Product Led Onboarding: The Key to Successful User Retention

When it comes to user retention, product led onboarding (PLO) is the key to success. I know this from personal experience. After implementing a PLO strategy, I saw a significant increase in engagement and satisfaction from my users. Not only that, but they were also more likely to stick around long-term. If you’re looking for ways to keep your users engaged, PLO is worth considering.

Product Led Onboarding: The Best Way to Introduce New Users to Your Products or Services

Product led onboarding is the process of introducing new users to a company’s products or services in a way that is interactive and engaging.

This type of onboarding is often used by companies that have complex products or services, or when a company wants to give its users a more personalized experience.

Product-led onboarding is designed to help users learn how to use your app rather than through separate documentation or tutorials.

Product-led onboarding is an effective way for companies to accelerate time to value for their users. By providing contextual information within the product itself, users can learn and navigate the product more quickly, without the need for scheduling human-led onboarding sessions with customer success teams.

This can help eliminate any unnecessary delay for users and enable them to get the best possible experience from the product.

Product-led onboarding is a great way to ensure that customers and users have a positive experience with your product from the very beginning. By providing a personalized, immersive, and self-directed learning experience, you can set your users up for success and help them get the most out of your product.

Product-led doesn’t mean humans aren’t involved. Many organizations use a hybrid of both humans and products to create their strategy.

For organizations with products, the product itself can be an effective vehicle for driving an impactful customer experience.

Onboarding is the process that helps new users become comfortable and proficient with your product so that they can start using it for its intended purpose. The steps required to onboard users and measure their success vary from company to company, but the goal is always to help users get the most out of your product.

While the initial onboarding phase is a smaller part of the larger user experience, it’s arguably the most important.

It’s your only chance to make a first good impression on your users.

A subpar onboarding experience can have long-term negative effects on customers’ happiness, which can eventually lead to negative business outcomes.

Traditionally, the process of getting a new user up and running has been a long and arduous one. It’s usually been the responsibility of multiple departments, including product management, customer success, and marketing.

And, more often than not, it was delivered in “old-school” ways, such as through emails, PDFs, or webinars.

But these methods—which rely on human effort and external resources—aren’t scalable, particularly when it falls into the hands of CSMs who are already busy with a large number of customers and are handling many tasks.

And the reality is that lengthy welcome emails are not going to be enough to help them learn and adapt your software.

Best Practices for In-App Onboarding

Onboarders vary greatly from company to company, depending on the complexity of their product. For highly technical apps, you may need to set up multiple, sequential steps.

For apps that have a simple or well-known interface, a product demo or walk-through is often all you’ll need. This will help users get started quickly and easily without feeling overwhelmed.

As a Customer Success Manager, you have a deep knowledge of your customers’ needs and your product’s capabilities. This, along with customer data, allows you to craft an impactful customer-facing strategy that increases user adoption and retention.

As a CSM, you have a wealth of knowledge about your customers that can be used to inform and shape onboarding programs. In addition to customer insights, product usage data is critical for understanding what resonates with users and ensuring that your onboarding program is successful.

Here are a few things to think about as you get started with sales.

Know Your Goals

Think about who your customer base is. Are they tech-savvy? What are your customers trying to achieve?

What areas of the product should they learn the most about to start seeing results?

To create effective training programs, it’s crucial to understand the goals of your clients. Their objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) should inform your goals for them during their training. Their input should also be used to improve the pace of your training program.

This understanding will enable you to determine the core features of your product, which you should highlight to potential customers based on their desired outcomes.

The different product types, customer scenarios, and additional services you provide will all factor into how you onboard new customers.

Determine which features of your product you should highlight based on which outcome your prospect is trying to achieve.

Focus on Important Features

There’s no worse feeling than downloading a new app that you have no idea how to use.

Product analytics help companies keep track of the features that are most important to their customers. It is important to focus on these during onboarding.

As a Customer Success Manager, you will help your customers identify the key product features that will help them meet their specific challenges and needs. Once you have helped your customer determine which features are most important to them, you can then help them get comfortable with these features so that they can use them to their full potential.

By leveraging your understanding of customer usage of your features, you can better understand what features are most used by your customers.

If your web analytics software allows you to, examine the amount of time that users spend on your site.

Tailor your onboarding process to the type of client you’re working with. This will make it much easier for you to achieve your end goals, whether that’s with your current or future customers.

Choose The Right Format

After you’ve decided which parts of your product or service you want to highlight for your clients, the next step is to determine when and how to relay this information to them.

Product-led onboarding keeps all of the training inside your app, so users can’t easily navigate away. This also means that your instructions are always relevant to what the user is doing.

Depending on your chosen app, you’ll have several different formats to choose from, such as walk-through guides, pop-up boxes, and image galleries, just to name a few.

When deciding what format to use for in-app help, keep your audience’s preferred learning styles and needs in consideration. Make sure to take into account the level of difficulty of what you’re teaching.

When designing an onboarding experience, it’s important to use a variety of techniques. You can introduce users to key features with popups, provide a step-by-step tutorial, and remind users of frequently-used areas with tooltips.

This training approach mixes up delivery methods to keep learners engaged and ensure that they can learn in the ways they prefer. By offering different mediums, you can ensure all users are learning effectively.

Keep It Simple

A new user shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by a lengthy and drawn-out signup flow. Keep the process short and concise so they can start making and receiving phone calls as soon as possible.

As a rule of thumb, don’t walk users through more than four to five steps of a process.

If you’re using a carousel in your onboarding process, keep it short and sweet. Too many steps or too much text will lose users’ attention quickly.

Keep your app’s instructions brief and to the point.

When creating an in-app guide, make sure it’s easy to follow. Use clear headings and bullet points so users can skim and scan for the information they need. If your message is getting lost in a sea of words, try using gifs or short videos to help convey your message.

Make sure your app’s user onboarding process has clear steps, such as introducing users to your product, showing them how to use certain features, or encouraging them to use specific parts of your application. This will ensure a painless experience for your users.

Instead of including everything in your initial app experience, you can instead use an in-app knowledge base to provide answers to common questions, step-by-step instructions, or in-depth tutorials.

Make It Personal

Onboarding is an important process that helps new users get acclimated to your product. By creating unique and segmented programs, you can ensure that each customer or user group has a tailored experience that meets their specific needs. With the right tool in place, you can make onboarding a breeze for both you and your new users.

As a Customer Success Manager, you’re in the unique position of being able to lead the strategy around these unique customer onboarding processes.

You can create different onboarding flows for different types of users, such as managers and individual contributors to demonstrate how to best use your product.

You could also use personalized onboarding apps to onboard customers, addressing their specific concerns or needs.

This is the age of customization and your customers want you for it! By building customized, personal, and tailored onboarding experiences with your mobile app, you’re ensuring that every customer feels like they’re getting special treatment. This level of attention will greatly increase your retention, and delight your users from day one.

Measure and Iterate

Taking a customer-focused approach means that you continually use customer and behavior data to refine your processes and test your assumptions about what works.

Use your analytics tool to assess how your target audiences engaged with onboarding modules (onboarding engagement), how users are engaging with the product and how their behavior changed after completing onboarding (product usage), and how your onboarding programs influenced other business-critical KPIs (business outcomes).

Talk to product, enablement, and marketing teams about what went well and what could be done better.

And use your mobile app’s built-in polling and survey features to poll and ask your subscribers for feedback on their experiences.


Overall, product led onboarding is a great way to improve user retention and keep your users engaged. If you’re looking for ways to improve your user experience, PLO is definitely worth considering.

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