As Peter Drucker elegantly said, “The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.”
By focusing on conversion rates, digital marketers risk losing sight of that original intent. Conversions tend to be about optimizing and measuring discrete interactions — such as obtaining an email address or getting a sign-up.
When we optimize for sign-ups, the assumption is that the day-to-day experience a customer has of a digital product or service will be enough to retain them. While useful in the short-term, such measures tend to be poor predictors of future engagement in the longer term (i.e. the creation of a customer).
Onboarding: the difference between getting an email address and creating a customer.
Onboarding is a discrete field of expertise that is a natural link between digital marketing and User Experience (UX). It blurs the line between customer acquisition, retention, and engagement and when done well, it improves all three.
Unlike a “conversion,” onboarding ends when a first-time user becomes a repeat customer, thereby bridging the gap between getting a customer’s attention and keeping it.
Here are four things you can do to move from conversions to onboarding:
1. Eliminate the need for sign-up processes.
Generally, the need for user registration and account creation is overstated. The first step toward improving your own onboarding process is to eliminate the need for accounts, or use an alternative model for capturing user information.
This involves thinking deeply about your business and engagement model with users. Ask yourself why you need a registration process for your users in the first place: is it about driving future engagement by capturing as much information as possible up-front, or is it tied to a transaction, fulfilling a more functional role of providing security?
New services, such as Square’s Cash and TripIt allow users to begin using their service without registering first. Done right, thinking in this way can open the doors to user engagement, without necessarily having to add a large amount of technical complexity.
2. Where sign-up processes are inevitable, use social login to reduce sign-up friction.
Where account creation and registration are an essential part of your business model, one of the most effective ways to reduce friction and drop off is to use social login. Allowing users to select their preferred service to use with your own, reduces the cognitive load (“account fatigue”) associated with this stage of the user journey.
For some services, you can also gain access to additional information about the user in line with the service they use to sign up with. Is your product or service mostly related to the professional side of your users’ lives? Then LinkedIn might be the most natural choice. Knowing which service — or combination of services — to use, is as much about your business as it is about your users.
Implementing social login to your site is made easier by third-party plugins, such as OneAll.
3. Help your users progressively profile.
Progressive profiling is useful when your product or service has need of a particularly large amount of information from your users. It progressively breaks the information up into several phases, which are tied to “unlocking” different types of functionality.
For example, instead of taking your users through a 10-step sign-up process in the first instance, ask for the minimum amount of useful information (such as name, email address, and password). Allowing users to access the functionality of your service with this basic level of information increases the likelihood of them becoming longer term customers.
Once they begin to engage with your product or service, they may “unlock”more features and functionality with more information. One of the main benefits of progressive profiling is that it preferences engagement over conversion. Keeping a user’s attention is easier than gaining it in the first place.
4. Develop a retention strategy for onboarding specifically.
When you think of your onboarding process as being bigger than sign-ups, you start to see how the relationship you have with each user as an asset.
Effectively communicating with users at select points in the onboarding journey can be an effective strategy and blurs the line between user acquisition and retention. Usually automated, this can help people move from being a “tire kicker” to an active, engaged, and recurring customer.
Tools such as intercom are great for developing closer and more personalized relationships with potential customers, through tailored communication.