Issue #10

Customer onboarding for digital products: The what, why, and how

Email Marketing Commerce Digital Products
12 min read
In this Article

Have you ever bought something that needed to be assembled and discovered there were no instructions included in the box?

Not only is it frustrating, but it means you’re stuck with a product you don’t know how to use. You’ve got the pieces, but you don’t know how they fit together to reach the desired end result.

Onboarding emails work the same way: They’re the education, guidance, and instruction for buyers on how your digital products can be used to achieve the greatest possible value from them.

In short, they set your customers up for success.

Customer onboarding for digital products

What is onboarding, and why is it so important?

The moment a subscriber signs up or buys your digital product is not the end, but rather the beginning, of a longer journey. Bridging the gap between that first interaction and first success is critical for building long-term relationships and driving repeat purchases from subscribers.

Onboarding is the process a new subscriber goes through right after they sign up for your email list. It can also happen when a customer buys a new digital product from you, too.

Onboarding has the power to set the tone of the overall relationship with your subscribers and customers. Unfortunately, this process is often overlooked, and many digital creators fail to deliver a positive onboarding experience. Data shows that over 90% of customers think the onboarding process “could be better.”

Your work doesn’t end when a conversion happens. With the right onboarding process in place, you can help customers get maximum value from your offerings and make sure they are both satisfied and engaged along the way.

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7 tips on how to create a great onboarding experience for digital products + examples

Customer onboarding for digital products

I sat down with onboarding expert Jason Resnick to look at strategies for maximizing value for customers and subscribers with a thoughtful, comprehensive email onboarding experience.

1. Say hello

The first thing Jason recommends sending to new customers or subscribers is a simple “hello.”

Send a welcome email that shows off your charm and that starts things off on a personal level. Use first name variables so you can greet subscribers by name, thank them for joining you, and let them know what you hope they get through your relationship. This is an opportunity to introduce yourself and let your customer know you’re an *actual* human.

Here’s a bit of how Jean from Artful Parent does it:

A welcome email to thank subscribers for joining
Send a welcome email to new subscribers to thank them for joining. Image via The Artful Parent.

2. Set expectations from the start

Customers hate being left in the dark, so be transparent and let them know what they can expect from you. Using email onboarding to inform subscribers and customers about the next steps can help get them excited and engaged.

Here is how Jenell B. Stewart, an award-winning beauty editor, sets expectations for the content she sends about growing a blog and eventually turning it into a full-time job.

Customer onboarding example by Jenell B Stewart
Set up clear expectations about what a subscriber gets after joining. Image via Jenell B. Stewart.

3. Keep subscribers engaged

Use the insights you already have for a customer (or a prospect) to recommend related digital products or to give freebies. In doing so, you’ll help them find related offerings that can add additional value or build on an existing interest area. Plus: Who doesn’t love getting free stuff?

“Interest-based sequences work best. An example of this is a sequence sharing “more” with a subscriber about a product/program because they've expressed interest in it. The process is simple and very effective. These types of automations can convert anywhere between 10-30%.”
– Jason Resnick, Automations expert

Check out how Bonnie Christine, an artist and textile designer, uses email to promote her work, product, and courses. When customers sign up, she sends them access to different freebies to engage customers and provoke interest.

Promote freebies for customer onboarding
Promote freebies to spur interest and to engage new subscribers. Image via Bonnie Christine.

Promote freebies to spur interest and to engage new subscribers. Image via Bonnie Christine.

4. Learn more about subscribers to deliver a personalized experience

Creating an automated onboarding sequence is simple, but don’t forget to provide a personalized experience as part of it. Talk to consumers, ask about their challenges, and gather data so you can address their needs. Segmentation can help you deliver a personalized experience.

“Automated sequences that address specific objections and can showcase results that are specific to the subscriber will always convert best. Segmentation is the key. Knowing the intent and motivation of a subscriber is the key to a conversion.”

– Jason Resnick, Automations expert

The best and easiest way to find out more about your customers is to ask. Here’s how Nina Garcia from Sleeping Should be Easy does it:

Ask questions during customer onboarding for digital products
Get customers to reply and share important insights by asking questions. Image via Sleeping Should Be Easy.

5. Build authority through educational content

The more of an authority you are in the minds’ of your audience, the more likely they will believe and buy into what you’re teaching them. Using the onboarding process, you can add context on why the subscriber or buyer should dig into your materials (plus how they can get the most out of it.)

Austin Church is a freelance writer who leverages email to educate customers. Aside from the Freelance Business Blueprint poster and individual worksheets, he also shares educational YouTube videos to help consumers build their freelance business.

Share educational content when onboarding customers
Share educational content that adds value for subscribers. Image via Austin Church.

6. Deliver on promises to build trust

When you say you’re going to deliver your product, make sure you’re delivering it efficiently and with enough support for your customer to know how to use it well.

This helps ensure your customer has everything he or she needs and shows you’re invested in their success and rooting for them to do well. This boosts the odds they’ll talk about you and your offerings with their friends, raving about how great you are, how much you care, and how you really go above and beyond.

Here’s how Lacey Dunn, a functional medicine dietitian does this: She encourages customers to reach out for one-on-one help or to book a phone consultation where she can deliver highly personalized guidance.

Offer one-on-one sessions when customer onboarding
Offer one-on-one sessions or high-touch options for those who want one. Image via Lacey Dunn.

