How SaaS Onboarding Software has Changed Over Time

If you're a business seeking to enhance customer onboarding experiences, the right SaaS customer onboarding software is crucial for your success.
But just a few years ago, the options were limited, and user onboarding was only about teaching users how to use a product. With the rise of product-led growth, the onboarding process has evolved to become a key part of the customer journey, and also a powerful tool for sales and marketing.

But what exactly is SaaS onboarding software? And how has it changed over time?

What effective SaaS User Onboarding looks like

The Core of SaaS User Onboarding

SaaS user onboarding is familiarizing users with a SaaS tool.

Onboarding is a really crucial step in the user's path. It's more than just saying hello. It's about helping users quickly see the value of the product. This first tour, or primary onboarding, is very important. It's not only about showing new customers how to use what they just got. It's also about helping them really understand and see how great the product can be for them.

The "Aha Moment" in SaaS Onboarding

Reaching the "Aha Moment" is the ultimate goal, so new users understand the value the product offers. This moment might strike as early as the signup process for more straightforward products. But in most cases, it takes splace during the primary onboarding stage.
This is when users realize your product's actual value.

Once a user understands how you can help them in the long term - you achieve your goal.
Not only do you have a new user, but they’re most likely with you for the long run.

Finding that 'Aha Moment' in SaaS Onboarding
Finding that "Aha Moment" in SaaS Onboarding

Turning Visitors into Users

After users have their first "wow" moment with your product, the next big step is getting them to actually use it. This isn't just about them knowing what your product can do. It's about them starting to use it for real.
For example, a project manager might get the idea of using onboarding software. But, they really start to benefit when they create their first project and assign tasks. This is when they start to see how it can help them do better.

More Than Just the Start

Onboarding isn't just a one-time thing. The first step is important, but learning about the product should be an ongoing process.
At Bonboarding, we believe in teaching customers continuously. This includes secondary and tertiary stages of onboarding. It's all about showing new features and keeping users engaged. Continuous learning is really important. To get a better idea, take a look at Bonboarding's approach to user adoption.

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SaaS Onboarding Over Time

Human-Led Onboarding

Some time ago, when software-as-a-service was still a new concept, onboarding was a very human-led process.
A salesperson would give a demo, and then a customer success manager would help the customer get started.
It is still a common practice today, especially for new products and startups: no one can explain the product better than the people who built it.

But it's not very scalable. The more customers you have, the more resources you need to teach new users, and it's hard to keep track of all the customers and their progress.

PDFs and Videos

It was clear that human-led onboarding wasn't sustainable.
So online businesses looked into other industries for inspiration.

How do you teach people to use a product without a human, if it's a physical product?
By providing user manuals, of course.

They followed this approach and started creating PDFs and videos to teach users how to use their software.

This was a big step forward. It was scalable, and it was a lot more efficient than human-led onboarding.

The idea of PDF user guides came from user manuals for physical products
The idea of PDF user guides came from user manuals for physical products

However, all flexibility was lost. As the product evolved, new features were added, and these static guides became outdated. And the moment a user had a question that wasn't covered in the PDF or video, they were stuck.

Online Help Centers

Another approach was to create online databases of help articles. This was a great way to provide users with answers to their questions, and it is still used today.

But it's not the most efficient way to teach users how to get started.

Interactive Tutorials

Finally, more and more companies started using interactive tutorials to teach users how to use their software. This meant popups and highlighting elements on the screen, to guide users through the product.

This was a big step forward, as it allowed users to learn by doing, and it was a lot more efficient than static guides.

These product tours were often hard-wired into the product and required a lot of development resources to create and maintain. But they were a lot more efficient in teaching users how to use the product.

Product-Led Onboarding

Today, the most successful companies use a combination of all these approaches and more. And numerous interactive product tour solutions have emerged, to help companies create and manage their onboarding experiences - without coding.

But onboarding is no longer just about teaching users how to use a product. As we described in the intro, it's about helping them see the value of the product and guiding them through the customer journey.

This is why we believe that the future of SaaS onboarding is product-led onboarding.

The Future of SaaS Onboarding

Product tours are a great way to teach users how to use a product. But they're not enough to create a great onboarding experience.
You need to combine them with other tools, to create a great onboarding experience. This includes welcome email sequences, video tutorials, knowledge bases, webinars, and more.

SaaS Onboarding - if done right - is a powerful tool for sales and marketing, as well.

Remember, approach it from the user's perspective, and help them see the value of your product. This will help you turn visitors into users, and users into customers.

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