Video Onboarding 101 - your starter guide including best practices and examples

Oliver Bridge

Customer onboarding is the process of introducing new customers to your platform and helping them become successful adopters. Onboarding can take several different forms from email drip campaigns to personalized demos and guided walk-throughs and your approach depends on what you’re selling and who you’re talking to. 

However, it's worth pointing out that video should be a major part of your strategy, no matter what you're selling. 

Video onboarding sets the stage for long-term relationships with customers. The process is like a virtual guided tour designed to give new users the knowledge needed to get the most out of your product.

This article looks at onboarding best practices and includes examples from brands that have nailed this critical stage in the customer journey.

Though this little tidbit is becoming common knowledge these days, it’s worth repeating; organizations should devote as many resources to customer retention as they do selling to new customers. A 5% increase in loyalty can raise revenues by between 25-95% (that wide range accounts for the variation in industries) and it’s reportedly about five times more expensive to onboard a new customer than keep an old one satisfied. 

Salesforce research found that businesses should aim an 85% customer retention rate to remain scalable and according to Business Insider research, 73% of customers are willing to switch brands. What we’re saying is, retention is both incredibly important and easy to mess up. 

A 2019 Profitwell study found that people who received an excellent onboarding experience were more likely to remain loyal to a company than customers who received a negative onboarding experience. 


Onboarding is all about helping customers see the value in your solution and laying out a roadmap for success. It's also the first chance to make good on the promises made before contracts were signed and payments were submitted.

Why Video Onboarding?

According to Wyzowl’s 2018 Video Marketing Survey, 97% of marketers say that video has been a useful tool for helping increase user understanding of their product or service, while 47% reported that video has helped them reduce the volume of support queries.

We're going into 2020, and at this point, the benefits of video are well-known. In an onboarding context, video offers some distinct advantages. For one, it’s a more efficient way of explaining concepts.

Think about it this way, if your company sells SaaS products, explaining just one feature can easily turn into a 2000-word article. A video can break down those same concepts within a matter of minutes, reinforcing the information you provide with visuals that help clarify your explanation.

It's also more personalized and engaging, two factors that can help you deliver the positive onboarding experience that boosts retention rates. In these next few sections, we'll look at some things to know about incorporating video into your customer onboarding strategy. 

Point Toward Tangible Outcomes

You likely emphasized specific benefits in your web copy, landing pages, emails, and whatever else is part of your content mix. Your onboarding process should build on those ideas, laying out a path toward realizing the benefits promised.

To get started, you’ll want to build your video onboarding strategy based on these three goals:

  • Get users to use your product more than once in their first week.
  • Help them establish a pattern of use.
  • Continue to provide value.

The First Win

Get users to return by guiding them toward their first win as soon as possible.  

According to GrooveHQ, users need to achieve two milestones before customers are fully invested in your system. The first is the initial signup and the second is the first success. Ideally, you want to keep the time between these two events to a minimum.


That first “win” doesn’t need to be anything big. Consider starting with a tour, then branching out into the more basic functions. As you progress, focus on one skill at a time, gradually ramping up the difficulty. 

For example, Dropbox breaks the onboarding process into simple tasks that give the user the feeling that they’re checking off items on a to-do list. This works because users get a feel for the system by completing simple tasks. This builds confidence by gradually introducing each feature.


In this example, MailChimp celebrates small wins, using language like “You’re almost there” to encourage users to complete the task, then uses animations when users achieve success.


Establish a Pattern of Use

It’s those repeat visits that get users to become power users. Story Chief taps into a psychological concept known as the Zeigarnik effect, which suggests that incomplete tasks are more memorable than completed ones. 

Applied to an onboarding process, breaking up sessions into smaller pieces and offering a visual representation of user progress calls attention to those “unfinished” items.


Another idea is to incentivize your users. Employee scheduling software company Deputy incentivizes its users to complete the onboarding process by extending the free trial to those who complete the entire onboarding process. 

This is effective because the tool doesn’t become useful until employees start using the platform as well. Upon completion, an SMS link is sent so the company can then send it to employees to try the tool, too. We also like how Deputy has provided short screen recordings that show each tool in action.


Continue to Provide Value

We often think of onboarding as a few short sessions that happen right after signup and that’s that. You haven’t turned users into pros, and we’re willing to guess that these new signups aren’t telling all of their friends about your brand. That also means that they’re probably still open to working with the next company that captures their attention. 

Unfortunately, people forget something like 90% of what they’ve learned within a month. If you’re approaching onboarding as a series of videos, make sure you include concepts from previous interactions to build on their knowledge. 

Analytics platform, Mixpanel, for example, offers several short video lessons aimed at introducing several complex features. Videos feature a narration combined with a visual walkthrough from directly inside the dashboard, so they can take in lessons at their own pace, while exploring the tool themselves.


Long-term, you’ll want to continue to provide customers with information that helps them get more value out of your product.

We don’t recommend bombarding your users with a constant stream of video content, however, you should send new lessons as new features become available and check in at regular intervals to ensure that users are getting the most out of your solution.

