Using Product Analytics Insights to Build Better User Onboarding

Table of Contents

    Tracking product analytics data is of no use if you don’t use the insights to build better user onboarding.

    And by user onboarding, I’m not talking about the primary onboarding only, when you want to get the user to experiment the value of your product.

    Onboarding is a continuous process that helps drive the user through all the stages of their user journey.

    Product analytics will help you improve user onboarding by giving you the necessary information to drive informed decisions.

    In this article, I’ll cover what the three stages of user onboarding are and how to use product analytics to improve each of them with in-product and external communication.

    What is product analytics?

    Product analytics is the behavioral data collected inside your app that reflects how users interact and engage with your product. 

    By collecting and analyzing product analytics data you will be able to answer questions like:

    • Which features users most engage with? 
    • What’s the shortest path to the “AHA moment”? (when the user sees the value of your product for the first time)
    • Where do users drop off along the journey?
    • Who are your power users?

    How can product analytics help inform better user onboarding at each stage of the user journey?

    Tracking product analytics will help you better understand your users and their needs.

    Knowing how users interact with your product, you can make informed decisions when it comes to choosing which tactic works best to maximize conversion rates across the user onboarding process.

    Before we dive into how product analytics help at each stage of user onboarding, let’s briefly go over what each onboarding stage means.

    user journey stages

    Primary user onboarding stage

    The primary onboarding stage is all about getting users to understand and experience the value your product provides. 

    The goal of the primary onboarding stage is to get the user to the AHA moment and reach the activation point in the user journey.

    To get to this point, users must complete a series of actions that will vary depending on the user’s job-to-be-done and how your product helps them achieve it. 

    For example, if your product is an email automation SaaS tool, an activated user could be someone who completed all four actions below:

    • Installed a JS tracking code on their website to send data into the email tool
    • Uploaded a list of contacts to the email tool
    • Created their first email campaign workflow
    • Sent the email campaign

    You can use product analytics to track if users are performing the actions required to get to the activation point and guide them where they need help with in-product experiences.

    Secondary user onboarding stage

    user journey
    Source: Userpilot

    Secondary onboarding focused on product engagement. 

    This is where you introduce secondary features of your product to your users that show them more ways of how they can benefit from your product. 

    The goal of the secondary onboarding stage is to drive product engagement and make your users stick with your product.

    Tertiary user onboarding stage

    Tertiary onboarding is about retaining users and driving account expansion. 

    This is the stage in the user journey where users understood and experienced the value your product provides, became paying users, and are comfortable using most features of your product.

    Now that you understand the three stages of onboarding, let’s explore a few ways product analytics can help build better onboarding experiences and move users through the user journey.

    How to use Product analytics to improve the primary onboarding stage (aha, activation) + implementation guidelines

    User activation is one of the most important SaaS metrics as it has the highest impact on your MRR. 

    It makes sense.

    If users don’t reach the activation point, they will not experience the value of your product and won’t be using your product, and ultimately won’t bring you any revenue.

    The numbers say it best. Fairmarkit took industry benchmarks of each metric in the AARRR framework and increased them by 25% then calculated the impact each had on the MRR. 

    The results are shown in the table below. Increasing the Activation rate by 25% has the highest impact on MRR growth.

    Source: Fairmarkit

    How can product analytics help you improve the primary onboarding experience and increase the activation rate?

    In short, it gives you the insights you need to act in an informed way. 

    Here’s how:

    1. Use goals and in-app checklists to drive users towards the activation point

    Once you determine what your activation events are, you can set goals to track if a user performs them or not.

    You can use a tool that tracks in-app engagement and set up custom events for each action. 

    You can then launch an in-app user onboarding checklist to encourage users to take action that will bring them to their AHA moment. Use product analytics data to track the completion of each task using custom events, as mentioned earlier, and cross out tasks when they’re done.

    Create separate tasks in your checklists to drive users towards each specific goal. Make sure the tasks are short and to the point so users don’t find it hard to even start.

