It’s crucial to remember that when designing your app’s onboarding experience, you’re dealing with real people testing a new product - it’s both an emotional and rational experience. By participating in your app’s onboarding, users are trusting you to guide them through an experience that is both safe and valuable. And if users aren’t happy, you can bet, with 80% confidence, they won’t be back, according to Quettra software

To ensure long term monetary growth, you should be heavily investing in perfecting your onboarding experience. After all, even in the App Economy, first impressions are everything. Or Shahar, US General Manager at ironSource, shares his viewpoint on why app onboarding is so important and how you can perfect it.  

Why perfecting the onboarding experience is critical for your monetization strategy 

App onboarding is crucial to ensuring you’ll see high retention and conversions in the short and long term, leading to more revenue. But, why?

Convert more users into subscribers 

The reality is that most users convert into subscribers during the onboarding experience. This is because the onboarding experience is a user’s first impression of your app and they’re overloaded with all the ways they can get value. By investing in the onboarding experience, users are enticed to convert right away.

Ultimately, by not optimizing your onboarding experience, you’re leaving money on the table - if conversions to subscriptions are already highest during onboarding, imagine how much higher they could be with some tweaking and testing. If your app requires users to subscribe to continue using the app, the onboarding experience is your only shot at converting users into revenue for your app. Optimizing your onboarding experience is also important to improving the engagement of subscribers - for example, extending session length, increasing the number of features used, etc. - and keeping them as subscribers for a long time.

Ensure ongoing app usage to monetize later

For users who don’t convert into subscribers during the onboarding experience, the only way to monetize them is making sure they continue using the free version of your app. That’s why creating a value driven onboarding experience that gives users a first glance into why your app will benefit them and how to use it, is critical at this stage, as it will foster ongoing user engagement. It can also be the difference between a user upgrading to a subscription plan or leaving your app in the future - first impressions are lasting impressions. 

With 21% of users abandoning an app after one use according to upland, you can be doing more during onboarding to keep users around, so that you can maximize the value of each user later on. After all, onboarding is about developing a mutually beneficial relationship between you and your users that keeps users around while increasing your revenue. 

Better understand your audience 

The onboarding process encompasses many screens, some with valuable information about your app, others with places for users to talk about themselves and how they plan to interact with your app. For example, a leading meditation app prompts users to select what they are looking for in the app, such as better sleep, reduced stress, etc. A language learning app asks users about the time they expect to spend in the app.

Asking the right questions and getting to know your users will help you create a great user experience - which includes an ad placement strategy for non-subscribers. To make the most out of your ad strategy, you should start thinking about your ad placements from day one and think carefully about the questions you ask during onboarding. If you do this right, you can see incremental revenue implementing ads in your app.

3 tips to optimizing your onboarding experience

With many apps beginning to realize the immense opportunity that the onboarding experience brings to your monetization strategy, it’s time to start thinking about how you can optimize yours. Here are some best practices for app developers of all sizes. 

1. Help users understand your value proposition

Your onboarding experience is like an ad for your product, but you only have one shot to sell it. Thinking about it this way, you should spend considerable time determining your main selling point and what you want to highlight that differentiates you from competitors. 

First, consider what users may already know about your app. Naturally, some apps are more popular and well known than others. Through segmentation, you may find that certain users know the concept of your app before download, which means you can consider letting them skip parts of onboarding to improve their experience. At the end of the day, this doesn’t mean you can slack off on portraying your value. For example, a well known meditation app doesn’t need to spell out what they do. To portray value, the first screen of their onboarding experience asks users to “take a deep breath.” From the second users open the app, they are reaping the benefits of the app. 

For apps that are less well known, portraying value doesn’t necessarily mean getting granular into the bells and whistles of your app’s mechanics. After all, people care about how your app will make their lives better or easier, which makes your word-by-word value proposition important to lead with. For example, an app that allows users to compare gas prices begins the onboarding experience explaining just that. 

To create a more memorable experience that sticks with users, try offering something tangible at the end of the onboarding experience, such as an edited photo, insights into the users personal weight loss plan, etc. Portraying value comes down to being creative and using your onboarding screens wisely to show users why and how your app is valuable to them. 

2. Show features that create a ‘winning experience’

Once you’ve shown the value of your app, the next step is showing users how they can get the value by using your core features. The goal is to create a ‘winning experience’ for your users - in the world of apps, this means showing users what they can ‘win,’ or create, with your app. What constitutes as a ‘win’ is going to differ for every app according to user preferences and motivation to engage. 

Deciding what to show is especially important for subscription apps where some features are locked behind the subscription wall. The key is to find the right balance between showing too many and too few features, and how many of those would be free to use vs. paid, while still helping users understand what they can create - an edited photo, cropped video, etc. - or win - a horoscope read, weight loss plan, etc. - with your app. 

For apps that have shorter LTVs, such as some photo editing apps, try being aggressive with the amount of premium features you’re showing during onboarding - you don’t have to worry about churn as much. You can then take users to a subscription signup screen. This is a way of softly leading users to convert on day one. 

On the other hand, for apps users spend considerable time in, you don’t want to push potential long term users out of the app during their first impression, so, it’s best to stick to a few important features. You can even offer users the option to sign up for a free trial. 

The amount of features you show and how aggressive you are about encouraging users to subscribe depends heavily on the behavior in your app. To be sure of what works best for you, start A/B testing. 

3. A/B test the experience 

A lot can go into the onboarding experience - install events, subscription events, tutorials, feature screens, free trial offers, etc. How the experience starts and ends, and the number of screens in the middle, is going to differ for every single app. This is why you should be A/B testing your experience as opposed to imitating. Learn which other A/B tests you absolutely need to run to increase revenue.

First, map the engagement of each onboarding event, which will help you determine the screens users are enjoying the most and understand preliminary performance. From there, there are countless A/B tests you can run to perfect your strategy. 

For example, you can test how aggressive your experience is, how many features you’re showing, your value proposition, and more. A wellness app tested showing 50% of users 5 features and showing 50% of users 6 features. For all you know, this small difference can either retain or churn your first time users. 

It’s also relevant to test user behavior after completing the onboarding experience. For instance, you can test whether offering users a feature during the onboarding experience and then locking it a few days after the user enters the app will encourage that user to convert to a subscriber. 

When looking at the onboarding experience, testing potential is endless. To get as close to perfection as possible and see long term revenue growth, it’s best to invest heavily in A/B testing your experience. 


The importance of the onboarding experience can’t be overstated - it’s the users first impression of your app and it sets the stage for how they’ll engage with your app throughout their lifetime. Putting resources into testing the experience is crucial to your monetary success in both the short and long term - you want to find the optimal version that is both informative and fun for users to engage with. Get ahead of your competitors and start perfecting your strategy to see optimal results. 

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