3 Key Pieces of Usage Data to Track for Better Customer Onboarding

We’ve been spending time lately thinking about our user onboarding flows, and in the process we’ve come across some good Quora resources with onboarding examples (We’re certainly fans of the Dropbox flow mentioned). While most resources we find give strong examples of onboarding flows people like, they don’t do much to address the question of how you build a great onboarding flow and then iterate on it over time.  After all, what makes a great onboarding flow?  And how do you know as soon as possible whether onboarding is working (before customers disappear and churn)?

As we’ve thought about this question, we believe there’s a key part of the conversation missing: what data should companies be using to evaluate their onboarding flow and any iterations they make?  Waiting to see differing churn rates may take too long, and be too difficult to read without a ton of data. So what do you do in the meantime?

As a start, we propose three metrics as crucial starting points (and we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on what you’ve found to be effective):

  1. How much time passes before setup is completed? Is it measured in hours? In days? For several startups I’ve talked to, there seems to be a clear point by which if a user hasn’t setup the application, they probably aren’t going to.  Keeping track of the gap between sign-up and setup completion can be invaluable for planning outreach to customers who are nearing that dangerous
  2. How frequently do new users login? Are users actually logging in? Do successful users login once a week? What’s their ramp-up curve?  This answer surely differs for each site, but your goal is to know what makes a successful user, and then to provide the support and outreach to make sure your users get there.  If you see a user with too few logins, they may be a great candidate for outreach – or it be a sign that you are missing something in your onboarding flow.
  3. What key features are hit by successful users? Are your best users those who hit certain features? Say you are Facebook – is it crucial that new users post a photo album? Or is it really their first status item that makes them loyal?  Knowing the answer to questions like this helps you both better design your flow, but also to better understand how particular users are doing in the onboarding process.

In short, we propose tracking (at a minimum) the following metrics by user:

  • When setup was completed (and the length of time since sign-up)
  • Logins and when they happened (not just last login)
  • Which key features are used

Once you have this data, you’ll be able to much more easily see how onboarding is going, but you’ll also be able to assess the impact of any changes you’ve made to your onboarding flow (via a basic cohort analysis, which we’ll make sure to cover in a future post).  At the end of the day, if your onboarding flow isn’t leading to more usage, more retention, and more value for your users – it probably doesn’t matter how perfect you think it is.


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