Mobile Commerce
Mobile Commerce
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 min read
July 11, 2022

Why Mobile App Onboarding is Essential?


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If you think about it, using a new app is a lot like meeting a person for the first time. You either naturally vibe with that person or make the experience confusing and awkward. In the digital world, first impressions are everything. If your app’s onboarding screens make users feel “meh!”, you might as well consider them gone.

When it comes to making first impressions on a mobile app, the onboarding steps are your best bet. This article will briefly discuss why onboarding is an indispensable part of the app experience.

But first…

What is app onboarding?

In layman's terms, it is a series of steps whose sole purpose is to guide users through the app’s interface and functions. This process is used by businesses to strategically communicate with the app’s users and enhance their overall user experience. The following are the main functions of the onboarding steps:

  • Educating users about the app’s features and benefits
  • Get profile information that will be used to deliver a personalized user experience  

Why is it essential?

For first-time users of your app, it may be difficult to instantly know how to start using it. This is especially true when your app is different from other apps they are used to in terms of interface. Statistics show that 21% of all users will only use an app once if it takes more than usual for them to figure out how it works.

A solid onboarding experience helps ensure that first-time users of your app get a seamless experience. This, in turn, reduces the share of users abandoning the app. The onboarding experience should also be optimized to ensure continuous app usage, ensuring the overall success of the app.

To understand the importance of app onboarding, we need to look into the three phases of user retention:

  1. Short-term retention: This is the most important phase where the initial interaction happens. The positive or negative effect that happens here influences the other two phases.
  2. Mid-term retention: The goal here is to form new habits and create repetition in the routine.
  3. Long-term retention: The focus here is on improving the app’s overall user experience in the long run.

Since the biggest drop-offs happen during the short-term retention phase, make sure a new user uses the app more than once during the first week. If you do this, you can activate early-stage usage and slowly increase retention. In fact, a smooth onboarding process has been proven to increase user retention by up to 50%.

There are over 2.8 million apps in Google Play Store and 1.9 Million apps in Apple App Store. With so much competition, one of the biggest competitive advantages would be to make an excellent first impression. The faster you can communicate the value of your app to users, the bigger the chances of them using the app more than once.

A strong onboarding experience leads to happy users, which leads to organic downloads as a result of word-of-mouth recommendations. The result? Higher app store ranking and overall visibility.

Apps are the most efficient means for users to complete tasks. Apps remember preferences and personalize experiences in a way that websites can’t. But getting users to actually commit to using an app is tricky. This is where onboarding comes into play to showcase how the app can enrich their experience.

Types of onboarding

Now you know why onboarding is essential for mobile apps, let's briefly look at the different types of onboarding.

Benefits-oriented onboarding

This is a very straightforward onboarding process where users are shown the benefit or value your app provides. This process does not focus much on how the app works but on what it does and why it is beneficial for users. Apps that require users to sign up can benefit the most from this approach.

Function-oriented onboarding

Unlike benefits-oriented onboarding, this one focuses on the app’s functionalities and shows users how it works. This approach is best used for apps that have complex features. Be careful to focus only on the main features of the app for this type of onboarding. Otherwise, you risk your users losing interest due to information overload.

Progressive onboarding

Rather than giving out all instructions at the very beginning, progressive onboarding gives instructions to users as they naturally move from one functionality to another. This ensures users are not overloaded with information. This type of onboarding is best suited for apps that have complex interfaces/ workflows, multiple sections, and hidden functionalities.

Interactive onboarding

As the name suggests, users will interact with the app during the process. The best example of this is using interactive quizzes to make the process more fun and engaging.

Account setup onboarding

The goal here is to make sure users set up their accounts before they start using the app. You would have seen this as common practice among social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram.

Hybrid onboarding

Most apps these days use a combination of onboarding approaches. There are many possible combinations that you can use for your app. Create a few versions based on user research or past data and run tests to see which one is performing better.

Summing Up!

By now, you would have understood the importance of onboarding users to your app. If you want users to get familiar with what your app does and how to use it, do not skip adding onboarding to it.  

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