This article was originally published on Digital-Adoption.com

Product tours are an essential element of any product adoption cycle, since they define the rest of a customer’s relationship with a brand and a product.

In this guide, we’ll cover product tours from top to bottom, including:

  • What product tours are and how they benefit product developers
  • The components of an effective product tour
  • How product tours fit into the adoption life cycle
  • Best practices, tips, and strategies

And much more.

To start with, let’s cover a few of the most important concepts related to product tours.

Product Tours: Definitions and Key Concepts

Product tours take place against the backdrop of other strategic business efforts, such as digital adoption, product adoption, and the product experience.

Before designing product tours or implementing onboarding software, therefore, it pays to understand these concepts in a bit of detail.

After all, to get the best results from any product tour, organizations must understand how those tours fit into their overall product strategy.

These concepts and definitions will help set the stage for developing that strategy:

  • Product Tours – Product tours are automated, in-app tours that guide users through the core features and functionality of a software product. As we will see below, product tours improve the user’s initial experience of a product, which can have a positive impact on the user experience.
  • Product Adoption – Product adoption is the process where users integrate a product into their daily workflow or routine. It encompasses product tours, product onboarding, and initial product training. The more effective the product adoption process, the more engaged and productive users are.
  • The Product Experience – The product experience itself is even larger in scope, including every aspect of a user’s interaction with a product or service. Depending on who you ask, this can include pre- and post-onboarding experiences, such as marketing, sales, training, support, and more.
  • Digital AdoptionDigital adoption refers to the process of using a software platform to its fullest extent and for its intended purpose. Because today’s users are inundated by technology, digital adoption sets its focus on integrating digital workflows, maximizing software utilization, and accelerating training – among other things.

The bottom line is that product tours are not isolated.

Product tours are integral parts of larger business strategies aimed at improving user experiences, streamlining the onboarding process, and increasing user growth.

Product Tours FAQ: 5 Top Questions and Answers

Below, we will cover some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about product tours, starting with one of the most important…

Why should my organization offer product tours?

Offering automated, in-product tours present many benefits to product development companies.

Effective product tours, for instance:

  • Drive adoption and improve engagement. Just dropping new users into a product or application sight unseen can leave users confused and lost. This is especially true with complex B2B software. Product tours sidestep many potential problems by introducing users to core features quickly and automatically, improving engagement and adoption rates.
  • Easier, better onboarding experiences. Better onboarding experiences increases user satisfaction and decreases frustration levels. This, in turn, helps improve people’s overall impression of the product or service, increases retention rates, and ultimately positively affects users’ lifetime value.
  • Lower frustration, burnout, and abandonment. Products should be usable and user-friendly. However, users should not be expected to learn a platform on their own. That can dramatically increase mental effort and frustration levels, ultimately fueling burnout and even abandonment.
  • Improved employee performance. Product developers are not the only organizations that can implement product tours. Enterprises and businesses that adopt new software can also use product tours to increase employee productivity, performance, and proficiency. Below, we will see how digital adoption platforms (DAPs) can assist not only with product tours, but also with product onboarding and training.
  • Streamlined user support. With the right product tour software, organizations can automate and streamline support functions. Customer support and technical support, for instance, can be delivered directly inside the app without the need for human assistance. This can significantly improve adoption rates and user metrics.

In short, product tours help improve a wide range of user metrics, such as engagement and time-to-competency.

Who manages product tours?

The individual overseeing product tours will vary from organization to organization.

This can depend on both the size of the organization as well as the type of organization in question.

Startups may delegate this task to a business leader, while enterprises may have departments specifically dedicated to product adoption.

Also, a manager will typically not work alone. 

Instead, that individual will be supported by a number of others, including, for instance:

  • User experience professionals
  • Customer success managers
  • Employee experience managers
  • HR professionals
  • Account managers
  • Business leaders
  • Marketing managers and executives

The person or business unit may differ, but the responsibilities and goals of product tours will typically remain the same.

