Best New User Onboarding Tools for SaaS in 2022

Best New User Onboarding Tools for SaaS in 2021

For SaaS companies who want to make sure their customers hit the ground running, it’s difficult to avoid the subject of new user onboarding tools.

The fact is that coding an onboarding process from scratch is near-impossible for most SaaS businesses, both in terms of cost and in terms of having enough free developers available.

More often than not, you’ll need SaaS onboarding software to do the heavy lifting for you. But with such a saturated market, which tool should you choose?

This article is here to help you answer that question.

TL;DR

Why does the onboarding process matter for SaaS?

user journey

You can think of onboarding as the ongoing process of educating your customers in how to get the most out of your SaaS product.

Most often, the term “onboarding” is used to refer to the education of new users in the first few days after signup.

Technically speaking, this is known as “primary onboarding.”

Onboarding milestones

The two biggest milestones in the customer onboarding process are:

  • The “Aha Moment” – the moment when the user understands the value of your product.
aha
  • Activation: the moment when the customer experiences that value first-hand
user journey

For example, for task management software like Trello, the Aha Moment might come when a user first understands that Trello can help keep their work-life organized.

Conversely, activation would occur once that same user has built their first Trello board and experienced how sorting tasks into columns gives them a renewed sense of clarity.

How the right user onboarding process affects SaaS metrics

For SaaS companies in particular, onboarding is correlated with just about every important SaaS metric that you can possibly imagine.

Activation

The better your onboarding process, the more users are likely to move through the Aha Moment and activate.

Retention

If users activate, that means they have personally experienced the value of your product.

Someone like this is likely to stick around as a customer for a while.

So it’s no surprise that activation and customer retention are highly correlated with one another.

They’re both part of the pirate metrics for a reason!

pirate metrics

Profitability

And retention has a huge impact on profitability for SaaS businesses.

That’s because SaaS revenue is normally built on monthly subscriptions. The more months a customer stays, the more revenue your SaaS business earns.

Feature adoption

I see a lot of SaaS businesses that rigorously track feature adoption as a metric.

In this case too, a good onboarding process will work wonders.

One can hardly expect a new user to start using a particularly important feature unless you highlight it to them during onboarding.

Now that you’ve understood the value of user onboarding, you’re probably asking yourself how you should go about building an onboarding process for your own business.

Why you need a user onboarding tool instead of doing it all yourself

New SaaS executives tend to believe that the best way to solve a problem is to do everything in-house.

After all, it’s cheaper that way, and you can control the result. Right?

Well, let’s think about that for a moment.

The simplest UI element used in onboarding is a tooltip. Here’s a very basic tooltip as an example:

tooltip
Source: Educba

Seems simple enough. Ok, now here’s how much code you need to build this:

<html>
<head>
<title>HTML tooltip</title>
</head>
<style>
.arrowpopup {
position: relative;
display: inline-block;
cursor: pointer;
}
.arrowpopup .tooltiptext {
visibility: hidden;
width: 160px;
background-color: #856;
color: white;
text-align: center;
border-radius: 4px;
padding: 9px ;
position: absolute;
bottom: 150%;
left: 50%;
margin-left: -85px;
}
.arrowpopup .tooltiptext::after {
content: "";
position: absolute;
top: 100%;
left: 50%;
margin-left: -5px;
border-width: 5px;
border-style: solid;
border-color: #856 transparent transparent transparent;
}
.arrowpopup .show {
visibility: visible;
}
</style>
<body style="padding:100px;">
<div class="arrowpopup" onclick="myFunction()">Tooltip Demo Click here!
<span class="tooltiptext" id="tooltipdemo">HTML Tooltip helps you to display extra information of element.</span>
</div>
<script>
function myFunction() {
var tt = document.getElementById("tooltipdemo");
tt.classList.toggle("show");
}
</script>
</body>
</html>

Doesn’t seem so simple now, does it?

Now imagine this amount of code, multiplied by all the tooltips in your onboarding system. Add to that all the other UI elements as well.

And that’s just the cost of creating the code for your onboarding flow, without thinking about the ongoing cost of maintaining it.

Nor are we factoring in the opportunity cost of your dev team slaving away on customer onboarding automation when they could be working on your product.

TL;DR: building everything yourself is much more time-consuming and expensive than you think.

