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Customer onboarding best practices

3 Customer Onboarding Best Practices to Improve Your Conversions

3 Customer Onboarding Best Practices to Improve Your Conversions

Category: Best Practices

Last updated on Mar 30, 2023

If you’re getting trial customers that are not converting into paying ones, or if you’re struggling with your trial-to-paid conversion rate in general, then you’re on the right spot.

The ultimate goal of this article is to show you some of the best customer onboarding practices you can use to improve your own activation rate and overall trial-to-paid conversions.

SaaS companies are currently living in an era of Product-Led Growth. In other words, it means that one of the main things that are driving SaaS’s growth right now should be the product itself.

Product marketing and customer onboarding have taken an important part in the overall startup’s marketing and growth channels.

And no – I’m not talking here about the old and boring product tours. They’re outdated and no one likes to see them.

Actually, according to the product onboarding report, only 29% of SaaS companies are using product tours in their customer onboarding flow.

That’s a big proof that product tours are not effective anymore

But the real question is: “What replaces product tours?

The answer lies in Interactive Walkthroughs, or how we like to call it: Subtle customer onboarding (or customer onboarding 2.0)

In this article, we’re going to see how 8 SaaS companies are using:

– Interactive Walkthroughs in their customer onboarding
– Checklists to improve customer activation
– Psychology biases in customer onboarding
– And a lot of other things.

The best part? We give you instructions how you can replicate all of those best practices by yourself.

But first – if we want to create a killer customer onboarding flows, we need to understand exactly what customer onboarding is, and what are the key pillars of it.

Let’s get started.

What is Customer Onboarding?

In short, customer onboarding is the process of educating your new users and making them addicted to your product.

In the longer format, customer onboarding is the constant process of educating new users of your product by using different in-app events and user’s behaviour to trigger various in-app experiences that will, as the end goal, make your users’ addicted to your product.

But, in order to create a converting customer onboarding flow, first, we need to dive into the anatomy and key elements of it.

Let’s see them.

Also Read: How to Create an Effective Product Onboarding Process

4 Elements of Every Successful Customer Onboarding Flow

In order for customer onboarding to be successful, you’ll need to understand these 4 key pillars of it:

– “aha” moment – the moment when your users’ perceive or understand the value of your product/feature but still don’t see it.
user activation – this is the moment when your users’ see or feel the value of your product/feature after using it. For example, it can be sending the first email campaign in Mailchimp.
user adoption – at this stage, your new user is completely adopted at using your entire product or some particular feature
– power user – as the final step, a user that becomes addicted to your product and starts using it completely can become considered as the power user.

To illustrate this, the entire process of customer onboarding looks like this:

Customer_ Onboarding process -Document360

To consider users as fully adopted to your product, they need to go through several “aha” and activation points for different core or secondary features:

Customer Onboarding activation -Document360.

As a result, the entire user journey through some product will look like this:

User Journey - Document360

Now let’s see some real-life practices on how to use subtle customer onboarding and interactive walkthrough to improve your trial-to-paid conversion rates and make your customers addicted to your product.

3 Customer Onboarding Best Practices

Now that we understood the basic principles of customer onboarding, let’s see some best practices and real-life case studies.

1. How Albacross is using checklists to improve activation points?

For those who don’t know – Albacross is a lead generation tool that enables you to see who exactly and what companies are visiting your website.

Hence – in order to work – it requires installing a java-script snippet on your website. This is very frictional – so, before Albacross started using checklists, their activation wasn’t big at all.

But, after they did it, their activation rate grew for an amazing 33%.

Why checklists?

Checklists are a great way to, in a subtle and in a less intrusive way, show your people way around and let them know exactly what they need to do.

Once you create your account on Albacross, you will see this:

Albacross customer onboarding

You have the option to take a tour through the product, or to install the Albacross right away.

This is the moment when, according to Albacross’s product manager, the majority of people will decide to take the product tour (so they can see if Albacross is the best fit for them).

Once you choose that, you will go through the short 3-4 step product tour explaining only the most important things.

Upon finishing, you will see something like this:

Albacross customer onboarding preview


In the middle, you have the java-script snippet with the options to install in WordPress, send to developers, and so on.

On the right – you have the chat with the knowledge base, while on the left, you have a checklist.


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And this is how Albacross, in a subtle way – prompted their users to install the code. This is how it improved the activation rate.

On the other hand, if you don’t add the java-script snippet then, you get this transactional email:

Transaction email

Pretty brilliant, right?

2. Use psychology in customer onboarding

Psychology is crucial for onboarding your new customers effectively.

In fact – it plays one of the most important roles you should consider while creating your product experiences.

There’s a lot of different psychological biases we, as the product managers are using to leverage the power of them and activate more trial customers.

