool again.

You can probably relate to this story if you have ever given a chance to a new tool with a poor onboarding program. Effective onboarding gives a personal touch to each user experience so that you can explore what you essentially need at that moment and discover additional features as you go.

It is important to recognize users as unique individuals and treat them as such. What will turn trial users into your next paying customers is a more personalized product experience. The market is already too competitive and saturated, so users won't hesitate to switch to your competitors if you cannot fulfill their needs as soon as possible.

Remember our previous imaginary situation: What made you frustrated was that you could not find and use what you were looking for and this onboarding experience turned you off. If the company invested in a strong onboarding strategy with special attention to personalization, they would avoid this problem altogether and their user retention would not suffer.

Why Personalized Onboarding Experiences Matter?

Personalization keeps users engaged with your brand and the "one-size-fits-all" approach cannot work with every individual or industry. It is especially important for SaaS companies to personalize their user onboarding experience, as 80% of users say that they have deleted an app because they did not understand how to use it. Without proper onboarding material, you cannot expect high conversion rates or raving reviews about your product. This is just how it is.

In addition, SaaS covers different industries and roles, so a single onboarding approach cannot suit everyone. Because they have a wide range of problems, needs, and motivations. Onboarding personalization encourages user engagement as users get a chance to interact with your app from day one. Therefore, you can also see increased product activation rates. 

How To Personalize Your User Onboarding Process - 5 Steps

Here is a list of 5 steps successful companies use to improve their onboarding personalization, along with real-life examples that will change your perception of customer data and concierge onboarding experience.

1- Segment Users 

One of the go-to strategies for personalized user onboarding sequences is segmenting users by their behavior, use case or milestones. Although the end goal is the same for every user, how each user reaches that goal is different.

By tailoring your user onboarding strategy based on the data you've previously collected from your app or product, you can activate users faster and reduce churn. 

User segments are necessary for positioning your services. For instance, if your tool has many features, it is safe to assume that one user interested in a feature will not necessarily be interested in another. Similarly, the user experience for people with different knowledge bases will not be the same.

While beginner user segments will need more detail on their user onboarding sequence, a more experienced user might want to see fewer details or tooltips about your product. 

Let's take a look at how Duolingo uses the data collected during onboarding to segment users:

personalized experiences duolingo

As a language-learning app, Duolingo asks users to choose their level of expertise and gives them a chance to quiz their knowledge to determine their level. Based on their answers, the questions get harder or easier. The progress bar at the top prevents users from feeling overwhelmed and gives them a sense of completion. 

Duolingo's "choose your path" is probably the most engaging way of the user segment process. By letting users take on an adventure to learn a brand new language, the app uses their data to accelerate the "aha! moment" process—delivering value and reducing the time it takes for activation. Instead of asking for too much information at once and exhausting the user, the app gradually collects information to tailor its customer onboarding process.

duolingo personalized experiences

2- Personalized Onboarding Emails and Messages

If you want to create a successful onboarding process, engaging the users outside your app is essential. And the best way to foster this relationship is through personalized onboarding emails. According to Hive.co welcome emails are read 42% more than average emails; therefore, kicking off personalization efforts with welcome emails is a good idea. Even adding the user's name on the subject line goes a long way to increase user engagement. 

For example, using your segmented lists to recommend different features or adjusting your onboarding approach based on job title, location or company can be more effective. This will make onboarding tasks more relatable and achievable and take your user to the next phase quicker! 

Personalized onboarding emails can be sent according to the user's certain actions or states within your app or software as well. This is also known as action-based onboarding.

starbucks personalized experiences

Take a look at Starbucks's welcome email. 

You can spot the actions they listed immediately. They nudge the user to complete at least one action to "make the most of their experience":

  • Completing profile info so that Starbucks can tailor the customer onboarding process and promote different products
  • Activating Starbucks Card
  • Encouraging signing up for a loyalty program for exclusive offers and gifts to boost engagement and activation

This allows you to direct users who have not yet completed key actions and increase conversion rates and form completion rates, presenting these options with a personal touch.

