On-Boarding Experiences and its Impact on Long-Term Retention

You may have built a great app, but you would still need to encourage customers to consume it effectively. On-boarding is a way to guide customers to your offering. And it’s more than just putting together a couple of steps to get the customer started. If we were to define it, we’d call onboarding as much an art as much as a science. Common use cases of onboarding include signing up a new customer on an e-commerce app for purchasing goods, delivering services like entertainment, and even introducing customers to a community or network.  

In the digital world, onboarding is the very first opportunity businesses have to make a lasting impression on their customers. Prospects may come to your website or app to explore your product or service, and end up becoming paying customers only if their first interaction with your brand is a delightful one. This is why having good customer onboarding becomes the most important step in any customer journey.

One of the world’s most loved messaging apps, WhatsApp, creates a great customer onboarding experience! There are reasons that make WhatsApp one of the smoothest apps for new customers. 

Let’s dive deeper into what goes into creating superior onboarding experiences! 

What Makes a Great Customer Onboarding Experience?

There is no one size that fits all apps and brands! 

To discuss this further, MoEngage invited a panel of renowned product owners to its #GROWTH Summit 2022 held in Bengaluru. The focus was on successful onboarding strategies and how they impact the customer lifecycle. The session aimed at uncovering good customers in onboarding practices and their impact on long-term retention.

The stellar panel comprised Setal Patel, Dir of Products, ShareChat, Monica Shrivastava, Dir of Products, Byju’s, Achin Jindal, Head of Product, Good Glamm, and Akhil Sharma, Sr Director of Product, OLA. The discussion was led by Dilip Punjabi, Regional sales lead, Mixpanel.

The varied flavors brought in by the experts, given the diverse brands they lead, made it an      insightful and eye-opening discussion plush with real-world examples and experiences. 

Here’s the long and short of what the speakers had to say about creating a great customer onboarding experience and working on better retention from the very first step.

Building Effective On-Boarding Flows To Drive Optimal Customer Engagement

“Every page is friction.”

To begin with, one thing is for certain – designing seamless onboarding flows is paramount for the success of any app. This includes ensuring that the customer gets the right information at the right time, rather than being bombarded with content that may not be necessary during onboarding. 

Monica from Byju’s made an insightful remark here. “Every page on the app is friction to the customer journey. The important thing is to differentiate between the ‘must-have’ and the ‘nice-to-have’ content.”

So, when you’re onboarding a customer on your app, don’t overwhelm them with too much information or too many options at that stage. Instead, only expose them to what is necessary at that point in the journey. 

One example of great onboarding flows is Instagram, which adopts a minimalistic approach to customer onboarding. Instagram gets the customer going in a few simple steps. With just a few details to enter on clutter-free screens, customers can create an account in no time! 

Allow the customer to consume the app well

When optimizing customer engagement post-on-boarding, ensuring that the customer consumes the app well also becomes vital. On-boarding should, therefore, focus on designing flows that maximize the usage of the app.

As a marketer, aim to get the customer into the “core loop” of the app early on by communicating the main value proposition of the app. The core loop is a series or chain of actions that are repeated as the primary flow of customer experience. In gaming, it is the main reason why we return to playing the same games again and again.

If the intent of the customer matches the value proposition and if the product offering exceeds customer expectations, you may just have won greater engagement post-on-boarding.

From Setal’s (of ShareChat) perspective, since customers on the app come looking for       entertainment, it was important not to waste their time during the onboarding process, but to let them access entertainment as quickly as possible. The important thing to note here is – “to value customers’ time!” 

How To Improve Long-Term Retention With A Good Customer Onboarding Experience 

Target the right customer base at the right time

For longer-term retention, Achin from Good Glamm had some great points to share. It is important to consider the type of customer you want to engage with. So, from the onboarding stage itself, targeting the right customer base is important. Brands must also identify at what point the customer will begin consuming, and how you construct those steps or flows for onboarding.      

Pay attention to customer preferences

It also becomes important to pay attention to what the customer likes and does not like, that is, give them pathways without distracting them from the “core loop.” So, once a positive interaction is identified, say, a product is explored, customers can be led into buying them. Brands can then get customers into a rating flow, get them to recommend, get feedback, which can actually ensure long-term retention and monetization.

Customer Monetization and Retention by Leveraging Other Platforms

On monetization, Achin asks marketers some important questions, “How often is your product going to entice the customer into coming back? How often is the customer going to use the app? You may use Amazon, for example, once or twice a week. Being a personal care brand, customers may come to your app once a month or so. With fashion eCommerce – people browse a lot, and that’s where we could create loops to attract customers in the loop more frequently.” 

This could include creating blogs on how to use a product, communities to discuss problems and solutions, and even community-led marketplaces adding to the whole content-to-commerce pipeline. This is particularly useful when post-on-boarding, you don’t see customers coming directly to the product, but instead, from social media.

