User Onboarding

Every Onboarding Mistake I Made (So You Don't Have To)

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Effective product onboarding is critical to driving conversions and preventing churn, but it's not easy to get it right. If your goal is big growth, you can't simply throw a walkthrough tutorial in your app and call it a day. In this session, Melanie will walk you through a brutal teardown of FullStory's most recent onboarding revamp, including a detailed look at what worked and what didn't. You'll walk away with a list of common pitfalls to avoid and some ideas for new tricks to try.

Melanie Crissey:
Hello. Thank you so much for joining me today. This is every onboarding mistake I made so you don't have to. This talk is being delivered as part of the ProductLed Summit, which is happening July, 2019. I am Melanie Crissey. I have been working with FullStory, the customer experience, digital experience, analytics company for two and a half years now. And most of my time at FullStory, I've been focused on growth and adoption. So I'm part of the product marketing practice here, I work really closely with our product family. Even though my role has changed a lot at FullStory as we've grown, when I first came on board, I was really hired to solve a specific problem.

Melanie Crissey:
So in February of 2017, FullStory had just launched free our freemium offering for the first time. We had more people signing up than ever before. And we were trying to figure out how do we make sure people, these new people, understand our products and see value. At the time, the product was very self service. In order to purchase you handed over a credit card in the app and that was it. So we really only had that trial experience to make a good first impression.

Melanie Crissey:
So this is going to be the part of growth and adoption we're going to be talking about today for this activation discussion. What are we going to cover? So in this session, we're going to do a really nitty gritty, painful tear down of the FullStory onboarding flow. We're going to be looking at what it looked like early in 2017, and what it looked after our first revamp. And I'm hoping, my goal is you'll walk away with a list of pitfalls to avoid. So we'll look at the things that you shouldn't do, the mistakes you shouldn't make, and some best practices, things you should do instead.

Melanie Crissey:
If we have time, I will get into a very quick look at how FullStory operates, how we do growth behind the scenes here. Just because it's a little different then how some companies might be thinking about it and I want to be clear about how we operate. And then I did have some questions come in from some friends on Twitter ahead of time. So if we have time, I'll get into those too.

Melanie Crissey:
All right. It is teardown time. I wish I had something to break or some loud music, but we're just going to get into this. It's going to rock. Earlier this year, I got a Slack message from a friend at FullStory. They said, "Hey, there's this great blog post out there from someone who's talking about the FullStory onboarding experience." And I open it and I see FullStory elects to go with a more friction based signup flow. This is bad. This is very bad. So FullStory, we're the company that's helping people understand friction so they can resolve it. The last thing in the world we want is a friction based sign up flow for our product. Nobody wakes up and says, "I really wish I could make my activation for my product a little bit more frustrating." So how did we get to this place? And how did we get to this assessment? Let's time travel.

Melanie Crissey:
This is what it felt like to sign up for FullStory back in early of 2017. It's very low friction on the sign up form. The only thing we're asking for is your email and you hit go. We dump you out on our pricing page with a success message, go check your email. You get this very sparse, very minimal sheet. Welcome to FullStory email, with a link to login. Hit the login page, you're going to start your free 14 day trial. And then you end up in the app with this beautiful modal that says, "Feel the power of pro for 14 days," which if you're signing up for a free account, you're like, "What's pro? I don't know what this is." But that's okay. You're going to keep going and complete your profile.

Melanie Crissey:
Before this modal was here, FullStory didn't know a lot about the companies, the people that were signing up and how they were trying to use the product. So this was really our attempt to understand our users better, so that when they wrote into support we could help them, so that we could deliver some cool features that add benchmarking capabilities. But we're asking you for a lot of information upfront in this modal. It's even differently styled than the last one you saw. And, oh look, there's another modal.

Melanie Crissey:
So now welcome to FullStory, finally. See what your user sees. This is the first value prop you hit. And from here on, it's all about getting your recording snippet installed. So if you haven't used FullStory before, it's kind of like Google Analytics or any other product analytics tool and in order to get started, you've got to put a little bit of JavaScript on your page, and then it starts feeding the session data into our systems so it can give you charts and graphs and sessions to play back. But you've got to install this piece of code, which requires a little bit of set up. So this is where we're filing you first. If you happen to have Google Tag Manager on your site, we can detect that. We might suggest this additional path, but then you just get into one of these traditional walk me, walk through, step by step modals.

