There are so many onboarding tools for SaaS available, it can be overwhelming for product managers.
When designing an onboarding toolstack, we’ve found it’s best to start from your users’ needs. Why are they using your product? And what do they need to know or do to succeed? Once you understand those things, it’s far easier to assess different onboarding tools.
In this blog, we’ll get you started by comparing eight of the best onboarding tools in different categories:
Onboarding is the process of helping new users to a point where they can use and get value from your service.
While it can be done person-to-person (sometimes called “concierge onboarding”), in SaaS it is usually delivered on a self-serve basis in-app through automation, via contextual and goal-based triggers.
Your onboarding toolstack is made up of all the different software tools that are used to deliver onboarding experiences to your users.
In SaaS, it’s standard practice to bring together a wide variety of third-party apps to perform different roles within a single service rather than to develop everything you need in-house.
Your users will have lots of different use cases, priorities, problems, and different tools they’re using alongside yours.
That’s why you’ll normally need several onboarding tools in your stack: to cater to users’ individual needs, rather than forcing them all to follow one single workflow.
For us, the most important types of tool in onboarding are:
The rest of this blog takes a closer look at two of the best tools on the market in each category.
Webinars are great for onboarding, because most people learn far more effectively by being shown how to do things than reading about it.
Automated webinars enable you to take users through onboarding activities at scale and on demand with pre-recorded demos or training sessions.
Obviously, this is far more cost-effective than hosting the same webinar repeatedly for new cohorts of users. Plus, automated webinars can be used by many different teams:
But different tools have different capabilities. Let’s explore some of them.
eWebinar is ideal for SaaS customer success teams, marketing teams in SaaS and technology businesses, and entrepreneurs.
As the only platform dedicated exclusively to automated webinars, eWebinar gives you an exceptionally wide range of features which is always expanding, and which takes the whole process of webinar design, sign-up optimization and follow-up into account.
Anybody looking to build high-quality, interactive automated webinars into their onboarding flows should sign up for free with eWebinar.
Enterprises that will be running large numbers of webinars, necessitating multiple user accounts and billing options. Complex products that need very bespoke concierge onboarding.
Video conferencing giant Zoom has upped its webinar game this year, launching a bolt-on Zoom Webinars tool. But it’s still aimed at live webinars, not automated, pre-recorded ones.
The features are skewed towards networking and conversation:
This limits Zoom Webinars’ use for building automated webinars into your onboarding workflows. It is much more suited towards training groups of users on specific, bespoke use cases.
One of the best places to onboard users is inside your app itself.
Context is key: users are best placed to learn, remember and act when the guidance and the functionality is right in front of them.
In-app messaging tools need to be in your onboarding toolstack so you can provide contextual help and information at the moment it’s needed, using:
With in-app messaging, you can hold your users’ hands and help them overcome workflow friction points so as to realize value as quickly as possible.
SaaS product managers and product marketing managers. Userpilot has been specifically designed to let these people build out a massive range of onboarding experiences without code.
It’s ideal for mid-sized Saas companies that want to activate and engage their users, improve retention and reduce churn.
Userpilot excels in the variety of user onboarding experiences it allows you to create. As well as all the UI elements mentioned above, it enables you to deploy:
Experiences can be activated by a wide range of triggers based on user history, recent actions, cohort, plus self-defined custom segments.
Critically, Userpilot offers unlimited feature usage to all users - rather than reserving some features for customers who pay more.
Drift is a great tool for Product Marketers and Customer Success Managers to communicate with their customers in-app using chatbots to deliver timely and personalized messages based on the users’ stage in the user journey.
Drift offers some cool communication tools that will allow you to improve engagement, feature adoption, and retention in addition to what e.g. Userpilot does:
Personalized intelligence lets you personalize messages based on your user’s / visitors movements through your site.
Drift’s Personalized Intelligence
Drift offers custom pricing, so you can’t easily figure it out from the website. Good news though - you can chat with their chatbot to find out! :)
In-app messaging is essential for onboarding users when they’re logged in. But what about getting them back to your app when they’re not?
