SaaS Onboarding Secrets: The Importance of Customer Classification

This is the first in a series of articles where we will share some ideas, experiments, and lessons learned on how to approach SaaS customer acquisition, activation & retention.

Back in 2004, the retail giant Best Buy decided to explore new ways to enhance the customer experience in their stores in order to increase sales and improve overall customer satisfaction. To achieve that, Best Buy classified their customers into several personas – a group of customers with similar characteristics.

The main 2 personas were the Barrys and the Jills: the Barrys were wealthy men while the Jills were soccer moms. What’s inspiring about this move, is that Best Buy decided to apply it in the offline world to each one of their stores. They added sales reps dressed in pink to escort the Jills from the parking lot into the stores and used other interesting tactics that increased the level of satisfaction along the customer journey. Best Buy made a decision to focus on personas that are likely to buy more when provided the ‘right’ experience.

But for online products it’s sometimes harder to captivate the customer’s full attention, especially when the alternative is just 1 click away. How can we use our visitors/customers short focus-span to get more information about them? And how can we use this information to help them build a relationship with our product and brand?

Behind Every Customer There Is a Story

The Jills and the Barrys – wealthy guys and soccer moms. Sounds kinda simple isn’t it? But what else do we know about these 2 groups upon their first visit to the store? Does Jill always shop for herself? Does Barry use credit card or cash? Do they have any characteristics related to one another and do they affect one another?

Should the customer journey look the same in each of the following cases?

  1. A “Jill” is picking up her daughter every afternoon and decides to drop by the nearest Best Buy. She walks by the store, wanders around, stuffing her cart with products, puts some back on the shelf, and eventually she buys an iPod for herself and a laptop for her daughter.
  2. A “Jill”, is on her way to pick up her daughter from school and decides to drop by the nearest Best Buy to buy her husband a birthday gift. She walks by the store, wanders around, stuffing her cart with products, putting them back on the shelf, and eventually realizes that, well, she has to go and pick up her daughter. In the end, she buys nothing.

Understanding this kind of information on each of our potential customers is critical for delivering an exceptional user experience. These 2 examples emphasize the fact that having a number of high-level personas may sometimes not be sufficient enough. It’s critical to have additional information on each potential customer in each of these persona groups if we would like to truly enhance their experience and improve chances that he/she will eventually buy our product.

What information should we ask each customer?

It’s easy to think that in terms of data, more is indeed merrier. The math is pretty simple: If I know more about my customer, odds are we’ll do a better job of guiding him/her towards the end goal (activation, retention etc). But we always need to keep in mind that while gathering information about our customers is an opportunity, it sometimes can make their journey more complex.

One useful tactic to overcome this obstacle is to add a social networks login. This way we can get some basic info about those who signup and thus improve their initial experience with our product based on that information. However, if  you don’t or can’t offer a social network login, you can surface a few questions to each new customer upon signing up to your service. These questions should be short and to the point, not too intrusive, but perfectly designed to help the customer share his intent and goals, and they should all be ABOUT THE CUSTOMER and not about your product.

Sufficient information is one that will answer at least 2 of the following 3 questions:

  • How did you get here? How did you find out about our product?

There is a huge difference in the level of intent for each source or origin. For example, the level of intent when searching for a certain product on Google as opposed to stumbling upon it on a tech blog can be the difference in whether or not the customer purchases.

This information is immensely valuable to the sales & product marketing teams. Adding attribution to each of your channels should help predict the level of intent and allow you to deliver a different experience to different origin sources.

  • Who are you? How can your skills/knowledge/intent affect the way you will be using our product?

If the customer decides not to login via social media, we must try and gather more information about him/her. Initially, in order to place the customer in one of our segments and later in order to tailor our product’s experience based on the user’s characteristics.

Asking the customer who they are and what they know about is a good start. Quora, for example, asks new users about their experience and knowledge.


  • What would you like to achieve? What do you need in order to make a better decisions?

This question will help deliver a shorter Time-To-Value, which is crucial when so many readily available alternatives are within reach.

This question allows us to align our sales/product goals to the customer’s expectations and to better guide him/her to reach those goals. For example, Duolingo asks their new users what they would like to learn before they even register.


What Should We Do with This Information?

Based on the answers provided by the customer, we should focus on reducing the time-to-value and unveil the probability for “discoverability”. While reducing the customer’s time-to-value can create an immediate “wow” effect which will help the customer truly understand the value of our product/service, improving “discoverability” will allow him to understand the long-term potential of our product. Both of these goals are important as a company/product is focusing on growing their customer base and improving their engagement metrics.

Indeed, every customer or a group of customers (“personas”) has different skills, intent, and, characteristics in which we, as business owners, have to pay attention to, because knowing our potential and existing customers is one of the key ingredients for building better products and eventually – a sustainable business. However, before we get to a stage that we have enough data on our customers, we must constantly think about new ways to help these customers share more details about who they are, what they are looking for, and how our product/service can help them. Once we have this kind of information – we can then focus on making them happier, loyal customers.

In the next posts we’ll dive a bit deeper on how to reduce time-to-value and improve discoverability of your product’s features.

About the Author -

Ohad Frankfurt Is a Product Manager At SimilarWeb. He spent the last 10 years in several internet companies, including building his own company - the content recommendation & social media management startup Swayy which was acquired by SimilarWeb in 2015. Ohad is a content contributor at TNW, socialmedia2day, LifeHack & more and proudly serves as a mentor at Google Launchpad and other startup accelerators.

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