Melanie Crissey:
And this was actually a bespoke, this is not a third party or a different vendor. At the time, we coded this one out ourselves and managed it internally. It makes sure that you understand how to exclude sensitive content from FullStory so that we don't get any private information. And then you're all set. And you get dumped onto this beautiful... I don't know, would you call this a zero state? It's like a waiting... It's a loading screen and just you can't see the animation because it's a slide, but it just kind of glistens forever until you get your first session data in. We found that a lot of people didn't really make it past this screen, or they didn't know what to do when they did hit this screen. Your options are to go back into the tour.

Melanie Crissey:
How did that work for us? How was that onboarding? So this is a FullStory event funnel. We use FullStory on FullStory to understand if FullStory is doing enough FullStorying. And it looks like about 22% of the people who started, who gave us their email on that signup form, ended up hitting play, which was that first magic moment when you get your first FullStory session and you can start to get charts and graphs and understand how customers are using your products. 22% is not great. It's not bad, but it's not great. So there's just a lot of opportunity here.

Melanie Crissey:
Also, in talking to our customers, which is something that I try to do when I can, I heard some feedback that was your pro modal with no way to dismiss is a dark pattern, or what does benchmarking mean? I don't know why you're asking me for this data on the modal. So people were having negative experiences with the modals and we kind of knew that there was an opportunity to improve.

Melanie Crissey:
So these are the goals that we set forth. I should stop and pause for a second and just say huge shout out and thank you to the FullStory design team and development team, and whole product family, because they're super easy to work with. So we recognized this problem. One of the design leaders here, who had been here for a long time, took me aside and was like, "We're going to help you fix this." Our goals were to streamline the modals, which we felt like had just gotten out of control, make it more clear why we were asking for personal data from our customers. It's not sensitive data to ask you your name, but it is personal. So we need to make clear what we're doing with this and why you should give it to us. And we need to optimize for our ah-ha moment, which is you only understand the value of FullStory if you get that snippet installed. So it's got to be everything we can to move the needle there.

Melanie Crissey:
We redid the flow and here's what it starts to look like moving forward. You're still giving us your email address from one of those forms on the site. Instead of dumping you on the pricing page, we're now sending you, you're almost there. Go check your email for an activation link. We gave our activation email a tiny bit of a facelift with a button and a link to support. And this sends you right back to your login page, where you're still going to have to do the rigamarole of setting a password and it's got to be secure enough and all of that.

Melanie Crissey:
Once you're in the app, you are getting that same information from the modal, but in a different, more streamlined format. You know how many steps you have, you're boxed into this single state onboarding, tell us a little bit about you. This data will actually be used to help your teammates recognize you. What's your name? What do you do? We'll actually echo your name back. So we're giving you a little bit of personalization for the first time. Thanks, Melanie. Let's finish setting up your account. We're going to change your features. And then this is where we start to really like, how can we make it easier to get the snippet installed?

Melanie Crissey:
So we've still got the Google Tag Manager option. We've still got the copy and paste option. We've added this new option to send your snippet to a teammate. So what if you're logging in and you don't have access to your code base? Can you email it to an engineer or someone on your team who does have access, someone on your marketing team who does have Google Tag Manager? So we're giving you more options for install. Still putting privacy first, so we're giving you a chance to check out your excluded elements and this time we're actually showing you every single field that we block by default, so that you can see if there are any that you need to cover. And we've changed up the zero state a little bit. So instead of just having that waiting session screen, you now actually can revisit your installation instructions and your privacy settings right from your dashboard.

Melanie Crissey:
How did this do? A little bit better. We added more steps, okay, that's not great. It's counterintuitive. We made it single state inside of the modals and added more steps along the way, but in the end 31%, so that's not bad. We had 22% of people who signed up getting through to snippet install and we moved it to 31%. So initially I'm like great success team. This is a good job. I'm so glad that you spent all this time building this beautiful new onboarding flow for me, compared to what it was before.

Melanie Crissey:
When we start to actually look at these numbers a little bit more closely and giving ourselves a lot more time, an interesting thing I learned is that part of the experience was most important, can you get the recording snippet installed, actually normalizes over time. So when we actually go back and look and say the cohort before the onboarding launch and the cohort after, they're almost the same and in fact, we made a little bit worse by giving more options in order to get it done, which is not what we wanted to do. But I think the fact of the matter is, when we talked to people, we realized that there's only so much the app can do to nudge you to install a piece of JavaScript. If you don't have access or your team is in a two week sprint and you can't ship it until next month when their trial is already over, there is nothing that we can do in this flow that's really going to expedite that process.

