3 Onboarding Strategies to Spur User Adoption and Empower Customers

No matter what product or service you offer, seeing a new customer experience success with said offering is what it’s all about. First of all, it’s proof positive that your service provides the value you’ve aimed for it to provide. More importantly for your business, helping your customers succeed will lead to increased satisfaction. This leads to increased engagement, improved retention, and potential brand evangelism. A perfect Customer Onboarding strategy is the starting point for this journey. 

Pro tip: Check out the Customer Onboarding Framework to get an action plan for designing your B2B SaaS Onboarding process.
Customer Onboarding Template
Now, there’s no guarantee that your customers will experience such success with your software. Regardless of how user-friendly your offering is, your new customers will need some level of direction to start their experience with your brand on the right foot.

Of course, in not providing an effective onboarding experience to your customers, you leave their success up to chance. Unfortunately, the reality is: that the chances of their experiencing success with your software completely on their own are pretty slim.

(And, well…this makes sense: Without any sort of direction from your team, your new customers aren’t even going to know how to get started with your software.)

Your goal, then, should be to develop a proper user onboarding process that ensures your new users can accomplish what they set out to do with your software—and more.

In this article, we’re going to dig into three key strategies to adopt when onboarding your new customers. For each strategy, we’ll discuss how to go about implementing them—and how doing so can lead to success for your customers and your business.

Let’s get started.

3 Onboarding Strategies to Spur SaaS User Adoption and Empower Your New Customers

Though there’s no “one way” to approach user onboarding, the approaches that prove to be most successful do share a few commonalities.

In adopting these proven approaches, SaaS companies are able to:

  • Provide a simple and structured—yet exploratory—onboarding experience
  • Identify, celebrate, and capitalize on their customers’ progress
  • Provide proactive and responsive support on an as-needed basis

Let’s take a closer look at each, shall we?

Keep User Onboarding Strategies Simple and Structured—but Exploratory

In 2015, Hubspot conducted a survey amongst users who had churned from a certain email tool within one week of signing up for the service.

The survey found that a full 30% of churned users abandoned the tool simply because they didn’t understand the software.

Survey Why Customers Churn

The thing is:

It’s not the customer’s job to learn how to use the software. Rather, it’s the provider’s job to ensure the customer learns what they need to know in order to use the software successfully.

Now, this isn’t to say you should just throw a bunch of resources at your new users and assume they’ll know how to proceed. This can easily overwhelm those who are unsure of how to actually use these resources for their specific purposes. If a new user faces analysis paralysis from the get-go with your service, they probably aren’t going to stay on board for much longer.

For this reason, it’s vital that your onboarding process consists of simple steps and structured paths—while gradually “opening up” for your users as they become more comfortable with your software.

When we say “simple,” here: We mean it.

Take a look at the following screenshots detailing LiveChat’s onboarding experience:

Livechat Customer Onboarding

Livechat Customer Onboarding

Livechat Customer Onboarding

Here, LiveChat actively hides future stages of the process. This enables new users to focus entirely on the current task at hand. That way, there can be absolutely no confusion as to what the user needs to do next. 

The Steps to follow

Breaking your customer onboarding strategy down into smaller steps also makes it easier for users. To “pick up where they left off” would be such a relief! This minimizes redundancies throughout your user onboarding experience. This allows your new users to be as productive and efficient as possible when learning to use your software.

Your onboarding process should also be structured in such a way as to gradually prepare your users for further steps toward success. Moreover, your new users need to understand the “why” behind everything you teach them during onboarding. Since they’ll understand how they can apply the information being presented, they’ll be more likely to internalize it for future reference.

Now, the initial stages of your onboarding process should be pretty uniform for all users. Once customers become accustomed to your product, they all will need to accomplish the same basic tasks.
Grow your multi million dollar portfolio with the best Customer Success Software!
However, there will also be moments in your onboarding process where certain users will want to branch off. They’d explore the features and functions they want from your software.

For example, after covering the basics in its onboarding process, Slack tells its new users they’re “ready to go”—and allows them to choose what to do next:

Slack Onboarding

You should totally let them do this (when they’re ready, that is). 

Still, this doesn’t mean you should completely let go of the reins. Rather, you need to ensure each pathway consists of the same type of simple and straightforward steps as mentioned above.

In Slack, hovering over the “Channels” list brings up the following message:

Slack Onboarding

Hovering over the chat box brings up some basic tips for sending messages:

Slack Onboarding

And clicking the arrow near your username allows you to access your account menu:

Slack Onboarding

Now, it’s worth noting that both LiveChat and Slack give new users the option of skipping various parts of the customer onboarding strategy. While, ideally, your new users take you up on your offer to teach them about your software, you certainly want to let those looking to dive right in do so at their leisure.

That said, our focus is on providing for those who do want to experience your onboarding process for all it’s worth. Provide them with simple and logical instructions in a controlled and structured environment. This way you’ll be able to give these individuals just what they were looking for.

