Customer onboarding: how to reduce friction even in complex B2B products

Written by
Last updated

Friction during the onboarding can kill your product. See how you can improve the sign-up form, product tour, UX writing, and more.

B2B products are often complex, and customers need to go through a few steps before getting to the "aha! moment".

There will be friction.

That's why focusing on reducing it where it is possible is going to make a significant change on your onboarded rate.

Customer Onboarding Friction
Photo by Sandeep Singh on Unsplash

1-on-1 calls to improve self-serve onboarding

If you are not sure about the efficiency of your self-serve onboarding and don't have any idea on how to improve it, I suggest you start with 1:1 calls. Make your customers fill a form – a long one that includes all the information you need for a proper onboarding – and schedule a call.

In this case, friction is what you need!

You will get the most motivated customers possible and learn a lot from them.

You will understand how you can reduce time to value.

Quick sign-ups

When it comes to self-serve onboarding, a long form is going to feel like an impenetrable wall.

Maybe that's what you want or even need.

Reducing the amount of bad-fit customers signing up to your product by adding friction is a sound strategy. But most of the time, a short form is going to be the recommended way.

Keeping sign-up forms short by only asking for the email and password is a good first step.

But for complex products, you probably need more than the email and password. Then ask for it when you need it. And explain why you need it.

Customers will be more inclined to fill additional information if they know how it's going to benefit them.

Product tours

The usefulness of product tours is intensely debated.

They are a general recommendation. Carousel cards, tooltips, and overlays are very commonly used to indicate how a product works.

But they add friction.

Vevo found that adding a skip option to their onboarding flow increased logins by nearly 10%, and the number of successful sign-ups jumped by almost 6% (CleverTap)

Many users don't want to be bothered by those product tours and if they are they will not complete the onboarding process. But a complex product needs to be understood.

Adding a few tooltips, as long as you don't go over 4 or 5, is going to be a good compromise. But they are other ways.

Free Downloadable Bonus
Want More Customer Onboarding Optimization Strategies?
We've put together an onboarding CRO roadmap to turn more trial customers into buyers.
Download Your CRO Roadmap Now →

Microcopy (UX Writing)

The onboarding process isn't just about the sign-up form and the product tour. It will last until your customers hit their "aha! moment".

But even afterward, you need to make everything as easy to understand as possible. Maybe there are complex features that are not necessary for the "aha! moment" but are really important in the long-term.

As we have seen in the section above, product tours are going to be ignored sometimes. And if not ignored, it can be easily forgotten.

Hints and microcopy are a real necessity and are hard to do right.

When Google changed “book a room” to “check availability”, they increased conversions by 17% on their hotel search product.

UX writing is very important for customer onboarding. In addition to carefully craft product tours, you need to take care of many essential elements:

  • Empty states
  • Error states
  • Calls to action and confirmation messages
  • Hints for form fields

Sample data

Another option that you have to reduce friction during product tours is to fill your application with sample data.

If we take an example like Airtable, you can choose from a variety of templates, and it will create the related spreadsheets for you.

Airtable Sample Data
Airtable Templates

This way your customers can play with this sample data, explore the product more easily, and figure out how to achieve their desired outcome.

If you only have only one customer segment, it's very straightforward to implement and just loading the data as soon as the customer sign up is the recommended way.

But for complex B2B products – like Airtable – having just one set of sample data isn't going to work. They have hundreds of templates! They cover a lot of use cases. But for customers, it might be too much choice!

When 24 flavors of jam were available, only 3% of those who tasted the samples went on to purchase the jam. However, when there were only six options available, 30% purchased at least one jar of jam. (Unbounce)

In order to fix this problem, you need to ask your customers about their role in the company they work. This way you can suggest the right templates for their position.

The choice will be easier, friction will be reduced, and the onboarded rate will increase.

You can also reduce friction even more if you are able to know the desired outcome of your customers depending on the landing page they used to sign up.

Start with background tasks

If your product needs to get some data in the background to start working – with integrations or data imports – then begin the customer onboarding with this step.

This way customers will be able to go through the other steps while your product is getting the necessary data before it's ready-to-use.

By the time they are done with the sign-up and the product tour, you will be able to show data. It's a significant reduction in friction!

You need to think about the fastest path for customers to get to the "aha! moment". An onboarding process shouldn't necessarily start with a sign-up form.


Reducing friction of the onboarding process isn't achieved just by improving the design.

And there are actually plenty of things that a product marketing manager can do.

And it's cheap! You can start improving the onboarding process very quickly and see changes in just a few days!

Free Downloadable Bonus
Want More Customer Onboarding Optimization Strategies?
We've put together an onboarding CRO roadmap to turn more trial customers into buyers.
Download Your CRO Roadmap Now →