For that reason, it pays to learn about the aims and best practices of product tours (see below for more).

What are the components of a good product tour?

Product tours are typically just what the term implies – a quick in-product tour that showcases features and functionality.

However, these tours are also part of the onboarding process, so it is important to keep that in mind when designing tours.

Tours, in other words, should fit seamlessly into the other stages of the product adoption cycle.

Typically, the first step in any user’s “official” interaction with a product is signing up and logging in, which is where the product tour should start.

After that point, the product tour can begin, and include components such as:

  • An initial walkthrough or tutorial. An automated walkthrough is perhaps the most essential element of a product tour. Some may even claim that the walkthrough itself is the product tour. However, there are other elements that can be integrated within a tour to help improve the outcomes.
  • Interactive, contextualized guidance. More advanced product tours can include interactive guidance, such as chat bots or search engines. These features allow users to immediately access the information they are looking for, decreasing the need for technical support. This, in turn, helps users achieve their aims more efficiently and become more productive in less time.
  • Convenient messaging and contact options. In the event that users need to contact a live human, it is useful to have that as a convenient option. This is why many products, such as web apps or SaaS platforms, have convenient contact boxes somewhere on the screen.
  • Accessible self-support. Self-support is also another option that should be integrated within product tours. In many cases, self-support options are integrated with chat and chat bot support. 

Ideally, the initial product tour should be short, sweet, and painless.

Users should be given just the right amount of information to help them reach their “Aha!” moment. 

That is, they should learn the core feature set that allows them to start working as quickly as possible.

Later on, product training solutions – such as digital adoption platforms – can augment this information even further.

What makes a great product tour?

There are a few ways to get good results from a product tour:

  • Businesses should focus on helping users become competent quickly and with minimal effort
  • The product tour should maintain a consistent brand experience with the rest of the product adoption cycle, keeping the same brand voice and visuals
  • The product introduction should be simple and straightforward, reducing the amount of effort required to achieve basic productivity

The reason for this last point is that engagement drops as mental effort rises.

This truth perhaps motivated Steve Krug to coin the phrase, “Don’t make me think,” which describes how users feel about using new products, web applications, or interfaces.

However, as BJ Fogg’s behavior model points out, motivation and ability have a compensatory relationship.

That is, the harder something is to do, the more motivation users need to complete an action.

Product tours, therefore, should aim at minimizing effort and maintaining motivation levels.

Product tours vs. product onboarding vs. product adoption … what’s the difference?

Earlier, we saw how product tours fit in with other key processes, such as product adoption and the product experience.

Let’s explore a few of these concepts in more depth, to clarify their differences:

  • Product tours. Product tours, again, are the initial tour that users receive the first time they use a product or platform.
  • Product onboarding. Onboarding includes product tours, as well as the steps just prior to and after the product tour – such as signing up, logging in, training, and support communications.
  • Product adoption. Adoption is the entire process by which users integrate a product into their regular routines and workflows. This implies that users must become competent and proficient, not simply that they install the software and start using it.
  • Product training. Training is often necessary for many products, particularly complex SaaS platforms and enterprise tools.
  • The product experience. The product experience itself is a term that embraces all of the aforementioned terms, including backend functions that customers never see. After all, these backend systems also contribute to the overall experience.

Ultimately, any product development company will engage in all of these processes. This is why it is so important to understand them from a high-level perspective.

Product Tours for Customers vs. Product Tours for Employees

Product tours are useful for businesses that develop software, as well as for businesses that implement new software in-house.

Let’s explore these two scenarios to see how they can benefit each party.

Tours for Product Development Companies

So far, we have seen that tours can benefit product developers and their customers by:

  • Quickly introducing product features to new users
  • Simplifying the initial experience with a product
  • Accelerating time-to-competency
  • Reducing frustration and abandonment

Products that are easy to use, such as B2C apps or straightforward B2B tools, do not require involved product tours.

However, as the platform grows in complexity, so too should the product tour.

