Why Your Onboarding Experience Needs Cross-Cultural Research

Why Your Onboarding Experience Needs Cross-Cultural Research

Growth-driven product managers already know how important the onboarding experience is in our globally interconnected world. It’s crucial to convert free users of software platforms or SaaS products to paying customers and, even more importantly, keep them on their paid plans thereafter. It only makes sense that an internationally successful UX must start with culturally sensitive onboarding.

The adage “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is profound because it’s literally and figuratively true. It applies to every encounter imaginable, including IRL and online, whatever the nature of the interaction. People have come to expect immediate satisfaction and are quick to judge and buy, but just as quick to express – and amplify – dissatisfaction. So, their first interaction with your product had better be a good one.

Universal UX elements include welcome messages, progress bars, product tours, profile builds, checklists and surveys. These onboarding patterns are consistent among leading app and SaaS brands, but what cultural differences drive satisfying experiences for culturally different users?
cultural differences can have a significant impact on user experience. For example, some generalizations can be made about American, European, and Asian users, but it’s important to note that these generalizations are just that—generalizations—and may not apply to every individual. In general, American users tend to prefer straightforward, efficient, and practical experiences, with a focus on individualism and self-expression. European users, on the other hand, may place a higher value on privacy, security, and a sense of community, while Asian users may prioritize simplicity, harmony, and respect for authority.

However, it’s also important to keep in mind that these generalizations are just that—generalizations—and that users within a given cultural group may still have a wide range of preferences and behaviors. To truly understand your users, it’s necessary to conduct research and gather feedback from real people to truly understand the explicit and implicit nuances of divergent audiences that will drive satisfying initial – and ongoing – experiences.

Where does a brand start?

In the creation of the product, human-centric design is the foundation as it focuses on identifying and understanding the user. Once the product is created, cross-cultural UX research requires critical thinking and customized evaluation for total project success. No matter what methodologies are used (i.e. focus groups, usability labs, in-depth interviews, online ethnographies, online communities, etc.), UX research should continue to focus not only on what consumers say and report but also on what they are not directly saying. This can be done by examining observed behavior and listening for unmet needs. Products can find their home with a niche audience or many niche audiences for different reasons, and building campaigns that take this holistic view of the consumer in mind are much more successful at building loyalty and increasing product usage in the short-term and the long-term.

Great questions to ask include:
– What personalization tactics work best in this particular culture?
– How can proper segmentation within a culture drive a deeper understanding of the nuances of divergent values and perspectives?
– How will our brand personality be perceived or received cross-culturally?

Adequately answering these questions is the start of establishing a successful onboarding plan that can be effective across many users within a culture. Some outcomes from great research around the above questions may lead a team to create a greeting and a single opening sentence that manages expectations and introduces the onboarding process. It can help a team create an option to skip the onboarding tour. It may evaluate how to “interrupt” the user with prompts for better product usage without being annoying. Getting these details right can make or break a product.

What’s on the mind of the tech user?

Tech customers are particularly keen on new options that keep them engaged and elevate performance, and UX best practices around onboarding can be used to drive new feature adoption. Even products that are well-known need to maintain brand loyalty so educating and reminding users about new features and options is key. Tooltips can be used as an onboarding feature by focusing on typical actions and helping new users to achieve expertise, and higher levels of play, more quickly, but there are a lot of considerations around making this happen and can include launchers, tours, release notifications, fake door testing, micro surveys, product testing requests and more.

Launchers can quickly attract a user’s attention and introduce new features, or provide a checklist for them to learn more. Tours can be used to highlight new features, and three-step product tours typically have a 72% completion rate. Release notes can be critical in announcing new features and driving excitement, but it’s just as critical to delivering them with UX in mind. Fake door testing and micro-surveys can be used to solicit feedback and drive a sense among users that they can influence product development and new features. And, finally, product videos that are produced not only for very specific audiences but with knowledge of how that audience typically responds. The message may be the same, but how it’s delivered to whom must vary appropriately.

The benefits of successful UX-focused onboarding include higher rates of conversion, engagement, retention and referral, increased CLTV and NPS, and lower churn rates. Taken altogether they elevate annual KPI, revenue and overall success, no matter where the client is and whatever the nature of their business. When it comes to introducing a tech platform, app, game or SaaS product, the UX research rigor is just as important as the cultural context in which it’s completed.

Getting quality business intelligence is key to market success. Want to get some “desk research” done about the Japanese market? We’ve created a primer based on our many years of global project management and research experience – and we keep learning. We’re happy to share those insights with you in our Japanese Values Segmentation report.

Japan Values Segmentation
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