The 3 Principles of A Phased Mobile App Onboarding

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Partner Post - Insert Fully Automated App User Engagement

Posted: July 12, 2016


Polly Alluf is the VP of Marketing at Insert, the first Codeless Mobile Engagement Platform. She loves everything about marketing, from digital to field and from branding to automation. Polly’s passion is data driven marketing and she considers herself very lucky, being a marketer whose target audience is enterprise marketers.

Exercise is important for our health. Eating right is important for feeling energized. And meditation is important for productivity.  But let’s face it.  Just because we know that something is important doesn’t mean we always put it into practice.

In the mobile app world, this is also true for phased onboarding. We all know how important it is, but not all app owners actually do it.  However, unlike giving up junk food, phased onboarding is easier than it sounds. All you have to do is follow this sequential three-step plan to put your phased onboarding into practice.

Step #1: Start with presenting your app’s highlights

App users have a fleeting attention span, and that’s putting it mildly. From the start of their user experience, they need to quickly understand what your app has to offer them. Your job is to be crystal clear when communicating the features to them.

You should present your app’s features differently depending on your industry and your app’s level of complexity.

Travel or transportation apps may benefit more from using mobile tooltips to help users orient themselves and understand the next step they should take in the app.

Tooltip to highlight a function in an app


A finance app would benefit more from using carousel features to introduce users to the main functionality of the app (allowing the users at any given time to jump straight from the carousel to their point of interest).

Tooltip to reveal a main functionality of an app


A fashion app, on the other hand, might be better off using a short video to convey an emotionally branded message.

Message delivering inside an app via a video clip


Step #2: Be personal and contextual to encourage higher engagement

Now that you have successfully shown users the potential of your app, and they have come back for more, perhaps you are wondering if now is the right time to present them with all your app has to offer.

The answer is a resounding “no”.

Whether your users are returning for the first time or the tenth, you should never show them everything your app has to offer.  It’s much more valuable to present your features and functions in as personal and contextual a manner as possible.

For instance, let’s say you have a financial app, and you want people who used your credit card option to learn about a new functionality – the Savings Plan.

Once you start tracking their app behaviors, you can create highly engaging messages, taking a few factors into account:

  • What you already know about the individual user’s preferences and demographics
  • How your audience segments prefer to be educated (for instance, everybody likes mobile videos but millennials prefer shorter videos, compared to people in their forties).

Step #3: Ask for registration!

Rule of thumb: avoid asking users to register during their first-time visit (unless absolutely necessary) and before explaining to them why they must register.

It is better to save the registration request for the most compelling mobile moment.  The right mobile moment usually occurs after the user has already seen value in your app and wants to engage with it even more.  It is the point when the user understands the benefits of using your app, wants to access more features, and sees a clear need to become a registered user.

Asking for registration is a sensitive topic. On the one hand, you want users to register as early as possible so that you can get personal with them right away. On the other hand, asking people to register before they have had a chance to get to know your app functionality is generally not a good practice.

Many apps (especially retail apps) ask users to register upfront, and although your users understand that they may have to provide some information in order to check out (even as a guest), you should wait for the right time to ask them for full registration.

The Never-ending Onboarding Story

The reality is that app functionality and offerings are constantly evolving, so the onboarding process never really comes to an end. You must constantly engage your loyal users and never assume that they are with you to stay for good. Like exercising to stay healthy, it requires continuous effort, but it’s well worth it!