Today the reality is, that applications are either innovative/complex or they are just derivatives of something that is already on the market, making them redundant. The innovative application will always be a bit of a challenge for new customers to learn and to understand how it solves their problems.


Users these days have zero patience (myself included) and it is important to actively help them use and understand your app, especially in the beginning. One very strong tool to support user engagement are Tours. I will gladly share my experience about what tours are and how they should look to help you increase conversions from free trial users to paying customers. Not only will you reduce your churn rate but also reduce your boarding costs and customer support costs.


What are Boarding Tours?




Tours or guides are interactive cards through which you can communicate with your users.  Their purpose isn’t to control your application but instead to act as a communication bridge between your app and the users. Usually, they’ll come in the form of a sequence of cards, but they can also be standalone cards. Generally, they showcase an app functionality, but they can be used for communicating a variety of things (inviting users to webinars, ask for feedback, offer an upsell, etc.). 

The purpose of boarding tours is to onboard users into the application. The boarding tours will guide your users step by step through your app revealing its functionalities in a sequential manner.





The purpose of Boarding Tours is to increase your profit. It sounds simple and hardly anybody can challenge that, but so many times I was amazed how people forget about this goal. It is the same when a salesman is selling a car. It’s not enough to tell the potential client, that if he turns this knob, the lights turn on, or if he presses the gas pedal the car goes faster. You won't sell much with that approach :). A good salesman is never presenting, he is always selling; praising the car, highlighting its best features, motivating the client to close the deal. With web apps, it is the same.

Do not fall into the trap of just describing individual features, you need to show why your app is the only one that will solve the customer’s needs and challenges. You need to impress and excite. You are selling!



Think about who your customers are and how you communicate with them. Will you be reaching out to them using their first or last names? I tend to utilize a friendlier and less formal form of communication, but this isn’t always appropriate for every situation. Many factors can influence the tonality such as local customs and culture (in the US, the tonality is friendly whereas in eastern Europe it tends to be more formal). You should communicate with the highest level of respect, but do not be afraid to be friendly and personal. You want to build a relationship with your counterpart. 

Think about which Boarding Tours you’d like to have, which parts of the app they’ll describe, what will be the sequence of cards in each tour and what their content will be. You’ll change the content over time, but the initial outline and design is fundament you should start with. I always use Miro for designing the flow but Slides and PowerPoint work great too.


short.pngA tour should have at most 10 cards. Try to separate the tours into logical sequences, do not force all the content into one long tour. A long tour is not flexible, it’s difficult to edit and the user can't pick just the sequence he is interested in. Some users will cancel the tour right at the beginning (so ungrateful! ;-) ), as they rush to experience the app themselves. This is perfectly fine because you want to give your users the option to relaunch each tour when they need to (therefore, it's better to have several tours describing different parts and aspects of the app).


grand.pngHaving a grand tour at the start of the app worked well for me, it can be brief but very motivating. This is not an in-depth descriptive tour, it is more marketing-oriented, welcoming the user and highlighting the unique selling points of the app. This is also a good place where you can add references and testimonials from other users, which is a great way to motivate new clients to buy your service. The additional feature tours that follow, should focus on specific app elements, sections and they have less of a marketing tone (but remember - you are still selling).



If you have ever been with me on a demo call, you’ll know that in advance I will mention, how long the presentation is. It’s important to set these expectations, otherwise, the other party will have a priori feelings that the demo will be too long and they won’t have the patience to go through it. The same concept should be used in the boarding tours – number the cards so the user can see how many are left.



Motivate and encourage your users! Make them feel safe and comfortable that they are doing everything correctly and they are on the right track. After finishing each part, thank them and ideally reward them through some form of gamification.


real.pngMotivate customers to input their real data and work with them. When they have their own data in your app and they see results that have real and actual value for them, they will have the motivation to continue. Using demo data has its place too because many features you can present better when the app is filled with a lot of data.



Stay in contact with your user during the onboarding. Tours should not just be a one-directional communication tool – You want to know what the customer is thinking, what they like and don’t like. In your boarding tools make use of features such as adoption meters, feedback, questionaries, and communicate with them through chat. Let me please share one insight – the feedback is not just a tool for gathering information, but much more importantly it is a great motivational tool – if users can communicate their opinions to you and get answers, they bond with you, they like the app more and be more likely to even forgive a couple of bugs.


anal.pngThe boarding phase of a new potential customer cannot be in a black box. You want to know, where the users get stuck in your app, where they have issues, and where you lose them. This data is useful for improving your onboarding process but also for optimizing the app itself. It’s very important that your onboarding tool has analytics features, ideally with the integration into other analytics tools (Google Analytics and Mixpanel).


At the start of using your app, each lead is very fragile and easy to lose. Well implemented tours won’t only be increasing conversions from free trial users to paying customers, but you’ll also make your app more user-friendly. It's a never-ending process, you want to tune tours just like you tune your app. See tours as part of your product, tune them, change them, experiment. It's a communication tool where the communication and the user engagement are the keys to success.



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