The User Onboarding Process: Conversion Optimization Lessons from Netflix

Netflix sits at the top of its throne as the most popular global streaming platform with enviable customer retention numbers. According to research, only Disney+ boasts better retention rates than Netflix, both enjoying over 70% six-month customer retention rates.

Part of that success comes from the Netflix user onboarding process, which draws users in from the homepage. Today, we take a closer look at each of the steps used in the user onboarding process so you can learn how they may work for your streaming service.

Netflix Focuses on Signups From the Beginning

From the moment you visit their homepage, Netflix’s onboarding process begins. The design is minimalistic, and they’ve made their best selling points for using the service  – unlimited TV shows and movies and the ability to cancel your subscription whenever you want  – impossible to miss.

The background is filled with popular movies or TV shows to cater to your subconscious desire to be entertained, and perhaps most importantly, they’ve made their call-to-action (CTA) for getting started via email signup front-and-center.

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If you’re not already hooked, there’s even more going on below the fold to address buyer hesitations and get visitors to convert. Netflix uses additional selling propositions exist here with more details and relevant graphics, including:

user onboarding process 2

  • Platform and device compatibility: Netflix mentions that their service is compatible with multiple devices and platforms, including popular game consoles, smart TVs, and even more obscure options like Blu-ray players
  • Offline download compatibility: There’s an example of the type of content you can download to watch offline and wherever you want 
  • Kid-friendly features: There’s added value for kid-friendly features, like creating separate profiles for children 
  • FAQ to address buyer hesitations: Right above their second opt-in form, Netflix has included an FAQ section to help soothe any buyer hesitations
Netflix Account Personalization Starts from Onboarding

Besides these value-adds, Netflix's user onboarding emphasizes flexibility and requires only three steps to embark on the journey.

  1. Finish setting up an account 
  2. Choose a plan
  3. Start viewing

Let's take a closer look at each step and how it promotes Netflix's user onboarding process.

Step #1: Finish Setting Up a Personalized Account With a Username and Password

netflix onboarding account setup

Netflix understands the benefit-cost framework -- a given activity is determined by the expected benefits and the expected costs (performance) of the activity -- and focuses on highlighting the setup will only take three steps, thus decreasing risks of users failing to complete the checkout process.

Principles of the benefit–cost framework suggest that consumers find it motivating to click-through when the expectation of completing a task is high alongside the subjective value. As a formula, we're talking about:

Motivation = Value x Expectancy

In their first step, Netflix emphasizes you’re in “step one of three,” and that joining Netflix is easy. You can see clear progress of where you’re at in the signup process, which increases the motivation for users to continue to follow through until the end. 

Step #2: Choose a Plan Without Making a Commitment and Cancel at Any Time 

netflix onboarding account setup plan

The company again reminds the user why hesitancy shouldn't be an issue with the primary bullet point: "No commitments, cancel anytime." Now, the user’s buyer hesitations about long-term contracts are addressed alongside the other value propositions.

After clicking “Next,” you're asked to choose a plan that fits your budget and taste.

netflix onboarding account setup prices

When choosing a plan, Netflix follows the "rule of three" to keep benefits engaging and compact. The simplification reduces the possibility of overwhelming the consumer who may opt-out under pressure. Consumers see the core benefits and get reminded why they clicked through and wanted to sign up, keeping subjective value high.

Step #3: Pay and Start Viewing

After the account creation and credit card payment, Netflix asks new users to select movies and TV shows they prefer. The data goes through an algorithm, aptly called the Netflix Recommendation Engine, that jump-starts recommendations.

Netflix Recommendations: The Netflix Algorithm Goes to Work

Once you’ve created an account and picked out a few shows and movies, the next thing you’ll see is a trailer for one of Netflix’s original productions that fits the criteria of what you’ve liked. This trailer plays automatically for new users, and there’s a big “Play” button that urges you to start interacting with the platform immediately. 

Whether you start watching original content or start browsing through their popular list of TV shows and movies, the algorithm begins to learn from your behavior and takes into account:

  • Your viewing history, how you’ve rated other titles, and what titles you’ve given “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” to
  • The information about each movie or TV show (like genre, actors, release date, etc.)
  • What other Netflix members with similar tastes have liked or disliked on the platform 
  • How long you watch Netflix for 
  • The time of day you’re watching Netflix 
  • The type of device you’re watching Netflix on

Netflix receives feedback every time you visit the service  – and they continue to re-train their algorithm so that their recommendations (and your user experience) become more convenient and accurate to predict, therefore increasing the likelihood of a pleasant viewing experience and motivation to remain a loyal customer.

How Netflix Differentiates Through Their Onboarding from Competitors

Once the user begins their viewing experience, the algorithm populates the homepage with suggestions generated by constantly evolving choices and relevant media. In a sense, Netflix is continually updating the personalization preferences even beyond the initial account setup process.

Personalization Starts in the Onboarding Process, Not After

What distinguishes customization between Netflix and the competition is their personalization starts from the beginning of onboarding. Most onboarding processes get tucked away in Settings or some menu subcategory, making the user less likely to adjust them, and therefore, benefit from the added personalization.

Having them front and center before starting gives users the sense they're responsible for their experiences. Again, Netflix keeps value high and recommendations subjective, leading to user confidence and retention.

Profile Creation Allows Customization for Each Member of the Family

While plenty of streaming services allow for account personalization, not all of them make it part of their onboarding process like Netflix does. Not only can you build up to five profiles per account, but you can also adjust individual settings for each one, such as: 

  • Personalized TV and movie titles 
  • Language 
  • Maturity level 
  • Viewing activity log 
  • Subtitles 
  • Playback settings
  • My List 
  • Ratings 
  • Changing profile avatar 
  • Email 

Even while you’re on the same plan, profile creation and customization make every user feel like the service is built for them and their own preferences  – even allowing each profile to build a “My List” of their favorite TV shows or movies. 

Keeping Personalization at the Forefront as a Retention Strategy

Parks Associates’ research demonstrates the average Netflix user stays with the company an average of 50 months—a little over four years—or more. Bloomberg states two-thirds of the company's users are still with Netflix 12 months after signing up. Compare this to rival service, Hulu, where only 53 percent hang in there during the same timeframe.

From intelligent customization to its simplified interface, Netflix created a truly immersive experience that doesn't require much work. 

Paying attention to Netflix's user onboarding visual hierarchy is a lesson in targeting users and putting personalization at the forefront of your user experience. 

If you want to incorporate this into your next OTT app, Zemoga can provide Netflix-caliber UX and UI.

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