Using Onboarding Techniques To Improve Web Engagement


By: Drew McManus

If you’re looking for some low hanging fruit to improve online engagement with users, look no further than using an onboarding email campaign to introduce website visitors to key functions of your website.

Ideally, you’re capturing user email info at your website; it might be via newsletter subscription or a new user registration. Regardless of which capture point it is, knowing that the lead came in through your website is a crucial step in determining if they are well suited for a web engagement onboarding campaign.

Why This Matters

For arts organizations that use a box office, it isn’t unusual to have a provider that does not embed the ticket purchase process into your primary website. Instead, you end up linking over to a page they host. They may skin their version to look somewhat like your primary site, but it’s rare to find one that so closely matches your primary site, it becomes seamless to the user.

Even though you know why those differences exist, your patrons only see “one” website. The more differences they encounter, the higher the potential for a frustrating user experience because something feels “broken.”

Use Onboarding To Prepare Patrons For Successful Conversion

Every website should have one or more of the following conversion goals:

  1. Revenue: tix and donations
  2. Engagement: social shares and follows
  3. Patron support: email, phone, social media
  4. Awareness: allow users to learn more in less time

A good patron onboarding process will present one or two user stories to support each of those goals. User stories describe the type of website visitor along with what they want and why.

EXAMPLE: A user sees an upcoming event listed on social media and wants to purchase a ticket. Showing them where to locate ticket purchase links and illustrating what that process entails on both mobile and desktop devices builds user confidence and encourages return visits.


Here are some common variables in a ticket buying purchase path you could address with onboarding:

  1. Where users can find event lists, calendars, event landing pages, and (hopefully) direct purchase links to your next scheduled events right from your homepage.
    TIP: if your primary website and box office provider overlap on one or more of these items, be sure to point out both or select one you want to use as your primary point of contact. Craft subsequent messages using the same parameters.
  2. If the patron is directed to a third-party box office site to complete the process, point out the name of the provider, the base URL, and any obvious differences. This will build patron confidence about being on the right path and prevent drop-offs.
  3. Point out any required registration to purchase.
  4. Describe any purchase options they’ll encounter so they can make decisions before entering the purchase path (shipped tickets, will-call, parking add-ons, etc.).

You can apply a similar approach to each remaining conversion goal, just be sure to craft a clear user story for each one.

BONUS: make sure you go through each user story personally; if you’ve never done this (or it’s been awhile) you can gain all sorts of insight into user experience you may have been otherwise overlooking.

It Doesn’t Take Much To Be Effective

In most cases, the amount of content you need to send per message is quite small; one or two paragraphs and/or screencaps. They should be short enough to easy include as part of your existing campaign schedule.

  1. Use number or bullet point lists.
  2. Include a warm, personal welcome. First name merge tags are a must.
  3. Remind new users who you are, what they should do next, and how to do it.
  4. If you don’t need to include screencaps, consider plain text messages.
  5. If you do include screencaps, using desktop and mobile versions produces engagement result that are more than the sum of their parts.
  6. Re-engagement. Don’t stuff everything you want a user to know into one or two messages. Break them up into bite-size, easy to accomplish user story driven goals.
  7. Include support channels if they get lost along the way. Letting users know that you care about their user experience is key to helping them past any of the hurdles they may encounter due to issues that are beyond your control (#GinFilledConversationTopics).

Some Real Next Level @*!%

If you have the time and resources, a drip campaign can do wonders to gamify the entire process. All that’s required is a trackable conversion goal you can use to trigger the next step in the onboarding process.

For instance, if the user purchased his/her first ticket, a good next step is to introduce social sharing. At the onset of each new message in the process, you want to include the incentive to keep them going through the process. You can go so far as to include a progress bar or level-up reward in each successive message.

Ideally, you’ll be able to automate all or most of this process but let’s face it, that’s not always a reality. The good news is it doesn’t matter, you can still take advantage of everything here even if you need to manually trigger each step of the process. In the end, it’s time well spent.

Additional Resources

Drew McManus
Drew McManus
In addition to my consulting business, I'm also the Principal of Venture Industries Online but don’t let that title fool you into thinking I'm just a tech geek. I bring 20+ years of global broad-based arts consulting experience to the table to help clients break the cycle of choosing one-size-fits-none solutions and instead, deliver options allowing them to get ahead of the tech curve instead of trying to catch up by going slower. With the vision of legacy support strategy and the delights of creative insights, my mission is to deliver a sophisticated next generation technology designed especially for the field of performing arts. The first step in that journey began in 2010 when The Venture Platform was released, a purpose-designed managed website development solution designed especially for arts organizations and artists. For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, lead a team of intrepid arts pros to hack the arts, lead an arts business incubator, and love a good coffee drink.
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