Shift, Director of Product Michael Foucher, and his team recently realized that their customer onboarding process was not performing as well as they liked, so they undertook the daunting task of analyzing and creating a new onboarding process. Below he shares his own experience and a must-have checklist to improve your onboarding experience.

Onboarding Success Checklist:

  1. Analyze your customer journey
  2. Understanding your data
  3. Build and test
  4. Make it interactive
  5. Have a plan for post onboarding

Analyze your customer journey

Knowing your customers from start to finish is crucial to a personalized onboarding experience. We want to prevent dropoff right from the beginning by keeping track of analytics such as website visits and conversion rates. We can also gain extremely valuable insights from conducting customer interviews to understand what their journey is like the second they visit our website. We can then iterate our landing pages according to customer feedback and data to provide a seamless experience. 

Our main goal in this stage is to make it very easy for our users and remove any potential reasons that may prevent them from following through with their download. For example, people may come across a Shift advertisement on their mobile devices and decide to download it, which wouldn’t be possible since Shift is a desktop app. This is friction that we’re hoping to solve or at the very least, make easier for our customers.

When designing the customer journey and improving your onboarding experience, every minuscule decision should be analyzed thoroughly, and potential negative consequences must be considered and addressed.

Understanding your data

Data is so important and it must be utilized throughout the onboarding journey. Collecting the data isn’t the difficult part; being able to analyze it in a meaningful way, discover trends, and make inferences is often the challenge. Instrument every aspect of the workflow in your app, and before you finish or complete any feature in your function, you want to visualize a report you want to see from it. Your data will tell you whether or not it’s working. Don’t hold onto certain features or ideas; if something isn’t working, it’s best to either iterate on it or start with a new approach. If you notice a trend in drop-offs, interpret this data in a meaningful way and act accordingly. 

Build and Test

Now that you have your data, it’s time to A/B test! See if you can tweak the flow to minimize dropoff. As part of the iteration process of any product, you need the capacity to change it and test it against its baseline. You’ll likely never stop iterating because users’ preferences and needs are constantly changing, and you have to change with them.

For example, your customers might get stuck on a particular screen of the onboarding process because they’re unsure of the next steps. If that’s the case, you might want to test different languages or edit the flow to ensure you’ve built an easy platform for your users to explore and get the most out of the product. 

Make it Interactive

This seems obvious, but make the platform interactive wherever you can! Everyone engages with a product differently, so personalizing the interactive experiences will benefit them greatly. When a user begins onboarding, they’re likely dropped into the app, which can be overwhelming with all the new skills and tasks they’re expected to learn. To best encourage the customer to explore the app and discover its features, we recommend offering them a physical checklist once they’ve entered the app. For example, in Shift, the checklist consists of all the essential tools we think users should familiarize themselves with. We even have three levels on the checklist that the customer can identify themselves as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. They could complete the tasks based on how well-versed they want to be with Shift and what tools/features they would use daily. We made it a point for the checklist to not bother the users too much, and they could ignore it altogether, but just enough so that they feel encouraged to complete it. Given that our app is all about productivity, I’m sure we have a lot of completists out there that feel inclined to check off the little boxes in the list!  

Have a Post Onboarding Plan

Once our customers have gone through the checklist and initial setup of the program, we want to consider how we can reach them by email and push them toward our knowledge base. Now that you have all the valuable information, like their email address and phone number, you have to be critical of the content you decide to share. It’s easy to bombard your subscribers with messaging that you think is important, but you must be selective about what’s worthy of their time and attention. Focus on the quality rather than the quantity of your content. Each email or text message could be the reason for an unsubscribe, so always ask yourself if the outgoing message adds value. Some emails you may want to consider sending are tips and tricks for the app, blog content, and product promotions. 


After onboarding is complete, there is a lot to analyze and improve on. Onboarding is a living and breathing process that is continuously changing based on new findings such as drop-off data and customer feedback. Remember to analyze your customer journey, understand and analyze your data, build and test this data, make it interactive for your users, and have a plan for post-onboarding. After following these steps, you should feel confident enough to improve your onboarding experience and overall customer journey!