It takes a fraction of a second to make a positive first impression when meeting a new person.
And the same concept applies in the digital world: first impressions set the tone for how a customer perceives your brand, site, or app. In fact, research shows that over 90% of consumers think that companies “could do better” when it comes to onboarding new users and/or customers.
One great way to analyze and improve the new user experience is through customer journey mapping. Customer journey mapping is used to understand and coordinate the interactions that shoppers have with brands over time, across sequential touchpoints. In other words, CJMs reveal how consumers navigate your digital experience.
Whether you’re a SaaS provider, an online banking platform, or any other digital organization, here’s what you need to know about using customer journey maps to create a new user experience that drives loyalty and retention.
The benefits of an optimized onboarding experience
Optimizing user onboarding reduces their time-to-value
Time to value is the time it takes for new customers or users to receive the value they were expecting from your product.
A shorter time to value benefits everyone involved—your company has satisfied customers, and your customers have a product that meets their needs. By creating an onboarding experience that enables new users to quickly and painlessly learn their way around, you can ensure that new users aren’t wasting valuable time stumbling around as they attempt to navigate your product.
New user experiences are critical for product-led growth
Product-led growth (PLG)—a business approach in which user acquisition, expansion, and retention are primarily led by the product itself—requires that customers can self-serve. PLG cannot be successful if new users can’t onboard themselves to your product, making an intuitive new user experience critical.
Generating insights with journey maps
It’s easy to see why an optimized onboarding experience is important to customer satisfaction and retention, but what exactly should you be looking for in your journey maps?
Ask yourself the following questions to start building a journey map for your organization:
How does a user find their way through my product for the first time?
Do real user behaviors match the “happy path” we predicted they’d take?
When a new user lands on our website, which menu items, product tabs, or product categories tend to be the first pages they visit?
Where do new users exit their first experience? Do these reveal ways that we can keep users on the page/in the product?
Building an onboarding journey map in 5 steps
1. Outline your goals
As with beginning any optimization project, an onboarding journey map should begin with assessment and intention-setting. To align on both the current state of the new user experience and to understand the intended outcomes, ask questions like:
Are we currently seeing significant drop out rates in the onboarding process? (It’s likely that the answer to this is “yes” if you’re reading this.)
Have we heard any feedback from customers about the new user experience? (This might give you a clue as to where to focus.)
How simple or complex is our current onboarding flow?
What are the specific goals and hypotheses of this project?
2. Determine what to include in your onboarding journey map
Journey maps monitor designated customer touchpoints. For a general onboarding journey map, you’ll want to include every touchpoint in the new user experience. Depending on the type of business and the customers you cater to, these might include:
Opt-in and sign-up forms
Welcome emails and follow-up emails
New user training
First-time user product walkthroughs
Customer support and technical support
3. Create a timeline
While every customer journey is slightly different, they are typically pretty sequential. For example, mapping out the steps in a customer journey for a SaaS company might look like:
A new user visits the site and signs up for an account
The user receives a welcome email, clicks it, and is taken to the login page
They log in to the product for the first time
They interact with a feature walkthrough that pops up upon first login
As you get deeper into customer journey mapping, you might even break this down into smaller pieces. For instance, you could build a journey map entirely based on new-user sign-ups, analyzing what users do right before or after they fill out a sign up form, and so on.
4. Set specific goals
Each point in the journey should have a goal or ideal outcome that should be documented in the journey mapping process. For example, the goal of a welcome email might be that the user follows a CTA to watch a video tutorial on navigating the product.
5. Analyze and implement changes
As you begin to collect customer journey data, watch out for trends or points of friction. For instance, if you see that a noticeable percentage of users are struggling on your sign up form, you might have uncovered an opportunity to improve.
Journey maps can also help you spot any trouble spots in onboarding where new users might deviate from your intended path. In other words: if your onboarding journey for new users isn't matching their expectations, you could see unexpected path deviations or repeating loops of steps in your journey map because customers are straying from your intended workflow.