Many blogs have flourished into interactive communities where customers engage with each other. Most customers seek products that will suit them best, particularly for the personal care segment. Here, Nykaa does a fabulous job of nurturing a customer community called ‘Nykaa Network’. customers ask for recommendations and are then directed to the products that may be appropriate for them. The company has also created a community with an array of influencers who show the right way to use products, extending that extra helping hand to the customers. 

Engaging With Customers During Those Value Moments / Touch Points

Identifying defining moments in a customer journey can be a tough learning curve. Here, mobile apps can track actions performed by customers that result in purchase or monetization or any sort of valuable engagement. Akhil’s point here hit home: “Identify high-value actions and allow customers to take baby steps. It may be a difficult learning curve to identify transformative actions of conversion. But, when it happens is the point you start engaging using things such as push notifications for offering monetizing options like upgrades and subscription.” 

Other speakers also added practical tips such as carefully treading the fine line as to not annoy the customer. We think so, too! Asking for unnecessary personal information that is not relevant to your offering can be pretty annoying. The important thing is to always focus on what the customers feel when using your app. That said, points, loyalty programs, and gamifying things at the right moments could add more meaning to CRM journeys.

Common Customer Onboarding Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Introducing everything at once

Once again, all speakers converged on this most common onboarding mistake—trying to introduce all the features at once. 

Not having a clear objective

Another point is that onboarding should not be done without a clear objective. A clear incentive gets signals from the customer that helps brands engage better. Onboarding should be seen as a step rather than a one-shot experience.

Monica added, “Having a reason or purpose for onboarding is very important. A lot of times, we marketers get so biased and engrossed in introducing customers to all our features that we end up overwhelming the customer—which is a complete no-no. Simplification is immensely important during onboarding.“

Asking customers for too much

When it came to getting information from the customer, it is suggested to get the bare minimum from them, just as in the case of WhatsApp. 

Using heavy words

At the same time, there were some copy-related best practices shared. Using the right copy was central to an effective onboarding experience. customers often get deterred by words like subscription and free trial right at the beginning. Brands end up losing customers who could have given them 7-14 days of engagement and then could be targeted in a better way. 

So, with the intention of knowing many things about customers from the marketing perspective, we start asking for preferences to personalize the experience. But, the truth is customers don’t read and they just want to get started. Overwhelming them at the outset would lead them into choice paralysis. 

Being too text-heavy and overwhelming

On this, Akhil added that many of the best onboarding journeys don’t even require content. They are intuitive ones. Introducing the right things at the right moment to the customer was the smart thing to do.

Akhil recollected from his experience at Adobe that they eventually had to decide at what point should someone discover a specific feature. And also, devise the steps that construct an experience up to that feature. 

Achin seconded this, “Too many things at the same time is not a great way to go. Instead, talk about things when they are relevant. For example, you don’t talk about offers at the time the product is being introduced and talked about.” He recommends brands be very transparent, committing to being on the same page as the customer. 

Not experimenting enough

The other point he emphasized is to experiment and learn. Every interaction is a give and takes from the customer – customers need the freedom to navigate, and it is important to think from the customer’s standpoint.

Setal from ShareChat also had some interesting points to add to experimenting. The first being central to an app like ShareChat and other location-specific products was “not to blindly follow western standards.”

“Don’t accept everything taught by mainstream marketers. Experiment a lot and try to understand your customer. For ShareChat, the biggest learning has been accepting how visual the customer is. We are therefore making on-boarding as visual as possible. We are also experimenting very aggressively.” 

He went on to explain how ShareChat confidently forayed into the English category. Despite being available in 14 languages, it was a massive failure for them, realizing that customers came in with a certain expectation to the app and did not like the content. This was a strong signal that what we may assume could be incorrect. 

On Churn, Re-Engaging And Re-Targeting customers

Setal made some key points here – he said that every slide in the case of ShareChat was a potential drop-off point. (This is true in the case of any app, really!) 

Therefore, getting the recommendation engine right helps. In the end, every AI tool you use has a certain probability of success. It is necessary to know actively why customers drop off. Is it because of your product or the category or the preference? The recommendation engine gets better over time, with more signals coming in. 

The largest risk of churn is in the first session itself. This is what makes onboarding critical in the first place. Further, it is important to re-engage in different ways by classifying customers into different funnels – customers who are not always frequent, customers who take more time to return, customers who are not active at all., and so on. Once you have these buckets, you may decide to use different methods — more and less aggressive — to retarget them. 

We wrapped up the talk with Monica speaking on her key learnings at Byju’s. The focus, she said, is always on introducing customers into a core loop, which sets the stage for customers to come back the next day. She concluded, “…whenever you want retention, start from what you do on day zero. If the customer gets into the core loop and is able to extract maximum value from it,… it really impacts long-term retention. Hence, strengthen the customer experience in the early days.”

A winning customer onboarding experience is crucial in deciding the rest of the journey. It is important to focus on creating a hassle-free customer onboarding experience for richer pay-offs later in the customer lifecycle.

TLDR_ On-Boarding experiences

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