experiences

The 2020 State of SaaS

Product
Onboarding

Why we made this report

In 2020, your onboarding is going to be one of the most important things you can invest in. It has a direct impact on product activation and adoption. It improves retention and decreases churn. Essentially, it can make or break your SaaS product.

For years, we've helped hundreds of SaaS companies to improve their onboarding, both with our product and our content. However, we noticed that a lot of SaaS companies still haven't mastered their onboarding. There's still a lot of room for improvement.

We wanted to take a deep dive into SaaS companies so we could understand exactly how they approach product onboarding. Do they personalize it to different user personas? Do they use contextual messaging? How quickly do they provide the Aha! moment?

You can find the answers to all those questions and more in our report.

Ultimately, by learning how SaaS companies get onboarding wrong, we can learn how they can make it better.

What we did

1000

SaaS products

free trials or freemium offerings onboarding flows

We looked at over 1000 different SaaS products. We signed up for their free plan or trial, and then worked through their onboarding flows. Each time, we noted down every possible observation about how it worked.

We looked at whether they had a checklist, or whether they used a product tour. We looked at whether they asked us for our goals. We even counted the number of fields on the signup forms.

In total, we spent thousands of hours compiling this research. We allocated 2 hours for each SaaS product, to keep things consistent and fair. We then painstakingly noted down every finding you could think of. Then we had to analyze our data and write it up in the report you're reading now.

We're finally ready to share our findings with you.

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Free Trial or Freemium

B2C

B2C

Freemium

73% of B2C brands have a FREEMIUM offering

Free Trial

86% of B2B brands offer a FREE TRIAL instead of freemium

B2B

B2B

What did we learn?

There is still much debate about whether you should offer a free trial to users interested in your product.

We found that there's a big difference between B2C and B2B products. Only 27% of B2C offered a free trial. This is likely due to the fact that a lot of B2C products (73%) offer a free or freemium product.

You can find the answers to all those questions and more in our report.

What should you do?

This shows the importance of allowing your potential customers to get started with your product as soon as possible.

Giving your users a free trial helps them to learn how your product works. They can start gaining value from it right away. This makes them far more likely to eventually make the purchase.

You should strongly consider adding a free trial to your product if you haven't already. We've found that a free trial works wonders for us, as it enables our prospects to see the value of Userpilot first-hand.

Welcome Screen

40

%

of SaaS products didn’t have a welcome screen for their new users.

What did we learn?

You might think it's common courtesy to greet users who are new to your product. However, we found that a massive 40% of SaaS products didn't greet us with some form of welcome screen.

That means two-fifths of the software we tested didn't acknowledge us at all. That's a lot of alienated users.

What should you do?

Greeting your new users with a welcome message is a simple way of easing them into your product. Not only is it a way of making them feel at home, it's also a great opportunity to provide important information.

You might, for example, want to suggest a first step they can take to get started with your product. You could also remind them of the key benefits that your product provides.

Whether you're simply saying hello, or providing information, it's incredibly important that you say something. Hopefully that 60% will become 100% next time we check.

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Media & Interaction

Video

Only 16% of SaaS products used video messaging in their app

What did we learn?

Video has increased in popularity over the last couple of years, especially when it comes to marketing.

Unfortunately, it seems that SaaS products haven't quite got there yet. In fact, only 16% of the products we looked at used some form of video messaging in their app.

What should you do?

We see this as a huge untapped potential. For starters, video is far more engaging than copy alone. People want to get started with your app, they don't want to read an essay.

Video is also a useful way of showing how to do things in your product. It's much easier to show users how to do something than to tell them with copy.

Products with video messaging are far more engaging. In fact, 68% of people prefer to learn about a product by watching a video. We predict that more and more products will start using it.

Interactive Walkthrough

Only 24% of SaaS products included one of these engagement boosters

What did we learn?

Our own customers have found that interactive walkthroughs can drastically increase engagement.

That's why we were a little surprised that only 24% of SaaS products included one.

What should you do?

