How to Measure User Onboarding | Best Practices, Tools and Metrics

Every customer is of potential value to your business, and your ability to successfully engage with them within the first few minutes of using your product is essential to growing your user base. User onboarding is the process by which you acquaint customers with your product or service in the beginning stages of use. To do this well, you want to motivate them to engage with your product and convert–but how do you achieve this?

In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need in your customer onboarding checklist, including:
• Onboarding Basics
• An Overview of Onboarding Analytics
• Important metrics and KPIs to track to optimize your onboarding strategy
• Steps to Measure User Onboarding the Right Way

Let’s start by going over the basics of user onboarding including what it is, why it’s important, and customer onboarding best practices resources. Then we’ll give you the best principles and methods for performing user onboarding to make sure you keep users active and engaged.

Onboarding Basics (skip if you aren’t new to onboarding)

Before we get into how you can make the most of the user onboarding process to create successful users, we’ll explain what user onboarding is at a basic level. We’ll examine what it is, what it can do for your business, and why it is something you should be focusing on.

If you’re not new to this concept, skip ahead to learn about onboarding analytics.

What is user onboarding?

User onboarding is the process of developing a user’s success, knowledge, and engagement with a product or service. Most commonly used for software, it includes product design, guidance, and tools aimed at giving users the skills needed to best utilize a website, app, or other software service.

The goal of product onboarding is to provide customers with all the necessary material, instructions, and tools needed to use the product. More than that, it is your chance to convince the customer why your product is valuable to them, why it’s better than others, and how exactly they can use it in their lives.

It involves more than just providing an introductory ‘product tour,’ as users need consistent value and improvements from the product. It can include a free basic tutorial of the product to expose users to its value and purpose, a training program that allows users to get more performance out of a product over time, and/or ways to integrate the product or service with other aspects of the customer’s life.

Who on your team should be involved with user onboarding?

Almost every member of your team should be involved with customer onboarding in some capacity:

  • Marketing – essential for motivating users to try the product
  • Development – building trials and product tours to make the introduction to the product seem enticing and engaging is key
  • Design – the different ways you introduce potential users should be consistent across all mediums
  • Data analysts – those who track and measure analytics need to be aware and involved in every method of onboarding users to measure data effectively
  • Sales – anyone who does outreach for potential users (especially for B2B) should have a well-developed strategy for introducing new users to the product

One of the most important things to remember about user onboarding is that it can be applied throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Improving the customer’s engagement with your product should always be a core value when developing the product, training material, product extensions, and practically any other feature you can think of; this means you need everyone on your team on board!

5 great resources for user onboarding best practices and examples

These articles can help lead you in the right direction for developing best practices at your company for developing a great onboarding strategy.

  1. Matt Sornson, Head of Growth at Clearbit, on Personalizing User Onboarding
    Learn how to make onboarding more personal and provide a “concierge-like” experience to all new customers – at scale!

  2. 76 Tips to Optimize User Onboarding
    A product of two years of research, this easy-to-access slideshow is a great way to digest numerous onboarding strategies.

  3. 10 Great Examples of Customer Onboarding That You Can Learn From
    Covering ten unique examples of customer onboarding in practice and the tips you can take away from each!

  4. The Art and Science of Effective Customer Onboarding (video)
    If you’ve read all you can read about user onboarding, try watching this Skilljar video designing your onboarding strategy, developing and revising content, and how to engage your customers.

Onboarding Analytics: Optimize Your Way to More Engaged New Users

When practicing user onboarding, analytics will be your most valuable resource. Tracking useful data will help you gauge your performance, understand your weaknesses and areas for improvement, and help you adapt your product and service to maintain your audience.

To help you best understand how customer onboarding and analytics can help you, we’ll cover why measuring onboarding is valuable, the differences between web versus mobile onboarding, the main metrics and KPIs to track, top user onboarding tools to use for tracking and analyzing your relevant data, and the four-step process to measure user onboarding to achieve success.

Remember, you have a brief window to convince a user to stick with your product, so you need to make the most of it!

Why is measuring onboarding so important?

We’ve all downloaded an app, used it for less than 5 minutes, and never opened it ever again. It isn’t always because the service provided isn’t useful or is low-quality. Sometimes it just boils down to the way the product is presented, the way you’re taught to use it, and how its features are highlighted.

These are all reasons why customer onboarding is so valuable:

  • It is an essential aspect of customer retention
  • Helps increase how frequently customers use your product or service
  • Teaches customers ways they can use the product
  • Explains to users why they should keep using the service over time
  • Helps explain why a user would want to upgrade/go premium
  • Provides incentive to purchase integrated products
  • It can increase conversions, as seen in this case study of Swish
  • Fosters engagement in the product or larger community of users
  • Makes the most of customer acquisition efforts and resources
  • Identifies the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the product
  • Supplements user feedback and surveys

Given the heavy investment in customer acquisition including product research, customer surveying, product development, marketing, and more, you want to make sure you keep as many customers as you can. Having a great product isn’t enough if your customers don’t know how it works or how it can improve their lives. You need to motivate them to use it.

