How user segmentation improves user onboarding


Photo by charlesdeluvio

I want you to think of your user onboarding like Cinderella’s shoe: it isn’t a one size fits all but a carefully crafted glass slipper for your users. This “glass slipper moment” has a name in UX: User segmentation.  By separating your users into categories based on behavior, goals and the type of user, you can create an onboarding experience that fits just right.

Cinderella Shoe

Disclaimer: User segmentation is a large subject with multiple applications. We will be focusing on its applications within the user onboarding experience within the product. This means that for the most part we will not touch on customer segmentation. This is a speciality of marketing more than product development. Why? Because they have very little to do with informing the user’s goals and behavior within the user onboarding process. It is very useful in helping get people to the product but less useful in helping people use the product. 

To make the most out of categorizing users during the onboarding process, we will be discussing the different ways you can sub categorize. 

  • The user’s goals and behavior
  • The types of users that manifest in the user onboarding process 

By applying this dualistic approach to your user onboarding segmentation, it will help you onboard users faster while managing your business risk. 

1. Goals

As mentioned above, understanding your users’ goals is the backbone of your user segmentation, onboarding experience and product success. But how do you actually do that? 

Talk to your users!

...If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
Henry Ford

Really dig down into the qualitative and quantitative dataUser research isn’t asking about what users want but why they want something.

The  jobs to be done framework can really help create an actionable plan based on the goals discovered during user research. A methodology usually used in marketing, it has strong applications in product development. Think of it this way: a user is “hiring” your product to do a specific job, aka a specific feature. Do you want users to hunt for this feature or do you want to make the value stupid easy to find? 

Let’s say you have an SEO product that is meant more for novices, NuSurf. Without user research, this can be a great opportunity to misalign users expectations. The best way to prevent this is getting an understanding of what they’re hoping to accomplish. AKA, their goals.

In your hypothetical research situation for NuSurf, you learn something about your users: before they can use your product, they need to also develop an understanding of SEO fundamentals. You want to develop a proactive learning experience for your novice users. You design an onboarding experience, where after confirming their experience/knowledge level, they get “training wheels” mode (not in-product language, just for your product dev team). This mode would focus on three key features needed to lay the groundwork for their SEO skills. 

  • Discovery                                     
  • Relevance                                                            
  • Authority 

NuSurf’s differentiator is they create a lesson that feels more like using the product rather than leaning on content that lives outside of the user onboarding flow. 

Each section would be a unit that would go over the basics and gradually introduce how to use sections of the application relevant to their project needs. Now imagine a non segmented user onboarding process. The alternative would be dumping users into a feature rich product with very little direction. 

Good user research creates a foundation and evidence driven actions, that set up the jobs-to-be-done in a framework to be stronger. 

And then you iterate. Again. And again. And again until the slipper fits.

2. How segmented user onboarding reduces customer support costs

There is nothing wrong with having a user onboarding/customer support team ready to step in. If you have the resources and a great team, more power to you. This is not a substitute for segmenting your users. The difference is a user can have a more personalized experience with the onboarding and the other one has to wait for hours or days to understand how to reach their specific goals from a stranger. Think of user segmentation as increasing your customer funnel: it brings more interested users that, most likely, will need to have help from your company’s support team. 

customer support

3. Types of users

Now that we have discussed goals, let’s discuss how different types of users can manifest during the onboarding process. Identifying these users helps you prioritize individuals who need little to no guidance and those that need a little more hand holding. 

    1. New users – Those early in the customer journey, they are exploring the product’s functionality. 
    2. Users that haven’t engaged with a core feature– The user is just on the edge of reaching the core functionality, just shy of the AHA moment that would help encourage product adoption. What’s great about this is by knowing and mapping out your AHA moments, you can automate your email campaign  or other outreach methods, to target these users. 
    3. Lifetime free users– Not every application has this type of user. If you have a freemium model to your product that does a just good enough job for your users, you will have a solid base of users who might convert. 
    4. Lifetime paid users- This is pretty much the goal of user segmentation, to build the most optimal path for this type of user. 
    5. Inactive users– A hard to resurrect group, the odds of getting back inactive users is low.  A strong incentive can help bring this user into the fold. 

4. Ways to attract and retain more users

A great way to help the spectrum of your users is to develop diverse content for different learning styles and different stages that your users will be at. This might be *slightly biased* but the best content that you can invest in is the words within the product experience itself. It keeps users attention where it is critically needed, in the onboarding flow. Well researched and honed words in the onboarding flow keeps the users learning by doing. Having a great FAQ , supporting content and a tailored email campaign is important but it disengages users from taking direct action to achieve their goals.

5. Conclusion

Simply put, user segmentation improves product adoption. Creating a customized, shortened path to value for each user from the start lays the foundation for a successful product experience.  It can also lower the CAC (Customer Acquisition Costs). With a more personalized onboarding experience, it removes some of the strain on the customer service/onboarding team. This in turn, can give this labor pool more time for users who are struggling. User segmentation won’t help you get all the users BUT it will help you retain more of the users that want to use your product.

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