Enterprise-grade software, for instance, often needs a more robust onboarding experience.

Tours for Sophisticated Enterprise-Grade Platforms

Enterprise platforms, such as high-end CRM platforms or marketing automation platforms, require more in-depth introductions.

There is also a great deal at stake, since product tours and onboarding experiences impact:

  • Employees’ performance and productivity
  • How quickly employees become competent
  • Users’ motivation levels
  • The overall return on investment of the software platform

For that reason, businesses should consider adding features above and beyond a simple walkthrough.

Here are a few other features to consider including:

  • AI-driven interactive chatbots
  • Search engines and chatbots that integrate with a knowledge base
  • Integrating the tool with technical support and customer support 

By integrating the product tour with communication and support functions, organizations can further improve the user experience, as well as the results of their product onboarding program.

How to Save Time and Money by Automating Product Tours

How much of the product tour should be automated?

Some organizations offer tours exclusively through external content, such as videos or blog articles.

While these certainly can be useful, they are less engaging than tours that are in-app, interactive, and fully automated.

Automation tools can take users one step at a time through their very first product tours, immediately and with zero human intervention.

With the right tools, any organization can implement product tours without hassle and without the need for code.

Good product tour software, such as those covered below, can automate key parts of the product tour, including:

  • Welcome messages
  • Guided tutorials that showcase product features
  • To-do lists 
  • Management and distribution of specific content, such as videos
  • Interactive help

When it comes to automating product tours, there are a number of options on the market.

Below, we will look at digital adoption platforms, one of the best solutions to automating product tours, as well as product training.

How to Automate Product Tours with Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs)

Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) are ideal solutions for any organization that wants to implement product tours, improve new user engagement, and get better results from its onboarding efforts.

DAPs have several features that automate and streamline product tours, including:

  • Contextualized, in-app guidance. Users are provided with exactly the right information at exactly the right time, directly inside the application. Interactive, in-product assistance removes the lag time that occurs when contacting human support or researching support article. This speeds up learning curves and enhances the user experience.
  • Step-by-step instructions and walkthroughs. Tutorials can guide new users through workflows and introduce them to the basic features of a product. The first product tour, of course, should help users realize value as quickly as possible. However, DAPs can do much more than just a product tour – they can provide complex in-app training for beginner as well as advanced users.
  • Software analytics. Analytics offer insight into the performance of product tours, as well as other DAP uses, such as product training. Effective use of analytics can help businesses optimize their product tours and get even better results from them over the long term.

The benefits of using DAPs often extend beyond other product tour software and can include:

  • Faster, more efficient product tours and onboarding. DAPs’ interactive capabilities, along with its inbuilt software analytics, help organizations create product tours that are fast and effective. Brand new users can quickly learn a platform’s essential features and then become productive.
  • Increased feature adoption. Initially, product tours only need to introduce core features and workflows. However, to help users extract the most value from an application, it pays to continue introducing new features to them. DAPs can do just that, by promoting targeted features and helping to maximize platform utilization.
  • A more streamlined user experience. Beginning immediately from the first sign-in, users can be taken on a guided tour of a product or platform. This dramatically improves users’ first impression of a product and brand, reducing – or removing – initial apprehensions about using that product. In turn, user churn decreases while retention goes up.
  • Lower technical support costs. Interactive learning reduces users’ reliance on technical support and customer support. This not only improves the user experience, it also decreases the costs and burden on technical support.
  • Greater customer growth. Effective product tours and onboarding ultimately have a positive impact on customer growth. And the more customers a business has, the more revenue it can earn.

Clearly, DAPs offer a great number of benefits when it comes to product tours.

However, there are other product tour applications on the market … so why choose DAPs over other options?

3 Reasons Why DAPs Are Superior Product Tour Solutions

There are a number of reasons why DAPs are the best platforms when it comes to product tours.

