How to improve retention

How to improve customer retention with a good onboarding process

Discover what onboarding is and why it is a process with the high impact on the improve customer retention of users that all Growth Hacker must explore. Here hiding, the most personal side of this post … Hello again! How about the holidays? Are you still out there or have you returned to the job? I have already returned, to face a September that will be great. I feel it.

Among other things, I have to talk about onboarding with one of my clients because, after having made an initial review, we intuit that there is a huge opportunity for growth.

How to improve customer retention

To improve retention, you must know what is that of onboarding? What does it consist of? What is the OBJECTIVE? How is a good onboarding process different from a bad one? For, for … not so many questions! Well, yes, what milk. Let’s go? Let’s go!

What is onboarding?


If you are like me and I do not mean beauty, but rather at the level of English, not English. The first thing you will have done is to go to Google Translate and see that the literal translation is “incorporation.” Ea, that’s it. Does it convince you? Not me. Then you have thought about the airports if you board if you take off … you’re done! Do you mean takeoff? You almost have it.

It is known as the onboarding process to the sequence of steps by which a user goes from having the first contact with the product to use it regularly. Almost the definition.

If you realize, the process as such is intrinsic in all those cases in which these situations can occur :

The user registers start using the product, learns to take advantage of it, stays forever. And it exists, let me, you have paid attention to it or not. Because like this definition could be considered correct, it is also true that in the world Growth Hacking is usually talk about onboarding as a process by which the user is intentionally guided to end up being group 2 instead of group 1. Do you follow me?

The 3 phases of user retention


Brian Balfour, former Hubspot growth manager, already pointed out in 2007 that we could divide user retention into 3 phases: initial, medium and long-term:

  1. The initial phase is one that goes from a new user begins to use the product until he decides to continue using it or leave. In other words, it is the phase in which the user satisfies his initial curiosity and gives an answer to the question: is this product going to solve my problem?
  2. The middle phase is one in which the user loses that initial curiosity and begins to evaluate the product from a much more rational perspective, establishing patterns of continuous use, exploring all its functions and seeing how they meet their needs.
  3. The long-term phase is one in which, as a general rule, the user will convert the product into an indispensable one for himself. We talk about creating habits.

What? Ah okay. One example. Then come. Imagine that we are talking about Todoist, that productivity app that I love so much. When you hear me talk about it, you may decide to go and register to see how it is. Once you have registered, your onboarding process will begin.

The first phase will be one in which you will see an eye to the app. Maybe you will add some project and some task, and you will start thinking about how to organize yourself. You will start asking yourself questions like “How do I do this or that?” You are in a learning phase.

Assuming that it satisfies you, after making your first organization, you will start using it daily. You will be in the second phase, and you will begin to show some patterns of daily use. But it is possible that in this daily use something fails. True? It is possible that you leave or that little by little you get cold and stop using the app.

Or maybe, as you use it, the habit is set, and the use of the app is becoming, little by little, something essential for you. In that case, you would have moved on to phase 3, and it’s very likely that you end up hating Trello. Hehehe

The impact of the onboarding process in the business

onboarding process in the business

Why do I tell you this about the retention phases? Because, as you can deduce, the retention of users is a key aspect that has a very significant impact on any SaaS business or startup.

Many Growth Hackers agree that it is one of the most critical points that must be optimized, above the acquisition of users or even the recommendation. Do you remember the AARRR pirate metrics? Well the first R, as the first R …

Then, you will say: to see. If user retention is one of the most key points of a SaaS business and the onboarding process is the joy in retention … then, optimizing the onboarding process can cause great business results in a startup? And that’s when I take off my hat, and I applaud you. All right!

How to design a good onboarding process?

How to design

Now that you know what the onboarding process is and how important it is, you have decided to optimize it. True?

And yes, he catches it, but the escape flight to run away. Because a good process of onboarding is not the one that teaches more about your product to the new user as soon as possible. Do not.

Do you want to know how to design a good onboarding process? Well, stay away from the X to close and keep reading! Hehehehe …

The Wow moment and the search for the holy grail

Do we go back a little higher? Right to the point where we see that the process of onboarding is the process from the moment the user goes from being “a mere (not fish) and curious spectator to being someone who has decided to use our product.”

It is a very important point. True? Because yes, in a few weeks we could defraud him and cause him to abandon us. Come on; we never have anything insured.

But it is also true that as a user invests more time in the use of our product, more chances are that it continues to do so. Do you agree?

And the beginning of it, the starting point is at the moment when the user says to himself: “Wow, ok, this is useful or good for me, it’s what I needed.”

In other words, it is when the user perceives the value of the product, which justifies the investment (in time the first and money afterward). Do you follow me?

The sooner and better the user perceives the value that our product offers, the sooner the process of everyday use will begin until it becomes a habit.

Now, what is the objective of a good onboarding process? It is not that the user “knows everything” about your product but rather that the user “finds the Wow of your product.”

Characteristics of a poorly designed onboarding


There are many tools to assist the user during these first contacts with the product, either with the typical snacks, on-screen messages, chats, etc. It is common to find processes of assisted onboarding.

However, it is also easy to find poorly designed processes, which end up being annoying, irrelevant to the user or that pretend to teach too many things, distancing the user from the primary objective.

This type of onboarding processes, which tend to focus more on the product than on the user, are poorly designed and can cause the opposite effect of what is intended.

If the onboarding process is not simple, useful for the user and is focused on taking the user to that moment of value perception, then it will not be well designed.

Therefore, when we design or experiment in the optimization of this process, we must always be clear that it is in the user’s interest and that it is to this user that we have to help to experience that moment of disclosure.

If we can do it in one easy step, why complicate it? The simpler, direct and useful this process is, the better. Of course, this implies thinking more, having more empathy, doing more tests, listening to users and being self-critical. It is more difficult than simply reproducing what others do … but what are we going to do? It is Growth Hacking! Do not?

Courage, there is little left! Do we see a few examples of good onboarding processes?


Canva onboarding process is brilliant because of its simplicity and because it quickly motivates the user to perform small actions that lead him to perceive the value of the product.

With some simple exercises, it teaches you precisely how easy it is to use the tool to get good pieces, without too much knowledge. Can you imagine a tool that advocates simplicity requiring deep learning? I would not fit.


One of the most remarkable points of Duolingo’s onboarding process is that it “turns the funnel over.” Instead of starting with a form, you can start directly evaluating the product with a learning lesson.

Another key point is that it asks new users what the goal they want to achieve is. Of course, once you have expressed a wish, if I give you steps to achieve it, you will feel an obligation to follow them. Do you follow me?

Final thoughts,

We come to an end! Since you started the post, we have traveled together from the definition of the onboarding process to some examples, going through the importance of this process and the characteristics of a good design versus a bad one. There is nothing. True?

I have to confess that I am a true lover of the optimization of this process. I like working on retention more than acquisition because I think it is a much more grateful point, which requires more empathy and understanding of the user.

Now, if you still have a few energy left, it’s your turn: what do you think about the post? Has it been long? Can you think of a good example of onboarding to comment on? And some bad one that has taken you to flee? Do you think Mrs. Waterford will end up pulling her brown? Tell me to tell me!

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