The all-in-one guide to improving the process of onboarding data to your B2B software application.

It’s hard to think of an application or service that can be used immediately without some kind of initial customer data. Even signing up for social media requires at least a name and a birthday. 

More complex products and services, like accounting tools, CRM and ERP systems and platforms in various domains, require far more data for customers to be able to use them. 

Data onboarding — roughly defined as getting customer data into your product — is often the starting point of interaction between your app and your customers. 

In this article, we’re going to look at what data onboarding exactly is, how data onboarding can be made as smooth as possible, what the major steps and components of successful data onboarding are, and how to easily implement a working data onboarding process to your business. Therefore, we will tackle the following topics:

  • What is data onboarding?
  • Why is smooth data onboarding crucial?
  • What are the major steps for successful data onboarding?
  • Three key components to making your data onboarding process work

What is data onboarding?

The data onboarding definition could be summarised as:

The procedure of gathering customer data that is offline or in another application/database and bringing it online into your platform or application. This might require consolidating different data sources or formatting the source data so that it is compatible with the online platform.

Data onboarding is essential in all industries, but especially for SaaS solutions and software companies, it has become essential to offer a smooth and fast possibility to import data and start using the application in no-time. 

When done properly, data onboarding can easily be part of the platform’s experience and does not need a third-party platform or provider to be involved. In data onboarding, user experience and a functional process are everything. That’s why we will have a closer look at the 101 of a smooth customer data onboarding process in the following sections.


Why is smooth customer data onboarding crucial?

User Experience (UX) has attained a crucial status in product development because it is so absolutely vital to attract and retain customers. Just a few statistics to show this include:

  • 80% of customers are willing to pay higher prices for a better UX
  • 70% of users abandon purchases as a result of a poor UX
  • 88% of online consumers are unlikely to return to a website after a poor experience!

Especially for the customer data onboarding usecase the importance of the User Experience is often underestimated. The data onboarding process can often feel like a huge boulder in the middle of the road to actually
using your product. Customers sign up and are eager to get started…and then you ask them to upload and submit their data. 

Adding salt to the wound, many existing data onboarding solutions are poorly implemented, and users must try and import data several times over before they finally “get it right”. 

Poor user experiences lead to what is called customer churn — the number of customers that stop using your service after a specific amount of time. 

An excellent data onboarding platform should both:

  • Enhance customer experience
  • Decrease time-to-value with your product. 


What are the major steps for successful data onboarding?

The overall process of data onboarding can be broken down into three major steps:

  1. Data gathering
  2. Data upload and mapping
  3. Data cleansing and ingestion

Data gathering

Gathering data is something done by the customer, but the data onboarding platform you’re using will determine how “painful” (or not) this procedure is. 

If your data onboarding platform requires data in a very complicated way or requires the customer to add complex formulas to the data, customers will likely give up right then and there. 

CSV files (comma-separated-value files) and Excel files still dominate the data onboarding field because they are easy to create and easy to manage. 

Data upload and mapping

Your data onboarding platform must provide some sort of upload function for the data. After the data is uploaded, it is often mapped to your desired target schema of your software or SaaS application. This mapping step can either be very simple, meaning that users have to thoroughly stick to a certain template and structure, or it can be very comprehensive, with an extensive mapping and matching procedure that needs a superb user experience in order to work properly.

Data cleansing and ingestion 

A robust data onboarding platform should be able to intuitively handle data onboarding errors and proceed smoothly if an error does occur without creating dead ends for the end user. This is the step where most data onboarding platforms fail. 

Different forms and structures of data mean that data processing is prone to enormous amounts of errors. After clicking “Upload,” the user simply expects the data to be imported. They don’t want to know and learn more about “date formats” and “time formats” and all the many wonderful ways that data can be misunderstood

Errors and dead ends lead to a poor user experience. If there are unavoidable errors, then error messages should at least be helpful and let the user solve the problem rapidly. This all comes under the heading of user experience. 

Three key components to making your data onboarding process work!

Completely aside from the mechanical steps required in importing data, there are three essential components to make the overall data onboarding process a successful one for both the importer and the customer. 

1. User Experience

We’ve talked about why UX is so vital. Let’s look at how to achieve a superior UX for your data onboarding process. 

The data onboarding process should be easy to understand and intuitive to use. As well-known tech blogger and User Interface Designer John Gruber once wrote, “If your UI even vaguely resembles an aeroplane cockpit, you’re doing it wrong.”

While it’s true that some user interfaces require some complexity, there’s a limit on what is tolerable for your end user. 

Part of this is making the data import process intuitive to the user. 

And all of the above adds up to fast onboarding which is the best user experience of all. 

2. Data Privacy and security

In a world that is almost completely dominated by privacy laws, data security is of utmost importance. This ties in with user experience as well. Poor data security definitely leads to a poor user experience. But the opposite can also be true — excessive checkboxes and verifications and acceptances can lead to a poor experience as well. 

If you are using a third-party provider, you might want to implement a front-end data onboarding solution so that the third-party provider does not process any sensitive data at all. E.g. our nuvo data onboarding library is able to handle data completely front-end-wise and therefore offers the highest possible data security as it is not processing any data in the first place.

3. Accuracy and Availability

The imported data should be accurate (without errors) and available for use immediately. This is entirely possible if the import procedure is robustly programmed and the data is imported with no errors. 


Which department is responsible for the data import process?

Smooth data onboarding usually requires cooperation from a combination of departments. Support and customer management teams have an interest in ensuring that the process moves as easily as possible but they do not necessarily have the technical skill required to program such a process. So the engineering team and the product management team also need to be involved. 

Finally, the customer should be involved, and this could be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • Live tests where customers are incentivized to use the product and provide feedback
  • Live chat to assist customers if they run into barriers. Support staff can then send feedback to the product management team or engineers based on what real customers say.


The fastest-to-integrate and most data secure data onboarding tool

When looking for data onboarding tools that will save you in-house development resources and offer your end-users the best user experience, nuvo is the most secure and data privacy conform data onboarding solution focusing on high variance data importing, cleaning and validation. nuvo gets directly embedded into your software or SaaS solution as a Front End library in React, Angular, Vue.js, or plain JavaScript in a matter of minutes. 

In a nutshell, nuvo is a self-serve data importer, which means that it enables users internally and externally to onboard data and especially use it for data imports, migration and cleaning use cases. 

With nuvo data onboarding and especially customer data onboarding becomes a seamless process. The main features loved by clients are:

  • Fully custom styling 
  • Compliance with the highest security and data privacy standards
  • ML-supported column matching
  • Advanced data validation and cleaning through customizable cleaning functions
  • as well as 24/7 customer support, maintenance, and continuous feature and performance improvements

Book a first exploratory call with our team here and get to know how you can easily improve your data onboarding process.