Personalize Onboarding 

Every customer has a unique set of goals, pain points, and potential use cases. You’ll want to make sure you acknowledge each segment in your onboarding process. 

Before you develop your onboarding flow, make sure you talk to real customers to find out what their challenges are. What does success look like to each segment? What kinds of challenges do your users face? How does your solution help? From there, establish a set of goals and milestones that chart the path from sign-up to the first “aha” moment and more advanced achievements. 

When users sign up, you might also ask them to provide some info so you can be sure to deliver an onboarding process that speaks to their needs. Here’s an example from Airtable, which focuses on industry, company size, and role. The benefit here is that customers can segment themselves, which ensures that they receive the right content.


Canva takes a different approach by first asking users how they plan on using the tool before launching into a welcome video based on the user’s response. This way, new users know where to begin using the tool.


Another way to personalize is to welcome new customers with a one-to-one video. While you’ll need to invest a few minutes per customer, this is your chance to offer a personal connection, share insights specific to the customer’s use case, and outline what they can expect from your product/service. Here’s how one of our clients, ConvertKit uses 1:1 video to onboard new users: 


Show Users Where They Can Get Help

Your onboarding videos should also give users information about where they can learn more about your product. Your initial welcome message might include links to the knowledge base, as well as information about how they can get in touch. 

 The point is, onboarding is your chance to provide new users with a foundational knowledge that lays the groundwork for success.  

Self-service options give customers a chance to quickly solve their own problems without the inconvenience of submitting a support ticket or waiting until the business opens the next day so they can make a call.

In this example from Zenefits, users receive a guided tour based on job function--HR, payroll, or benefits. From there, users are dropped into the demo center, which showcases the various features and functions, and shows users where to click to access specific features.

Support and education resources are front and center, so there’s no question about where to get help when users run into trouble.


Here are a few more ways you can improve customers’ experience with your onboarding process:

  • End your videos by offering users a chance to get in touch if they have any questions. You might offer the option to set up a call, send a video recording back, or send you an email. 
  • Update onboarding content as you add or make changes to your product. Make sure to record over outdated content so the links you've sent to customers in the past always link to the latest best practices. 
  • Add Captions: Add closed captioning to your videos to improve the user experience for people with hearing difficulties as well as those that want to watch videos without disrupting those around them. 
  • Give Users the Option to Skip: Look, not everyone wants the guided tour. Some users prefer to read a few articles over watching a video, while others prefer to jump right in. This gives users the chance to leave the training if they get bored while remaining inside the app.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you offer links to help sections in context, so users don’t have to navigate to your knowledge base, memorize steps, and then get back to business.

Break Onboarding into Short Demo Sessions

Instead of long-winded sessions that attempt to cover everything at once, consider applying the concept of microlearning to your video onboarding strategy. What this means is, you'll break up your materials into one- to three-minute mini demos that focus on one idea at a time. 

In this video, you’ll notice that Slack exclusively focuses on inviting users to the platform, showing the process step-by-step and the exact buttons to press to complete the action. 

Microlearning is particularly effective as users can make their way through a lesson in a matter of minutes, allowing them to review the material at their convenience. The shorter sessions help prevent the kind of information overload that can cause users to abandon your program. The shorter sessions also support better understanding and retention.

And, to bring things back to the idea of personalizing content, breaking content into chunks allows you to customize onboarding sessions based on the features and use cases specific to each customer--essentially, mixing and matching videos to create a relevant training program for individual users.

Additionally, this process allows you to customize onboarding sessions based on the features and use cases specific to each customer--essentially, you're mixing and matching videos to create a relevant training program.

Consider Starting the Process Before the Conversion

If you want to improve your relationships with customers, it starts by showing customers what they’ll get before they sign up Consider adding a short video to your homepage or landing pages that show users exactly how your product works the second someone arrives on the site. 

You might try using something like Basecamp’s introduction to Basecamp 3, which shows visitors how the product works out in the wild in under two minutes. 

While this approach isn't personalized, it may be a smart way for newer companies to educate their audience by running awareness campaigns on paid search and social channels. Upon conversion, you might then offer users a personalized welcome video and from there, kick off the official onboarding process. 

Wrapping up

We've gone over some ways that video onboarding can help you improve the customer experience and set the tone for long-term success. 

To recap, your onboarding strategy should do the following:

  • Provide a roadmap for success, complete with milestones and an outline for each lesson.
  • Show users how to help themselves with self-serve content, as well as get in touch if they run into any problems.
  • Break the process into bite-sized lessons so new customers don't get overwhelmed or frustrated. 
  • Show and tell users how things are done to boost learning retention. 

Long-term relationships rely on regular check-ins and the occasional reminder that you're still around. Continue the onboarding process by sending 1:1 check-in videos, demoing new features, and offering advanced tips to those who have mastered the basics. 

See how Bonjoro customers approach onboarding using personalized video by heading over to our case studies page

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About the author
Oliver Bridge
Growth Grizzly
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