7. Help people reach their goals

Each time a person decides to subscribe to your emails or buy a digital product, they have a goal in mind. Your job is to put yourself in that customer's shoes and understand what they want to achieve. Using this approach, you’ll see the bigger picture and be able to map out the journey to your customers’ desired destination.

“Think about how you want to take someone from a subscriber to a customer and then to a repeat customer. Map out that path and the ins and outs of each step. Then slide into your automation and build each step as a single automation with the ins and outs to connect to the next step.”

-Jason Resnick, Automations expert

To help them reach that point, try creating a mindful email sequence. Here’s a great example by Colin Gray from The Podcast Host where he shares his plan with eight topics covered, one per day. He also sets clear expectations by encouraging readers to take action via homework, which will get them to the point where they can successfully run their own show by the end of the series.

Educate subscribers during customer onboarding
Share a sequence that educates in a daily format. Image via Colin Gray.

Bonus: Test, send, repeat

Another important lesson is that customer onboarding is something you learn over time. Use data and analyze customer behavior to make tweaks and adjustments to create an onboarding experience that keeps customers coming back.

“If people are opening emails and clicking on the links but no sales are going through, then the sales page needs work. Knowing what resonates with your audience is key to making sales. The more you send email, the more familiar you get with what “works” for your audience.”

– Jason Resnick, Automations expert

Step by step guide: How to leverage email in customer onboarding for digital products in ConvertKit Commerce

While onboarding should feel like a personal experience, that doesn't mean you have to create a new process for each new customer. With email funnels and automations, you can build an onboarding path that feels unique (but can still be used again and again.)

Here’s how to create an excellent customer onboarding process for a digital product with Visual Automations.

1. Start automation with product purchased.

Once you've set up your product in ConvertKit Commerce, here's how to connect it to an onboarding automation sequence.

How to:

  • Click on the Automations tab in your dashboard navigation.
  • Click the red New Automation button to create your onboarding email funnel.
  • Click on the Create Automation button in the middle of the page and choose Purchase as your trigger.
  • Choose your  ConvertKit Commerce then choose which product will trigger the automation sequence.
  • Click Add Event.

ConvertKit automations for customer onboarding

2. Send thank you/follow up sequence

Once a customer has purchased your digital product, it’s now time to start your post-purchase onboarding communication.

The sequence you send at the point should contain:

A thank you email (Sent immediately after purchase).

Saying thank you creates a connection. Always send a thank you note to your new customers and let them know how much you appreciate their business and their interest in you and your product.

A follow-up email (Sent a few days after purchase).

There’s always a chance that your customer will buy your product and then have no idea what to do with it. To keep that from happening, a follow-up email asking them how everything is going is just what you need.

Put away any of their fears with an assuring “I’m here to answer any questions you might have,” and tell them the best way to ask those questions. Is it hitting ‘reply’ to the email or hitting you up on Twitter? Whatever you choose is the best mode of communication, make sure you’re checking that every day so no one falls through the cracks.

An ask for a review (Sent at least a week after purchase).

After you give your customer a week to dig into your product, you can send a follow-up email asking them what they think.

Asking for their reviews will not only let them feel appreciated and heard, it can also help you create an ever better version 2, 3, and even 4 of your product later on. You can also ask to use their testimonials on your site for little social proof.

An upsell of a similar product (Sent a month after purchase).


  • Click (+) and under Action, choose Email sequence and scroll the drop-down to find your Product: Follow Up sequence.
  • Click Add Action.

ConvertKit automations upsell for customer onboarding

3. Send the customer an upsell for other products based on their previous interests

The last email of the Product: Follow Up sequence should be used as an upsell to a similar product you have that you think your customer could benefit from.

This email says something like, “if you liked this, you might also like…” and give options for other products with Link Triggers that send them to educational sequences about your upsell products.


  • Click (+) and under Event, choose Tag is added and scroll the drop-down to find the Tag associated with your Link Trigger interest.
  • Click Add Event.
  • Click (+) to the right of the Event box to add another Event:Tag and continue to do so for as many Link Triggers as you included in your email.
  • Click (+) under each Event: Tag box and add your educational email sequence for your upsell products that correspond with each Interested in tag.

ConvertKit automations upsell for customer onboarding

4. Deliver on your upsell product if subscriber purchases

The end of these upsell educational sequences will pitch your subscriber on the new product associated with their interest. If they purchase your upsell offering, deliver your goods as promised like before.

You can end both paths (purchasers and non-purchases of your upsell) by adding the customer to your RSS feed or subscribe them to your newsletter.


  • Click (+) and under Condition, choose Tag and scroll the drop-down to find the Tag associated with purchasing the product.
  • Click Add Condition.
  • Click (+) under Yes, and under Action, choose Email sequence to find the sequence that delivers your product.
  • Click Add Action.
  • Click (+) at the end of your Automation to send all subscribers to your newsletter.

ConvertKit automations upsell for customer onboarding

Create a customer onboarding experience for your digital product today

Creating a seamless and informative onboarding experience for your digital product is a great way to make customers feel supported and appreciated. With ConvertKit Commerce, you can automate the onboarding process while keeping it customized and personal.

Ready to find out how? Delight your customers with automated user onboarding with a free ConvertKit account.

Start selling within minutes

As a creator, you deserve to get paid for your work. ConvertKit Commerce is ready-made to help you sell digital products.

Get paid with ConvertKit Commerce

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer who works closely with SaaS companies and marketing teams for content creation.

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