    Look at how Loom, a screen recording tool, does it: 

    Source: Loom

    One pro tip here: 

    Notice how the task of creating an account is included on the checklist? Of course everyone would have created an account, otherwise they wouldn’t be seeing the checklist to begin with.

    By adding already completed tasks such as ”create an account” the user will be more enticed to cross out next items on the list and complete the tasks in the checklist. This is due to the  Zeigarnik Effect:  people are more motivated to complete a task when it looks like they are closer to completing it.

    2. Use interactive walkthroughs to guide and educate users through the onboarding stage

    ”The worst onboarding is when an app tries to show me all the 50 features the first day I sign up” – that’s how users feel about long product tours.

    fb comment
    Source: Facebook

    Instead of trying to onboard users to all your features in one go, you can use product analytics and make their experience contextual and meaningful. 

    For example, launch an interactive walkthrough and handhold them while they are trying to complete an action for the first time. 

    An interactive walkthrough is the user-friendly version of a product tour. It shows a specific series of step-by-step tooltips when the user needs some guidance using a product feature for the first time. Each tooltip in the walkthrough will be triggered only once the action from the previous one was completed.

    To make it more engaging for the user, add a progress bar and apply an overlay to highlight the area you want the user to focus their attention on.

    Here’s an example of a possible tooltip in an interactive walkthrough might look like.

    Source: Userpilot

    How can you know when to trigger the walkthrough and to which user? 

    That’s right, product analytics is the answer. 

    You’ll want to show this only to users who never interacted with the feature, at a specific time (aka when they click a button inside the app).

    If you are not custom coding this, the tools that allow you to build these walkthroughs will have multiple segmentation options to only show this to your desired user segment. Make sure you can segment by custom events and feature usage and you’ll be good to go.

    For example, Userpilot, a tool for building in-app experiences with no-code, has advanced segmentation options based on product usage analytics and more.

    product usage analytics
    Source: Userpilot

    How to use Product analytics to improve secondary onboarding stage (user engagement) + implementation guidelines

    Secondary onboarding is all about helping users discover additional features that can bring more value to them and bring them closer to becoming promoters of your product.

    onboarding stage

    1. Use product analytics to segment users that were activated

    You need to know where the users are in their journey before anything. 

    Otherwise, how would you know when’s the right time to introduce secondary features to them?

    There’s no point in asking the user to try an advanced feature when they haven’t even discovered the main functionality of your product. 

    If your product is a social media scheduling platform, you don’t want to ask users to build a scheduling calendar for a month before they haven’t connected their social media accounts or scheduled a post. 

    Right? It wouldn’t make sense to them.

    Use product analytics and segment your users based on actions they performed or not. Now you’ll have separate segments of users and know who you’re supposed to be talking to and about what.

    2. Analyze user behavior and A/B test in-app experiences

    When it comes to knowing which in-app experience brings the best results (goal completions) and drives product engagement, A/B testing is your answer.

    ab test

    There’s no way to know for sure until you test it.

    A/B test means showing different experiences to two separate groups of users comparing the results against each other plus a control group.

    Tracking goal completion rates of each A/B test with product analytics will show you what drives users to engage more with your app.

    How to use Product analytics to improve tertiary onboarding stage (retention and account expansion) + implementation guidelines

    All your efforts will pay off once you get the users to the point where they start paying for your product. 

    But your job doesn’t stop here. You also want the user to continue paying for your product month after month and, and grow.

    Here are two ways you can use product analytics to improve the tertiary onboarding stage and drive more retention and account expansion.

    1. Track user engagement and proactively reach out to users that show signs of churning

    I’ve already talked about the importance of product analytics when it comes to understanding users and building segmentation. 

    Segmenting users can not only help you to identify where a user is in the user journey, but it can also help to identify users that are about to churn.

    In other words, users that were activated but stopped engaging with your product.

    Depending on your product, you should be tracking different analytics to identify when a user is slipping away. 