3- Schedule A Product Demo and Webinars

Marketing upcoming webinars and scheduling product demos might not be as direct as the other steps on this list. However, it is probably the most intimate onboarding experience you can provide for your users. Product demos and webinars are perfect for creating personalized plans because you can get direct feedback to make changes to your user onboarding sequence.

In addition, you get a 1:1 opportunity to illustrate your company culture and improve relationships with customers, prospective or existing. Stronger customer-company relationships are the foundation of creating more loyal customers who will spread the word about your business, so it is crucial to plan product demos and upcoming webinars to help users.

One of the most effective product demos I have ever seen comes from Frase. Instead of boring slideshows and long talks, Frase lets you experience its value first-hand. Its deep dive into the organizational structure comes from simplicity. 

personalized experience frase

You can think of it as personalized training. The product journey is entirely controlled by the user and they can see the Sandbox in action and explore how it improves their SEO and writing style. 

frase personalized experience

Additional tooltips introduce different functions you can test for yourself and describes their value. The user understands how the software works on their own terms, even without the initial sign-up and trial phase. They also do not need an arduous far-reaching, daunting goal or exhaustive learning for onboarding successfully—making product activation easier.

However, sometimes you need to offer an additional hand for users to navigate the app. This is especially true for feature-rich products. There are many different use cases on your app, so a webinar or 1:1 product demo is potentially the best way to deliver a personalized product experience where the customer is in control of the product journey while you direct them according to their needs simultaneously. This is called concierge onboarding experience where you give a 1:1 onboarding personalization and they get the value from being your user.

There are many webinar platforms out there and you can use in-app messages for trial users to let them know about your upcoming webinars, welcoming them to your company and prompting them to sign up for a paid account. 

4- Maximize the Potential of Videos

One of the struggles of international companies is time-zone differences. You want to set 1:1 demos but there are eight hours between you and your user. Without a personal product experience, users will not connect with your app. Fortunately, pre-recorded videos come to the rescue.

By recording a collection of product videos, you can include personalized video messages for your prospective or loyal customers who live far away. You can provide clear answers to questions and streamline onboarding tasks. Short, informational videos work very well with feature-rich products as you get to showcase how each feature works in the shortest way possible

With these videos, you take the load of extra learning for onboarding off users' shoulders and reduce the level of expertise needed to use your product. You can also consider sharing these videos on social media channels to boost reach and engagement or launching a free video course to have deeper relationships with customers. Visual media, especially in video format, is very compelling and persuasive compared to written forms which give you leverage over converting trial users. 

Making the customer onboarding process simpler and clearer without demanding additional skills for value is the secret recipe for successful companies. 

5- Make It Interactive

Loyal customers or raving reviews about your app do not emerge from thin air. You need to put time, energy and best resources into fostering a stronger customer-company relationship and inspiring retention rates. 

Whatever your onboarding approach or personalized product experience plan is, you cannot establish a complete strategy without strong interactive elements. What seems simple to you as the onboarding UX designer or salesperson can be daunting for users. 

Live chatbots, creating tickets or in-app messages can be used to serve for customers. You can also integrate interactive guides and checklists as onboarding tasks to help users, whether it is a simple question or an advanced feature, and solve their problems with a self-serve approach instead of making them wait for hours to fix the problems.

personalized experience userguiding

For instance, UserGuiding allows you to create custom step-by-step guides and checklists aimed at onboarding users faster. These guides highlight certain sections of a web page or app and define the key action the user must take to reach the point of product activation, where they can use the product to its full intended extent. Users can also follow their progress on a progress bar and feel a sense of achievement and belonging.

Final Words

Most companies are aware of how personalized onboarding can boost their retention and engagement, but few take action to tailor their onboarding experience for a better user journey. Successful companies deliver a personal touch with interactive elements, stunning demos and instructive videos to maximize deeper relationships with customers. They turn a far-reaching, daunting goal into a reality with an emphasis on key actions and step-by-step guidance. 

Users will not only feel welcomed to use your app, but they will also feel at home with the value your product provides and thanks to the personalized onboarding that delivered this value in quick and simple steps.

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