The Elements of Successful Acquisition and Onboarding Journey

More often than not, user acquisition and retention are considered two separate metrics, both requiring different techniques to track and optimise. That might make sense from the business standpoint, but from the user perspective, there is only one user journey that encompasses all the steps required to learn about the product, try it out and decide whether it’s worth sticking to it. In this article, I describe the 4 steps of successful acquisition and onboarding journey and how they relate to one another.

#1. Awareness

Touchpoints: social media, paid advertisement, word of mouth, blog posts and articles (both your own content and that of influencers and magazines).

I am by no means an expert in digital advertising, but anyone concerned with user journey and UX design should consider the initial triggers that bring people into the website or a product. What people clicked on will affect what they expect to see when they land on your website and what information they will look for.

At this stage you have very little time to grab people’s attention so you just want to communicate that you have a solution for their problem:

“Your ad copy refers to the messaging you use in your ad campaign. It should be clear and compelling, so the benefits stand out—both the benefits of engaging with the ad and of taking whatever action you’re asking for. […] Generally, you want to start your ad by speaking to a pain point your target is dealing with. Then your offer should be presented as the solution.” Source: Digital Marketer 

PRO TIP – use 5 sec testing to test the clarity of your messaging.

#2. Consideration

Touchpoints: website, landing page, social media, app store.

Here you can expand on the promise made in the previous step and gain credibility that you are actually capable of delivering that promise. Your website content should:

  • reiterate the audience
  • expand on the problems you solve
  • explain or show how you solve them
  • build credibility (testimonials, screenshots, success stories etc
  • include CTA – the smallest action you want the user to take at this point – generally, for apps, it will be download freemium version or sign up for a free trial

PRO TIP: conduct landing page testing to understand how people perceive your product, how well the page explains the value proposition and where the gaps and friction points are.

#3. Activation – sign up

Touchpoints: app store, in-app sign-up flow, website sign-up flow.

At this point, you still haven’t earned a lot of trust from the user so you want to put as little roadblocks as possible and get them to where they can experience the value of your product as quickly as possible. That means:

  • ask only for the information you really need at the stage
  • avoid long intro tutorials – don’t explain every single feature of your product, right now people need just enough to realise if this product can solve their problem
  • if you need to ask for personal information – ease the anxiety by explaining why you need it and how you’ll use it to improve their experience

#4. The first task in the app – onboarding

This is the part that a lot products get wrong. Onboarding isn’t about adding on tooltips and product tours to ‘educate’ the user about your interface. They are not here to ‘learn’ about your interface. They want to see if your app can solve their problem.

If you think about it this way, then onboarding is about getting them to experience the value of your product as soon as possible, so that they can realise how your product can make their life easier.

The way to do it is to pick one key action you will direct them to do just after they sign up. This action should be:

  • something that gets them a step closer to their goal and gives them a sense of a small win
  • something that represents the core value of your product (and is related to your revenue generating features)
  • something that they are prepared to do at this moment
  • something that delivers on the promise from your acquisition channels (if you have multiple user segments and acquisition messaging, this is where personalised onboarding comes in)

Once you figured out what your key action should be, you can explicitly prompt the user after they’ve signed up, or you can just make it super obvious on your home screen that this is the next logical step to take.

Closing thoughts

Continuity of message is the most important thing – each step reassured the user that they are in the right place and provides more supporting information to build trust and credibility.