The Ultimate Guide to SaaS Onboarding

Having trouble attracting and retaining customers for your SaaS product?

The answer could lie in your onboarding SaaS process.

Whether you’re welcoming a new user to your product, effective onboarding can make all the difference in achieving their desired outcomes and building long-term loyalty.

In this article, we’ll cover what onboarding is, the benefits of having a process in place, tips to help you improve that process for users and customers, and a superb user onboarding example.

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What Is Onboarding for SaaS?

Onboarding for SaaS companies is all about introducing a new customer to the product and helping them understand how it works and how they can achieve success with it.

A successful onboarding process will help you build trust, boost user engagement, and establish long-term relationships.

There are two types of SaaS onboarding:

  • User onboarding: Helps new users get set up with the app and teaches them how to use it properly. This process usually encourages users to complete a SaaS onboarding checklist, product tour, walkthrough, and more.
  • Customer onboarding: Helps new customers understand the product’s value to achieve their desired outcomes. Here, you’ll need to understand your customer’s goals, customize the product to suit their needs, gather feedback, and more. 

In the case of large accounts, typically, only the key decision makers undergo SaaS customer onboarding, while other users within the same account may go through the user onboarding process. 

Now, you may be wondering:
Is user and customer onboarding important?
We’ll answer that next.

The Benefits of Onboarding for SaaS

Here are three reasons why it’s imperative to have an excellent onboarding process in place:

1. Builds Confidence

A successful onboarding experience can help users and customers overcome their pain points and feel more confident in the product’s ability to deliver on its promises.

As a result, the onboarding experience can heavily influence a free user’s decision to become a paying SaaS customer and a customer’s decision to continue using the product. 

2. Reduces Customer Churn

Did you know that 32% of customers will leave a brand after one bad experience?

Fortunately, a comprehensive SaaS onboarding can help improve customer retention by setting the right expectations for them early on in the customer journey. 

Helping customers succeed with your product also incentivizes users to log back in and use your product again, boosting product adoption. 

3. Lowers Demand for Customer Support

When users clearly understand how to use the product, they are less likely to encounter issues or require assistance from your customer support team. 

This means your customer service team has more time to focus on pressing issues like billing problems and customer complaints. 

To do this, your onboarding strategy needs to answer user questions proactively (via FAQs, knowledge bases, etc.) and have self-service options in place. 

Next, we’ll cover how you can improve the initial user onboarding experience. 

5 Tips to Improve SaaS User Onboarding

Your onboarding team must encourage users to reach their “aha! moment” and boost their confidence in your product.

We’ll share a few SaaS user onboarding best practices:

1. Keep it Simple and Frictionless

Keeping your onboarding flow short and sweet ensures you don’t confuse and frustrate your users early on in their customer journey. 

You can reduce friction by removing unnecessary fields in your sign-up form. For example, only ask for their name and email address — you can acquire additional information like industry and job title later.

If you plan on having a product tour or walkthrough, keep the instructions short and to the point. 

What if your product is complex?
Don’t worry — you can keep things simple by creating an onboarding journey for each product section. 

2. Segment Users with a Welcome Survey

Not every user wants to achieve the same outcome with your product. So, it’s a good idea to segment users so that they can complete an onboarding process that relates to their goals.

But how can you gather user data without creating friction?

Welcome users and ask them to answer a few questions about what they want to accomplish with your product. 

A more personalized (but not overwhelming) SaaS onboarding process can help users reach their aha! moment quickly and help you reduce churn rates for particular segments.

The bonus?
You can use this data later on to send personalized marketing material.

3. Leverage UI Patterns

Use user interface (UI) patterns like tooltips, hotspots, and modals to draw the user’s attention to crucial product features and explain how to do something. 

Here’s how each of these works:

  • Tooltips: Textboxes that provide contextual guidance only if the user clicks or hovers over a button or icon. You can use tooltips to guide potential customers through the sign-up process or explain how a feature works. 
  • Hotspots: Graphical elements that draw a user’s attention to a specific point on the screen — think of a bright red spot or pulsing light. You can use hotspots to guide users during the initial setup process. 
  • Modals: Pop-up windows that provide additional information or ask the user to take a specific action. You can also use modals to display privacy policy agreements, collect user information, and confirm that a user wants to take a specific action that can’t be undone. 

4. Create an Onboarding Checklist with a Progress Bar

A SaaS onboarding checklist can take users on the shortest path to value, helping them reach the right activation points (onboarding milestones) and their aha! moment. 

Additionally, by breaking down the onboarding process into smaller, manageable steps, checklists make the process feel less overwhelming and more achievable for a new user.

Moreover, a progress bar can encourage potential customers to complete the onboarding process as they can monitor their progress and feel a sense of accomplishment as they complete each step. 

5. A/B Test Different Processes

Whether you already have an onboarding strategy or are developing a new one, it’s important to test your strategy and make improvements. 

You can do this by A/B testing your processes. In others, by comparing two approaches and seeing which one performs better. 

Monitor performance by checking your product analytics data and gathering feedback from users. And don’t forget to monitor metrics like activation rate (the percentage of users who complete specific onboarding milestones) and time-to-value (how long users take to reach their aha! moment). 

Once users have completed the initial SaaS onboarding process, you’ll need to take your paying users through a more personalized customer onboarding experience.

We’ll cover tips to help you improve the customer onboarding process next. 

