Continuous Onboarding for SaaS: Definition, Benefits, and Stages
Continuous onboarding isn’t a start-and-finish process, it’s a never-ending cycle that feeds your business with more product growth as it keeps looping.
But how does the continuous onboarding cycle work and how can you implement it in SaaS?
In this article, we’ll go over the different onboarding stages, our favorite user onboarding software, and some practical strategies you can apply to your business.
- Continuous onboarding is an ongoing process that offers support, knowledge, and guidance to users so they can find more value in your product and achieve key milestones with it.
- The benefits of onboarding users continuously include improved user retention, increased product adoption, the opportunity to enhance the product experience, and the means to collect valuable customer feedback.
- The three stages of the continuous onboarding process include:
- Primary onboarding, where users are first introduced to a product with tutorials and in-app guides.
- Secondary onboarding, where users are introduced to more advanced or newly added features.
- Tertiary onboarding is the ongoing phase that sustains engagement and ensures users don’t outgrow the product through valuable content and proactive support.
- Let’s go over three continuous onboarding strategies that any SaaS can use at each stage:
- Implement interactive walkthroughs to introduce core features to new users in an interactive way.
- Providing contextual help to users who are feeling lost or at risk of churning.
- Conducting webinars to introduce new features to your user base.
- Userpilot is a solid option for product managers and CSMs who need to build or reshape their onboarding process—it’s free and requires no coding skills! So book a Userpilot demo to see how you can start improving your onboarding process today.
What is continuous onboarding?
Continuous onboarding is an ongoing process that offers support, knowledge, and guidance to users so they can find more value in your product and achieve goals with it.
Unlike traditional one-and-done onboarding practices, this method is designed to engage and support users throughout their journey. This can be done by introducing advanced features, communicating product updates with new feature announcements, or providing helpful content.
Why is continuous onboarding important?
Today, onboarding is no longer about an introductory tutorial for first-time users. It’s an ongoing process to improve user experience, encourage product adoption, and cultivate customer loyalty.
The benefits of onboarding users continuously are real:
- It improves user retention by constantly providing proactive guidance and engaging users with your product.
- It helps users adopt new features with educational content.
- Providing continuous value enhances the overall product experience, fueling customer satisfaction and relationships.
- It brings product growth opportunities as users are more likely to become brand advocates and spread the word.
- The ongoing loop of the onboarding process process provides an opportunity to collect customer feedback, allowing you to make data-driven decisions.
3 Stages of continuous onboarding process
The continuous onboarding process involves primary, secondary, and tertiary stages. Each has its particular roles and goals, which we’re going to cover right next:
Primary onboarding is the initial stage where users are first introduced to a product. Its goal is to guide new users through the core features of your app and make the experience as engaging as possible—either with interactive tutorials, step-by-step videos, and so on.
For instance, you could implement an onboarding checklist to guide users through the core tasks of a project management platform. It could involve creating a project, adding team members, creating and assigning tasks, etc. And once the user has finished, they’re more likely to realize the value of your product and engage with it.
Secondary onboarding is where users are introduced to more advanced or newly added features. Unlike the primary stage, secondary onboarding goes deeper into leading existing users to success. And it does so by either making the process more efficient or providing further onboarding help to users who are going off the rails.
For instance, you can use onboarding tooltips to lead users to explore and engage with secondary features. So if you’re introducing invoice reminders, for example, this tooltip would pop up and say that you can quickly head to the settings to set up reminders and streamline your invoicing process.
Tertiary onboarding, on the other hand, is the ongoing phase that sustains engagement and ensures users don’t outgrow the product. It encourages continued usage by addressing more specific needs, offering support, or smoothly introducing product updates.
For example, you can leverage in-app announcements to introduce new features and take the opportunity to offer training materials about the new feature so users are motivated to try it out without feeling lost.
Continuous onboarding strategy examples for SaaS
Now that you know how continuous onboarding works, let’s go over a few onboarding strategy examples for each stage.
Use interactive walkthrough for new user onboarding
An engaging way to onboard new users during the primary stage is to present your product’s core features interactively.
- Hand-hold users step-by-step with progressive onboarding.
- Respond to in-app behavior in real time.
- Avoid overwhelming users with information they won’t retain.
- Enhance user’s learning experience as they can grasp how to use core features while interacting with the product.
Trigger contextual help to provide an ongoing onboarding path
During secondary onboarding, it’s key to learn how to communicate with users without overwhelming or annoying them.
First, segment users who are struggling by monitoring user behavior through event tracking, funnel analysis, or any type of product analytics. Also, look for unusual patterns like a sudden drop-off in usage, reduced engagement with your emails, or any decrease in other metrics.
Then, set up contextual help inside your app. This can involve triggering customized content that addresses their specific problems—such as in-app tooltips, video tutorials, or even an invitation to get personal assistance.
Send webinar invitations upon introducing new features
Educating customers about your product is a constant, never-ending task for tertiary onboarding. And when done well, it will keep users engaged with your app as they find success with it.
That said, one great trick is to engage users with educational content such as webinars, slideouts, or tutorials when you roll out a new feature. So instead of expecting users to learn by themselves, you can provide them with the ongoing training they need, when they need it.
For example, suppose you’re introducing an “auto-translate” feature that’s highly relevant for a specific user segment (e.g. multinational organizations). In that case, you can take it as an opportunity to add a webinar invitation where they can learn how to use the new feature effectively.
Userpilot: Best onboarding software for SaaS
Unless you already have the systems and resources to code your onboarding program into your app, using specialized onboarding software is the most convenient way to do it (especially if you don’t have coding skills and don’t want to deal with your dev team too much).
That’s why we think Userpilot is a solid option for product managers. It can help you apply most tactics we covered in this article, including triggering personalized in-app flows, building a knowledge base, and going over product analytics.
Here are the key features that you can use to design the best onboarding process for you:
- In-app surveys: Userpilot helps gather customer feedback through in-app surveys, allowing you to get data about your onboarding process and optimize for continuous improvement.
- In-app flows: It aids in creating personalized user flows that can boost user retention and engagement by guiding users to find value in your product faster.
- A/B testing: Allowing you to try different onboarding flows to see what kind of content generates better engagement.
- Event-tracking: This provides valuable data about your users’ behavior, enabling you to better understand their needs, their struggles, and their points of success.
- Advanced product analytics: This is where you can visualize how users advance through the user journey, convert across the funnel, and engage with your app.
In SaaS, continuous onboarding is necessary to delight customers and stand out. Now you know you can implement interactive walkthroughs, in-app help, and webinars to get started, so why not do it now?
Book a Userpilot demo to see how you can start improving your onboarding efforts today. We’re biased, but it’s free and requires no coding skills!