Milestones: build your own bulletproof user onboarding

Want a user onboarding with more activations and less drop-offs? Check out Pipz Automation Milestones!

    On this blog post, you'll learn how to:
  • measure user onboarding performance with event tracking;
  • setup Milestones to identify bottlenecks on the process;
  • decrease user onboarding drop-off rate with

Picture a narrow pass on a cliff, with all the users who have just signed up for your product standing on the same side of it. All of them must get to the other side: some of them may not be interested in reaching the other end, doesn't have enough skills to get there or are simply too terrified to proceed with the first step.

The user onboarding of your app shouldn't be this scary and difficult. Instead, it should be a safe bridge with a perfect structure, with a bunch of signs and indications of where free and trial users should go next.

Rapid user growth followed by rapid user attrition is an indicator of unsustainable growth.Jamie Quint, Managing Partner @ Quint Growth(source)/span>

More than that, you must be able to know who reached the other side, and who didn't. If users are having issues in between, you must properly help them, identify what's going wrong and fix it so no more users have to go through it again.

Activation is just the first step>

A common (but honest) mistake on startups is believing that everyone who signed up for the product will definitely make the necessary adjustments - integrate it with an app or install a tracking code, for instance - and will start using it right away.

In fact, most of the users who sign up for a product use it for a day or two, then abandon it forever. Some of them don't even finish the user onboarding before dropping off, mostly because the product:

  • Requires an extensive initial configuration;
  • Its value takes too much time to be perceived by users;
  • Doesn't give enough directions for new users;
  • Doesn't have a user onboarding at all.
  • These different issues - called attritions - are responsible for making users lose interest on a product, even if they have already been converted. That's why this "leak" on the customer lifecycle happens between the Conversion and Retention stages.

    Along with the "It's more expensive to acquire a customer than retain who is already a customer " maxim, look at the Activation Stage through a different perspective: users who signed up have a specific problem and found your product as a way of solving it. For that, your company must be there to help, not to make it harder.

    User onboarding equals customer retention

    It's pretty simple: SaaS must properly activate their users in order to retain them. With customer retention, comes more recurring revenue. Easy-peasy.

    Different from an inefficient (or even nonexistent) user onboarding, customers who successfully finish a great user onboarding experience:

  • Easily learn how to use the product shortly after signing up;
  • Have autonomy in the product, without help from customer service;
  • Perceive the product's value proposition right away;
  • Achieve results with the product faster than anyone;
  • And what's the point of all that? It's simple: a happy customer is a retained customer.

    After an incredible and remarkable user onboarding, the user learns how to effectively use the solution, refers the product to friends and co-workers, and more important: there are way more chances that these users stay longer in a company.

    Improving activation is a combination of reducing product friction, building in engagement reminders, and employing triggers based on customer actions.Justin Mares, Co-author of Traction Book (source)

    Bottom-line: a good user onboarding is the key for nailing Retention, Referral and Revenue stages of the customer lifecycle. It's the perfect opportunity to showcase the product, highlight its features and impose that the company has the best solution to users' pain.

    Measuring user progress with Funnels and Event Tracking

    Event tracking is the greatest tool SaaS professional must have on their hands. Marketing and customer success teams are able to analyze their customer behavior and make decisions based on it. And it's the same for sales teams who want to optimize their user onboarding process.

    According to Google Developers, "Event Tracking is a method available [in a] tracking code that you can use to record user interaction with website elements (source)". Through a tracking code, several apps can identify and store specific user-triggered actions within a webpage or an app.

    And if you've guessed correctly, event tracking can also be used to metrify how many of your users have successfully finished their user onboarding. This is done by assigning various events that must be activated by users, such as visiting the user dashboard and setting up a feature, for instance.

    Google Analytics Event Tracking for User Onboarding | Pipz Customer Journey Automation

    The great thing about event tracking and behavioral analytics is that you can make adjustments in your strategy on the fly while checking its results in real-time. Event tracking metrics are incredibly actionable.

    As usual, someone with an analytic-eye must keep track of all these events to ensure that users are actually going through the onboarding. If 70% of users are starting the user onboarding but only 30% of them are getting to its third step, something must be done urgently.

    Setting up Milestones to improve onboarding

    Although users actions within an app can be a great source of insights, the best way to acquire feedback from your app's onboarding is from people who actually went (or are still going) through it.