Email automation tools are another vital part of your onboarding toolstack for:
Let’s take a look at some options.
ActiveCampaign is aimed at sales and marketing teams in small to mid-sized businesses in all verticals that need email automation and CRM functionality.
ActiveCampaign boasts an extensive library of ready-made (and device-responsive) message templates, which is very helpful.
It also supports a lot of third-party integrations - and their team will migrate you from other platforms for free!
Most importantly, ActiveCampaign offers an extremely wide range of email (and other) automation options. You can deliver triggered campaigns, automatic segmentation, dynamic email content, and even go multichannel with SMS.
Finally, the built-in CRM combines perfectly with the complex automation options.
The downside? It’s not easy to use. This is an advanced tool that beginners will struggle with.
Drip is at the other end of the complexity scale to ActiveCampaign. It’s built with simplicity in mind, making it ideal for general marketers and for smaller or less experienced businesses - particularly in e-commerce and SaaS.
Two things set Drip apart from other email automation tools.
Firstly, it’s easy, intuitive and even fun to use. With a very up-to-date look, Drip’s range of pre-defined customer actions make it very straightforward to get started, even with complex campaigns. Although it lacks the email template library depth that ActiveCampaign has, Drip’s template builder is simple and packed with options.
Secondly, its focus on e-commerce. Indeed, Drip positions itself as an “e-Commerce Relationship Management” platform. So, if your workflows focus on B2C selling, stock management, product descriptions and comparisons, etc Drip has a huge head start.
From $19/month for up to 500 contacts (prices scale with contact numbers - $1,199/month for 100,000)
No matter how well designed your onboarding flows are, some users will run into problems.
Your onboarding toolstack needs to include functionality for users to raise and you to solve their problems. Ideally, you would have both:
There are loads of different ways of providing support to users. Here are two of the best.
Intercom is a massive product, with three main strands: user engagement (chat and chatbots); product walkthroughs; and support ticket management. The first is Intercom’s strongest suit by some distance - the others are somewhat lacking.
Any product manager or product marketing manager who wants to provide automated conversational support can benefit from Intercom’s features.
Automated conversational support enables you to solve a huge number of commonly-recurring user problems, 24/7, without adding cost - and Intercom provides some of the best, most sophisticated and easy to use chatbots available.
Intercom’s bots use machine learning to offer up suitable answers to questions, meaning that you don’t have to program it extensively to get started and that it gets better at solving problems over time.
It has a wide range of integrations, making it easy to plug into your stack, but the analytics provided are relatively poor.
Finally, Intercom’s pricing is opaque to say the least. That lack of transparency, and the fact that all packages include some of the weaker product tour and support features, is a bit of a turn-off.
Whereas Intercom’s chatbots are great for solving recurring, simple problems, Zendesk is tailored for handling complex, unique support tickets.
It’s not really aimed at self-serve onboarding, being best suited to businesses where users encounter complicated problems that need personal attention to resolve.
Zendesk is undoubtedly one of the best support tools available in terms of features, integrations, workflows and automations.
In particular, the power to link tickets together is great for learning from and building on knowledge your agents develop over time - and these can be collated into a valuable knowledge base (with advanced search capabilities).
However, Zendesk’s analytics are excessively complicated and difficult to set up, which is a definite negative.
At the Suite level, Zendesk bundles up a load of weaker features alongside the customer support functionality - but if you’re buying it solely for the support tools, it’s excellent value.
The single most important point to bear in mind is that there is no ideal one-size-fits-all solution for onboarding out there.
That’s why assembling a bespoke onboarding toolstack that addresses the needs of your users is critical. Some tools that seem necessary to one company will be a waste of money for others.
But the types of tool we’ve looked at here are important for the vast majority of businesses, particularly in SaaS - and in our opinion, the options we’ve discussed are the best of the bunch.
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