Melanie Crissey:
Now, that doesn't mean there aren't other ways that we can make the onboarding experience better, but it means that that ah-ha moment might not be something that we can radically nudge up much further. About 55% might just be kind of where we're always going to be with that. And if you give people enough time, they're going to get that threshold.

Melanie Crissey:
So, we streamlined the modals. We made it more clear why we were asking for data and we bombed on optimizing for ah-ha moment, even though the numbers went up overall. So what moved the needle? It was that optimized part at the top of the funnel. So shout out to John Williams and the marketing team for this great little, you're almost there, iteration. Instead of sending people to the pricing page, we just send them straight to their inboxes. And it was the, maybe even the facelift on this email that helped a little bit. I don't know if it was a trust thing, people were bought in because it looked a little bit more official, but activation link clicks actually improved. So that part of the top of the funnel, the marketing team could have done with relatively low effort, was actually the most impactful to moving the needle.

Melanie Crissey:
And we also got a lot of things wrong. So let's go look at everything we broke. The sign-in with Google Tag Manager, 62% of the people who clicked that hit an error. It was related to browser pop-ups. This was a huge source of frustration. 10% of the people who were going through this flow were on mobile devices, because they had come from the activation email, which they'd probably opened on their phone. So they got this great pinch and zoom experience, which we didn't really prioritize making this mobile first responsive. And then we had these great onboarding emails, so we hadn't talked a lot about the other emails that were riding along this, but we had these onboarding emails we were sending out and looking back, they're super feature driven.

Melanie Crissey:
We're trying to lure you back in to finish your set up by talking to you about all these features that we have, rage grading, which is benchmarking and unlocking page insights. But you don't know what these things are and we're not addressing the problem you came here to solve. So there was just a lot of room to improve this, even though these emails were great and we were glad we were sending them, we could have done it a little bit more effectively.

Melanie Crissey:
At least things didn't get worse, except for they did. Spring of 2018 happens, GDPR is coming. We are thinking a lot about email consent and we didn't have a great email preference center at the time, with the tools we had, it wasn't easy to do. So we said, "Why don't we put it in the product? And just shoehorn it right into the middle of our onboarding flow?" Broke a bunch of things, it adds yet another step, some more friction. This, in hindsight, was not our smoothest move. And do you remember that email we were sending to people who didn't get their snippets installed? We turn it off. We thought we were respecting people's preferences, but really killing off that email killed our install rate. It went down from 55% to 45%. So that was, actually, we didn't realize it. It was driving people and reminding them to come back into the app, even though the click-throughs on the email didn't look like it was that important.

Melanie Crissey:
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the other thing is that there are stakeholders all across the business who need different things from our onboarding flow. When you're thinking about, the customers and how to get them to their magic moment, they're other people were saying, "We need this data to go into these systems, or we're not going to be able to even help these people to begin with." So then we start thinking about, can we throw more fields in there? Marketing team wants to run an attribution survey. Can we put a survey on the page while we're sending people to their inbox? It actually happens to be one of the cutest attribution surveys, but it's just one more thing people have to think about. Can we squeeze in more fields? We now have a sales family. They would really like phone numbers that they could call people. We need to get this company data upfront before they even get in the app. This friction up front might mean that our conversion rates are better down the line, but it's going to change the shape of our funnel for sure.

Melanie Crissey:
Speaking of fields, in the onboarding flow, which we affectionately call the Willard, over here at FullStory, we are asking for all this information about what you do at your job, and we're still not really tailoring the experience for you yet. If you get outreach from a person at FullStory, they might use this to help tailor the conversation, but the app doesn't do anything magical with this. And that just feels like a real missed opportunity. So, we're not actually using the data that we're asking for in the way that you might expect.

Melanie Crissey:
And our onboarding still stops at the ah-ha moment. So it's all about the JavaScript install. Well, this is what you see when you actually get recordings. Why are you going to click the OmniSearch bar? The OmniSearch is the most powerful thing about FullStory. It unlocks all the ability to do funnels and charts and graphs and saved segments. If you don't touch it, then you have nothing. We don't have a lot of zero states or things for you to latch on to. So people were really lost and we needed additional onboarding after they got in and we never really built that out either.