6 Tips to Improve SaaS Customer Onboarding

Account managers and customer success teams typically manage the customer onboarding process. 

To do this, they’ll need to understand customer objectives and help them achieve them. 

We’ll share some best practices for your customer onboarding process:

1. Define Clear Success Criteria 

Use the analytics you collected from the initial onboarding process to define what each customer segment wants to achieve with your product. 

You can also use secondary sales discovery calls to further understand how they plan to use your product and what success looks like for them. 

2. Personalize Onboarding

Once you understand your customer’s goals, you can personalize their onboarding experience by:

  • Customizing the product: This can include helping customers configure the product settings to match their required workflow, adding or removing features based on their needs, or adding custom integrations. 
  • Providing personalized training and support: One-on-one training sessions and use-case-specific docs and tutorials can help a new customer reach their desired outcomes quickly. Also, consider analyzing user behavior to determine areas where they need additional support or guidance.
  • Creating a dedicated customer success team: A dedicated team can work closely with customers to help them achieve their goals, answer their questions, and provide guidance throughout their journey. Your customer success manager should also regularly check in with customers. This way, they can stay informed of customers’ evolving needs and goals. 

3. Leverage Self-Serve

Did you know that for 63% of customers, the level of support offered during onboarding is a crucial factor in determining a product’s value?

Unfortunately, it can be challenging for your customer service team to be available 24/7. 

But that’s where self-service comes in!

A SaaS company can leverage AI chatbots, FAQ pages, and knowledge bases to ensure customers can solve issues and get answers independently. This also gives the customer more control over their onboarding journey, which can boost their trust and confidence in your product. 

4. Reach out if Usage Drops

Monitoring user engagement during SaaS onboarding is crucial, as usage drops may indicate that customers are not receiving the support they need.

If a customer success manager spots a drop in usage, they should reach out to the customer to determine where they’re struggling to derive value and how they can help. Proactively addressing usage drops can help improve customer satisfaction and turn every hesitant customer into a loyal customer.

5. Use the Right Customer Onboarding Tools

The right onboarding software can help automate certain onboarding processes and enhance the SaaS customer experience. Some customer onboarding tools you can consider are Wrike, Asana, Userpilot, Pendo, and WalkMe. 

Here are a few features to look for when deciding on an onboarding tool:

  • Automation: Automating tasks like sending a welcome onboarding email and scheduling follow-up calls can help save time and resources for your customer success team. 
  • Multichannel communication: Offering support through various channels, such as email, live chat, or video calls, lets the customer choose the channel that works for them.
  • A/B testing: Experimenting with different SaaS onboarding processes can help you identify the most effective onboarding flow and improve the SaaS customer experience. 
  • Analytics and reports: User behavior data can help you market the right additional products and services to customers, stimulate customer engagement, prevent customer churn, and more.
  • Integrations: The onboarding software you choose should integrate with your existing tech stack. This way, you can build a smooth and efficient SaaS customer onboarding process.

6. Track the Right Metrics

Tracking the right metrics can help you understand how customers interact with your SaaS product during onboarding and where they might be facing challenges. 

Here are a few metrics to track:

  • Completion rate: Measures the percentage of customers who complete each onboarding step or task. 
  • Completion time: Tracks the average time customers take to complete your SaaS customer onboarding process.
  • Usage time: Measures how much time customers spend using your product after completing their onboarding journey. 
  • Daily active users: Tracks the number of unique customers who have achieved product adoption and interact with your product daily. 
  • Customer churn rate: Tracks the percentage of customers who stop using your SaaS product after or during onboarding.

Wonder what a successful onboarding strategy looks like?
You can draw inspiration from the user onboarding example up next. 

Note: While the below example focuses on user onboarding, you can use the insights and tips here to inform your customer onboarding strategy too.

User Onboarding Example: Airtable


Airtable is a cloud-based collaboration platform that combines a database’s functionality with a spreadsheet’s simplicity and flexibility.

Here’s a glimpse into their SaaS onboarding strategy:

Airtable has a simple, free sign-up process that only asks for your email address, name, and password. Notably, the tool doesn’t ask users to verify their email before they can start creating projects. This reduces friction and shortens time-to-value. 


Next, the user is prompted to personalize their account. Airtable uses the info to understand user personas and use cases better. You’ll also notice a green progress bar at the bottom left. 

Once the sign-up process is complete, the tool displays a pop-up window with a progress bar and an onboarding checklist to help the user finish setting up their project.

Once the project setup is complete, Airtable displays a celebration animation to provide a sense of accomplishment and delight for reaching a milestone.

Airtable also introduces users to high-value features via tooltips and encourages users to complete specific actions using hotspots.

Optimizing Your Onboarding: Key Takeaways for Every SaaS Company

A positive onboarding experience is crucial for making a solid first impression with every SaaS user and customer. It can also promote long-term loyalty and decrease customer churn.

Use the above tips and examples to create an effective SaaS onboarding strategy for your users and customers. 

And if you’re looking for an additional way to improve the onboarding experience while driving revenue growth, consider building an SEO and content strategy. 

Not sure where to begin?
Connect with an SEO expert at Startup Voyager.

We can help you optimize your website and create high-quality customer education content that converts, engages users, and drives results.

About the author

Startup Voyager is a content and SEO agency helping startups in North America and Europe acquire customers with organic traffic. Our founders have appeared in top publications like Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Inc, Huffpost, Lifehacker, etc.