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Podcast Recap: Creating a Continued Onboarding Experience

Updated: Jan 31

If you want to make the biggest impact on retention, you need to focus on your user’s onboarding experience.

You don’t believe me?

Here’s a sad graph Appcues shared on the impact onboarding has on retention

Appcues onboarding churn chart

It shows that in just 1 week, 75% of users have vanished! and by the end of the month, only 6% of registered users stuck around. Yikes.

That’s why I’m shining the spotlight on Pulkit Agrawal, the Co-founder of Chameleon, a tool that helps you build a powerful onboarding experience through the use of tooltips and product guides.

The details

In this post, I am recapping episode 7 from my favorite podcast Churn.FM. Andrew interviewed Pulkit to learn how we can “Build a churn busting user onboarding experience”.

Aside from running the team over at Chameleon, Pulkit also serves as a mentor at The Refiners, a San Francisco based accelerator, and 500 Startups, a venture capital firm.

Churn.FM is hosted by my friend Andrew Michael. Andrew brings on big names in SaaS to help us understand churn, customer retention, and other related topics.

So let’s dive into this recap, here are the 3 takeaways:

  1. What is Onboarding and who’s doing it well?

  2. The impact of onboarding on retention

  3. Segmentation in onboarding

What is Onboarding and who’s doing it well?

User onboarding… No, it’s not just a few pops up at the beginning of a user’s journey. At Chameleon, user onboarding is seen as something that extends beyond that––it’s built into the entire user’s lifecycle.

Pulkit mentions that onboarding starts at the time anyone has an experience with your product or service. This reaches back to before they sign up because before signing up, they’ve probably seen an ad, an event, or visited your websites. It’s important to keep in mind these other touch points because you’re shaping their expectations around your product.

Who is doing it well

Duolingo is at the top of Pulkit’s lists. It’s playful and engaging. From the very beginning, you’re starting to “do” and this helps users take action early on in their journey. This approach of getting users to “do” things quickly in the product should be the goal. Pulkit mentions that user onboarding isn’t about showing people your product or giving them a full-on tour of all the functionality. They haven’t come to your product just to learn how it works. They’ve come to solve some need or fulfill some desire. That being said, the faster you get your customers from point A to point B, the better.

Another example of a good onboarding is Slack. They use bright bold colors and warm aesthetics and this comes from a place of being confident in their onboarding. They want to draw attention to their onboarding and they present it in such a way that shouts “this is valuable and you should pay attention”.

One tip Pulkit has is that as you start building your onboarding journey, be confident, and be proud! What you build should be something loveable and it shouldn’t be something that is built at the end of the product with little love.

The impact of onboarding on retention

Back when Pulkit worked for a mobile consumer product, he spent a lot of time conducting user research as he was trying to drive top of funnel growth. When it came to 90-day retention, onboarding helped people understand the app and in turn, it was the biggest impact on retention. This big push from onboarding as well as the idea of continuing to show users new tools/functionalities increases engagement.

And this is really important because as your product continues to evolve, so many things are happening. Your sphere of functionality is expanding so if you’re not showing existing users how to use these new functionalities, they are essentially using less of your product. This can ultimately lead them to churn. This is why we’re seeing the space of Product Marketing and Customer Marketing starting to really take off.

Another thing that Pukilt points out is that your users aren’t the same users that signed for the product. They may have a different understanding of the market or their value proposition changed so a continued onboarding is needed to keep these users up to date on the ways the product is evolving and hopefully reduce churn.

How to measure success with user onboarding

There are a few ways to measure success in onboarding and obviously, you want to drive long-term engagement. But there’s a difference between looking at leading indicators and lagging indicators.

If you’re focusing on 90-day retention and that’s your key metric for driving onboarding, there are 3 months of waiting around before you can evaluate the impact. This would be a lagging indicator. What you’ll need is also something that’s a leading indicator like activation. For example, if you know that people who are retained for 90 days typically take certain actions in the first 7 days of usage like inviting users, this could be a correlation. Ultimately, you want to find causation like an action(s) that helps them find more value and stick around.

There’s a difference between the metric you’re trying to drive as a Product Owner and what the user experience is like. Remember that your users don’t care about the metric––or even know that the metric exists––they just care about aha moments. This is a point of delight when they truly internalize the value your product provides. So as a Product Owner, you want to be thinking about those aha moments that can give them some of these delights which provide them with the motivation to continue on their journey and eventually get them to this metric you’re trying to drive.

Segmentation in onboarding

Segmenting your users is a big opportunity and the lowest hanging fruit. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all because this doesn’t work in most other transactions so why would it work when learning software? No one wants a non-personalized experience.

Here’s the example Pulkit shared, if you’re an admin and you just signed up for some software, the things you need to do are very different from the things just a team member needs to do. It’s like saying, “if I’m a marketer, my goals might be very different from a designer.”

Segmentation or targeting of your messaging or in-product flow is a simple solution to provide a personalized experience. And of course, there’s a lot of doubt here because we’re talking about spending engineering time on this and it’s an iterative process so it will need improvement over time. But that’s why services like Chameleon exist. It’s a matter of finding the time in-house or using something pre-built to help out with the process.

Another example shared aside from the user role is company size. When Chameleon first got started, they were very self-serve driven but over time, they’ve learned that for different personas, a different style of onboarding may be of value. With enterprise buyers, they’re looking for a demo call, the expectation they have is that someone will show them the product before they even try it. The Chameleon team needed to change their approach so that the smaller companies can quickly try it out without a demo and the larger companies have a different experience. This is based on the expectations both of these personas have.

To get to a place of understanding what these larger companies expected, Pulkit and his team spoke to a consultant and other people that had designed and built flows. Along their journey, they also tried chatbots, videos and so many other things. Sitting down with larger buyers and having conversations around expectations and their needs allowed Pulkit and his team to realize things on their own and apply those learnings.


  1. User onboarding doesn’t start when a user signs up, it starts before that

  2. There’s no end date to user onboarding, as the product evolves, you need a continued onboarding experience to keep your users up to date on the changes

  3. The key to a personalized onboarding experience is segmenting your use.

Shout outs

Thanks to Churn FM  for hosting Pulkit Agrawal on their podcast! You can go follow Churn FM on Twitter. And if you want to hear more from Pulkit, follow him on LinkedIn.


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