Web versus Mobile User Onboarding: how do they compare?

While there are minor differences when it comes to mobile onboarding, the general principles and practices are the same. You will want to measure the same KPIs, compare similar data sets, and understand the onboarding ux.

The major difference will be how the user interacts with the two products. For one, the onboarding customer path may be different in mobile than in a web-based application. If the onboarding screens are slightly different between your web and mobile versions, it will be important to create two separate funnels for the onboarding process to understand where users are dropping off.

Best user onboarding analytics tools

Depending on what your business needs, there are a range of analytics tools you can use. They differ based on the details they provide, the way you can display information, and the information you can track. It’s important to think about what’s important to you and how you will use the information when picking the user onboarding software that best suits you.

Here are some of the best customer onboarding analytics tools we would suggest:

Amplitude Growth Engine
One of the most comprehensive products on the market, it allows you to track a wide variety of metrics. Focused on a user-friendly experience, their four-step process is accessible and effective:

  1. Generate Hypotheses
  2. Experiment & Learn
  3. Amplify Winners
  4. Broadcast Impact

This process works to analyze the true roots of customer loss and produce meaningful, impactful, and long-lasting results.

Tableau
With a variety of product offerings, Tableau allows you to customize the product to fit your needs. Using an intuitive dashboard, the user experience is spot-on. While this is a great data analytics tool, it is not designed specifically for user retention and may not have the variety of breakdowns you would want in a customer onboarding solution.

Google Analytics
As a popular product in the market, it provides a great service for studying basic analytics. With a focus on customer behavior, you can break down retention in a variety of ways. Their interface is easily accessible, but the depth is not available unless you pay for a premium subscription.

Once you’ve decided on the tool you want to use to measure your onboarding metrics, you’ll want to get started. While you do want to start tracking a variety of statistics, it is important to follow the proper steps, applying the proper data and analysis to achieve substantial and targeted results. We’ll show you how to do that below!

Important metrics and KPIs to track to optimize your onboarding strategy

Analytics applied improperly won’t do you any good! Ensuring you have a process of tracking relevant KPIs is essential for achieving success. If you don’t know how to use the data you are collecting, you will waste a lot of time and money. These metrics will help you focus in on what needs to change in your onboarding process, and develop a user onboarding strategy that will help improve your product.

1. Strategy: Daily/Monthly Active Users

Terms to Know:

Daily Active Users (DAU): The total number of users engaging with a product in some way on a given day. To be considered active, users need only view or open the product.

Monthly Active Users (MAU): The aggregate sum of daily active users over the period of a month. To be a MAU, the person need only view or open the product within the monthly period. The ratio of DAU/MAU is a measure of ‘stickiness’ for Internet products.

Measuring active users is one of the most basic insights into how well your product is doing. You should always be tracking how many users are opening it up on a given day/within a month.

Questions to ask about active users: How many users do I have in a given day/month? How often are they signing in?
Why track it: This will give you immediate insight into how well your onboarding process is working to bring people into your product.

2. Strategy: Funnel Goals

After you know how many people are coming into your product, setting up funnels are the best way to start monitoring user drop offs. By setting up funnels for every single point of interaction at the onboarding stage, you can get a much better picture of what’s working, and what isn’t. Consider grouping customers into cohorts to understand behavior based on the parameters that matter to your business to make the maximum impact from all of this hard work!

Questions to ask about funnels: At what stages of onboarding do users most drop off? What stages do they spend the most time on? What are your cohorts telling you about every minute stage of onboarding?
Why track it: Identify the areas where users disconnect with your product; these are optimal areas for experimentation.

3. Strategy: Retention

Terms to Know:

*Retention: The measure of how many users are returning to your product over time. The most common metric used is ‘N-Day’ which is the percentage of users who come back on a specific day, after the first time they use your product.

Measuring retention is a great way to see whether your onboarding process is continuing to work over a period of time. Yes–maybe it gets a lot of people to install the app and use it for a day, but are they still using it 2 days from now? 3 days? 7 days?

Questions to ask about retention: When and how often are users signing into your product? How many times have they used it in the first 24 hours? How does that change over the first week?
Why track it: The ‘N-Day’ metric tells you over what period of time your onboarding process lasts. By focusing on retention you can continue to track it long-term in relation to specific campaigns and product changes to better understand their impact.

4. Strategy: Churn

Terms to Know:
Churn

Churn is the percentage of customers that stop using a service in a specified period of time. It can best be expressed with the equation: number of customers lost during a period divided by the number of customers using the product at the start of the same period.

Your Churn Rate is a way to measure customer satisfaction, and shows you the inverse of retention. In the case of onboarding, churn is valuable because it indicates how quickly people are dropping off from using your product.