Let’s go through the most important ones:

1. Unleash the “aha” moment by using uncompleted tasks and Zeigarnik effect

Zeigarnik effect is one of the most used psychology biases in product marketing.

Long story short – Zeigarnik effect is a psychological bias that tells us how people have a tendency to better remember uncompleted tasks than completed ones.

Waiters and barmen can remember several orders at the same time.

Let me give you an example. Bluma Zeigarnik, a Soviet psychologist, noticed that waiters in a restaurant remembered customers’ orders when they were not completed. But as soon as the customer paid the bill, the waiters tended to mentally ‘check them off their to-do list’ and forget about them.

It’s the same in customer onboarding.

But, the question is, how exactly can you leverage the power of the Zeigarnik effect in customer onboarding?

The answer lies in progress bars and checklists.

We already covered checklists (yeap – they’re based on Zeigarnik effect), but what about progress bars?

In combination with checklists, progress bars are one of the most powerful in-app experiences you can create to nudge your trial customers to move forward towards adopting your product.

Storychief  Onboarding

For example, Storychief is using a combination of checklists and progress bars to prompt its users to fully set up their account.

Tell me one thing:

Would be motivated to do something more if you saw that your progress bar is moving forward?

You probably would.

So, it’s the same case with customer onboarding.

Similarly, if the task is complicated, you could add a progress based checklist like a social proof tool crowdy does it.

Crowdy Onboarding


Now let’s see another, less common but pretty effective example that’s using Zeigarnik effect to onboard trial customers quickly and effectively.

Tidio Onboarding

When you create an account on Tidio, you will be forced to go through a quick and easy 4 step process in order to set up your live chat and chatbot.

It’s pretty short and easy to complete. The more steps you complete, the closer you are to getting new customers with chatbots and supporting your existing ones with live chat.

Pretty motivational.

On the other hand – if you ever used some other live chat or chatbot tool, you could see that, once you sign up for them, you will be left on your own to design your chatbots or to create messages.

But Tidio solves this problem pretty well.

Instead of being lost inside the product and wasting effort to find settings, you will make the necessary changes straight at the beginning.

Pretty great, right?

2. Gamify your customer onboarding

Everyone loves games, right?

Gamification is one of the most powerful techniques when it comes to engaging with your trial users.

Although it’s rarely used by B2B companies, it doesn’t mean that it’s less effective.

One of the best gamification examples we’ve found comes from Duolingo:

Duolingo Onboarding

Once you create your account on Duolingo, it starts motivating you to learn a new language by giving you different XP points, badges and accomplishments.

On the other hand, when it comes to B2B businesses, another great gamification example comes from Seamless AI:

Seamless AI

As you can see in this example – Seamless AI uses two different psychology concepts and three in-app elements:

– Gamification (with offering credits for the completed task)
– Zeigarnik effect (with checklists and progress bars).

You can also add progress bars in your sign up flow like this proposal software does.

When you complete each step of this checklist, you will earn credits that can later be exchanged for other upgrades and cheaper fees.

3. How you should onboard your customers

  • Better UX writing – UX writing should be clear and short. There is no need to write several medium-sized blog posts inside the product tour. It’s overwhelming, hard to read, and, to be honest, it makes me unmotivated to continue using the product.
  • Prompting me to the “aha” moment and user activation – What’s the most important thing for me as a first-time user? What should I learn first? How should they activate me? If they understand this – then they definitely shouldn’t show me the entire product at once.
  • Using different in-app elements – By showing a lot of product tours at the same time, several aggressive models, and slide-outs with 500-word texts.

Here’re the most common in-app elements you can use to create stunning customer onboarding experiences and onboard your customers in a better way:


Modals popup

Modals are large popups that have a purpose to provide important information to your users. They’re pretty aggressive – so use them carefully. As mentioned – they’re great for major releases, introducing a new view and notifications. In the above example, a product roadmap tool shows a beautiful modal by the founder welcoming to their product.


Slideouts are less aggressive in-app elements than modals. They’re usually placed in the down-right or down-left corner, and their purpose is to showcase less important information about your product, new release, or to upgrade your users – like Tidio is doing:

Slideout Popout


Hotspots and tooltips

Hotspots and tooltips

Hotspots and tooltips are less aggressive in-app elements. They’re tiny and small, but still easy to catch. They’re perfect for navigating your users through products and showing them new features.

The Bottom Line

As we could see, customer onboarding is an important part of every successful growth strategy.

In this article, we saw the key elements of every successful customer onboarding.

Long story short – it’s based on 4 key elements:

– Unleashing the “aha” moment
– User activation
– User adoption
– And making your ordinary users become power users

When it comes to the customer onboarding best practices – here’s what you should do to activate your trial users quickly:

– Use checklists to drive engagement
– Don’t forget about the psychology – Zeigarnik effect and gamification are very powerful tools for adopting your trial customers


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Document360 Team

Dec 11, 2020