Product Adoption WalkMe TeamUpdated May 13, 2021

Product Onboarding vs. Product Offboarding: Key Differences

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Product Onboarding vs. Product Offboarding: Key Differences

Most product developers know that a well-structured product onboarding process can improve important user metrics, but not everyone pays attention to product offboarding.

In this post, we’ll examine the similarities between each process, why both are valuable, and key steps to include in each.

Product Onboarding vs. Product Offboarding: Key Differences

The product adoption life cycle refers to the complete process users go through when begin using a new product.

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This life cycle includes:

  • Pre-onboarding communications, such as marketing and sales
  • Product onboarding, often used interchangeably with software onboarding and user onboarding
  • Ongoing customer support and technical support
  • Product offboarding

The entire adoption process is designed to do several things:

  • Create a positive impression of the product 
  • Improve user engagement
  • Reduce user churn
  • Simplify the integration of software into users’ workflows
  • Optimize user performance metrics, such as time-to-competency

Each specific step in the adoption life cycle focuses on improving different metrics and different aspects of the user experience.

Let’s look at both onboarding and offboarding in detail to see how they can enhance the overall user experience.

Product Onboarding 

Conducted properly, product onboarding can:

  • Minimize churn
  • Reduce time-to-competency
  • Deliver a positive first impression of the product
  • Boost user retention

To achieve such benefits, onboarding processes should focus on components such as:

  • Seamlessly transitioning from marketing and sales into product usage
  • Product tours and walkthroughs, which can quickly introduce features and functionality
  • Starting product training 
  • Communication with new users via appropriate channels, such as email, social media, telephone, or push notifications

When designing the onboarding process, product teams should focus on principles such as:

  • Simplicity
  • Setting clear expectations
  • Providing a good user experience
  • Staying communicative and available

In short, the purpose is to minimize friction as much as possible. When users can easily understand a product and start getting results, they’ll be much more likely to stay engaged.

Here is an example of what a product onboarding funnel might look like:

  • Interactive product demo on the website showcases key features and gives users a sense of the app’s functionality
  • Free trial sign-up that allows users to begin using the software immediately
  • Welcome email includes links to key resources and initiates a relationship with the customer
  • Interactive product tour offers a quick overview of the most important features and/or a basic workflow
  • Links made available to additional learning resources, such as software walkthroughs and documentation
  • Follow-up communications assure users that technical and customer support is available

Finally, it is important to point out that product onboarding requires continual improvement. 

The initial test run of an onboarding process is just that – a first-time experiment that can and should be continually enhanced.

Product Offboarding

Product offboarding is the opposite of onboarding.

Instead of simplifying the adoption of a product, product creators make it easy for users to quit. 

At first glance, some may find this to be unnecessary or even counterproductive. After all, we want users to stay on customers as long as possible, right?

However, a poor offboarding experience can have very negative impacts on users who have already decided to stop using a product.

Leaving a sour taste in users’ mouths can:

  • Have a negative impact on the brand’s reputation
  • Ensure that those users never return
  • Block insights into users’ reason for leaving

On the other hand, a positive offboarding experience can have the opposite effects:

  • A better brand impression
  • A higher likelihood that those users will return
  • A greater chance for insights into the customer experience

To achieve benefits such as these, the offboarding experience should follow many of the same principles as the onboarding experience.


  • Simplify the process as much as possible
  • Make the process clear and unambiguous
  • Communicate relevant logistical details, such as those related to billing
  • Assure users they are free to return
  • Proactively maintain a positive relationship if warranted

Here is an example of an offboarding flow that sticks to these guidelines:

  • Users cancel the account from the billing section in their account, using a clearly visible and easily accessible button
  • After a confirmation message, the system clearly states when the service agreement expires and how the billing will be affected by cancellation
  • A short user survey is sent that gives the customer an opportunity to explain more about why they are leaving
  • An email confirmation is mailed to the user that contains all of these details, as well as assurances that users can return at any time

Some companies choose to continue sending marketing emails to offboarded customers. The rationale may be to maintain a positive relationship even after the user departs or to draw them back into the marketing funnel. 

This approach, however, could easily backfire and produce the opposite outcome – users may be annoyed that a brand they’ve “broken up with” continues to maintain contact.

There is no right or wrong answer, per se. Instead, as with every other stage of the product experience, it is important to use data-driven methods to test this strategy’s impact on user metrics, the company’s reputation, and bottom-line profits.