    Some examples include:

    • How many times have they logged into the product
    • Number of web sessions
    • Deleting data they stored inside the product (an email subscribers list for example in the case of an email automation platform)
    • Negative feedback given through NPS surveys or direct interactions with your support teams

    As you can see, you’ll probably have multiple multiple sources of data you should be tracking to identify potential churn triggers.

    The best way to keep track of all that data would be to create a data warehouse using a BI tool. By combining multiple data sources in one single place, you will be able to build reports and derive KPIs that you wouldn’t be able to get from your business tools’ canned reports. 

    ClicData allows you to connect data from over 300 data sources and monitor them in real-time inside one dashboard. You can use ClicData to track your user activity, account retention and churn, your marketing ROI, or even your business financials. All you need to do is create your account, plug your data sources, and build your dashboards, which wouldn’t take more than a few hours. 

    2. Identify contextual touchpoints to drive account expansion with in-app communication

    An Upgrade Now message works best when it’s delivered in the right context. By the right context I mean when a user reaches a specific touchpoint in their journey.

    In SaaS, you should use product analytics to track product usage. Then nudge the user to upgrade. 

    What to track? 

    Feature usage that’s limited to each subscription 

    The number of emails sent in the case of an email automation tool or messages sent using an internal communication tool, just to give you an example of what product feature usage means.

    I love the way Slack uses product analytics and tells me I should upgrade using an in-app modal.

    Source: Slack

    User tries to use a feature that’s not included in their subscription

    People don’t regularly check your pricing page to see if there are features they might need that are available if they upgrade. 

    You need to tell them about them.

    Instead of boring long emails listing what’s new in the product, introduce PRO features when the user might actually need them.

    Product analytics help with this. You can use it to identify the relevant user segment that might benefit from the feature and also know when the time is right.

    Check out how Intercom does it. They tell the user about their Product Tour PRO feature when the user is in the middle of building a communication series and is choosing the next step.

    Source: Intercom

    They use an in-app native tooltip that shows only when the user hovers over, telling the user what the PRO feature could help with and giving them the chance to upgrade.

    Using custom events in onboarding

    Custom events are actions your user performs inside your product that you usually set and track using JS code placed in your product.

    Here are some examples of how you can use custom events in your onboarding

    1. Identify where users get stuck and build contextual in-app experiences to increase conversion rates across the user journey

    The first step in increasing conversion rates between user journey stages is to be able to identify and track how many users reach each stage of the journey.

    Custom events can help you track that.

    One way to do it is by using them to measure a goal completion rate. This goal is a milestone in the user journey you want your users to get to. If the goal completion is low you want to look into ways you can create in-product experiences to increase goal completion.

    Here’s what’s great about in-app onboarding tools. You not only use them to build in-app experiences like tooltips, modals and checklists as we’ve already discussed in this article.

    An in-app experience is nothing unless it helps increase your goals. Is your activation conversion rate low? Track this using custom events and goals and build in-app experiences meant to increase the goal completion rate.

    By using product onboarding tools it will be easier to track what’s actually driving conversions.

    Source: Userpilot

    2. Launch an email campaign to bring users back into the product

    Sure, engaging with the user in-product can boost your onboarding metrics as we’ve already discussed in this article.

    But how can you use custom events if the user hasn’t logged in to the product in a while?

    You can use custom events to identify those users and launch an email campaign to bring them back.

    Here’s how Bolt uses email to bring back users into their product


    3. Calculate user engagement score

    Another way to use custom events is to track user engagement scores that tell you when customers are about to churn so that you can reach out to them.

    Think of a user engagement score as the way to measure the health of your user data-based, and inform where you should focus your onboarding efforts.

    Each customer will have their own score based on the actions they perform or not. Using custom events you can add points to a user scorecard when he performs an action or subtract points when the user shows signs of being disengaged. 

    Final thoughts

    There are multiple tactics you can use based on product analytics insight to build better onboarding. 

    Some we discussed here. Which ones will work best will depend on your type of product.

    But the first step is to start tracking product analytics and get the insight needed to act in an informed way.

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