Unlike a product tour that simply points out various features, an interactive walkthrough encourages the user to act. This means they start using the product and seeing value from the first moment they enter your product.

The best approach is to drive users towards your product's Aha! moment, but have the users take the steps themselves. This way your users learn by doing, which leading researchers have found to be more effective. Your product is more likely to stick in their heads, and they'll be able to use it quicker.

You can learn more about interactive walkthroughs here. You can set up interactive walkthroughs in your own product in a matter of minutes with Userpilot.

Tour

29% of SaaS products used a product tour to show us around

What did we learn?

Just under a third of the SaaS products we signed up for used a product tour to show us round the product.

This backs up what we've been saying about how product tours aren't the most effective way of onboarding your users.

What should you do?

The trouble with product tours is that they dump a lot of information upfront. Not only does this bore your users, but chances are it ends up forgotten once they start interacting with your product.

If you are going to use a product tour, then you need to make sure it's relatively quick. It also helps to make it interactive, so your users gain value as they progress through the tour.

However, it seems product tours are on the decline, suggesting that SaaS companies have realized they don't work particularly well. Perhaps an interactive walkthrough would be a better option.

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Confirm Email?

Over half (55%) of the SaaS products we researched wanted us to confirm our email address as part of the sign-up process.

What should you do?

The problem with confirming email addresses is that it adds an extra step, and therefore creates more friction.

Clearly, ensuring that a user owns their email address is a major concern for SaaS companies. Perhaps there is an alternative way of verifying email addresses without adding more friction?

Well, if you use something called a "sniper link", you might make your users' lives easier. Simply go to your inbox and run a search that displays your confirmation email. Then copy that link, and use that on your confirmation page. Then your users will be directed straight to the actual email. This saves them time, and improves the overall user experience.

had 3-4 fields on the sign-up form 38 %

Fields on the sign-up form

We found that the most common number of fields on a sign-up form was 3 or 4. Having said that, the range stretched from 1 all the way up to 15 fields.

Some products had been designed so that you could only sign in through Google or a social platform like Twitter or Instagram.

What should you do?

It's crucial that your sign-up form is quick and easy to fill out, or else you risk putting off potential users.

The best advice when it comes to deciding on the number of sign-up form fields is that you should keep to the minimum you need. Only collect information that you need to provide the best product experience.

Learn Product Adoption to improve your onboarding

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Milestones & Personalization

Checklist

Only 56% of SaaS products had a checklist as part of onboarding

What did we learn?

We found that just over half (56%) of the products we tested provided a checklist as part of the onboarding.

This was a little surprising, as checklists offer a very effective way of guiding your users through your product.

What should you do?

The best approach is to identify the steps required to reach your product's Aha! moment. You then add these steps to the checklist. This means your users will work their way through and start seeing value as quickly as possible.

We use a checklist for Userpilot and it receives great engagement. Why not sign up for a trial and check it out for yourself?

One of our customers, Albacross, increased their activation rate by adding a checklist to their onboarding flow. Another Userpilot customer, Rocketbots, found the same thing.

We thought more SaaS products would provide a checklist, simply because they're so easy to implement. If you don't have one set up, then tools like Userpilot can help you add one in a matter of minutes.

Here are some best practices for creating an onboarding checklist.

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Personalized Onboarding

48% of tools referenced user name, designation, company or industry during onboarding

What did we learn?

We've said this a lot, and we'll say it again: Personalizing your onboarding flows is the most effective way of retaining users.

Unfortunately, less than half (48%) of the tools we studied contained any form of personalization. By that, we mean tailoring onboarding flows to specific industries or job roles, and even something as simple as welcoming a user by name.

What should you do?

Personalization doesn't necessarily mean catering to each individual person. Even something as simple as using the user's name or company can go a long way.

It can strengthen the relationship between your product and your users. Considering the majority of SaaS products don't do this, it's a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

A quick win is to ask users for their goal. Give them a choice of 3 or 4 options. You can provide personalized onboarding that is relevant to what each user is trying to achieve.