If you can do that from the start, you should have no problem keeping them onboard well past the introductory period.

Identify, Celebrate, and Capitalize on Customer Progress

Going back to the graphic from earlier, another 30% of churned users reported that they didn’t see the value of the software.

Note, again, that this is after only one week of use. Chances are, these users had merely begun to scratch the surface in terms of what the tool could help them do. They probably didn’t notice all of the “baby steps” they had actually taken toward success in that short week, either.


You don’t want to leave this kind of stuff up to chance.

In order to keep your customers motivated and engaged with your software, you need to make them aware of all the progress they’ve made throughout the onboarding process (and beyond).

This means identifying and celebrating certain events throughout the onboarding experience—and using them as springboards for further engagement.

The three key “types” of events to identify and celebrate, 

  • Quick Wins
  • Milestones
  • A-Ha Moments

In looking at quick wins, the goal is to keep your users engaged and moving forward in their experience with your software. More specifically, it’s to do so at the very points where engagement is low and churn is high. 

Once you’ve identified these moments, you need to figure out a way to celebrate your user’s success thus far—and keep them moving in the right direction.

For example, new Duolingo users can complete a sample lesson—and see their progress—before actually signing up for the service:

Duolingo Customer Onboarding Success

Duolingo Customer Onboarding Success

Milestones are the “bigger steps” in the onboarding process that show a user is becoming more engaged and making more progress. Still, the user might not even notice such milestones unless you call their attention to it.

That is unless the process is engaging—and you call attention to the user’s progress. 

Check out Canva’s user onboarding process that provides a hands-on demonstration and exploration stage, milestone notification, and notice of further instruction:

Canva Customer Onboarding

Canva Customer Onboarding

Finally, your onboarding process should involve multiple “A-ha!” moments! That your new users can’t help but see the value your service brings to the table. A-ha moments don’t necessarily come after milestones. They typically occur after your new users have at least some experience with your service.

Since your users’ intrinsic motivation will be high during these moments, they provide the perfect opportunity to get users engaged even further with your software. 

Going back to Duolingo’s onboarding process, new users are asked to sign up for an account only after reaching their first bit of success with the program—and seeing how attainable said success is.

Duolingo Customer Onboarding Success

What’s more, the prompt (“Save your progress”) is much more user-centered than the more company-serving “Sign up for an account” messages often seen during onboarding.

By sprinkling quick wins, milestones, and a-ha moments throughout your onboarding experience, you’ll keep your customers motivated to not only keep using your services but to continue striving toward their goals, overall.

Provide Proactive and Responsive Support to New Users

Earlier, we mentioned that it’s not enough to provide your new users with access to a ton of information and assume they’re good to go. To spur new user adoption, it is crucial to provide this kind of support as and when they need it. It is again vital to follow the user adoption best practices to help them understand and navigate your product easily. 

While, again, you don’t want to overwhelm your new users. You do want to ensure they know where to find any additional information they need. You want the information to be presented in the most efficient way possible. 

For example, GetResponse provides video tutorials for each “Getting Started” step of its onboarding process:

GetResponse Onboarding Process

You also want to be sure they know how to reach out to your team should the need arise. 

Notice the link to further help in the above screenshot? 

It’s present throughout GetResponse’s onboarding process:

GetResponse Onboarding Process

GetReponse Onboarding Process

However, you don’t want to just assume your customers will check out your more in-depth content or reach out for further assistance.

Instead, you’ll often need to proactively reach out to them with such offers in order to keep them engaged. This encourages them to move forward in their onboarding experience. 

For example, Kickstarter sends out reminder emails to new users who have yet to get their first project off the ground:

Kickstarter Reminder Email Customer Onboarding

The same goes for your engaged users, as well:

As your users become better acclimated with your services, they’ll be better equipped to explore and learn on their own. Still, in order to keep them engaged, you need to continually provide guidance to them as they explore. 

This is where a robust, in-depth knowledge base comes in.

Knowledge Base Example

A comprehensive knowledge base makes it easy to deliver the exact information your users need. This ensures your new and existing users never reach a point where they don’t know what to do next. The knowledge hub makes sure that they’re always moving closer to their goals.

User onboarding is all about empowering your new customers. In turn, they’ll be better able to forge their own path to success through the use of your services.

This is why your user onboarding experience must:

  • Be structured and straightforward—while also allowing for exploration
  • Celebrate user success—and use it to spur further engagement
  • Proactively provide support tailored to your individual user’s needs

Simply put:

The more information you provide your new users throughout the onboarding process, the better. 

Suggested Read: The ultimate guide to customer onboarding

About the Author

Emil Hajric is the founder and CEO of Helpjuice. Helpjuice enables you to create a comprehensive knowledge base for your new users. This allows your newest customers to quickly learn as much as they can about your services—and will help them get started along their path to success.