Product Teams

How to save stuck customers via re-onboarding

As I dug into my inbox one recent morning, a message popped up in the left corner alerting me that Google Meet was now accessible via Gmail. A few days later while writing a new email, a blue box appeared to remind me that I can “easily” switch between different signatures. I’ve had this particular email address for nearly a year, accessing it multiple times a day almost every day. But Google still insisted on nudging me to these particular capabilities, and it didn’t matter whether they were brand new or not — based on my usage, Google identified that they were at least new to me.

This exemplifies something software users experience often (whether they realize it or not), supporting the notion that user onboarding never really ends. While effective onboarding is crucial for new users, there’s an opportunity for onboarding any time there’s a gap in what your customer is currently doing in your product and what’s possible.

Yes, customers will stop using your product if they don’t realize value quickly. But they’ll also likely abandon it if they don’t receive ongoing value. The users who don’t feel that an application is valuable anymore may end up stuck, which usually ends one of two ways:

      1. They stay stuck (they don’t utilize additional features, learn new skills, or become more proficient)
      2. They stop using the product altogether

To help avoid both of these results, we’ve put together five tips for re-onboarding customers onto your product to drive engagement and long-term retention.

1. Lean on product data

First and foremost, you should turn to your product usage data to understand where users are getting stuck and, more importantly, why. This could include everything from login frequency, to feature adoption, to whether or not customers are performing core actions in the product (both at the account and user level).

From there, it may be useful to compare the behaviors of users you’ve retained after their first week or month with the users who dropped off later on. This will help you identify which workflows in the product drive success or, if you’ve already identified those for your initial in-app onboarding flow, which workflows may need to be explained in better detail. Another useful source of information is the paths users are taking before and after key steps, which will help you see if there are any trends in how they’re getting stuck.

Once you’ve determined where you need to provide more in-app guidance, product data also enables better personalization in these re-onboarding efforts. Since you don’t necessarily know a user’s knowledge level based solely on when they started using the app, it’s important to tailor messages based on users’ activity.

2. Remind customers of unused features

One of the best ways to re-engage users is to remind them of useful features they aren’t currently leveraging. This is when data comes into play: use product data to identify which features are high-value (aka usage of these features correlates with success in the product), that way you have a prioritized list of what to resurface to stuck customers. From there, you can create segments of users based on feature usage (as well as things like account type, industry, or user role) and deliver personalized messages that encourage or walk users through certain actions.

When you release new features, think about how you can better position them to your existing user base — i.e. as a supplement or improvement to their workflow, rather than another feature they need to learn how to use. You’ll likely have a broad release plan, but think of this as another opportunity to leverage product data and tailor these announcements to specific groups of users as well.

3. Utilize different formats

Everyone learns differently, and this is important to consider as it relates to ongoing education, not just your initial onboarding strategy. In addition to making sure you’re utilizing different formats for re-onboarding efforts (videos, illustrated walkthroughs, an in-app resource library, etc.), look back at how certain groups of users engaged with your onboarding content in the first place. If there’s a subset of users who didn’t choose to take your introductory product walkthrough and are showing low usage one month later, can you re-engage them with a different type of educational content?

4. Balance subtleness with helpfulness

As you begin thinking through a re-onboarding strategy, remember that you don’t want to overwhelm or confuse customers, or make them feel like they’re being sold to. One of the best ways to tackle this is to provide resources inside your product itself. This way, you’re reaching customers when the information you’re sharing is the most helpful, rather than emailing them about an additional feature and hoping they go into the product to use it.

Additionally, suggesting too many features to try at once can have the opposite effect you want, so think about how you can re-onboard in moments that make the most sense. For example, if you have two features, X and Y, that many customers utilize together but some are only using feature X, you can remind these users of feature Y and explain how it can help make them more successful.

5. Always give context

Through re-onboarding, you want customers to better understand both how to navigate the most essential parts of your product and how it will bring them value. Be sure to always include messaging (even just a sentence or less) that explains the value of the feature or workflow you’re surfacing. This not only helps users understand better (we as humans appreciate knowing the “why” behind things) but also reminds customers how your product ties into their goals. 

Another effective way to provide context is to make the connection back to why a user signed up or started using your product in the first place. On the flipside, the value of your product might be different now compared to when a customer started using it, making it crucial to re-acquaint users with the benefit your product provides.