Melanie Crissey:
Still, none of this onboarding optimization matters if you're not running campaigns to the right people. For example, here's a story. We had this great Google AdWords campaign running to a global audience, and it sent people to this landing page that said, searching for the best session playback tool ever, give us your information, and this page was converting really well. People who hit it, gave us their info.

Melanie Crissey:
But behind the scenes, I can see the trends going up and I'm digging into the FullStory data. And I'm saying, "You know what? People are bouncing out of the onboarding, but especially if they're coming from this landing page and this ad campaign. What's going on?" 0% of the users who started in that campaign made it all the way through the funnel to playback. And so we have some loose hypotheses that maybe there was something about this campaign that people didn't really know what session playback was. It was running on Facebook. It was running to a certain demographic. But really we partnered with our demand gen practice, with other people in marketing, to debug the problem and turn off that campaign, just flip the switch and spend that money somewhere else so that we don't have people coming through the funnel that are not going to make it through.

Melanie Crissey:
So that's where I think it's important to talk about how product-led and account-based strategies work together. So here at FullStory, we are doing both. We have a brilliant account-based marketing team. That's all about identifying your best fit customers. A lot of times the ah-ha moment in these scenarios, is happening in a demo. We're looking at qualified opportunities, still looking at conversions to paid, but we really have both things happening at the same time, which is there's also a product-led experience. So that sign-ups and any user who's joining an org, they're going to have their ah-ha moments in the app, maybe in addition to in a demo, but for people joining an org and you miss the demo, this is where they're going to have their magic moment.

Melanie Crissey:
We're looking for product qualified trialers, users, customers, and we still care about conversions, but it's also about retention and expansion play. It's by reducing churn in the long-term. The important thing is just really that you're identifying your best fit customers across the board. And you can do that whether or not you're doing product-led or sales led or account based, whatever it is that you're doing, that should be a critical part of how you're optimizing your activation, is bringing in the right people.

Melanie Crissey:
So all this to say, what are those pitfalls? What did we learn? Data hoarding is a pitfall. Forcing setup before showing people value can be a pitfall. Ignoring errors and frustration, ignoring mobile onboarders, selling features over success, like that email that was all featured based, shoehorning in unrelated stuff, because you just have the real estate, stopping at the ah-ha moment, not continuing the onboarding across the life cycle and targeting bad fit customers.

Melanie Crissey:
Which means our best practices are, collect only the data that you need. So if you're going to ask for something, have a plan right away, ready to move on, where you're actually going to fulfill the promise with what you're going to do with that data. Show value before the installation if you can, if there's anything you can add to your product that is low friction, easy win, lead with that. Squash errors and frustration as they come up. Check for the lowest common device that people will be on and optimize for that, just a easy win. Message for success and not features. Stay streamlined over time, so put your foot down and don't let people shoehorn things into your flow, including yourself. Continue your tailored onboarding. Identify your best fit customers and bonus round, if you've got a preferred buying experience that involves the sales team, you need to dovetail with that.

Melanie Crissey:
So let's see how we're on time. I think we have a minute to just talk a tiny bit about growth at FullStory. At FullStory we have a great sales team here. We have the ability for people to book a demo. We also have a free plan. So we are growing across the spectrum, through multiple channels. Really it's, for us, about meeting customers where they are. Some customers are going to want to start in a free plan and then talk to a salesperson when they're ready. They're going to want to try it on the personal site project, then loop in their company later. And then some customers are going to say, "You know what? I'm not going to invest any time learning your product until you can prove to me that it works." Either way, at some point, those people are going to end up in the product and that's going to be the place where they are, where you can reach them with the messages and things that will help them.

Melanie Crissey:
Behind the scenes, how do we resource all this? At FullStory, we have marketing ops, demand-gen, campaigns, content, customer marketing, product marketing, that's me, sales enablement, whole in-house creative team, hugging, which is our special brand of support, plus success, plus training, they have a lot of input into the product experience as well, and then our whole product family, which is product managers, design, UX, engineering, and then we've got sales ops and BDRs running the account based play with help from marketing. We really have stacked this out. We've got resources across the board and really almost as many salespeople as engineers. It's very balanced in terms of the way that we're approaching this.