Here are just three:

  • DAPs do product tours very well. The features covered above – such as contextualized guidance and tutorials – are perfectly suited to product tours. They can perform every function necessary to product tours, but DAPs go several steps further…
  • DAPs extend beyond product tours and cover the entire product adoption cycle. Businesses should not just be concerned with product tours. They should be concerned with the entire product adoption cycle, which includes pre- and post-tour activities, such as support and training. Many product tour solutions don’t cover these stages of the adoption journey, but DAPs do.
  • DAPs have AI-driven interactivity and analytics. Cutting-edge DAPs, such as WalkMe’s DAP, use AI to further improve behavioral analytics and insight. These enhancements dig deeper into users’ needs, helping organizations develop training programs that are truly modern, personalized, and profitable.

Naturally, a DAP alone is not enough to deliver stellar product tours.

That is, organizations cannot simply “set and forget” their product tour software.

They must develop, execute, and monitor a structured onboarding program.

Below, we will look at several tips to help organizations improve their product tours and their onboarding experiences.

7 Best Practices and Tips that Can Enhance Product Tours

Let’s look at some best practices and tips that can help organizations get the best results from their product tours.

1. Maintain a consistent brand experience.

Today, it is critical that brands maintain a consistent experience across their communication channels.

This includes every aspect of the product experience, such as:

  • Product tours
  • Onboarding
  • Training
  • Support 
  • Marketing and sales communications

Across every channel and touchpoint, brands must maintain the same:

  • Design
  • Tone of voice
  • Approach

When that consistency is disrupted, then the customer experience is negatively affected – customers expect one thing, but get another.

The start of the product tour, therefore, should begin precisely where the previous touchpoint left off.

That is, pre-tour communications should lead seamlessly into the product tour itself. And once the tour is over, it should hand off the torch to the subsequent stages in the user journey.

To maintain consistency, consider designing user journey maps and customer onboarding maps. 

These maps describe the user’s journey as a series of stages, helping align teams around the customer’s perspective, rather than their own business units.

2. Keep users at the center of the product tours.

Users should lie at the heart of every customer-facing business endeavor, including product tours.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Products that are user-driven are more relevant, useful, and loveable
  • Linking product designs to users’ needs reduces waste within the business
  • Collecting and analyzing user data allows businesses to personalize products, services, and communications

The aforementioned user journey maps are one useful tool that can help organizations stay customer-centered.

However, they are just one among many.

Other approaches include:

  • Following user-centric business models, such as lean and agile
  • Continually collecting user feedback and using that information to improve business processes
  • Track user behavior through software analytics and DAP analytics
  • Develop a user-led approach to product onboarding and continually improve it over time
  • Improve products with the help of user surveys, user testing, and software usage

These are just a few of the many tactics that organizations can use to stay focused on their users’ needs and wants.

They can be very useful, but ultimately a business should adopt user-centrism as a guiding principle within the organization.

It should guide not only product tours, but the entire product experience.

Organizations that follow this principle of user-centrism will experience far better results from its product adoption efforts.

3. Continually analyze and learn from the onboarding program.

Continual improvement is a well-known principle of business among certain circles.

The concept of kaizen, for instance, become popular in the manufacturing world, but has since spread to other disciplines.

Other business approaches, such as lean and agile, are not only built around users, they are also built around continual improvement.

In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries writes about the Build-Measure-Learn cycle. 

This process outlines a business process based around user-driven continual improvement. 

Its stages include:

  • Build a new iteration of a product
  • Measure feedback, results, and progress
  • Learn from those results

Then incorporate that understanding into the next iteration’s “build” phase.

Regardless of whether a business uses the lean approach or not, continual improvement is a very useful approach to business and design.

Applying the same approach to product tours and product adoption can help product teams evolve and extract more value from their product tours over time.

4. Test different approaches, such as interactive tours and different learning modalities.

Contextualized learning and interactive tours deliver the best results out of any training approach.

This is almost certainly a major reason why DAPs have become so widespread in recent years.

However, it is worth testing other approaches as well.

After all, different users prefer different learning modalities.