Compare the savings from user onboarding software

money meme

By contrast, if you partner with the right SaaS user onboarding software, you’ll end up saving a lot of time and money.

Your product managers will be able to build a basic onboarding system in a matter of minutes, without using any code at all.

They’ll also be able to test it and iterate on the result without bothering the dev team over something as simple as “Can you change this hotspot from red to blue, please?”

That translates into more product experiments, and a more empowered product marketing team overall.

But how do you know which tool to choose?

How to select the best SaaS onboarding software

Everyone understands the value of price, but let me propose 4 other criteria by which to make your decision:

#1 – Code-free

code free

Some user onboarding tools advertise themselves as “code-free,” only for SaaS companies to need to learn advanced CSS to get the most out of the software.

This is deceptive advertising, and you should avoid companies like this. Look for a user onboarding tool that allows anyone to build an onboarding system, regardless of technical ability.

#2 – Segmentation

segmentation example

We’ve written numerous times on this blog before about the value of segmentation in onboarding.

If you don’t segment users, you’ll end up offering the same generic onboarding experience to everyone. Users expect a personalized service in 2022, so you’ll just turn them off this way.

Delivering an onboarding experience that is tailored to each segment is the best way to keep user engagement high and avoid Day 1 churn.

So you will need a tool that lets you segment users.

#3 – In-app communication

in-app communication

Wherever you can avoid your user checking their email to read communications from you, it’s advisable to do so.

That’s because an inbox is full of distractions.

By using a tool that allows for in-app communication, you keep your customers where you want them to be: inside your product.

#4 – Analytics

analytics
Source: Amplitude

The best onboarding software is simultaneously a product analytics tool that will help you understand and predict user behavior.

This is incredibly useful during onboarding, because you’ll want to run A/B tests and tweak your process as you go along. This is true for the entire customer journey as well, incidentally.

So you will need onboarding software with robust user analytics.

Best User Onboarding Tools

Without further ado, here is our list of the market leaders in new user onboarding in 2022:

User Onboarding Tool #1: Userpilot

userpilot home

Genuinely code-free

Userpilot is one of the few user onboarding tools with which you can build a genuinely code-free onboarding flow.

All that’s required is to install our Chrome extension and add a tiny Javascript snippet to your site. After that, even the least technical product marketer could onboard new users with Userpilot!

Diverse segmentation options

In terms of segmentation, Userpilot offers a wide variety of ways to split your customer base, including the following:

  • User attribute
  • Custom event
  • Location
  • Feature tag
  • Language

In practical terms, segmentation in Userpilot occurs by means of a microsurvey that can be added to the welcome sequence.

In-app communication through microsurveys

postfity microsurvey

A microsurvey is an example of in-app communication between you and your users that can take place inside Userpilot.

Simply collect your users’ data, funnel it through our software, and serve them with an onboarding experience that is tailored to their individual needs.

Hyper-personalized onboarding

design options on Userpilot

And if the purpose of segmentation is to give each new user personalized onboarding, it’s in the range of personalization options available that Userpilot really excels.

Where most of the software options in this article will only let you build one or two UI elements and then require CSS to customize them, the list of choices Userpilot offers is endless:

  • Modals
  • Slideouts
  • Driven actions
  • Tooltips
  • Flows
  • Spotlights
UI options on Userpilot

Excellent analytics

Userpilot’s onboarding tool also comes with a dedicated analytics suite, which includes NPS scoring and A/B testing.

This means that you’ll be able to tweak how you onboard new users over time according to the in-app feedback you receive from them.

The more analytics data you have, the more onboarding will seem like a math equation instead of a guessing game.

Ultimately, we want you to know the exact activation path for each of your user segments and proactively send new users down it in each case. Activation will become all but inevitable.

Fair pricing

Userpilot starts at $249 per month for up to 2500 MAUs. Unlike the other onboarding software choices in this article, all product features are available on all plan levels.

Get a demo today!

User Onboarding Tool #2: Appcues

Appcues

Appcues is the oldest onboarding tool for new users on this list.

Launched in 2013, it completely transformed the onboarding industry, making innovative ideas such as tooltips and checklists available to SaaS businesses while in exchange for very little code.

You require advanced CSS if you want to style anything more complex than height or color.

8 years after launch, it’s still great software, albeit slightly aged in places.

