The Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action, or AIDA, theory has been used to illustrate a customer’s purchasing journey for over a century now. In recent times, it has been proposed that the purchasing process may actually extend beyond ‘Action’ to include ‘Satisfaction.’

Onboarding is an inextricable component of customer satisfaction, and there are several ways to do this. Traditionally, manufacturers have included user manuals with their products to onboard customers. More recently, customer onboarding processes include the use of knowledge databases, one-on-one training programs, and even exhaustive YouTube ‘how-to’ videos. While these strategies are effective in their own way, they do not necessarily contribute towards customer satisfaction.

This is especially true for a mobile audience where the form factor presents a serious challenge to the way onboarding can be executed successfully. Bite-sized learning, or microlearning as it is sometimes called, is emerging as a viable and effective form of customer onboarding, especially among mobile users.

What is bite-sized learning?

Bite-sized learning is not exactly a novel concept, and has existed in various forms for many years. It is essentially the use of short and targeted learning materials as opposed to exhaustive courses. A typical learning material here spans anywhere between three to six minutes and the objective here is to improve retention and minimize learner distraction.

Does it work? A study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology found that bite-sized learning was nearly 17% more effective than the traditional approach. It was also found to be 30% cheaper and measured to deliver twice the ROI.

Impact on onboarding design

At the outset, there are two critical differences in the way onboarding is done through bite-sized learning. Traditional onboarding courses (in the form of welcome packages or face-to-face meetings) have multiple learning objectives from each of their materials. Bite-sized learning is focused on enabling the customer to learn just one thing from a course.

More importantly, there is an impact on the structure. Professor Michael Kerres who heads the Duisberg Learning Lab states that traditional onboarding courses have “temporal dramaturgies” in their courses. He refers to the structure which includes an introduction, a description, course-exercises and a conclusion. Bite-sized onboarding does away with all this and goes straight to the point.

This brings other advantages to the process. Onboarding lessons can now be personalized specifically to the customer’s needs and these learning packages can be repurposed to build other customized longer courses wherever required. Traditional onboarding materials may not be repurposed with as much flexibility.

Implementing a bite-sized onboarding approach

Bite-sized learning has gained popularity in recent times because of the ubiquity of smartphones. However, this medium of onboarding is not necessarily restricted to mobile phones. Here are a few examples and case studies of how bite-sized learning can be implemented.

In-app messaging

One of the most effective ways to impart bite-sized onboarding lessons to your customer is when they are in the process of using your product. With contextual In-app messaging, businesses can make sure that customers view lessons that are specific to the activity they are performing.

A study published by the Canadian Center of Science and Education found significant differences in the impact of contextual learning compared to structured lessons. Apptentive provides you with the exact tools you need to offer in-app onboarding lessons to your customer.

Push notifications

Push notifications have gained a bad reputation in recent years because of the number of businesses that abuse the channel to market their product. They could, however, be a great way to provide bite-sized onboarding lessons to your customer. This is especially useful for products and apps that are tons of features.

These apps struggle to demonstrate the full power of their product with traditional onboarding lessons. Push notifications (restricted to one per day) could educate your customer about one powerful feature or use-case at a time. This improves retention and, in turn, customer engagement on your product.

Push notifications

Coach marks

A push notification is useful in educating the user about the various functionalities that exist with your product. But this is not very handy when it comes to teaching them how to get these various features working. Coach marks are textual overlays that may be displayed to the user when they first launch the app. These overlays can highlight the various buttons and teach the user what each of this does.

Coach marks

Another fine difference between push notifications and coach marks is the amount of onboarding that can happen with these two tools. As long as they are properly spaced out, push notifications work well for any number of bite-sized onboarding lessons to the user. Coach marks, on the other hand, is only useful if there are a handful of features to tell the user about.

To put this another way, push notifications is a great tool to build loyalty while coach marks build better engagement.

eLearning modules

The solutions presented above work well when you have to onboard users to a consumer-focused mobile app. Enterprise businesses often take weeks to onboard new clients to their business. Push notifications and coach marks often fall short of business requirements.

In such scenarios, mobile eLearning modules come in handy for bite-sized lessons. These tools help businesses organize each chapter of their onboarding into short snippets that delve into various related topics. New customers are required to follow these various bite-sized lessons one after the other, and may also take part in quizzes to assess their retention.

eLearning Modules

The reason eLearning modules are so effective is because they can put together large onboarding sessions into small micro-packages. This overrides the inherent limitations that exist with alternate onboarding tools like push notifications or coach marks. Also, unlike these tools, eLearning modules are not intrusive and a client may choose to go through their sessions at their own pace.

Finally, these eLearning modules also serve as knowledge banks for existing customers. Clients looking to refresh any part of the onboarding process may search and access specific microlearning modules pertaining to their interest.

Non-mobile bite-sized onboarding

As we noted earlier in this post, bite-sized onboarding is not restricted to the mobile phone platform. Given the improved retention and ROI that businesses see from these onboarding techniques, these methods are also used by non-mobile businesses. Here are a few ways such techniques are used.

YouTube videos: YouTube is a popular and effective platform to share quick and targeted onboarding lessons to customers. While this platform is already used by thousands of businesses to host exhaustive tutorials and webinars, bite-sized onboarding is already emerging as a cost-effective alternative. Salesforce, for instance, has dozens of short and targeted videos teaching customers how to perform specific tasks on their CRM platform.

YouTube videos

Tutorial/use cases: Microlearning is not simply chopping a large exhaustive onboarding lesson into small nuggets. It is also about customizing the lesson to make onboarding more effective. In other words, bite-sized onboarding techniques move away from theoretical lessons to focus more on use-cases and examples. These onboarding techniques are based on what is known as the 3S method – ‘Situation – Seek – Solution’. That is, a client is presented with a situation and they navigate their way through the platform to find the solution.

Despite the effectiveness of this medium, use-case based onboarding systems are primarily restricted to game developers to train new players to use the various keys and weapons in their games. The use-case based onboarding approach is still not mainstream across other industries.

Tutorial/use cases

Including a bite-sized learning approach in your onboarding process is key to mobile success. Do you have experience where it worked, or questions on where to start? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.