For best results, product tour coordinators may want to offer options for all of the major ones, including:

  • Text
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Kinesthetic (that is, interactive learning-by-doing)

If users have easily accessible pathways to these options, they can pick and choose the pathway that they prefer.

The bottom line, however, is that product tours should be experimented with, tested, and optimized – this user-centered approach is the only way to know which approach people actually prefer.

5. Deliver value as quickly as possible.

Customers use products in order to achieve a specific purpose or goal.

The more quickly products can help them achieve that goal, the better.

After all, motivation decreases as people wait to realize value from a product.

There are a few principles that product teams can follow when designing product tours for maximum effect:

  • Usability. Usable products are learnable, memorable, navigable, and easy to use. Product tours take this usability to the next level, by demonstrating the value of the product in as little time as possible. 
  • Utility. Utility is another word for functionality. To demonstrate value, product tours should show off that functionality – but with the aim of helping users realize basic levels of proficiency.
  • Efficiency. Time is of the essence in product tours. Prospective customers are busy, especially in the business-to-business world. Therefore, businesses should strive to create product tours that are short and compact.

For best results, organizations should pool talent from different sources, such as outside vendors and in-house teams.

And they should all be aligned around the same aim: helping users realize the product’s value as efficiently and quickly as possible.

6. Provide tours both before and after sign-up.

An interactive product tour can occur both within the app as well as outside the app.

For instance, Wrike is a popular project management tool that offers an interactive product tour directly on their website.

Naturally, the product on the website is not fully functional – it is just an interactive walkthrough of a few product features.

However, it accomplishes many of the main goals of a product tour, including:

  • Quickly introducing core features and the main interface
  • Demonstrating the product’s value proposition quickly and efficiently
  • Seamlessly bridging the gap between touchpoints on the user journey – in this case, between the web page and a trial

This is an excellent example of how to introduce a product quickly and efficiently, even before users sign up for a trial.

However, it is most certainly worth continuing this journey even after sign-up, for the reasons we have covered above.

7. Look beyond the product tour, at the entire digital adoption experience.

As we have seen, there are plenty of benefits to offering interactive product tours, including:

  • Better user experiences
  • Lower churn
  • Improved engagement and productivity
  • Accelerated training time
  • Lower technical support costs
  • Faster feature adoption

To name a few.

However, these benefits are really only part of an organization’s digital adoption agenda.

To maximize the benefits of product tours, organizations should:

  • Develop holistic digital adoption strategies that encompass adoption, onboarding, and product tours
  • Use digital tools such as DAPs, which help streamline the entire adoption process, including product tours and product training
  • Regularly optimize product tours and onboarding programs, in order to extract the most value from those programs over time

Also, businesses that use product tours for in-house product adoption should extend their scope even farther, to digital transformation itself.

After all, digital transformation is often the driving factor behind any digital adoption program.

At the micro level, product tour design will not be directly linked to digital transformation agendas.

However, the results of product tours and onboarding do have an impact on the overall effectiveness of digital adoption efforts … and, as a result, digital transformation efforts.

In short, organizations should keep their strategic focus fixed on the bigger picture, whether that picture is digital transformation or the product experience.

Conclusion: Product Tours Offer a Significant Lift to Both Enterprises and Product Developers

Product developers are the companies that most concern themselves with product tours.

After all, it is in their best interest to improve customer onboarding, streamline adoption, grow their customer base, and earn more from their products.

Product tours – both pre- and post-signup – can help do just that.

However, enterprises can also benefit by offering product tours to their employees, during employee onboarding, digital adoption, and digital transformation.

In either case, the rewards help both end users and the organization in question.

To gain the most value from their product tours, organizations should:

  • Stay user-centric at the micro level
  • Keep focused on the big-picture product adoption strategy
  • Continually optimize their product onboarding programs and product tours
  • Use the right tools, such as DAPs

Following steps such as these will help organizations reap the biggest returns from their product tours, both in the short term and the long run.