9 Tips For Developing the Perfect Onboarding Plan for New IoT App Users

By Special Guest
Hunter Jensen, Founder and CEO, Barefoot Solutions
August 21, 2017

Developing an onboarding plan for apps is never easy. Tack on the added user support and training for IoT products, and you face the unique challenge of getting users started with a physical product, and app, without them feeling overwhelmed.

A good onboarding plan could mean the difference between a successful product and a failure. Long term use over time has always been an issue for apps, and though app abandonment rates are going down, they’re still at about 23 percent, which means that only 73 percent of app users use an app more than once. This number is for all mobile apps, so it doesn’t take into account the specific difficulties in onboarding an app tied to an IoT device. In this blog post, I will break down the differences in onboarding for IoT specific apps, and steps you can follow when building your next onboarding plan so you can set yourself up for IoT app success.

The Two-Sided Challenges

The fact that IoT apps have a physical product tied to app use adds a new dimension of difficulty when onboarding new app users. When creating an onboarding plan, developers need to recognize a new set of pain points for the consumer stemming from the physical product. These include:

  • Packaging: Consumers don’t like to deal with packaging that’s difficult to open and leaves behind a lot of waste.
  • Instructions: Instruction manuals, either in print or on CD/DVD, create an impression that users have a lot to learn before using the product. Most often, consumers will ignore these materials and try to set up the product themselves, which can bring its own set of frustrations.
  • Syncing: Just like setting up Bluetooth in your car, IoT apps need to be synced to the device. This adds an extra set of steps that will need explaining, especially for those whose experience with wireless technology is limited.

Essentially, IoT apps bring together two sets of consumer challenges: those of the product and of the app. It’s all the more important with IoT apps to create a solid onboarding plan, from initial setup to tutorials to user retention. Let’s dive into our tips for making this possible.

Getting Started

1. Include App Downloading Instructions in Product Packaging

Include in your straightforward instructions how customers can download the app for their product, preferably by giving a simple link to your website. The link should direct to a landing page developed to automatically detect the type of device consumers are using, and forward them to the appropriate app store. A website link provides a universal place for users across all devices to go — meaning you can give all consumers, regardless of operating system, one simple instruction for downloading your app.

If you have the means to run an SMS server for your app, you can also offer users the ability to text a specific phone number, which will send them a link to download your app.

2. Avoid Account Fatigue with Social Logins

According to social login provider Janrain, 92 percent of users will leave a website rather than recovering or resetting login credentials. This is the result of account fatigue, or the pressure on users of having to remember usernames and passwords for all their accounts. Developers can avoid this by having users sign in via a social media profile like Facebook or Twitter via an API.

Understanding Your App

3. Highlight the Benefits

One way is to speak to your app’s core benefits and features right from the start. Walk-through tutorials can highlight the benefit of each feature one-by-one. A couple ways to accomplish this include:

  • Slideshows: A quick slide presentation can highlight different features of your app before users get started. Make sure to keep these presentations brief, and consider adding a skip button for users who may have downloaded your app before.
  • Arrows and symbols: Another option is to just point out the main features of your app upon first opening. Use arrows and symbols to highlight buttons and navigation (e.g. menus) users need to know.

4. Include Video Tutorials

New users may be unsure of how to use your app with the paired device. Include video tutorials in your app to show users how to set up the product (some may not have gotten that far) and how your app interacts with it.

5. Show Tutorial Progress

No matter the tutorial type you choose, always make apparent the progress the user has made. For slideshows, indicate which slide they’re out of the total (e.g. “2/5"). If you’re using an in-app tutorial, show a progress bar at the bottom. Showing progress helps reduce abandonment by laying out expectations for the user.

6. Easy Access to Support

Go one step further and ensure users have easy in-app access to support. This can include having support documentation within the app, or including a link that redirects them to a mobile-friendly support section of your website.

Even better, consider offering an in-app chat service, allowing users to speak instantly with a customer service representative through direct messaging within your app. The ability to access help quickly, and with an actual human on the other end, goes a long way towards making users feel supported and can quell minor frustrations they have with their new product right away.

7. Gamify Your App

Who doesn’t enjoy seeing unlocked achievements or an interactive interface? Gamification can keep a user interested in your app long after they first install it. MailChimp, for example, gives users “High Fives” after completing a task. Customer support platform does something similar by giving users “badges” for achievements, like closing a certain number of cases.

8. Rely on In-App and Push Notifications

Another way to keep users coming back is to remind them about your app through notifications. Notify them to complete their profile information. Ping them if they haven’t opened your app after a prolonged period of time. Remind them about an achievement they’re about to hit.

Remember that not all users will appreciate the constant notifications. Instagram has received some backlash over the many notifications users can get. Ensure users can easily change their notification settings, and be considerate about when you send push notifications.

9. Use Progressive Login and Profiling

User info is important for understanding your customers and target market, but knowing when to ask, and how much to ask for, is a balancing act. When you first meet somebody, you know not to barrage them with questions about their entire family history — getting too personal too fast is a sure way to kill a potential friendship. The same applies to your brand’s relationship with its users.

Asking too much upon account registration can turn users off. User fatigue aside, is all that data really necessary for creating a profile? Today, mobile authentication is a faster, more secure process than email.

After account creation, you can slowly ask for more information — a process called progressive profiling. Companies like LinkedIn rate the strength of user profiles, based on the amount of detail in their profiles. Once users add more information about themselves, LinkedIn increases their profile strength rating (this is another type of gamification).

Outside of progressive profiling, you can also use a progressive login approach for new users before they’ve even made an account. This involves giving users open access to some features of your app, without requiring an account to use them; allowing new consumers to get one foot in the door and begin exploring and enjoying your app. The easier it is for people to try out your product, the more likely they are to hop on board with enthusiasm.

Make a Great First Impression

Every onboarding plan should make a solid first impression on users. They should understand the value of your app and know what steps to take to get that value. Now’s the perfect time to get a head start with your app, and set the onboarding standards that others will have no choice but to follow.

About the author: Hunter Jensen is the Founder and CEO of Barefoot Solutions, a digital agency headquartered in San Diego, CA. Barefoot Solutions specializes in web and mobile design and development, including web, iOS, Android, IoT, AppleTV, Apple Watch, and more.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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