Lesson 4
6 min

Segmentation and personalization

Users have unique preferences and goals, and it’s your job to meet them where they’re at with relevant content. We’ll talk about what types of data you’ll need and how to gather it to inform your onboarding.

User omboarding 101 badge showing a map and a feature marker

Segmentation and personalization

These days, users expect personalized product experiences. Everywhere you turn, businesses are better catering to unique preferences and needs and delivering delightful, relevant content. 

Take your Netflix account, for example. Netflix has learned what kind of content you watch, and they try their best to serve up content you’ll like. While I see a row of “British Movies & TV,” you might be looking at “Mother-Daughter TV Shows.” Are these suggestions foolproof? Of course not. But do they generally improve the user’s experience? You bet. 

Image of someones netflix account with an arrow pointing to the personalized categories for this account

When done well, personalization keeps users engaged and helps you create more meaningful relationships with your customers. And when it comes to user onboarding specifically, personalization helps users discover relevant features faster. Hello, increased activation rate!

At this point, you might be wondering… but how do I make my onboarding experience personalized? Great question. Read on, grasshopper. 

Data, data, data

Personalization requires data. And while it might seem creepy, we’re all leaving behind trails of information everywhere we go. To make an onboarding experience that’s more personalized for your new users, you’ll need to use either “declared data” (e.g. information that your users explicitly volunteer to you) or “inferred data” (e.g. information that’s systematically generated). Or both!

Declared data 

We know what you’re thinking. Won’t I be creating friction in my onboarding process if I stop to ask users questions? The answer: yes. But not all friction is bad! 

Quote from Ramli John from ProductLed.

Declared data is the cat’s meow for marketers, because it can capture things like preferences, motivations, and intentions. Once you have this kind of information at your fingertips, you can create meaningful segments and show your users messaging, features, and offers that are relevant to them. Let’s look at some real examples, shall we?

How Headspace curates their content 

With some simple questions during onboarding, meditation app Headspace allows new users to self-select their motivations and preferences. Not only does this give Headspace valuable insights for future development, it also increases the chances that their users will find value in their product. If I’m in desperate need of sleep, and Headspace delivers the perfect guided meditations in seconds, there’s next to no chance I’ll be headed elsewhere.

Image of product tour from Headspace

Psst… notice that progress indicator across the top? It’s always a nice touch to keep users oriented and moving forward. 

How Wistia delivers value using dropdowns

Video hosting platform Wistia takes a similar approach with a different design: 4 simple dropdowns.

Image of an account sign up from Wistia showing explanation dropdowns

By asking these quick questions (including the user’s goal with the product), Wistia is able to personalize the onboarding experience—both in-app and via email. Since users can simply select their choices from each dropdown, the mental load is relatively small and the process feels straightforward and simple. 

Inferred data

With modern marketing tools like Appcues, Clearbit, Customer.io, and Mutiny, companies are collecting user data (like company size, industry, title and role, tools in their tech stack, etc.) and automatically personalizing in-app user experiences. With more data at your disposal, you can also shorten those signup forms (thank goodness), create segments for relevant email campaigns, and trigger helpful notifications and emails. 

Now, just because you can glean lots of information from users doesn’t mean you need to hit them over the head with it.  No one wants to be reminded that you’re tracking them behind the scenes. Messaging like “looks like you just completed this step” or “we know where you live” might push users away rather than enhance their experience. We were kidding with that second one, but you get the point. It’s much better to think of data as a tool for creating helpful experiences. Here’s some food for thought:

Maybe a user completes an important action in your onboarding checklist, and it triggers an email with a relevant use case to inspire them. 

Maybe you tell a segment of users about a key integration via a slideout, because you’ve learned that they have a certain tool in their tech stack.

Maybe based on a user’s company size, you offer an opportunity to change plans and benefit from more collaboration. 

Maybe if a user hasn’t taken an action that’s part of activation, you can target them with a reminder. Quick tip: With Appcues’ Click-to-track, you can easily track your users’ key behaviors and create meaningful targeted experiences.