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User onboarding and customer life time value
Priya Nain1/17/24 8:16 AM6 min read

How Does User Onboarding Improve Customer Lifetime Value?

For businesses it's important to not only attract customers but to retain them for as long as possible. The golden key to unlocking this long-term relationship? — A stellar user onboarding experience.

This blog delves deep into the heart of how effective user onboarding can significantly amplify Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), transforming fleeting interactions into enduring connections.

What is Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)?

Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) is a metric that represents the total revenue a business can reasonably expect from a single customer account throughout their business relationship.

It factors in the revenue generated from a customer over time and subtracts the costs associated with acquiring and serving them. CLTV is crucial for understanding the long-term value of a customer and helps inform strategies around customer acquisition, retention, and resource allocation.

Calculating CLTV: A Basic Formula

A simple formula to calculate CLTV is:


Here’s a breakdown of the formula:

  • Average Purchase Value: Calculate this by dividing your company’s total revenue over a period (say, a year) by the number of purchases in that period.
  • Number of Transactions: This is the average number of transactions a customer makes over a specific period.
  • Average Customer Lifespan: This is the average amount of time a customer continues purchasing from your business.

If your average customer spends $100 per month (Average Purchase Value) and typically subscribes for 2 years (Average Customer Lifespan), with an average of 12 transactions per year (Number of Transactions), the CLTV would be:

CLTV = $100 × 12 transactions/year × 2 years = $2,400

This means, on average, each customer would bring $2,400 to your business over their lifetime as a customer.

What is user onboarding?

User onboarding in the context of Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to the process of guiding new users to effectively use and realize the value of the software. It's about ensuring that users not only understand how to use the application but also quickly grasp how it can solve their specific problems or improve their workflow.

Effective onboarding helps users quickly understand the value your SaaS product offers, which is crucial for retention.

When users feel supported and can easily navigate your product, their overall satisfaction increases. Proper onboarding helps in educating users about the full range of features available, encouraging broader and more effective use of the product.

User onboarding is a critical phase in the customer journey within the SaaS industry. It's not just about teaching users how to use the software but about helping them realize its value in their own context, leading to better engagement, satisfaction, and ultimately, customer retention.

How Does User Onboarding Improve Customer Lifetime Value?

Increases user interaction with the product

When users are more engaged with a product, they tend to use it more frequently and integrate it deeply into their workflows or daily routines. This increased usage translates to a greater dependency on the product, which naturally extends the duration of the customer relationship and thus the CLTV.

Engaged users are more likely to explore and understand the full range of features and benefits offered by the product. This deeper understanding reinforces the product's value proposition, making the user more likely to continue using the service over a longer period.

When users are interacting with the product, they're more likely to provide valuable feedback. This feedback can lead to product improvements, which further enhances user satisfaction and engagement, creating a positive feedback loop that continually enhances the user experience and, by extension, CLTV.

Helps users realize the value of the product more quickly

Accelerating time to value through effective user onboarding plays a crucial role in improving Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) in a very direct and impactful way.

When users quickly realize the value of a product, it sets a positive tone for their entire experience. This rapid understanding and appreciation of the product's benefits lead to immediate satisfaction. Users who quickly see how a product solves their problems or enhances their workflow are more likely to commit to it. This commitment means they're less likely to churn and more likely to continue using the service for a longer period.

When users experience value early on, they often become keen to explore more advanced features and capabilities of the product. This exploration and deeper engagement naturally lead to a stronger reliance on the product, cementing it as an essential tool in their arsenal. The more indispensable the product becomes, the longer the user is likely to remain a customer, thereby increasing their lifetime value to the company.

Lowers the likelihood of users abandoning the product

When users first interact with a SaaS product, they're often evaluating whether it meets their needs and expectations. A well-structured onboarding process that effectively introduces the product's features, demonstrates its value, and eases the user into its functionality, can significantly influence their initial impressions and overall satisfaction. This positive first experience is crucial in forming a user's long-term relationship with the product.

If the onboarding experience is confusing, overwhelming, or lacks relevance, users are more likely to discontinue using the service. This early-stage churn is particularly damaging because it cuts off the potential lifetime value of a customer before it has a chance to develop. On the other hand, a good onboarding experience that successfully orients and engages users sets the stage for a longer and more fruitful relationship. It lowers the initial barriers to adoption and helps users integrate the product into their regular routines or business processes.

By reducing the likelihood of early churn, a business retains more users for a longer period. Retaining users is typically more cost-effective than acquiring new ones, and long-term users are likely to contribute more to the revenue over time, either through continued subscriptions or additional services. Moreover, long-term users often have higher levels of satisfaction and loyalty, which can lead to referrals and new customer acquisitions – further increasing the overall CLTV.

Well-onboarded users are more likely to be receptive to additional features or premium offerings

When users are effectively onboarded, they not only understand the basic functionality of the product but also develop a sense of trust and satisfaction with it. This positive initial experience makes them more receptive to exploring additional features or premium offerings. Well-onboarded users are already familiar with the value the core product brings; hence, they are more open to considering how expanded features or upgraded services could provide even greater benefits.

Upselling and cross-selling effectively increase the average revenue generated from each customer. Instead of just sticking to a basic plan or minimal features, customers who see the potential for greater value are more likely to upgrade their subscriptions or purchase additional services. This increase in expenditure directly contributes to a higher CLTV, as the same customer is now generating more revenue over the course of their relationship with the company.

Customers who have availed of upsells or cross-sells and found them beneficial are likely to maintain a longer relationship with the product. The deeper integration of the product into their workflows or processes, facilitated by these additional features, creates a stronger dependency and loyalty. This extended customer lifespan further boosts the CLTV.

Wrap Up

In wrapping up, it's clear that user onboarding is an essential tool in boosting Customer Lifetime Value. This process is not just about guiding users through a product, but it's a strategic approach to foster long-term customer relationships and business growth.

By focusing on effective onboarding, companies can unlock the full potential of their customer base, turning short-term users into loyal, long-term advocates.

The path to a higher CLTV is through a user's initial experience with your product, making onboarding an investment that pays dividends in customer loyalty and business sustainability.