Melanie Crissey:
But even with an account-based approach, product-led activation is going to continue to be essential. And remember that's because we know that our product-led tactics can drive and influence qualified opportunities, so we can see someone started a trial and then they went and looped in their teammates and now you have a qualified opp with this great company that wouldn't have known about us if they didn't dip their toes in. It can also increase the sales cycle velocity. If you can prove you're easy to get started with your product, and it's easy to learn, then people are going to want to use it and see value sooner, and they'll be ready to buy. But at the end of the day, it's also about preventing churn, which is a huge part of growth. If you're bringing in more customers, but you're losing more than you're bringing in, you're not growing.

Melanie Crissey:
All right, couple of quick questions in case we have time to get to these. So this came in from a friend on Twitter. How do you weight and measure user feedback, balancing qualitative (user interviews), quantitative (surveys), feedback alongside the development pipeline? For me, this is, use qualitative feedback is a jumping off point for quantitative analysis. For example, somebody told me about the onboarding. After several unintuitive clicks, I finally found the free version. It seems like a dark pattern. I may hear this once or twice from people. I'm really having a hard time finding FullStory free. And then I can go use my analytics tool to understand how many other people are having that problem? How many other people signed up for a free plan, but then at the end, they never clicked convert to free? And then you can start to do the math for how many orgs dropped off or are in expired states because of this? How much effort, what is the level of effort that it would take to resolve this problem? How much money are we leaving on the table? And then you can prioritize it as either a small fix or a big arc of work, because you know it's impacting a lot of your revenue.

Melanie Crissey:
This question, I love this question. How do you include other stakeholders in the process? It feels like product marketing and customer experience all want a seat at the onboarding table, but it's a tough call who gets the final say. My recommendation is start a squad. Even if you don't have a formal concept of squads or cross-functional teams within your company, start an informal group. Get some people together just for a meeting on this task and agree on a process with a deciding framework. In FullStory, we have used different deciding frameworks over time. Sometimes we use this conductor, involved, stakeholders, tastemakers. Sometimes we use, if we do approve it, which is a thing anybody at FullStory can do, in order to prove that a big change needs to happen. There's usually a set of snakeholders or stakeholders and approvers. And so there's a process for determining who has to be unanimously bought in, and then you have individuals and the other groups, like for the onboarding flow, we actually had marketing, design and development together for the delivery prove it.

Melanie Crissey:
Or you can use a rapid framework, if that's something that works for you? The key is just deciding. Okay, when it comes down to brass tacks, who you makes the decision, agree on that ahead of time before you get into the weeds, so that later you can go back and say, "Okay, we agreed that actually UX needs to have the final say, because they're on the line to this KPI." You just have to meet a reference so that everybody's heard, but you know how to move forward.

Melanie Crissey:
How do you handle product release communication? This one's a little bit outside of the realm of what I do, but I can speak to it a little bit. I'm Like, "Ah, product release. That's really hard." How do you balance needs of multiple teams without creating a bottleneck? I think the biggest, biggest bottleneck that seems to happen is, when marketing can't write copy or create collateral because the design for the feature isn't finalized. They can't train on the features if the feature isn't finalized. So, I would say give yourself time for the features set and make sure that product and marketing are syncing as soon as it's prioritized for development. Make sure that all the stakeholders agree on the adoption goals and the size of the release, because those marketing campaigns are going to actually influence whether the product team can hit their numbers in terms of adoption.

Melanie Crissey:
And then once it shifts, you need to measure results and have UX side by side monitoring for usability, and you just iterate and relaunch it. If the first launch didn't work, just launch it again. But really, the biggest thing, do as I say, not as I do. Is like marketers, don't set your OKR, key results stuff or your KPIs around a launch date that is not within your control, because often you're just going to be waiting on product to finish and they know when it's ready to go live. So give yourself some wiggle room.

Melanie Crissey:
That is it. Thank you so, so much for sitting in this talk, every onboarding mistake I made, so you don't have to. As a thank you, I do want to point you guys to a secret page. So this is actually, full transparency, this is our promo page for our Y Combinator startups. Startups can go to this page for a 30 day trial, but I'm inviting product-led community, if you want to hit this page and get a free 30 day trial of FullStory, just like a YC company, you can do so. If you want to add the little pram on there, so I know you're coming from here, that'd be so courteous, but either way, sign up. Give it a try. And if you have questions or issues, send me a tweet. I'd love to hear from you.

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Gretchen Duhaime
Melanie Crissey
Senior Product Marketing Manager of Netlify
Product Marketer, Growth & Adoption, FullStory