7 minute read · Published February 5, 2024

The onboarding app solution you didn’t know you needed

Latest Update May 10, 2024

Imagine yourself enjoying the holidays with your friends and family. It’s about time to open presents.

You’ve been eyeing the gift with a massive bow—and your name on it—for a long time, and the moment arrives. You open it, only to find… a re-gifted clock.

No one likes to get let down when they have high expectations. 

This paints an interesting picture for onboarding new users to your mobile app, when anticipation and expectations are high.

Too often, users believe in a product to try, hoping it can improve their lives, role, or business.

But then comes the onboarding experience. 

Like holiday gifts, users hope to get wowed, or to at least get what they’ve wanted. Sadly, they end up frustrated by a subpar experience.

The result? You lose your new customer, bump your churn rate, and miss the opportunity to grow your company.

Great mobile onboarding experiences aren’t half-hazardly planned (like the last minute re-gifted clock). It’s about understanding human and user behavior, and making it enjoyable. 

If you can create an engaging experience, kick the learning curve to the curb, and prove your value in seconds, you can increase user adoption and user retention. 

To do that, you need an onboarding app that can execute the ideal customer experience—the one where they get to unwrap the gift they were really excited about. 

Okay, who’s hiding the last piece? Solving the onboarding puzzle

We all know what a good onboarding experience feels like. It’s another thing to make it happen. 

Onboarding apps use innovative technology to create a smooth experience for new users. It’s an end-to-end experience—users get to know the app, they get activated, and they become adopters. 

And it shouldn’t stop there. When platforms release new features and updates, apps should be equipped to facilitate feature activation and adoptions, too. 

The key is finding a solution that can onboard without annoying you. 

You know what I’m talking about. That moment when you want to try a new platform, and popups and notifications keep getting in your face. No thanks! You close the app. That’s a poor onboarding experience, which contradicts the entire reason for having one.

Finding an onboarding platform that can provide a top mobile experience without the common pitfalls is essential, considering that 60% of app users prefer their phone or tablet over their desktop. 

Key features you need for an onboarding app

(Video Source)

App onboarding experiences are often looked at from a technical lens. And that’s important. We need a way to implement our strategy. But we forget the core reason: to improve the experience for new app users so we can win them as long-term customers.

You can build a robust, well-coded app full of features. But it falls flat if it doesn’t consider human behavior. What do we really want in our initial experience?

We want to quickly use the app—without having to get a degree in it—and get immediate value. 

Intuitive user assistance

When you think of onboarding for video games, you don’t want to do a 10-minute tutorial—you want to jump in and get in on the action.

A quality onboarding experience combines the familiar with the new. Users should know how to use your app naturally because it makes sense in their everyday lives, experiences, and what they might call “common sense.” When it’s time to introduce something new, it’s easy to adapt to it within a recognizable context.

In other words, your onboarding app should involve intuitive user assistance. The user interface is welcoming and familiar, and the onboarding walkthrough is straightforward. 

Users get nudges instead of intrusive pop-ups. They can control their experience. When they use checklists, they can easily experience the app step-by-step. When they finish onboarding, they are already activated and create their first project or results. Users experience a personal use case.

Intuitive user assistance positions brands as a friendly guide. They follow the user’s curiosities and help direct them to the finish line.

Your users should be able to find anything they want—literally. You want to empower your app users to learn anything they need to on a deeper level. It helps facilitate their interests, provides great customer support, and nurtures future superfans. 

Better search for fuller experience

Your onboarding app should have in-depth, AI-powered search support. 

You can start with a resource hub and tooltips section on your app, so users can click in-app and access it on your website when they need it. Then, you can use a tool to incorporate AI for maximum capabilities.

If a business uses CommandBar Copilot as its AI assistant, users can ask questions or search for materials. The AI uses all your resources, documentation, web pages, and other materials to develop a personalized answer. 

These onboarding approaches put customers in control and encourage them to explore your platform throughout the process.

Step-by-step self-guided journeys

Companies can also implement checklists to help keep users on the right track. Through a clear and helpful workflow, users can get a sense of your product, and you still lead them all the way to activation.

Checklists give users the freedom to work at their own pace. They can finish the process or learn enough to dive in.

Get to the point: The nature of mobile user behavior 

Onboarding experiences, especially for intuitive user assistance, are all about responding to consumer needs and behaviors. 

Platforms should collect and study data on their target audience’s behaviors across devices. 

A significant factor in mobile devices is in their name (hello “mobile”!). This segment of users is on the go; they don’t have enough time as they juggle different tasks.

Mobile app onboarding should consider time and attention scarcity as a major component in the process.

That’s why creating a quick, self-guided onboarding experience with intuitive engagement can both meet needs and offer quick activation.

The faster you can get mobile app users to activate and experience their use case on your app, the more successful your onboarding experience will be. For example, in the DropBox For Business example further down this article, users can activate in seconds.

Opening the gift: Proving value

When you implement the best app for onboarding, you get immediate benefits. You provide a better first impression, increase conversion rates for paid subscriptions, decrease onboarding drop-offs, and more. 

Why? Because better experiences and friendly onboarding functionality help prove your value quickly (short time-to-value, or TTV), provide a fun user process, and win customer loyalty. 

The streamlined onboarding process boosts new user integration so they can use your app to the fullest potential. 

But don’t take my word for it. Check out how other companies utilize onboarding solutions.

Dropbox For Business and its 30-second TTV

Dropbox For Business does a great job of activating users immediately. When a user creates her profile, she can give Dropbox information on what she plans on doing with the app, or she has the option to skip ahead.

Dropbox For Business then adds a passive checklist that includes uploading a file, inviting your team, and downloading the mobile app or desktop app. 

Onboarding experience by Dropbox for Business (Source

Dropbox’s in-app onboarding experience when Business team members sign in (Source)

When the user uploads a file and shares it, she experiences the value of Dropbox For Business.

This is an effective onboarding solution to get users to try your app out immediately without a learning curve. 

The platform does have areas for improvement. 

For example, Dropbox includes a “learn more” document that can help users dig deeper into the app, but there is room for more resources. The onboarding experience can provide interactive nudges to encourage more exploration of features and use cases. An AI assistant can also help with unique questions. 

This is a great example of immediate user activation and a foundation to build future, engaging experiences. 

Choosing a winning experience

Experiences drive engagement, strengthen app loyalty, and increase usage. It’s not rocket science. It’s not new. We’ve valued experience since humankind began. Onboarding processes need to combine product features with core human needs.

For example, imagine you’ve searched for the right tax filing app. You’ve tried five of them already. They tout every bell and whistle you need (some you’ve never even known was possible). But when you try them out, the onboarding experiences are clunky, hard to understand, and resemble dial-up internet speed (with all the same frustration). It’s not fun, and you lose interest.

But then you find a new app with the core features you need, and you decide to give it one more try.

To your surprise, the experience is so smooth, it’s almost comforting. You get friendly nudges to try different features or options (much like CommandBar), and you can ask an AI assistant for more help. 

In a few minutes, you’ve filled out the basic information and are working on your business taxes. This platform is a keeper.

That’s how important first impressions, onboarding experiences, and your adoption strategy are. With the right onboarding features in place, you can improve your adoption rate and retention rate for your mobile app and scale your company. (And everyone gets to open the gift they want.)

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