Questions to ask about churn: What is your churn rate? How does it change month to month? What is your monthly churn rate compared to annual?
Why track it: Tracking your churn rate within the first 7 days of product install is a great way to determine how well your onboarding process is working. If your churn rate is high, it is a direct indicator that there is a problem with the value of your onboarding process.

5. Strategy: User Engagement

While the number of customers you have is important, how active and engaged with your product they are (and how much they are spending if you’re concerned specifically about SaaS onboarding) helps you understand the impact your onboarding process is having, and help you find new ways to convert in the places you see the best engagement.

Questions to ask about user engagement: How long do users spend with each feature? Which training or onboarding materials are searched, used, referenced the most? How long do users spend on specific tasks, processes, or features?
Why track it: Engagement helps you understand the parts of your service that are most sought after, and capture attention the most. If customers are staying but rarely using the service or not converting frequently, there may be more you can do in onboarding to better motivate customers to more actively use your product.

6. Strategy: User Behavior

Identify the customer onboarding path and track the metrics related to lost customers during the onboarding process. From here, we can use meaningful metrics to improve our product or service based on customer behavior. This will help you identify new onboarding opportunities, such as new content, training materials, product guides or tours, interface improvements, customer support, and so on.

Questions to ask about active user behavior: What stage are users dropping off? How frequently are they using tutorials and training materials? Which training/onboarding materials used most, and which receive negative feedback?

Why track it: Knowing this information can help you determine where you need to change the content, medium, or style of the message you are conveying to make it more accessible and rewarding for the user.

7. Strategy: Improving Product Features

The most or least used features within your service will tell you a lot about what you are doing right and wrong. Get user feedback on your features so that you understand clearly what is scaring users away from your product.

Emphasize the features that are doing well, and perfect them so that people keep using them. Identify areas that aren’t working well and explore ways to improve them. Run some practices on each method, tracking the statistics throughout, and then make changes to improve your overall service for users.

Questions to ask about product features: What features of the product are they using the most? The least? What do people enjoy most about your product and which features need work? When do users access job aides such as tutorials and training materials and for how long?

Why track it: Isolate areas that frustrate, confuse, or alienate users to make training and onboarding flow for these processes smoother and more accessible. Track flaws in the system itself, fix bugs, and identify more serious problems that require design updates or marketing adjustments.

These are all questions to ask when thinking about onboarding, and from them, we can begin to identify relevant metrics to track, analyze, and implement to improve our onboarding process.

4 Steps to Measure User Onboarding the Right Way

While there are many potential metrics and processes you can use to measure user onboarding, they are not all effective used incorrectly. There are four main steps for measuring and understanding user onboarding correctly.

  1. Map out the user journey
  2. Create a version of this funnel in your analytics tool
  3. Identify your biggest drop offs
  4. Find opportunities for experimentation

If we remember that onboarding is our way of keeping customers engaged with our product and coming back to use it again, measuring lost customers at various stages throughout the onboarding process is the best way to improve it.

Step 1: Map out the user journey

The best place to start is to identify the various stages–no matter how short–that take place during the onboarding process. As customers are most likely to drop a product within the first period of using it, you should focus on that. However, it’s important to remember that these metrics can be applied at various stages of the user’s lifecycle to help retain them.

Understand the various paths a user takes to get to be a ‘user’ of your service. Identify each stage within each of these paths, regardless of how small. This includes where they see the app, how they get to a download, what they see when they open the product, and how they are guided through to the point of being a regular user. Create an onboarding process flow chart to visualize the process and ensure you see every step of the onboarding roadmap. Check out this detailed breakdown of an A+ example of onboarding with how Slack onboards its users.

Step 2: Create a funnel to measure this

Replicate these stages using a funnel model for analyzing your customer retention. Create KPIs within your analytics tool to track these specific metrics so that you can begin to record analytics that are relevant to your business, rather than raw data that isn’t important to you.

Step 3: Find where people drop off most

Track customer losses at various stages to understand where users are most likely to stop using your product. You’ve now identified the most essential KPIs for customer retention throughout onboarding!

Focus on the points where you are experiencing the greatest customer drop offs. Consider getting direct customer feedback and think about how it can be improved to provide more value to the customer, how better to communicate value to the customer, or a more engaging way of presenting the material.

Step 4: Find prospective experiments

Take the areas that require the most adjustment and experiment with a few different ways of improving the process. Modify the content, order, narrative, or even just the style, being sure to track each cohort. Track these for a short period of time, analyze the information, and see what methods worked best.

Once you’re done this four-step process, work to implement the changes that get the best results. This may involve using more than one method that showed success. If you try five different tactics and two show extremely positive results, consider finding a way to make a change that includes both successful tactics to get the best results. Be sure to continue tracking, continuously refining the process to get the best results over time.