    That's why you can bring a little bit of marketing automation to your user onboarding, as it can be set up with targeted actions triggered through the customer behavior. Instead of using event tracking just for insight purposes, marketing automation uses it to actually engage with users and help in the customer lifecycle management (CLM).

    The main benefits of setting up Milestones to your onboarding are:

  • Bypass the analysis-to-action process: although you still need to regularly check your event tracking analytics for different insights, setting Milestones let you take actions in a more precise way, targeting directly users who are in the Activation stage of their customer lifecycle.
  • Direct approach on users with issues: by identifying and engaging users who didn't finished their onboarding, you can rapidly discover bottlenecks in the process, allowing you to develop fast and effective strategies to solve it and avoid other users from falling in the same trap;
  • Instant feedback from activated users: the same way, you can acquire precious feedback from users shortly after they finish the onboarding. These interested customers can help you by talking about their first contact with the interface, your app's features, its initial configuration and so on;
  • Start your retention strategy right away: being there moments after the user discovers how to use your app and take advantage of it can be great for your relationship with them. You can even start a nurturing flow to retain just-activated users, with useful content to help them increase their results with the product;
  • Identify pre-churn signs right on the Activation stage: it's not hard to find users who doesn't finish the onboarding and lose interest in the product before actually using it. It's a common mistake from startups overlook the famous "wow moment", where users finally find the product's value proposition. It should be right there, in the onboarding first steps.
  • First of all, study your persona, its behavior, preferred channel, voice and tone of communication. They should be reached through the right means, the right way. Then, create a marketing automation flow with a personalized message for those who successfully finished their onboarding:

    Successful User Onboarding Email | Pipz Customer Journey Automation

    In the example below, the users within the marketing automation flow receive a personalized "Congratulations" email and are added to a list of activated users. If activated users open the received email - an event tracking condition - they are automatically added to a nurturing flow, exclusively made for retaining users:

    Successful User Onboarding Marketing Automation | Pipz Customer Journey Automation

    Now it's time to develop a backup plan that will be activated as soon as users drop off from the onboarding. Even if a company has the greatest user onboarding ever made, it's good to open a communication channel with users who didn't managed to be activated:

    Unsuccessful User Onboarding Email | Pipz Customer Journey Automation

    Different from the "Successful Onboarding" automation flow, this one sends a friendly email offering help to the user, while tagging them as a customer in trouble and creating a new ticket on Freshdesk. If users reply the email, someone from the sales team is contacted to take care of it. If not, the user is added to a "Pre-churn Users" and a new note is added to the recently created Freshdesk ticket:

    As soon as both onboarding scenarios are configured, it's time to set up Milestones to be achieved by users.

    The >Milestones feature can be found under Settings > Engagement > Milestones in your Pipz account.

    An Onboarding Milestone track a group of events that must be activated by users on a specified period of time in order to be considered activated users. It's important to set up an event for each step of the user onboarding, from start to end.

    Configuring Event-Tracking Behavioral Triggers | Pipz Customer Journey Automation

    After that, you need to set up a target time on which users must finish the onboarding. Even if you're not working with a long lists of steps, it's good to give at least three or four days before checking if users have went throughout it.

    But where the automation flows we've created come in?

    When users activate the first step, the created Milestone checks again if users have triggered all the necessary events after a specific time - three days on our example. Everyone that did it is added to a "Success" marketing automation flow. At the same time, users who activated some steps but not all of them are added to a "Failure" flow:

    Set up Pipz Milestones to Improve User Onboarding | Pipz Customer Journey Automation

    By using the Milestones feature, you'll be able to create different strategies to deal with successfully onboarded users and drop-offs. The good thing is marketing automation flows doesn't exclude its personal touch, as it can be totally personalized based on the customer behavior,hrough event tracking.


    The user onboarding is the perfect moment catch the eye and win the heart of yet-to-be customers. They expect to login for the first time and see if your product got everything to be their next life saver. If by the first contact they don't perceive the product's value proposition, it'll be really hard to bring them back once they leave.

    Together with Customer Engagement Index, Milestones are the perfect features to precisely identify how signed up users are behaving within your product. After all, engaged and activated users are way more likely to be turned into loyal customers and brand advocates.

    Acquire and convert leads, engage with customers and analyze everything along the process, all in the same place Customer Experience & Marketing Automation Software | Pipz