Goals

Only 35% of tools asked for goals, and used that info for greater personalization

What should you do?

A simple way of personalizing a user's onboarding flow is to ask them what their goal is. You can then direct them to the most relevant features. This adds more personalization to your product, and decreases the time to value.

Give users the choice of a few different goals, each with their own onboarding flow. It's a quick way of offering more tailored onboarding.

Products that ask a user for their goal may well be providing a better onboarding experience for their users.

Milestone Celebration

Only 17% of SaaS products celebrated their users' milestones and achievements

What did we learn?

Out of all the SaaS products we studied, only 17% celebrated their users' milestones and achievements.

This is even lower than we anticipated, and suggests a concerning lack of empathy and personality within SaaS products.

What should you do?

Users like to know when they've achieved something as it shows them they're on the right track. More importantly, it gives them a little boost and improves their mood. It motivates them and ensures they carry on using your product.

Celebrating milestones and achievements is a great way to make using your product an even more positive experience. It's also a good opportunity to inject some personality into your product. This helps you to stand out from your competition.

You can use a fun gif or video, have confetti rain down the screen, or even just a simple "Well Done!". The point is that your product acknowledges a user's success.

Data & Analytics

Segments

45% of the products we tested used segmentation to split users into groups

Segmentation means that they tailored the experience based on the journey such as new, old or active users. You can have tons of segmentation based on persona and use-cases as well.

What did we learn?

45% of the products we tested used some sort of segmentation to split users into groups. Those products could then tailor onboarding to each group.

Only a quarter of the products we looked at passed custom events in order to properly personalize the onboarding flow.

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Triggered Emails

12% of SaaS products sent emails based on in-app triggers within the first 60 minutes since signing up

What did we learn?

Only a very small number of SaaS products (12%) sent emails based on in-app triggers within the first 60 minutes since signing up.

Unfortunately, less than half (48%) of the tools we studied contained any form of personalization. By that, we mean tailoring onboarding flows to specific industries or job roles, and even something as simple as welcoming a user by name.

What should you do?

Trigger-based emails are a great way of boosting product engagement. They address the user outside of the app, and so users are more likely to notice and pay attention. It's also a good way of providing contextual onboarding, as the emails can relate to what the user is trying to achieve.

It's strange because most SaaS companies set up marketing automation when it comes to email, so clearly they have the systems in place. For some reason, they haven't made the leap across to product automation.

The fact that few products actually use this technique suggests it's an untapped method of communicating with your users. It's the kind of little thing that's easy to implement, but goes a long way at establishing relationships with your customers.

Analytics

95% of SaaS companies used analytics to track engagement

What did we learn?

95% of the SaaS products we tried out used some form of analytics tool to track how users were engaging with their product.

What should you do?

This is an important step when it comes to improving your product's onboarding. You can't make improvements if you don't know where you need to improve.

Tools such as Hotjar and FullStory show you how your users engage with your product. You can use them to identify any gaps in your onboarding.

Nearly every product we studied used an analytics tool. That means if you aren't, you're falling behind.

Contextual Onboarding

28% of SaaS products used custom events to trigger onboarding

What should you do?

Custom events occur when a user does something in your product. It might be they press a certain button, or it might be they activate a specific feature. By passing these custom events, you can trigger contextual onboarding. The onboarding will remain entirely relevant to each user. For example, If you're new Gmail user, Gmail personalizes the next step based on if you have already composed and sent your first message or not.

Contextual onboarding is far more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach. That's why it's so shocking that only a quarter of the tools we tested used it.

If you don't want to go all-in on contextual onboarding, segmentation provides a simple way of adding some personalization. Even splitting users into a few different buckets when they sign up will put you product ahead of the majority.

Support Docs

of products had some kind of documentation 92 %

Docs and resources

Only support docs

Only resources

Nothing

What did we learn?

45% of the products we tested used some sort of segmentation to split users into groups. Those products could then tailor onboarding to each group.

Only a quarter of the products we looked at passed custom events in order to properly personalize the onboarding flow.

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