Guarantee the success of your e-commerce platform with excellent customer onboarding

When a new e-commerce platform fails, it’s easy to blame the technology. Sometimes the tech actually is the culprit, but more often than not it’s simply because companies fail to persuade their customers to actually use it.

Customer onboarding relates to every aspect of how you welcome customers to your website and brand ecosystem. Research shows that customer onboarding is extremely important, as it lays the foundation for the relationship you build with your customers. It plays a key part in whether or not they will trust the new online way of doing business with you. When done properly it can increase customer profitability, satisfaction, and loyalty. Here are 7 tips for developing your approach:

1. Plan early

When projects are underway, the infamous go-live date is the main focus for most stakeholders. This date gets so much focus from the beginning, that people often forget to plan for what happens the day after go-live. If you only start thinking about this in a later stage of the project – or even worse, after the go-live date – it can be difficult and costly to correctly control and steer the process. Some questions you should answer early on, preferably in the design phase:

  1. Will you be rolling out to all your customers at once? If you have different customer segments with different needs, make sure to design the onboarding to match the release to its relevant segment.
  2. Do you need to roll out to different countries? Each country can have very different needs as well – with one of the most obvious being language.

2. Organize yourself

Start the process of training and informing the people that will handle the customer onboarding, such as sales and customer service staff, as early as possible. Research by Userlane shows that employees have concerns about learning how to use technology. They often feel initiatives are just pushed on them, without having a real say. By making sure you involve these people early on, their frustration is likely to be minimized and they tend to be more positive towards the product. Also consider that these people might be able to add new knowledge about your customers, and how to approach the onboarding.

Another reason why we highly recommend training your staff in using the new digital product, is that otherwise there’s a real risk of it not being adopted by customer service or sales. If you ensure your staff is comfortable with the product, they can guide customers through the new ordering process through one of the many tools that lets them access the customers’ account.

3. Communicate clearly

Communication, or more specifically lack thereof, is listed by executives as one of the main reasons why onboarding fails. To make communication as clear and effective as possible, it’s important that you know and understand your customer. There’s usually a good opportunity to get to know your customers better during the design phase of your product.

Be smart about it and reuse material and assets here, such as customer journeys and personas. Have another look at these when you’re creating your onboarding strategy, so you know what will work best with your specific customers (such as using instructional videos, emails, calls, or demos). Depending on the methods you choose, the onboarding can be set up as automated as needed, and integrated into your website through features such as coach marks, that appear the first time someone visits, or tooltips that provide more information about a specific feature or field.

4. Test yourself

When working with digital products, testing is always important. When it comes to the importance of onboarding, the same holds true. you can have a beta version and very light MVP, which you test with a certain segment of your customers before giving all your customers access. This also allows you to test how your onboarding works.

So when collecting feedback from your customers make sure to ask them about their onboarding experience. Was there enough information available, or perhaps too much information even? Did they understand all the steps? Gathering and acting on this information increases the chance that the majority of your customers have a great onboarding experience, making it more likely that they adopt your new online channel and stay on board.

5. Measure your performance

As soon as you start rolling out to your customers, you should be measuring customer behaviour too. This qualitative click data can be combined with qualitative experience data, showing you how to adjust about onboarding strategy if needed. This is easy to do and will immediately give you valuable insights about how to improve the onboarding.

Always define SMART objectives and use Google Analytics, or a similar tool, to measure progress. This objective can be a specific increase in orders placed online within a set number of months, or getting a higher percentage of customers to return to the site each week.

6. Provide incentives

Providing incentives can be a very effective tool when you want to motivate people to change the way they do things. To encourage their customers to favour their new online shop, some brands offer vouchers for online orders, discounts on products online, or freebies with their first online order.

7. Align with your other channels

Aligning with other online channels is sometimes forgotten, either because a completely different department is responsible for those channels, not the e-com team that manages the new website. This siloed way of thinking can leave a weird impression with your customer – especially if there’s a completely new style on the website that doesn’t match your Facebook page or newsletter for instance. You don’t have to deep dive into an omni-channel solution if you don’t think you’re ready for that, but aligning content and branding is always a good place to start, with low cost and relatively high returns.

Digital is never done

In the digital, world there’s no real end date. A product is never considered truly finished – you simply keep improving it, until one day you replace it with something even better. You have to do this in order to attract new customers and ensure your existing customers continue to use it. This is achieved through both technical improvements and new features, but keeping the content on your site up to date and engaging is equally important.

Don’t let the hero banner read “Welcome to our new webshop” for an entire year. This is confusing for the customer and shows that the site isn’t actively updated, devaluating it and making it less attractive. Make sure your content managers frequently update content and products. This engages your customers and makes your site feel relevant. When comparing our clients’ products, we often see that the ones that manage to do this also generate a steeper increase in average order value.

Customer onboarding is critical to the success of your product, because it’s the first impression you leave with your customers. It sets the tone for the entire online relationship you build with them. Make sure your strategy stays customer-centric, plan customer onboarding early in the process, train your people, be open to feedback, and change your approach when new information is available. You only get one.