Mobile App Onboarding: How-To, Best Practices, and Examples

One of business’ most common adages is, “It’s easier to retain customers than attract new ones.” But it’s the opposite for mobile apps—in a three-month sample of 2023 data, no industry average met or exceeded 10% retention after 30 days. Slow, clunky onboarding often proves the culprit.

As the term suggests, mobile app onboarding is the process of familiarizing new users with a mobile application during their first encounter. Crucially, it sets the tone for the entire app experience and helps slash these high abandonment rates, with improvements shown to increase retention by 50% over ten weeks.

Here’s how to implement effective user onboarding while ensuring a smooth, minimal-step onboarding flow and engaging user journey.

The essentials of mobile app onboarding

Generally, the user onboarding process for mobile apps follows a consistent structure regardless of the audience or use case.

For example, onboarding processes usually begin with a welcome screen and a friendly message that concisely explains what the app is all about. The onboarding process then quickly guides users through the app, highlighting key features and benefits while educating them about how the software works. Because onboarding ideally clocks a sub-60-second duration to complete, apps also typically provide additional resources for users to explore at their own pace.

There are three different types of onboarding:

  • Feature-oriented: Users are shown how the app works and guided through its basic functionalities, such as a quick start guide to get them up and running.
  • Benefit-oriented: The main focus is the app’s value, intending to create a positive experience or mental association to improve initial retention.
  • Hybrid: The onboarding process briefly explains certain features before demonstrating their value. Complex apps often benefit from this approach, which breaks up onboarding stages to avoid overwhelming users.

Regardless of the app’s method, onboarding delivers the most impact when the features and benefits are framed around user-focused enablement rather than app-focused facilitation.

How-to: Implementing effective onboarding

Effective mobile app onboarding processes begin with preparation and culminate with testing and optimization. Here’s what that process looks like.

Pre-launch preparation

Prior to launching the app, you need to research your target audience thoroughly and set clear, realistic onboarding goals. At this stage, it is critical to design a user-friendly interface.

Crafting engaging onboarding flows

Clear and concise messaging is a must in all app onboarding experiences, but other powerful tools can be used to improve engagement. Namely, personalization and gamification:

  • Personalization revolves around tailoring the experience to individual users based on their preferences
  • Gamification refers to games, challenges, rewards, and similar incentives for mobile app users

Testing and iteration

The real work begins once the app is launched and existing users engage with it. Rather than collecting direct feedback, user testing often benefits most from analyzing activity patterns within the app to determine what features or functionalities users gravitate toward and which ones they overlook entirely. At this point, A/B testing of different onboarding methods is often implemented.

The more user data is gathered, the better.

The onboarding process is optimized based on data, feedback, analytics, and user behavior.

Best practices for designing onboarding flows

Getting the onboarding right and setting the stage for a positive user experience is critical.  

Mobile onboarding flows that are engaging, informative, concise, and straightforward increase conversion and retention rates. 

Designing a user onboarding flow that fulfills these criteria can be challenging, but being familiar with best practices in mobile app onboarding certainly helps.

Mobile users don’t have the time or space to read lengthy instructions and deal with complex interfaces. It’s always better to keep things simple and focused and provide value as early as possible.

Additionally, users should feel a sense of achievement as they complete steps in the onboarding process. Real-time feedback and personalization can go a long way in creating this sense of accomplishment.

Incorporating technology for a smooth onboarding experience

Mobile app onboarding can make or break your retention stats, so you should not leave anything to chance. Technologies like Microblink’s SDK can simplify user verification and data entry, streamlining and shortening the onboarding process to improve user experiences.

Most importantly, Microblink’s technology can be easily integrated to fully comply with KYC (know your customer), AML (anti-money laundering), and age verification requirements. This will help your company stay compliant while minimizing fraud risks and boosting overall data security. 

Successful examples of mobile app onboarding

Here are some mobile app onboarding examples to drive home the above points. 

Duolingo, the popular language-learning app, offers a fantastic onboarding experience. Duolingo is intuitive, fun, and gamified. It does a great job of hooking and engaging users and seamlessly employs advanced onboarding tactics. 

Other app onboarding examples include the Mexican bank chain Banco Azteca, which uses Microblink to accelerate and streamline mobile user onboarding. In fact, it uses BlinkID to scan more than 4 million INE IDs and passports every year.

Measuring the success of your onboarding process

How effective is your onboarding strategy? There’s only one way to find out: tracking key metrics and KPIs, or key performance indicators

These include engagement, retention, completion, conversion, and activation rates. User satisfaction and average support ticket volume also need to be taken into account. 

Once you have a clearer picture of what is working and what isn’t, you can adjust your approach and optimize the onboarding experience until you see improvements. 

The future of mobile app onboarding

The future of mobile app onboarding is difficult to predict, but artificial intelligence and machine learning will clearly play a key role for years to come. Chatbots, for example, have already established themselves as valuable tools.

Similarly, BlinkID’s rapid image capture significantly reduces time spent on onboarding processes and clunky, error-prone manual data entry.

The bottom line is that businesses that fail to adapt to this technological shift risk falling behind. Microblink believes in the power of AI to improve everyday experiences. It is built by people, used by humans, and powered by AI.

Not convinced?  Try our demo.

June 20, 2024

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