I particularly like their analytics suite, especially the data visualizations, which are really quite elegant.

Appcues analytics

It’s one thing to be able to segment users; all the tools on this list allow for that to some extent. It’s another thing to be able to visualize those segments and track feature adoption that way.

Where Appcues really loses out is in terms of value for money.

Superficially, the pricing is the same as Userpilot: $249 for 2,500 MAUs.

But this only covers up to 5 segments, which just isn’t enough for more complex SaaS businesses or ones that take segmentation seriously.

And the price if you want 6 or more segments? Try $879 per month. Ouch.

For more information about Appcues, try reading this article.

User Onboarding Tool #3: Chameleon

Chameleon

Chameleon gets its name from the sheet diversity of visual UI options it offers SaaS companies for onboarding their new users.

And indeed, there is a lot of choice available. Product tours, tooltips, launchers, microsurveys, modals, banners, hotspots….

Whatever onboarding element you want to build, there’s a good chance that you can do it on Chameleon.

The vast majority of elements can be built without CSS, which is only needed if you want to make something really out there and unique.

Chameleon design

In-app communication is available via microsurveys, and these function well and are easy to use.

Chameleon is much weaker on its segmentation features than either Userpilot or Appcues. They’re quite buggy to use, and not the same quality as some of the visual UI elements.

Analytics-wise, it’s also much weaker than most of the other tools on this list, especially Userpilot and Appcues.

Pricing starts from $279 for 2000 MTUs, which is more expensive per user than Userpilot.

For more information about Chameleon, check out this article.

User Onboarding Tool #4: Pendo

Pendo

Pendo is a rather unusual onboarding software in that it combines solutions for new users with new employees on one platform.

It’s used by big players in the SaaS world, including Marketo and Insightly. So that means they must be doing something right!

Pendo doesn’t offer as many UX patterns as Userpilot or Chameleon, but the product tours and checklists it offers are of a decent quality. One can certainly make the case that some onboarding automation is better than none at all.

Pendo excels at analytics and segmentation. Putting these two features together, it’s easy to compare churn rates by user segment and respond accordingly to the user feedback you’re receiving.

Pendo analytics

This is especially valuable for enterprise companies with many thousands of users.

Unfortunately, it seems that Pendo’s pricing is also aimed at enterprise buyers.

Looking at their website, the pricing is conspicuous by its absence. We’ve spoken to people who’ve talked about $15k annual contracts, but this is ultimately just hearsay.

What is likely, however, is that Pendo is pitching itself at companies that don’t care too much about pricing. This makes us suspect that it is on the expensive side.

If the conversations we’ve had are anywhere near representative, and you can get similar or better functionality from other options on this list, I suspect that Pendo is best used only by large enterprises who want to combine user and employee onboarding.

For more information about Pendo, check out this post.

User Onboarding Tool #5: WalkMe

Walkme

My favorite feature of WalkMe is that it allows your customer support team to speak to your customers directly in-app.

This is a rather unique feature in the onboarding world, and a prime example of in-app communication.

This is clearly an onboarding tool that cares about support, with a context-detecting algorithm that will allow you to offer help documents beyond the triggers that you define for each page of your app.

But alas, this is where the praise for WalkMe must end.

Segmentation and analytics are nowhere near as advanced as the other solutions on this list.

The interface overall is rather old-fashioned looking, even compared to Appcues. Visually, Userpilot and Chameleon are much more appealing.

WalkMe UI

And the pricing shows that WalkMe is aimed at enterprise buyers. It’s in the region of $9k-$50k per year, which is pretty steep for most SMEs.

Worse still, this doesn’t include the cost of paying for a certified WalkMe expert, who is sometimes necessary for integrations or advanced UI elements.

At that cost, it might almost be worth building your own onboarding flow from scratch, after all!

For more information about WalkMe, this article is a helpful resource.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should know:

  • Why onboarding matters for SaaS businesses
  • Why you should use onboarding software instead of building an onboarding solution manually
  • Which software options are on the market

If you want a handy summary of the pros and cons of each onboarding tool, this graphic should be useful:

userpilot onboarding tool comparison

As you can see, Userpilot is the only tool that excels in all 5 of the categories we highlighted.

So what are you waiting for?

To give Userpilot a free trial today, click here.

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